The Cascades Golf Course
VA, USA

Tenth hole, 380 yards, Slippery Hollow; Arnold Palmer picked this hole among his favorite fifty-four holes in the United States. It is no wonder too that it stood out in Palmer’s memory as regardless of all the holes he has seen around the world, none is quite like this one. In some ways, this hole is ‘double blind’ with the fairway disappearing over the brow of the hill and tumbling down two distinct levels. Those that reach only the first half of the lower plateau are left with another blind shot down to the green. Flynn’s placement of the green in the flat below makes it difficult to read, as there is no predominant feature to orient the golfer as to which way putts break.

The view from the tenth tee of a flat fairway could not be more deceiving as there are two sharp ...

The view from the tenth tee of a flat fairway could not be more deceiving as there are two sharp...

... drop-offs that take the golfer down sixty feet to a green in a river bed.

...drop-offs that take the golfer down seventy feet to a green in a river bed.

 Eleventh hole, 190 yards, Lucky Strike; A crucial trait for an architect’s work to possess is that the golfer can’t tell where nature ends and man’s hand begins. In the case of The Cascades, though it doesn’t look like it, Flynn pushed plenty of dirt to create many of the green complexes and give them good golfing qualities, especially on the hilly front nine. Another case in point is the eleventh green complex which seems like a natural extension of the hillside to the left but is in fact totally manufactured. Flynn perfectly benched the eleventh green site into the left hillside.

No mounding clutters the back of the eleventh green complex, though unfortunately trees do, thus robbing the course of what would again be another great long view.

No mounding clutters the back of the eleventh green complex, though unfortunately trees do, thus robbing the course of what would again be another great long view.

Twelfth hole, 475 yards, The Vale; This hole is often singled out as the finest golf hole inVirginia. The fairway is placed in a sixty yard wide corridor between a steep seventy foot ridge on the right and a meandering stream on the left. What a sight the hole must have been in Flynn’s day and what a joy it must have been for him when he found this playing corridor when he was routing the course. Again though, time hasn’t been particularly kind to it. First, a cart path was added down the left, right alongside the stream. Then, in an effort to hide the ugly scar, trees were allowed to grow. In June, 2009, the twelfth fairway measured a scant thirty yards in width (essentially what a U.S. Open fairway measures), in stark contrast to the old photographs from Flynn’s day that indicate a fifty yard wide fairway with long views down the length of the hole. What a pity that the scale of this all-world hole has been compromised over the past several decades.

The dreadful placement of the cart path has led to tree growth and a ridiculously narrow fairway for such a grand hole.

The dreadful placement of the cart path has led to tree growth on the right side of the steam and to a ridiculously narrow fairway for such a grand hole.

With a stream left and tree-lined hillside right, the golfer's task is clear. He needs to hit driver to cover the distnace and if he can find the fairway, the good news is that he should have a relatively level stance, something he may not have seen much of to this point in the round.

With a stream left and tree-lined hillside right, the golfer's task is clear. He needs to hit driver to cover the distance and if he can find the fairway, the good news is that he should have a relatively level stance, something he may not have seen much of to this point in the round.

The golfer that doesn't find the twelfth fairway needs to be wary of Flynn's cross bunkers ninety yards shy of twelfth green.

The golfer that doesn't find the twelfth fairway needs to be wary of Flynn's cross bunkers ninety yards shy of twelfth green. These bunkers were handsomely restored as part of a bunker project that the course undertook in 2007 as part of a Master Plan submitted by Wayne Morrison and Tom Paul.

Thirteenth hole, 440 yards, Swift Run; The same stream from the twelfth runs along the left edge of the thirteenth fairway, informing the thinking man that this hole moves downhill. One’s eyes can deceive/betray the first time golfer into thinking that the hole is flat and in a rarity, amateur golfers frequently find their approach shot ending up well past the day’s hole location. The ground just in front of the open green is frequently the ideal place to land one’s approach as the ball will bumble its way toward the green’s middle.

The thirteenth fairway bends gracefully left along the stream and the golfer that can draw his tee ball should have the advantage. Unfortunately, rough has been allowed to grow too far out from the stream, thus undermining some of the hole's driving appeal.

The thirteenth fairway bends gracefully left along the stream and the golfer that can draw his tee ball should have the advantage. Unfortunately, rough has been allowed to grow too far out from the stream, thus undermining some of the hole's driving appeal.

The attractive approach to the thirteenth. After the round, study Flynn's drawing in the clubhouse of this hole as it shows a creek in lieu of this echelon of bunkers (!).

The attractive approach to the thirteenth. After the round, study Flynn's drawing in the clubhouse of this hole as it shows a creek in lieu of this echelon of bunkers (!).

