Tidewater Traveler - June 2009

Driving by a Herd


George Sellers

   Ping! Every sport has unique signature sounds and sensations – a sound that signals the athlete and the observer that proper form and contact have been achieved; everything is done right – the right angle, the right posture, the right timing, the right strength – there is a very distinct sound that lets you know when things are just right. To the athlete, hearing the sound is enhanced by a special feel, touch or sensation. When the sound is just right, it seems that less effort is expended.
    Consider the sound of a well-hit baseball; on hearing it everyone knows it is a good hit. Yet the batter makes it look so smooth and unforced. I am not athlete enough to really know if more or less energy is spent to produce that perfect sound. I’m not athlete enough to produce that perfect sound, except in profoundly rare instances.
    Ping! That is the sound! There is no doubt in my mind. That was a good hit. The ping of the metal face of my number one driver against the dimpled surface of the small white sphere leaves no doubt that I have just done it correctly.
    Usually, when I hit a golf ball, I am in too much of a rush to track its trajectory with my eyes. I think that errant behavior comes from losing so many balls in the past. This time, even after the ping, my eyes are still fixed at the point on the ground where the ball and tee had been. And now that I am looking up, the treasured ping sound has assured me that I should be looking straight toward the flag, and sure enough, there is my ball rolling toward the apron of the green. Wow! What a feeling! What a sound! Ping! (Now I know why that expensive brand of clubs uses that word as its name!)
    New paragraph – quickly - before my readers begin to believe that I am a golfer! Oh my! No! If par is 72 strokes for this eighteen hole course, the number that shows up at the far right, opposite my name, on the score card, is 134 – no really – 134 strokes it took for me to circumnavigate the Crispin Course here at the Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia. But that doesn’t matter because about six of those strokes made that perfect ping sound and hearing the beautiful ping makes me want to hear more pings.
    In defense of my mediocrity, I should add that this is the first time in my 61 years of life that I have ever played eighteen holes on a full-length golf course. Yes, I know that my score is an offense to the word mediocrity, but I feel real good about my six pings!
    When writing Tidewater Traveler articles I attempt to avoid repeating a destination. I knew that I had written in the past about Oglebay, so I looked it up to find that just over five years ago, following a couple of family day-visits to the mountain resort, I had featured the picnic areas, playgrounds, lakes, roaming white-tail deer, the zoo with its ‘touch-it-handle-it’ rooms, narrow-gauge steam train, a huge O-gauge model train layout, the Benedum Natural Science Theatre, flowering gardens, beautiful expansive lawns, golf fairways meandering through the rolling hills, dozens of tennis courts, an enormous swimming complex, ice arena, stable and trail area, concert hall, auditorium, meeting rooms and spa.
    But these few pings and the incredible experience of strolling and rolling through the lush green hills chasing this little white ball leads me to want to say more about this mountain resort. We chose Oglebay for its drivable location, about halfway between mid-DelMarVa and Indianapolis, where my son lives.
    To meet him I drove about six hours to arrive in Wheeling on one of the warmest April days on record. A mountain breeze and plenty of mixed deciduous and conifer wood-lots prevented the high-eighties temperature from becoming uncomfortable.
    About halfway through the front nine we passed near Wilson Lodge, a resort hotel with a beautiful exterior of white sandstone and natural wood. The lodge houses over 200 guest rooms, a spa and a variety of private and public meeting and social spaces. Within sight from one of the hilltop tees we could see The Mansion, a pale yellow structure accented by white shutters, massive white frieze-work and an enormous portico supported by Corinthian columns.
   I don’t know architectural styles well, but it reminds me of a blend of the White House, a stately Southern plantation house and a Western European government building – very impressive. The mansion is surrounded by immaculate lawns and flowering gardens. It is a beautiful venue for a garden wedding. A museum at The Mansion is open year round with thirteen rooms depicting life in the early twentieth century.
    As our trek across the hills and valleys neared roadways, dozens of large electrified but dark frameworks depicting Christmas themes became visible. During the holiday season the entire park is decorated. The Winter Festival of Lights is said to be America’s largest light show, featuring over a million lights in a six-mile driving tour. The holiday light show attracts more than a million people annually in November and December. A couple of years ago I drove through the light display. It is incredible to see!
    But today is not about Christmas lights or the zoo or flower gardens – this is a golf day, and as poor as my golf skills are, what an incredible course this is to traverse. Among the trees along nearly every fairway are small herds of white-tail deer grazing and nibbling, and not the least bit interested in us as we walk or ride by. They don’t seem to notice us swatting at the little white balls with our sticks, though at times I think I detected smirks of amusement on their Bambi-like faces.
Crispin, where we played on Saturday afternoon, is one of four eighteen-hole courses within Oglebay Resort. On Sunday morning we chased the balls around a neatly groomed par-three course that descends into a valley and then works its way back up.
    From the higher elevations we could see parts of the real golf courses; the ones we might play someday. These include the newest course, designed by Arnold Palmer; and the classic championship course designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Additionally, there is a thirty tee, lighted hillside driving range that doubles as a wintertime ski slope.
    Someday, when I have improved my ability to ping more frequently, perhaps I will try one of the real courses and then revisit this article to let you know how I made out. Meanwhile, I shall continue to recommend Oglebay as a pleasant getaway destination, easily drivable from mid-DelMarVa.
    May all of your travels be happy and safe!

   George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel Web site and travel planning service SellersTravel.com. Comments or suggestions about Tidewater Traveler articles may be directed to George@SellersTravel.com.