Chandeliers, fingerbowls, and gorgeous golf
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
Talk about being coddled! Saddle horses are walked to this very door every morning, and riders are provided step stools to make the mounting easier. Tennis players have a full-time match-makers who finds them games indoors or out, nights as well as days.
There's paddle tennis, bowling, swimming, and trap shooting -- a sport the legendary Annie Oakley introduced here after leaving the buffalo Bill Wild West shows.
Even joggers are catered to at the Greenbrier, with 6,500 acres in which to run around. But their jogging map reminds them sternly, "Please avoid the golf course. It damages the grass."
Ah, the golf courses! Immaculate, lush, manicured, sleek, all three of them. You get the feeling that should a single leaf dare to flutter down on a fairway, someone would dash out and remove it.
For the ultimate challenge try the Greenbrier course: par 72 men, 74 women, with bunkers galore, fast greens, and a large lake that comes into frequent play. (The Ryder Cup was played there last fall.)
For an interesting game without getting all worn out doing it, play the pleasantly meandering par 70 Lakeside. For a combination of the two, try to make par 70 on the Old White. Not so easy with mogul-like swales adorning many holes.
You see that name "Old White" here a lot. Refers not to today's spiffy, gleaming, "with it" Greenbrier, but to its predecessor, a rambling white clapboard building that was the swingiest, zingiest resort of its day, a happy hunting ground for Southern belles to find themselves husbands both before and after the Civil War.
Actually, this gracious resort dates back much further than that -- to 1778, in fact. Indian tales of soothing hot springs brought the first customer here, a venturesome (and bone-weary) woman named Amanda. A talkative soul, her enthusiastic word-of-mouth spread fast. A tented village sprang up, and a tavern, and the Old White Hotel which so enamored Francis Scott Key (yes, the same man who wrote the "Star Spangled Banner") that he sat down and dashed off a love song to it.
Sad to tell, the Old White was torn down in 1922, having become somewhat of a firetrap. The born-again Greenbrier was designed along the same old-fashioned yet elegant lines.
The original white sulfur springs are still here. Remarkably foul-tasting, they emit a constant trickle from a drinking fountain with a picturesque white gazebo. It's right on the way to the golf club. In deference to history, try a taste.
Who would think golfers would feel comfortable in a setting where chandeliers hang, and immense faminine bows hold back bright flowered drapes. Where a dramatic winding staircase leads from a lower lobby to an upper lobby, but signs beseech you to stay on the lower if you're not wearing at least "an attractive golf sweater"! Where dainty fingerbowls follow every meal, even breakfast. And where a big deal every afternoon at 4 is teatime in the upper lobby, with a string quartet providing music to sip by.
But they do. Who wouldn't lap up such creature comforts? Even Greenbrier's driving range is a thing of beauty, flowing like a river through a weeping-willow-dotted valley.
The vitals: The Greenbier, White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. 24986. Toll-free phone 800-624- 6070. Three golf courses open April to October. Greens fees $15 , carts $15, caddies $10. Three-day golf packages give room, two meals a day, and unlimited golf for $170 per person, single or double. Regular room rates are from $65-$87 per person double, $85-$155 single (meals included).