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One-course towns

- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2008

1. BRIDGEVILLE, DEL.

In Bridgeville, they count down the days, hours, minutes and even the seconds left until the annual Apple Scrapple Festival (applescrapple.com for the up-to-the-second countdown). Seventeen years ago, the town's politicos were looking for a way to attract visitors, and someone came up with the idea of combining the sweet apples grown in the area with the town's primary industry, RAPA Scrapple.

Brothers Ralph and Paul Adams (hence RAPA) began making the tasty breakfast meat in Bridgeville in 1926, and to this day it's hard to drive through Bridgeville with the windows down on a nice summer day without noticing the distinctive smell. The festival, this year Oct. 10 and 11, has grown from a small-town fair to almost 25,000 visitors.

The golf in Bridgeville is as fresh as the scrapple. Heritage Shores, designed by Arthur Hills, is less than a year old. Taking Route 404 to Ocean City and the Delaware beaches, the course is right along a little-known shortcut around town to the south. The links-style course and Nantucket-inspired clubhouse are part of an active adult community, but the 7,005-yard course is open and challenging to everyone.

What else? OK, the Apple Scrapple Festival isn't your cup of cider? How about the World Championship Punkin' Chuckin' contest? The first weekend in November folks come from all over the world to a field near Bridgeville with contraptions specifically engineered to hurtle a pumpkin as far as mechanically possible. How far you ask? The current world record set at the contest in 2003 is 4,434.28 feet. Yup, over three-quarters of a mile.

2. MEADOWS OF DAN, Va.

This is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it town if ever there was one, but where else can you find a place that will teach the fine art of tree climbing (Blue Ridge Tree Climbing). Chateau Morrisette Winery on the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains with breathtaking vistas and award-winning wines.

Your trip should include breakfast or lunch at Becky's Fried Pies. Take home a pie of your favorite fruit - or a sweet potato pie if you're inclined that way. Catch an evening of live bluegrass music at Christopher's Pizza.

The golf course at Primland Resort may be the most remote on the East Coast, but it is better than almost anything near any big city. Englishman Donald Steel may seem like a fish out of water in the highlands of southwest Virginia, but this is arguably his best work anywhere in the world. The layout is fantastic, but play with someone who knows the course, not for the local knowledge of the greens and fairways but for the local knowledge just off them. A few steps into the trees at the right place expose views you won't believe.

The nearby Pinnacles of Dan are one of Virginia's geological wonders, though few people know about them. They are cone- shaped mountains that stand alone in the Dan River Gorge, rising more than 1,000 feet yet still dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. The view of the gorge, either from below or above, is fanstatic and shows how rural Virginia can be. Meadows of Dan is only a few buildings and a few homes. The nearest city is Roanoke, Va., about an hour north.

3. LEONARDTOWN, Md.

Any town that has been around for 300 years deserves to go the distance. But with its tricentennial approaching, Leonardtown was hit with a knockout punch. A bypass built in the 1980s directed traffic around the town and suddenly people were skipping right by the little town on Breton Bay that once thrived as a steamboat port. A new mayor led a renaissance of downtown and spearheaded a rebuilding of the waterfront that was once the centerpiece of the city, and in May Leonardtown celebrated its 300th birthday.

Your trip should include a sunny summer day at Leonardtown's "Beach Party on the Square." The town's square serves as the epicenter of Leonardtown and is the place to find many unique shops, businesses and dining options. The unique August event transforms the historic square into a sand covered beach volleyball pit. Less vigorous members of the party can enjoy other family- oriented festivities such as the sand pit for kids, a moon bounce, bocce ball, hula hoop, jump rope and limbo stick contests.

Breton Bay Golf & Country Club is located on one of the most picturesque spots in southern Maryland. From the clubhouse, a breathtaking view of Breton Bay, the Potomac River and Virginia stretches out before you. The front nine is relatively flat with four water hazards, and the back nine has a little more roll.

