The Greenbrier
 Where America Resorts to Great Golf
...and History Abounds

Story by: Ed & Fran Stone
Photos by: Ed Stone

The Greenbrier, nestled in the beautiful West Virginia mountains, is one of the nation's oldest, best-known and most popular resorts.  Its history is long, colorful and distinguished.

The impressive front entrance to The Greenbrier...America's Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 

After surrendering to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee came to The Greenbrier to rest.  In the 1950’s when the Cold War began to get hot, the United States Congress secretly built a bunker to protect them from a nuclear attack at The Greenbrier.

Today, America and the World come here to play three of the classiest golf courses to be found…anywhere.  In 1979, the Ryder Cup was played on the Greenbrier Course.  Conventions come here to conduct business for some of the most prestigious companies in the world.

Top: Lobby of The Greenbrier
Bottom: Golf Club

Recently, as writers, we had the opportunity to visit America’s Resort.  We played the Greenbrier Course, reviewed a few of the holes on the Old White Course, and enjoyed the wonderful accommodations and outstanding dining.  Between the two of us, we have visited a lot of resorts and golf courses.  The Greenbrier is everything the promotional material says it is and more…much more.  First off the employees are the best.  They instantly become our friends and went out of their way to assist in making our stay memorable.  The setting in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia in White Sulphur Springs is picture perfect…like an expensive oil painting with just enough aging to make it one-of-a-kind.  The Southern colonial-style architecture breathes an air of laid back sophistication that harkens to the days of mint juleps and broad porches lined with white rocking chairs.  We thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon 4 p.m. tea served in the Upper Lobby accompanied by live violin and piano music…providing an atmosphere causing us and other guests to speak in hushed tones.  This is The Greenbrier.

Rocking chairs line the porches at The Greenbrier

History is an important element to guests visiting The Greenbrier.  Bob Conte is the official historian and the aficionado to the past of this National Registry property.  His stories include the days when General Lee came to the Old White (the original name of The Greenbrier) to relax as well as the long lists of sitting presidents and visiting dignitaries, he has interesting stories to tell.  One of his favorites is when The Greenbrier was purchased by the U.S. Government to be used as Ashford General Hospital during the four years from August 1942 until June 30, 1946.  He states, “In addition, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was twice a patient at the hospital, once in January, 1944, before the massive invasion of Normandy, and again in December, 1945.  On a third occasion, in the summer of 1945, General and Mrs. Eisenhower stayed at the Ashford General following the end of the war; indeed the couple celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary in Top Notch cottage.”  Conte ponders at the fact that two great generals, Lee and Eisenhower, came to The Greenbrier after two decisive wars.  Lee went on to become president of Washington College (now Washington-Lee College) in Lexington, Virginia for five years before his death on October 12, 1870.  Eisenhower became our 34th President.

Entrance to the famous "bunker" at the Greenbrier

As the Cold War with Russia and Cuba began to heat up in the mid 50’s, the U.S. Government began the secret construction of a Relocation Facility in 1958, commonly known as the Bunker.  The project was 720 feet into the West Virginia hillside and contained 112,544-square-feet of facilities to accommodate the entire U.S. Congress in case of a nuclear attack.  The Bunker was completed in 1961 and was maintained in constant readiness by a small core group of undercover government employees posing as the audio/visual support services for the resort.

Ted Gup, a freelance reporter, broke the story “The Last Resort” in the Washington Post on Sunday, May 31, 1992.  With the facility now exposed, the U.S. Government ended the lease agreement with The Greenbrier in 1995 and later that year; the resort began offering tours of the historic facility located under The Greenbrier's West Wing.

Golf is also an important ingredient to this resort.  There are three 18-hole golf courses at The Greenbrier…The Old White, The Greenbrier and The Meadows.

The Old White Course was the original championship layout at The Greenbrier.  It was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and opened in 1914.  President Woodrow Wilson was one of the first players of many to follow U.S. Presidents.  In 2006, a major restoration was completed under the direction of Lester George.

