WHARNCLIFFE, W.Va. - Tucked deep into the hills of Southern West Virginia sits one of the finest public golf courses in the state. Twisted Gun Golf Club sits high atop of a mountain in the southeastern part of Mingo County on an old reclaimed mine site between Wharncliffe and Ben Creek in the Twisted Gun Gap area.
It is quite a trek just to get to the golf course, as you turn on Gilbert Creek road off of U.S. 52 and follow the signs to the course, it is about 15 minutes from there until you begin your climb to the top of Twisted Gun Mountain.
Once you reach the top, you'll see that the drive was worth it.
The beautiful 18-hole PGA style course is a beauty in itself, as the greens are in pristine conditions especially for this time of year, but the views the course offer are unmatched.
"I lived in Europe for six years, I circumnavigated the globe, I was a traveling salesman in Europe, I lived in Germany and Northern Italy, I have been in about 50 different countries and seen the sights of the world, and this golf course and this mountaintop is one of the most beautiful vistas there is," said golf course owner Ernest Sammons. "It matches anything or exceeds anything you will see, anywhere in this world. The serenity here, the beauty, the sunsets, the sun rises, the wildlife, the quality of the golf course; this is truly a world-class golf course."
Sammons, who was born and raised at the head of Gilbert Creek and moved away from Mingo County in 1957, bought the golf course with the help of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority back in 2015 from the coal companies that previously owned the course.
He and his wife, Tina, lived in Virginia Beach at the time and ran a hotel there as well as 150-plus apartments. He spent his life as a CEO of a computer corporation developing software.
He discovered the course in 2006 when visiting family in the area. When the golf course became available in 2015, he made the decision to buy it and move back home. Sammons has since added a bar and restaurant to the back of the clubhouse next to the 8th and 19th greens and a patio area with a fire pit next to the clubhouse as well as front porch.
"Jobs are the issue here in Mingo County," Sammons said. "We are trying to create jobs. People in Mingo County have to understand, if you spend your money at businesses in Mingo County, then that creates jobs in Mingo County and a tax base in Mingo County. We are trying to help diversify the economy here."
Sammons also bought and remodeled the old Gilbert Lodge in downtown Gilbert and offers rooms for $89 a night.
Sammons also plans to build 10 750-square-foot chalets next to the driving range on the course as well as six RV spots so that he can start offering packages with the Hatfield and McCoy Trail System for riders to stay up at the course. The trail system will eventually be connected to the course from the Beech Creek and Matewan trail systems.
The course is also in the process of building a 1.1-mile ATV race track, two hill climbs and a mud pit for drag racing. Sammons plans on playing a big role in the annual Trail Fest that takes the Gilbert area by storm at the end of every summer.
In 2017, the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority received a $1.392 million grant to help provide water to the golf course and the entire Twisted Gun Gap area, which is necessary to move forward with the course's plans.
After completion of the chalets, Sammons plans to build approximately 18 half-acre home sites on the course down the 9th and 18th greens. Sammons says he has six people already interested in building on the course, once they are able to do so.
"I love my home, and I want to do what I can to help here and hopefully get this county heading in the right direction in diversifying our economy," Sammons said. "It has to start somewhere, and it should have been done a long time ago, and it has not been done but it must be done in order for this county to survive."
Sammons plans on offering the large bar and restaurant area for weddings, baby showers and other special events. They recently hosted a large engagement party there. They are going to put picnic tables by the pong on the 11th hole, and eventually plans on having annual horseshoe and cornhole tournaments.
"We want to be a real staple of the community," Sammons said. "We want to be a place people are proud of and can come up and hang out and spend the day, even if they aren't there to play golf."
The course is open seven days a week and offers 18-hole rounds for $37 on Monday-Thursday and $42 on Friday and Saturday. Golfers can golf all day on Sunday for just $30.
"I love my county. I just love where I was born and raised. This has always been home," Sammons said. "And this golf course is a true gem of Mingo County, it is truly spectacular."