Established in the late 1800’s this place is a small scale version the old line rich man’s retreat, on the order of a Homestead or Greenbrier, full service food, accommodations, golf, spa, family recreation, and all. It has a much more casual presentation than those others but that may be a function of the new day more than anything else. A very comfortable atmosphere-well managed-it makes for a perfect two-day getaway from the hub-bub of urban life.
The golf course is quirky but very interesting. It is the result of the efforts of three architects over a thirty year period-and it has been recently updated in 2007 without changing the effective old style character of the links. Spencer Oldham did the original 18 holes in 1895 featuring chocolate drop mounds, geometric S-curve bunkers, and donut bunkers. In 1912 A.W. Tillinghast got his hands on it and scaled it back to a nine-hole course with his own architectural features. In 1923 Donald Ross took it back to a full 18-hole track and you can see raised greens with lots of tiering, artistic bunkering constellations, and, most distinctively, a creative and strategic use of the Shober’s Run that meanders throughout the entire golf course. The renovation work in 2007 was done by Forse Design Company of Pennsylvania who are known for doing period restoration and renovation work throughout the US and Canada-they have recently had their hands in renovation work to the Broadmoor-East Course in Colorado and the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island-sites of recent U.S. Senior Opens and U.S. Women’s Opens respectively. They did a wonderful job retaining the characteristics of all three of these fine architects while making it a very playable and a challenging golf experience.
The entire course is in the flood plain of the Shober Spring Stream and sits nestled between the foothills on either side. There is a good bit of meandering back and forth so the holes do not route in a typical outward and inward loop. For a course set in the foothills there are not that many severe elevation changes on holes and you get surprisingly few side hill or billy goat stances during the round. As with most old style courses the track does not sprawl-the next tee is a few steps from the last green and the round has a tidy-compact feel to it. Green surfaces are totally updated-very quick-lots of pitch and undulation and oddly shaped which makes for really small targets from the fairway. You will do some pitching and chipping to save pars.
The green speed is the course’s major defense considering the tiering and undulations you will face. But at the same time these characteristics provide you with a good correction mechanism for your approach shots if you pay attention to green topography and use it accordingly. Big hitters will be frustrated by the many times they cannot just haul off and hit as much as they can-position off the tee is extremely important to getting the best angle of attack into the greens.
The last characteristic worth noting is the balance of the types of holes and the sequencing. Five Par 5’s, Five Par 3’s, and 8 Par 4’s (only one over 400 yards) means you are hitting lots of finesse shots through the day and the mix is pretty random. There is a sequence from 2 to 6 where you play par 3, par 5, par 3, par 5, short par 4-other than the driver on the second par 3 you have no long shots for five holes. From 9 through 14 you have a similar 5-3-4-4-5-3 run but in the midst of this one you have two of the longest holes you play all day. My point is you have to be very mentally agile to play this course effectively-there is no natural rhythm to the course other than the constant sound of the babbling of the ever present Shober’s Run.
Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania
Architects: Spencer Oldham (1895), A.W. Tillinghast (1912), Donald Ross (1923), Forse Design (2007)
Tees Par Rating Slope Yardage
Medal 72 73.4 140 6785
Ross 72 71.9 136 6446
Tillie 72 69.3 130 6023
Oldham 72 69.8 122 5106
(Click here to review Bedford Springs hole-by-hole descriptions)