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Great golf, off the beaten path

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Believe it or not, there is more available to us by way of golf trips than Myrtle Beach, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail or even venerable Pinehurst.

Sometimes travel time and distance, not funds dictate where you can play. I recently met a few buddies for a weekend of golf in Pennsylvania for the third year in a row. Pennsylvania you say? Sure, and although completely off the beaten path we enjoyed 3 nights lodging with dinner, unlimited golf with carts and range privileges for less than $240 total. Neither of the two courses we played were designed by anyone named Ross, Fazio, Palmer, Nicklaus and the like.

Heck, I couldn’t even get a name when I aksed who had designed the course! All I know is that there are some really unique courses waiting to be discovered off golf’s beaten path. The area of Northwest Pennsylvania we stayed is called the Pennsylvania Wilds and it seems like they have caught on and are marketing themselves as a golf destination. This short trip was a nice change of pace from say Myrtle Beach where you are herded like sheep and then double teed at your course of the day. Actually, I may have spent my last dollar in Myrtle Beach back In April.  Golf, relaxation and more golf are what I typically seek now. We stayed near DuBois, Pennsylvania at Scottish Heights Golf Course and Lodge.  Scottish Heights Golf Course is one of the most original and natural  courses that I have ever played.

 

A tough par 5, hole #3. First a narrow dogleg off the tee, then this monster tree in your landing area. Fun.

Scottish Heights Golf Course is approximately 8 miles north of I-80, not far from Dubois, PA. Worth a round if you are in the area, or desire a very laid back location for a weekend of nothing but golfing. It is neatly tucked into a rolling hillside, the site of a former cow/dairy farm and strip mine. The course according to the scorecard is about 6100 yards long. When you factor in some of the uphill holes, it seems to play a bit longer. It offers both wide open and narrow, tight corridors of golf pleasure. The course was in excellent conditon and showed very little to no signs of drought conditions. They made excellent use of the land, although at times you do feel "a little bit squeezed in", more so on the back 9 holes. The greens rolled quickly and did not always hold your shots well. Many small greens, tight holes and uphill shots do quite well at defending par here.  Scottish Heights has a slope of 122 and a course rating of 70.7. The owner suggests only playing the back tees if you have a handicap of 10 or less. Of course, we ignored him as we felt up to the challenge.  There are a few holes where it makes a big difference when you tee off from the white tees though.

An early morning fog lifts itself over the early colors of fall.

 

Feast or famine. Tight, but short 345 yard par 4 #6. Can you find the fairway?

Are you somewhat challenged for distance off the tee? Hit a really solid drive on the downhill, par 5 #18 and you’ll know how Tiger Woods or Stuart Appleby feels when they bust out a 320 plus yard drive. Eagle opportunities abound on this hole. Don’t ask me though, I hit one 340 and failed to even birdie. Holes #3 through #6 are as tough as it gets and all without much length. These are tight holes and errant drives or approach shots will be given no quarter. Halfway through my 27th hole of the first day I suddenly realized that Scottish Heights Golf Course is devoid of any sand traps! Who needs sand on a golf course anyway?

200 yard, downhill #10. A long, elevated  par 3 that you get to "club down" on.

Is this The Open Championship at Scottish Heights? Hole #16 is an uphill and blind shot (just aim a little right of the target), short par 4. Lots of room left for error, but none to the right. Big hitters will stray very near a "dime sized" green.

The par 3, #4 at Scottish Heights. Just 140 yards from the very tips and tough as nails.

The ultra short par 4, #17 amid a beautiful backdrop of rolling hills of autumn foliage. Another golden, eagle opportunity.

I was pleasantly surprised at the overall value we got for our money. The on-course restaurant (not open year round) called Bagpipers has awesome food. Dinner is free with your lodging. Anything on the menu is fair game. Eat steak all nights of your package and enjoy. We stayed in a duplex condo that was big enough for 8, although our number was only 3. If you desire just golf, the camaraderie of your buddies and just some more golf, be sure and make an overnight or several day stop at Scottish Heights Golf Course and Lodge.

Bavarian Hills Golf Course – St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania

After our second day playing at Scotttish Heights we meandered about 30 miles northeast and played 9 holes at Bavarian Hills Golf Course. A municipal course of the first order, and basically in the middle of nowhere! The small town St. Mary’s is more well known for the original Straub Beer Brewery and the world’s largest light bulb factory. Go figure. About the course. I really liked this place, it was somewhat tight on most holes, but the variation of design was excellent. Again, another course sculpted right out of the land with probably very little earth ever moved around. Compact, but not squeezed in as in a vice. The course was in excellent condition as well, and for 9 holes with a cart on a weekend afternoon, it was only $15. If we had time we would have played 18, for $10 more. The course plays to about 6000 from the tips, but I think it was actually a little longer than the card says. Bavarian Hills has a slope of 126 and course rating of 68.8 from the blue tees. This course qualifies as a hidden gem.

Hole #3 at Bavarian Hills is a tough par 3 with a deadly sloping green. Watch your ball roll off in typical US Open style.

Hole #4 was elevated, enough so that you can hit the high power fade darn near the green.

View of the 364 yard par 4, #4 green set amid a marshy backdrop.

The most difficult hole on the front nine (not according to the scorecard) was the 402 yard, par 4 # 5. You’ll need a carry of at least 200 to clear the wetlands area to a nice and narrow fairway.

Hole #6 is a tough par 3 and as nice as you’ll find anywhere.

Hole number 2 is a 486 yard par 5, fairly narrow and surprisingly rated as the number 1 handicap hole at Bavarian Hills.

This area of Pennsylvania offers great golf, absolutely no crowds, and a great return for your hard earned golfing dollar. The next time you need to squeeze in a short golf trip, try going off the beaten path, you’ll be amazed what you might find.

Links of interest:

www.scottishheights.com

www.bavarianhillsgolf.net

www.nwpagolf.com

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Jim

    Apr 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    We played scottish heights for the first time last year and loved it. Last year we had 12, this year we have 30 going. we will no longer go to cross creek. Good job lou!!!!

  2. Nancy Denton

    Oct 16, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I have played Scottish Heights nearly every year for the past 6 with my family and we have a great time. Our hosts Louie and Pally couldn’t be more welcoming. The golf is challenging and the food is outstanding.

    Give them a try you won’t be disappointed!!!

  3. Dacia Van Antwerp

    Oct 13, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    This past summer I also played Scottish Heights and was awed by the beauty and was challenged by the course. I shall return!

  4. George Van Antwerp

    Oct 13, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    I played that course three years ago. Great challenges amid nature’s beautiful landscape and views. Their dining room have to serve the best food within 72 miles!

    I’m proud that you wrote it up.

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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