GIBSON STATION, Va. — For folks in the Tri-State area looking for an affordable place to play a round of golf Monte Vista is like an oasis nestled in the mountains over in southwestern Virginia. Like many wonderful things, it all started as one man’s dream.
The course was built by George Engle, a former golf pro, and opened in 1979. Thirty-three years later Monte Vista remains a family-run operation with George’s wife Etta Lou (Engle) Talley, daughter Denise and husband Ralph Young, and grandson Daniel Carmack and wife Melisa overseeing the course.
“George’s vision was to build a golf course that could accommodate everybody. Not just people that had a lot of money and could belong to a country club,” Etta Lou said. “He wanted everybody that wanted to play golf to have an opportunity to play. That was his dream and he realized that dream — It’s been a blessing to a lot of people.”
The course flourished in those early years and attracted people from all over the region. Engle was able to see the fruits of his labor before he passed away from colon cancer in 1985. From that time Etta Lou continued to run the course with son Scott Engle. Monte Vista has had it’s ups and downs over the years along with the local economy, with the latest downturn taking place when Scott passed away at age 50 from the same disease that took his father.
Things are back on the upswing at Monte Vista now as a new generation of the Engle family is involved in the day-to-day operation of the golf course. They’ve put a lot of work into getting the course back in shape and this summer it’s playing as well as it has in years.
“Grandad’s vision is still our mission today. We want anybody regardless of their background or their financial status to have a place to play, whether they’re a beginner or an expert,” Daniel Carmack said. “This is one of the best courses in the area for the money. It’s beautiful, it’s a challenging course but it doesn’t cost a lot to play here. It’s also family friendly and a place where anyone can come, relax and have fun.”
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the presence of family and friends at Monte Vista. Billy Ray and Jackie Ayers first starting coming to the course when George Engle was first building it. They became charter members before Monte Vista even opened and are still playing golf there today.
“It was a good place to walk and we watched him gradually build the course. It was interesting and we enjoyed it,” Jackie said. “We’ve enjoyed being here all this time. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a place for people to come and just relax.
“I joined it in 1978 and started playing here when the course opened on June 1, 1979, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s just home to me,” Billy Ray added after finishing a round Friday afternoon. “It’s a course that just about anybody can come up and shoot a decent score on, if they can play. It plays a whole lot tougher than it looks.
“I just enjoy playing it and being around the people that’s here. You know the course went down after Scott died and got to where you couldn’t even play on it. But now it’s back almost to what it used to be.”
Monte Vista is hilly a nine-hole course with several tree-lined fairways and just enough bunkers to be challenging. It’s located just a little ways off Highway 58 near Gibson Station, Va. From Middlesboro turn onto Highway 58 just after you get to the Tennessee side of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. After a little over five miles turn left onto Highway 692 (just past the Gibson Station sign), then turn left onto Golf Course Road and follow the country road for almost a mile to the clubhouse.
“It’s been here since ‘79 but we’re still open for business and we want people to know that,” Carmack added. “We’ve been doing a lot of rebuilding, we’re making improvements and even more are being planned so we’re looking forward to having a good future here.”
For green’s fees and other information about Monte Vista Golf Course call (276) 861-4014.