The town of Leonardtown no longer looks like the making of a western ghost town. The revitalization project the area has undertaken has turned it into "the award-winning locale it is today." According to one report, "Paradoxically, the bypass, which was instituted to help spare the town from overwhelming traffic, was its downfall and eventually its saving grace. Though the construction of the bypass caused the town to dwindle from the early 1990s through 1996, it would later help to retain the rural nature of Leonardtown. Without the high-speed traffic constantly flowing through town, a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere evolved."

4. ST. MICHAELS, Md.

As one of the "last vestiges of quaint old-style towns," St. Michaels, chartered in 1804, has maintained its 18th-century charm by building itself into a tourist center. Shops, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, inns and a small resort draw visitors curious about life a couple of hundred years ago.

Your trip should include a visit to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, and a walk past the display in the town square honoring citizens who, during the War of 1812, drove off attacking British troops. A gun used by the town's defenders is on display.

The golf course at Harbourtowne Resort is an early Pete Dye design. Players can see a little bit of how Dye shapes a course without many of his more contemporary pitfalls. His penchant for railroad ties is apparent. For the average golfer, a pleasant experience on the front turns into the wrath of Pete. Still, from the back tees, the back nine plays shorter than the front (3,123 yards to 3,197 yards) for a reasonable par-70 total.

The town of St. Michaels is also a boating center, with marinas and wharfs situated on the Miles River. It is now one of the top yachting centers in the East, having evolved from a shipbuilding center during the 17th century.

5. WINCHESTER, Va.

For a place with such a pleasant setting, this city of 25,000 or so has a violent history. Various Native American tribes - Catawba, Cherokee, Delaware, Iroquois and Shawnee - fought over the land as they staked out hunting grounds. The French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and five battles of the Civil War were also fought here. Cradled in the breathtaking Shenandoah Valley, Winchester now bustles with charm but maintains close ties to it war-filled past.

A spring trip to Winchester could include a day at the famous Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, which takes place every May as the apple trees bloom. Visitors can access the Appalachian Trail from Winchester, the nearby George Washington National Forest, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Skyline Drive, unveiling some of the world's most beautiful country.

The golf at Rock Harbor began on a day in 1996 when Denny Perry, with machete in hand, made his way through a thick stretch of orchard land near his rock quarry. As he explored the dense terrain, he contemplated the placement of fairways, greens and tees. Perry built Rock Harbor, and now he is working on a second course. In the end, holes from each course will intermingle to create two distinct courses. But it is only because of the demise of Carper's Valley Golf Course that Winchester is again a one-course town.

The city of Winchester is a magnet for history buffs. You can visit the office George Washington used while supervising construction of Fort Loudoun. The spectacular Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, which opened in 2005, tells the story of the art, history, and culture of the great valley.

6. CAPE CHARLES, Va.

On the southern end of Virginia's eastern panhandle, this town is now the definition of quaint. But before golf came along the streets were lined with "For Sale" signs. Bay Creek Resort has put those signs in the garage and increased property values, not to mention business at the shops that make the town worth a visit.

Your trip should include a journey across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world. The 17.6-mile bridge and tunnel passage across the Chesapeake Bay near where it meets the Atlantic Ocean is the only direct connection between Virginia's eastern shore and the mainland.

The golf at Bay Creek Resort actually includes two courses , so we stretch our theme on this one. Both the Jack Nicklaus and the Arnold Palmer designs are outstanding. They both have holes exposed to the Chesapeake Bay and inland holes that meander through maritime forest and through the resort community. It will be up to you to decide which one is best.

The town of Cape Charles owes its existence to the railroad and ferry industries, which is the reason the town was founded in the late 19th century. It is now a living tribute to small-town America of previous centuries. Victorian architecture dominates the streets. Many of the homes have become shops, primarily selling antiques and collectibles.

7. LURAY, Va.

The town known for its caverns has more above ground. The caverns are impressive and a stroll through them is a must. The stalagmites (rising from the floor) and stalactites (hanging from the ceiling) are impressive, and pondering the ages it took to create them is mind-boggling.

