It's saying something when a resort's Donald Ross-designed course isn't the most prestigious of the three on the property. That's the case at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., where the circa-1913 Old Course expanded by Ross from bones of the original 19th-century six-holer is a charmingly quirky understudy to the William Flynn-designed Cascades--which has played host to the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Amateur and NCAA Men's Division I championship.
The mountainous Cascades is one of the most challenging courses in the eastern U.S., with dramatic elevation changes, tight fairways and deep rough. The Old is a more manageable 6,200 yards, and was the favorite of presidents McKinley, Coolidge, Truman and Nixon--four of the 23 U.S. leaders who have stayed at the resort. The first tee has been in continuous use since 1892, and McKinley was the first president to play golf anywhere when he went off it in 1901.
The rest of the resort isn't any slouch, either. Originally constructed as an 18-room lodge in 1766, the hotel now features 483 luxury rooms across its two vast brick wings, along with a first-rate spa, shooting club and the eponymous hot spring pools. Secluded deep in the Allegheny Mountains on the Virginia-West Virginia border, the Homestead does takes a bit of commitment to reach. It's four hours by car from Washington D.C. and one and half from Roanoke, the closest decent-sized airport.
You can experience it all with attractive springtime golf packages for either the Old or the Cascades (or both) for about $450 a night midweek. The Cascades Unlimited Golf Package offers unlimited golf for two on Sam Snead's old stomping grounds--Snead was a lifetime resident of the Hot Springs area. Post your score, then compare it to one of the original scorecards on the wall at Sam Snead's Tavern on the property to feel just that much more inferior to The Slammer--who shot a 60 at the Lower Cascades course in 1983, at age 71.