Greg Lefler, Kevin Mann and I made our annual spring pilgrimage to Swannanoa this week with mixed feelings.
Pete Lang, the owner and a long time golf icon in Central Virginia had passed away in December. Pete was 95 and quite active until last winter, when a stroke took its toll. Buddy Lang, Pete’s son, has taken over the reins of this laid-back, affordable and scenic course.
You know, I’ve played much nicer golf courses than Swannanoa on Afton Mountain, but I never have any more fun. Swannanoa is an easy layout, the scenery is magnificent and the cool, mountain air is most agreeable. While it was 91 in Charlottesville, it was a pleasant 82 on Afton Mountain, and with a gentle breeze.
For the past 20 years, I have made it a point to visit Swannanoa at least once a year. It is not a great course, but it’s a great place to be. On certain holes, you can see as far west as the Allegheny’s in West Virginia, south across the Blue Ridge and east to the Southwest Mountains in Albemarle – all at the same time.
Officially called Swannanoa Country Club, it’s hardly a country club. Don’t go to Swannanoa if you are expecting manicured fairways and personal towels in the clubhouse locker room. There isn’t a clubhouse locker room, but they serve up a mean hot dog at the grill.
We found that the grass is just beginning to grow at Swannanoa, on top of Afton Mountain. The buds on many trees are just forming, so it will be a week or so till the fairways thicken and the greens firm up.
Swannanoa is not difficult. In fact, it’s pretty easy. It’s short – 5,170 from the white tees – and the rough is practically non-existent. It’s mostly wide open, but clearly a mountain course with lots of uphill and side hill lies. There are certain holes – number 6 comes to mind – where no matter where or what you hit, you’ll end up on the right side of the fairway, if not down in Waynesboro. The greens are small, but decent, about what you would expect on a public course.
Swannanoa is one of the most scenic golf venues anywhere. Every golfer in Central Virginia should play Swannanoa at least once a year, just for fun. For tee times, call 540-943-8864, but bring cash, they do not accept credit cards.