Olgebay Resort & Conference Center- A “Nature”-all Experience

Wheeling, West Virginia is home to a fascinating resort that offers plenty of great golf among their many amenities. Olgebay Resort & Conference Center has three distinct golf courses but what I remember most about my stay there was my return to nature. You see, Olgebay is stretched out over nearly 1800 acres with abundant wildlife, walking trails and gardens at every turn.  This picturesque property in Wheeling Park is the backdrop for this wonderful resort and golf destination.

You must go back over 100 years to trace the tradition of hospitality that was started by Earl W. Olgebay. He eventually willed his property including his estate and mansion to the people of Wheeling. His only request was that they “shall operate it for public recreation.”  The city of Wheeling has stayed committed to his stipulation as Olgebay has provided year-round recreational activities and exceptional overnight accommodations for generations of families and groups.

Golf arrived at Olgebay Resort on July 4, 1930, with the opening of the front nine of the Crispin Golf Course, and is one of the focal points of the Crispin Center. A second nine and golf shop were added in 1938 as construction continued through the depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Crispin Course is a perfect compliment to the other golf choices that are available at Olgebay Resort. The picturesque Par 3 and Driving Range Clubhouse on the north side of the park became a reality in 1962. The driving range doubles as a ski slope in the winter months. If there was one key event in the history of the Olgebay Resort, it would most likely be the opening of the Wilson Lodge in 1957. That turning point transformed the property into a year-round destination. Consequently, the two championship golf courses that were added, the Jones in 1970 and the Palmer in 2000, moved Olgebay into the golf resort category. Both outstanding tracks form the Speidel Golf Club and round out the golfing menu of sixty-three sporting holes at Olgebay.

This 5.670- yard par 71 Crispin Golf Course is very playable and rolls over hills and valleys quite naturally. The actual greens were roughed in by the same builders of the iconic Oakmont Country Club and this golfer found the putting surfaces quite interesting. Talk about having a story to tell, Arnold Palmer played the course for the first time in an exhibition match in 1963 and walked off with a 9-under course record. Play the terrific set of par 3’s along with some reachable par 5’s and you will understand why the Crispin Course has been a regional favorite for over 80 years.

I tend to agree with the consensus that the course designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr is the most challenging that you will find during your stay at Olgebay. The multiple tee placements allow the course to play from 7,000 yards at the tips to 4,659 yards from the forward set. It was the first public course undertaken by Jones, who described his layout as “a fair test of golf” but one that would lead to an “easy bogie, tough par.” The so-called “Monster on the Hill” was home to the West Virginia LPGA Classic from 1974 till 1984, so you know it packs a punch.

The Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course is a modern marvel that was added due to the demand golfers were placing on the other two courses. It quickly became the favorite of the lot for it’s playability and clever modern design features that include six par-three holes, seven par-four holes and five par-five holes. There are plenty of scoring opportunities and signature moments during a round on the Palmer track which like the Jones has quite a few dramatic elevation changes to awe at. It’s a must play on your stay at Olgebay. Take note of the horticulture found on all the golf courses which come directly from the 16-acre Bissonnette Gardens located within the resort. There are beautiful hanging baskets on every tee!

It’s of little surprise that Olgebay has groups and families returning year after year with the wonderful array of lodging options that are available. The newly renovated Wilson Lodge has 330 rooms and suites, but the larger golf groups normally choose one of the 54 cottages that are on the property including three with eight bedrooms. All have oversized kitchens and social areas with fire places. These cottages I believe make the perfect accommodations for buddy golf trips. Four estate houses are also available for a more executive-type retreat were all the bedrooms have their own private baths. Golf packages include an awesome spread each morning called the Mountaineer Breakfast Buffet in the Ihlenfeld Dining Room, which also serves dinner nightly. The Wilson Lodge also is home to the GlassWorks Grill for more casual dining and tasty libations for some rounds after your rounds.

The list of other amenities which may not just be for the golfers include the West Spa at Olgebay, featuring Swedish and Deep Tissue massages. The three-acre Schenk Lake has paddle boats and kayaks, and you can even do a little fishing because the lake is stocked with bass, trout and catfish. There’s indoor and outdoor pools, a tennis center, horseback riding and skiing and snow tubing. Speaking of the cold weather, the Winter Festival of Lights is a seasonal attraction that delights guests across a three-mile frolic through the resort. Olgebay Resort is also home to several other attractions unique to most regional destinations. This writer has been to many resorts but none with its own zoo. The 35-acre Good Zoo has over 50 species of animals, including endangered species like red pandas, cheetahs and even an albino alligator. These animals certainly must feel right at home considering all the wildlife that surrounds them. I encountered deer and fox each day during my stay. The founder’s estate home is now the Mansion Museum which houses artifacts and depicts the history of the area. I was fascinated by the pieces found in the Carriage House Glass and Glass Museum, which honor West Virginia’s glass industry.  It’s worth a visit to both.

As a golfer, you can find everything your little golf ball desires at Olgebay. I guess what surprised me on my journey there was the hospitality and family atmosphere that abound. It made me understand why this resort is not one exclusive for golfers with all there is to do for the rest of the clan. So, let’s talk logistics. If you reside in the Baltimore-Washington metro area, it’s a comfortable 4 ½ hour drive. It’s just a bit farther from Philadelphia across the turnpike. From the steel city, just 60 minutes. The tariff is quite affordable for a 3 day/2-night stay, and as you would expect, you can build a package on-line to your specifics whether you are staying at the lodge or renting a cottage. If you are looking for golf resort that doesn’t take nearly all day to get drive to and one that won’t break the bank on anybody’s budget, you’d might want to venture to the natural encampment known as Olgebay Resort & Conference Center.

 

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