Sixteenth hole, 525 yards, The Hemlocks; One of the game’s great gambling holes and the start of a thrilling 5-5-3 par finish, this hole combines great beauty with strategy galore. After a good drive past a nest of three bunkers on the inside of this dogleg right, the player debates whether to go for the green in two. The green is deep enough but is fronted by a stream/pond at green level. Anything short is wet and anything over the back bunkers is in the wilderness. Strict distant control is mandatory as is height on the 230 yard shot. If anything, technology has made this hole all the more exciting as the green is now in reach for many more than was true just a decade ago. Indeed, when the course opened in 1922, Flynn first had the green prior to the water hazard. He moved it sometime later in the 1930s once steel shafts had taken hold of the game.

Regardless of whether it is in two or three shots, the approach to the sixteenth green is a nervy one.

Regardless of whether it is in two or three shots, the approach to the sixteenth green is a nervy one.

Front left hole locations are particularly cruel as the stream hugs the left side of the green.

Front left hole locations are particularly cruel as the stream hugs the left side of the sixteenth green.

Seventeenth hole, 515 yards, Cress Lakes; As the sixteenth sweeps to the right, the seventeenth goes to the left around the base of a hill. In keeping with the rest of the course, no one shot pattern is favored and a player that can shape it both ways (like Virginia amateur great Vinny Giles) enjoys a distinct advantage over his competitor. Those who hug the inside of the dogleg left are afforded the best angle down the neck of the fairway that feeds past a natural water feature and onto the putting surface. Those who play cautiously away from the hill and toward the outside of the dogleg are left with a gummy angle toward the green across the water hazard.

The beauty of the hole is marred by one of the worst placements of a golf cart path ever.

The beauty of the seventeenth hole is marred by one of the worst placements of a golf cart path ever. The ideal line off the tee is just inside the cart path as the golfer then won't have to carry the water on his second shot.

A fitting feature for a penultimate hole at a course so named is cascading water and it is found here right of the seventeenth green. Many a golf ball has found this natural hazard from daring golfers attempting to reach the green in two.

A fitting feature for a penultimate hole at a course so named is cascading water and it is found here right of the seventeenth green. Many a golf ball has found this natural hazard from daring golfers attempting to reach the green in two.

Eighteenth hole, 205 yards, Taps; Just as Garden City Golf Club finishes with a one shotter, so too does The Cascades. A front hole location between the two greenside bunkers may be as hard as any hole location on the course, given the green’s fierce back to front tilt. Fortunes can swing wildly over these last three holes, making it one of the most interesting closing stretches in the game.

Keeping the ball below the hole is paramount as the eighteenth features more back to front pitch than any Flynn green on the course.

Keeping the ball below the hole is paramount as the eighteenth features more back to front pitch than any Flynn green on the course.

In summary, Flynn’s use of the natural topography, ponds and streams provides a stern test that is altogether unique and reminds one of no other course in the world. If the golfer tries to fight nature, he will come off worn and broken. However, the intelligent golfer who uses the slopes and places his ball correctly is mightily rewarded. Decade after decade, golfers keep coming back to figure out how to play The Cascades. Surely, this is the greatest compliment an architect and a course can receive?

If only the course still played as Flynn intended. Fortunately, The Homestead changed ownership hands in 2007 and hopefully the new owners will reverse the years of negligence that the course has suffered. The Master Plan that was presented to the previous owners by Wayne Morrison and Tom Paul in 2006 should be dusted off and carefully followed. Creeks that were covered at the fifth, sixth and tenth needed to be re-exposed. Flynn’s fourteenth and fifteenth holes need to be faithfully restored. The cart paths need to be reworked/removed and/or hidden.  Fairway width needs to be recaptured, befitting the grandeur of such holes as the seventh and twelfth. And finally, hundreds of trees need to be removed so that the golfer can more freely appreciate that he is enjoying a game of golf in one of the world’s most beautiful spots. Given that, and given the luxuries of the nearby Homestead, golfers will forever be drawn to this special valley in the Allegheny Mountains.

The Georgian style Homestead is the anchor for this 15,000 acre mountain resort in the Allegheny Mountains. Travelers have come to Hot Springs for over two centuries to sample the rejuvenating benefits of its natural hot springs.

The Georgian style Homestead is the anchor for this 15,000 acre mountain resort in the Allegheny Mountains. Travelers have come to Hot Springs for well over two centuries to sample the rejuvenating benefits of its natural hot springs.

 

Please note: the author wishes to thank Flynn historian Wayne Morrison (wsmorrison@hotmail.com)
for sharing his research information for this course profile.

The End