By Anna Kline
The game of golf is a calculated risk and reward system, where nature’s unpredictable terrain challenges human patience and skill. It begins with executing the perfect tee shot. The fluid downswing swish, the quick clip where driver meets ball. In an instant the ball is airborne.
All eyes follow the ball’s trajectory as it soars in an arc through the air, descends to the ground with a thud, bounces a few times and rolls to a resting place on the green.
Today is different, though. You aren’t playing any typical golf course. Nowhere else in Kentucky can you fine-tune your technique on 300 acres of an expertly designed and maintained mountaintop golf course. Surrounded by breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains, it would be all too easy to get distracted, score a double bogey and stay over par for the rest of the game.
A top-ranked experience
It’s safe to say, from tee shot to final putt, Stonecrest Golf Course in Prestonsburg has cornered the market on one of the most unique golfing experiences in Kentucky.
The course was designed and built by Chris Crissman, Jack Sykes and Russ Cochran. Crissman and Sykes also designed courses in Abingdon, Virginia, and Bristol, Virginia, and Cochran is a 2009 inductee of the Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame. Their project was completed in 2001, overseen by the City of Prestonsburg, and continues to leave an impression on everyone who visits. For three years in a row Stonecrest has received top rankings on Golf Advisor, which bases a course’s position on player reviews. It was listed as one of the Top 10 Courses in Kentucky in 2014 and 2015, and was also included in the Top 25 Courses under $50 in the U.S. in 2016.
Stonecrest is a championship-level layout on the plateaus of the reclaimed mountaintop and plays to a par 72. The course will have its challenges for beginning and experienced golfers alike, but is easily accessible to all skill levels. Brad Reynolds, the superintendent of Stonecrest, thoughtfully oversees course maintenance.
“The golf course itself gives you all aspects for a round of golf,” Reynolds said. “We have numerous sets of tees for different challenges. You know, one day, you can play 7,000 yards — or 6,000 yards, then you’re playing a totally different golf course.”
Brad Reynolds knows grass. A graduate of Betsy Lane High School, he went on to earn an associate’s degree in turf grass management from Alice Lloyd College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture with an emphasis in turf grass from Eastern Kentucky University. He put in time at Marriott’s Griffin Gate Golf Course in Lexington, the Cherry Blossom Golf Course in Georgetown, and Lincoln Homestead State Park Golf Course in Springfield, among others. In 2013, he received an offer to return to Floyd County to oversee the grounds at Stonecrest. Reynolds and his team carefully maintain the bentgrass course. “We try to be above and beyond an everyday facility,” he said.
Though it requires more overall maintenance, bentgrass is hardy and never loses its color even during the winter. The seasoned golfer will appreciate the softer, carpet-like surface, which allows for smoother play and ease of motion for the ball.
Reynolds’ attention to detail is a matter of pride: “Our number one goal is to provide the best, the best golf course possible for the golfing experience. Our main focus here is the game of golf — we strive to be the best golf course in the state.”
It is easy to get swept away by the stunning view. Players might occasionally hear a wild turkey gobble in the distance or even the bugle of an elk echoing in the valley below. When the weather is good, the course sees up to 200 people a day and on average there are 24,000 rounds of golf played annually.
“It’s crazy. You can’t describe [the course] to a person or show them until you see it in person,” Reynolds said. With its unparallelled views, what is the most talked about and most photographed hole on the course? “Hole 13. Yeah, hole 13 is pretty much our signature hole. When you’re on the back tee box, you can see Virginia and West Virginia.”
Mingle on the Mountaintop
Once the final putt is made and the game stats are recorded, make your way to Stonecrest’s lounge and grill. The full-service kitchen and bar will serve up a mean hamburger to the famished and satisfy your thirst for fine Kentucky bourbon. Reynolds suggests visitors take a moment to enjoy the stunning view from the back deck of the clubhouse. “You can look over the ridgetops, and basically see as far as you can see.”
Visit Stonecrest any time of the year to maintain edge for your golfing game. The facility offers an array of amenities onsite, from the one-stop pro shop for game-time necessities, club repair and lessons to a practice green and driving range. Stonecrest hosts state-level golfing tournaments for high school and college golfers, and smaller championship events. For those who are interested in a mountaintop view for their party, business meeting or wedding, Stonecrest offers a wide range of options for renting the facility, including full-service catering for events.
Upcoming Events at Stonecrest
April 27, 2018: Stonecrest hosts The Jordan Light Foundation golf tournament annually. The Jordan Light Foundation is a non-profit that supports families and children in crisis who need assistance covering costs of travel and medical assistance that insurance does not cover. Usually about 100 patrons register for the event, making up 25 to 30 teams. Call the clubhouse at (606) 886-1006 to register.
Course Stats and Pricing
Back Tee Stats
Rating: 70.8 | Bent grass
Monday-Friday, $38 for 18 holes; Saturday-Sunday, $50 for 18 holes. Fees include Proshot GPS-enabled golf cart.
For more information or to schedule a round, call the Stonecrest Pro Shop at (606) 886-1006 or visit them online.
In between golf games, fIll up your tank with local craft beers and homemade fare at Lizzie B’s Cafe Bakery, or watch local songwriters weave stories into songs during our Tuesday night songwriters series.