Your trip should include a tour of the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, which exhibits authentically restored cars, carriages, coaches and costumes dating from 1725 to 1941. The collection includes an 1892 Benz (before Benz and Mercedes hooked up), one of the oldest cars in the country still running. Also, the Luray Fudge Company still makes its fudge from an 1830s recipe.

The golf at Caverns Country Club is some of the most scenic in the Shenandoah Valley, and that's saying quite a lot. Distant views of the mountains are impressive. The course is solid, if not flashy. It begins with some very narrow tee shots then opens up a bit. The town of Luray thrives on what is below: the East Coast's largest cavern. Last year, visitors from all 50 states and from 51 foreign countries strolled the 1.25 miles of subterranean walkways. With just 4,000 residents, this is a real taste of small-town America. From Luray, you can launch into the Shenandoah National Park or take a drive down Skyline Drive.

8. SNOW HILL, Md.

In 1686, the ideal spot for a settlement was along the banks of a navigable river, so when Snow Hill began to spring up along the Pocomoke, it wasn't like it is today - in the middle of nowhere. With the river allowing them to import and export materials, craftsmen built remarkable homes and sold them to merchants, bankers and sea captains. Gracious living was found in Snow Hill. With steamboats running up and down the river, Snow Hill was an active port. Trade drove the economy, and life was good until the railroad moved commerce inland. Your trip should include a drive through Snow Hill's streets, where you can view fine examples of Greek Revival, Victorian Second Empire, Queen Anne, Gothic Revival and Federal styles of architecture in its homes, churches and buildings.

Nassawango Country Club is a hidden gem. Holes are cut through the cypress trees of the Pocomoke Forest, and since Snow Hill is a little off the beaten path, although still hard by the Pocomoke River, the course has been one of the best-kept golfing secrets in the region since 1970. The town of Snow Hill has a rich heritage that anyone can help uncover. The Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum holds several archaeological digs each year that the public can take part in. This year the excavation takes place on the site of an early 19th-century bake shop.

9. BUENA VISTA, Va.

The sign that hangs in downtown Buena (pronounced BUN-nah) Vista and proclaims this is a town of "6002 Happy Citizens and 3 Old Grouches" dates back to political dissension in 1971. J.H. Dickinson Jr.'s sense of humor and desire to stir up conversation led him to include the phrase on a billboard advertisement for his business in response to bickering in the city at the time. The phrase stuck, and the spirit of the sign with those words on it has hung in Buena Vista's historic downtown since. Now the city has given the "three old grouches" a golf course to play on. The Vista Links, built by designer Rick Jacobson in 2004, is also open to the 6,002 happy citizens, and anyone who wants fairways and greens with great vistas.

Your trip should include a visit to Buena Vista's downtown district, where you can pick up everything from fine wine at Uncorked to an unforgettable hot dog at a sidewalk cafe named Franks for the Memories.

It took nearly five years to clear all the planning hurdles to build Vista Links. Jacobson produced a visually exciting, big- league layout that seamlessly integrated into the city's Glen Maury Park. Drama is the word used to describe the course, from the moment you drive onto the property until the last putt is holed. The course is characterized by its undulating topography between two mountain ranges.

The city of Buena Vista was born out of the vision of one man to be an industrious town in a breathtaking setting. Benjamin C. Moomaw in the late 1800s had founded a town named Green Forest, a small town with only a tannery and unable to attract other businesses. After the railroads came through in 1880, Moomaw envisioned a city larger than anything else in this part of the Shenandoah Valley. By the end of 1888, the Buena Vista Company was organized and began selling stock. Within 30 days, all of the stock was sold for a total of $400,000, the town was laid out on 13,140 acres and Moomaw began recruiting people and industries. Today, a bustling city sits between the Maury River and the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Buena Vista has grown to become a center of business with a diversity that has weathered all challenges, but the magnificent setting hasn't changed a bit.