First hole of the Greenbrier Course
Hole #2 of the Greenbrier Course
 No. 1 fairway of the Old White Course
The 18th tee to green of the Old Old White Course

Initially, The Meadows was a 9-hole course known as the Lakeside Course.  In 1962, Dick Wilson oversaw the rebuilding and enlarging of the course to 18 holes.  Then, in 1998-99, Robert Cupp redesigned the course and the name was changed to The Meadows.  Several of the holes provide stunning views of both Kate’s and Greenbrier Mountains.

The Greenbrier Golf Course was designed by George O’Neil and opened in 1924.  Jack Nicklaus was hired to redesign the course in 1977 to make it more challenging for the 1979 International Ryder Cup Matches.  As an opening event, Nicklaus and Joe DiMaggio teamed up and shot a par 72 as the first players on the newly designed layout.  In 1994, the Solheim Cup Matches were held on this course. 

Putting on the 14th green of The Greenbrier Course

Playing The Greenbrier Course on a bright June morning is about as good as golfing gets.  The course plays very comfortable for the casual or resort golfer and certainly serves up some challenges for the low handicapper.  Most of the fairways are broad enough to be forgiving to a slight hook or slice.  Distances are such that you must have a good drive and second shot to score well.  The greens are very fair without unfair undulations…just read ’em as you see ’em and putt as you read ‘em.  Most players consider the second hole of this course as the signature.  It is a par 4 and plays 388 yards from the blue tees.  Water comes into play on the right side of the fairway from about 150 out and then surrounds about three-fourths of the green on the front, right side and back portion.  A sand trap protects the green on the left side.  Overall, this is a most pleasant course to play and rates high as to challenging, fairness to the average golfer and very scenic.

Carl Bradley worked in the golf shop area for more than 40 years.

Carl Bradley worked in the golf shop area for more than 40 years.  He began in 1969 as a “porch boy” serving drinks and after a year and a half; he became the locker room attendant.  He somewhat shyly talks about meeting presidents Ford, Reagan, Nixon, Kennedy, Carter and both Bushes.  His favorite was President Gerald Ford.  “He would speak to you and not show any signs of being rushed.  He was a good man,” state Bradley.  He also met celebrities such as Bob Hope and most all the golf professionals over the past 25 years.  His most memorable was Doug Sanders with his flashy attire and witty conversation.  Yes, Carl has a list of his not-so-nice people he has encountered at The Greenbrier, but like a great Southern gentleman, he is keeping them close to the vest.

Since 1936 when Sam Snead was 23, he has been associated with The Greenbrier.  It was here that he had his first professional job.  He maintained a relationship until his death in May 2002.  In April 2005, Tom Watson was named to the resort’s Emeritus status.  Both Snead and Watson memorabilia are on display at the Golf Club.

CLICK HERE or on photo to watch a short video by The Greenbrier's head golf professional, Hill Herrick.

Teeing off on The Greenbrier Course makes you realize you are standing where many of the great golfers and presidents have stood.  The list is more than impressive and reads like the proverbial “Who’s Who’s” in golf, politics, world leaders, celebrities and people of great influence…they’ve been here.  In particular, Snead called The Greenbrier his home course for most of his golfing career.  At the Golf Club is an appropriate restaurant named Sam Snead featuring steaks and seafood.

Jake Owen is a Master Club Fitter on property with True Spec Golf. This nice gent can enhance your game by making sure you are swinging the proper weighted club, shaft and grip. CLICK HERE to watch a short video about this club fitting service offered at The Greenbrier.

The famous White Sulphur Spring

Accolades are abundant for this National Historic Landmark.  The Greenbrier is an award-winning resort with classic architecture, exquisite interior design, carefully sculpted landscape, impeccable service and outstanding amenities. Since 1778, the original Old White later becoming The Greenbrier, has hosted distinguished guests from around the world.

This renowned property offers 721 rooms, including 33 suites and 96 guest and estate houses. The Greenbrier has 10 lobbies, 40+ meeting rooms and a complete conference center facility. Guests enjoy over 50 recreational activities including three championship golf courses, indoor and outdoor tennis courts and a 40,000-square-foot spa.

The Greenbrier… a place for high-powered meetings, high-level dignitaries and where America resorts to great golf.

For More Information: CLICK HERE TO VIEW A

The Greenbrier
101 Main Street, West
White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986

Reservations: 800-624-6070
Phone: 304-536-1110