Courses by Ross, Flynn have stood the test of time for more than a century

Golf is a sport built on tradition and longevity. One of the prime and shinnig examples of the eternal appeal of the game and its place in history is the peerless Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia and its two courses that date back to the early 1900s. 

Omni Homestead predates the founding of the United States by 10 years, with the thermal hot springs of the region a draw even before the first lodge was constructed in Bath County in 1766. By the late 19th century, the Homestead Resort, located along the West Virginia border in rural Virginia, was one of the premier luxury destinations in America.  

It has remained so – thanks to a continued attention to detail and a nod to the resort’s place in history. Through the centuries 23 U.S. Presidents have stayed at the resort – from Thomas Jefferson to George W. Bush.  

The Cascades course

Dallas-based Omni Resorts took over the Homestead in 2013 and over the past decade has made millions of dollars of renovations while keeping an eye on the property’s historical prescience. The Homestead Resort was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1991. 

While the Omni Homestead’s initial draw was its healing waters and there are plenty of activities on the menu at the resort, one of the biggest and most popular amenities is the facility’s duo of fabulous golf courses – the Old Course and the Cascades.  

Golf began at the Homestead Resort in 1892 with a six-hole course that was expanded to 18 holes in 1901 and then redesigned by Donald Ross in 1913. Now named the “Old Course”, a round there begins on a teebox that’s recognized as the oldest in the nation. 

The Cascades, which is set a short drive from the main resort, is considered the premier course at the Omni Homestead and one of the top 100 tracks in the United States. It was designed by and built under the direction of William Flynn in 1923. Aside from some work from Robert Trent Jones in 1961, the Cascades remains virtually unchanged from the course Flynn fashioned out of land that other prominent golf architects of the era deemed unsuitable for golf. 

Part of the golf fabric of the Omni Homestead is the presence of Sam Snead, who was born about two miles from the resort and lived his whole life in the Hot Springs area. The main road through Bath County, connecting Hot Springs and Warm Springs, is known as Sam Snead Highway. 

Snead’s record-setting golfing career began as a caddie at the Old Course at age 7 and he soon became the teaching professional there. Throughout his long and successful career, Snead maintained ties to the Homestead Resort and holds the course record at The Cascades, carding a 12-under 60 in 1983 at the age of 71. 

Ross’s Old Course has enduring bonafides 

The Old Course, a parkland design set in the shadow of the Omni Homestead’s main buildings, has a unique routing with six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. This balance not only adds variety to each round but also showcases the thoughtful design and timeless appeal of this storied course.  

The 6,099-yard, par 72 course now in play was initially to challenge players of the early 20th century, and has received significant updates through the years, most recently by Rees Jones. Golfers can enjoy a mix of challenges, from tree-lined fairways to strategically placed bunkers and the charming Allegheny Springs. 

William McKinley was the first U.S. President to play golf while in office and he did so on the Homestead Resort’s Old Course, teeing-off at the Old Tee in 1899. Around the same era as McKinley, former President and former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Howard Taft often played The Old Course as a way to unwind. 

Former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and former First Lady Edith Wilson spent their honeymoon at the resort and played golf together each morning on the Old Course. 

The Old Course’s putting green in the shadow of the Omni Homestead Resort’s main building

Many of Ross’s architecture signatures are prevalent at the Old Course via lush, contoured fairways and smaller, saucer-shaped greens. It’s a course that will test the golfer’s shotmaking ability. The corridors are treelined and test accuracy off the tee and are off camber to leave many uneven lies. There’s elevation change on several holes so a rangefinder with slope is a handy tool to have. The putting surfaces roll quick and true.  

One of the most memorable holes on the Old Course is the par 5 13th, a long, sweeping dogleg-right that starts from an elevated tee box. The fairway slopes from left to right which can help save tee shots headed left. Keep your layup shot in play and golfer should have a short pitch shot into a small green protected and the front right by sand. 

The Old Course is short by today’s standards, but don’t let that fool you. Remember, you’re playing golf in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains. The elevation changes are substantial, and several holes are uphill, and others play much longer than the yardage on the scorecard. 

The Old Course is a historic gem, offering players a journey through the roots of American golf. With its traditional layout and stunning vistas, it provides a classic golfing experience. 

The Old Course has long been a mainstay on the list of the best courses in the southern United State, garnering mention in Golf Digest’s “Best Golf Courses You Can Play in Virginia,” and “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses,” in its most recent rankings.  

The Cascades is mountain-golf at its finest 

Steeped in history and lauded for more than 100 years, the Cascades is widely regarded as one of the finest mountain courses in the country. The course is characterized by continuous elevation changes, uneven lies, and natural beauty.  

As a young girl in the 1930s, Jacqueline Bouvier learned to play golf on The Cascades. President George W. Bush visited Omni Homestead Resort in May 2015 and played The Cascades. 

The Cascades, which is a par 71 and plays at 6,908 yards from the back set of four tees, is famous for its 3-5-5-3 finish and is notable for some really strong and tough two-shotters.  

The terrain here is rugged and mountainous, and its bunkering is superb, particularly the cross-bunkers on the splendid 12th and 13th holes, both strong par 4s.  

Holes four and eight are considered two of the great par 3s in the country and Cascades, like the Old Course, finishes with another par 3, a rarity among top courses. 

Be careful when reading the greens at the Cascades as the underlying slope of the land often plays more of a role than it initially appears. 

The Cascades course

The Cascades is a unique layout for a couple of reasons. There are no houses on the course and mountain stream winds its way throughout the layout, bringing water into play on a few holes. The course’s front nine contains some fantastic holes but the back is superior and makes the Cascades special.   

The aforementioned 12th is arguably the best hole on the course as a lengthy 508-yard par 4 that begins with a downhill tee shot to a narrow fairway set in a natural hollow and then turns left around a large tree, with thick forest on either side. The putting surface is guarded by bunkers on either side and is narrow, sloping right-to-left with a plateau in the middle. 

The 13th hole plays similarly but not quite as difficult as a 446-yard dogleg left. The drive is played to a fairway that bends left with a creek running down the left the entire way. A bunker lines the right at 280 yards and anything to the far right will be blocked out by trees. You must carry several cross-bunkers on the way to a right-to-left sloped green lined by bunkers. 

The 16th and 17th holes are back-to-back par 5s that provide a fun scoring stretch. The 16th is the longer of the two at 529 yards with a big dogleg-right at the landing area. 

No. 17 is another fun risk/reward offering of 518 yards. Unless you can reach the dogleg about 300 yards out, you’ll be forced to lay up. The back-to-front sloped green sits in a cove with a natural waterfall and pond defending the right and bunkers long and left. 

The Cascades course has hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur (1928, 1994), the Curtis Cup (1966), the U.S. Women’s Open (1967), the U.S. Senior Amateur (1980), the U.S. Amateur (1988), the U.S. Mid-Amateur (2000), and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur (2009). It will play host to the 2025 Senior Women’s Amateur Championship and the 2029 US Senior Amateur Championship. 

The Cascades is ranked as one of the top 100 public courses in the United States and belongs on the short list of must-plays in the South. 

A wealth of activities off the course in any season 

The Omni Homestead’s Spa is 60,000-square feet and includes 28 treatment rooms, a fitness area with updated technology, and an adults-only Serenity Garden that’s home to the historic natural hot springs. 

There are many outdoor activities available: rifling, horseback riding, wagon ride and smores, archery, guided hikes, falconry, biking, kayaking, lawn games, and mini golf. 

The Omni Homestead is a year-round resort as winter activities include snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowmobiling.

Editor’s note: A version of this story was published by, for whom the author has been a contributing writer.


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