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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

  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

No. 12 at Augusta National: The Golden Bell tolls for Koepka, Molinari

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On Sunday, Tiger Woods accomplished what many thought he could never do by winning another major championship, the 2019 Masters. In collecting his fifth green jacket, Tiger added a new luster to what was already a brilliant legacy. Woods overcame unusual start times, difficult conditions and a generation of young golf warriors that he helped to create. And like every champion before him, Woods had to contend with holes 11 through 13 on Sunday, the beautiful beast nicknamed Amen Corner by the great golf writer Herbert Warren Wind.

Of the three holes, it seems that 12 is the one that has drowned more hopes and dreams in the creek that winds through the terrible trio than either of the other two. Arnold Palmer made six on Sunday in 1959 on the way to losing to Art Wall by two. Tom Weiskopf made a mind-boggling 13 in 1980. Greg Norman had a double bogey during his Sunday collapse in 1986. And there’s Jordan Speith’s quadruple bogey in 2016, which some think he has still not recovered from. Through the generations, the hole named Golden Bell has sounded a death knell for many a would-be champion.

This week, I had the opportunity to walk the back nine at Augusta National with Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Jones is an acclaimed golf course designer in his own right but he is also the son of the legendary Robert Trent Jones, the man who designed the second nine at Augusta National as we know it today and therefore shaped history and the outcome of so many Sundays for so many players.

As we walked along the holes Jones described the changes both dramatic and subtle that his father had made in 1948 to shape the second nine, and I came to a greater understanding of why the stretch is so special. The second nine was deliberately crafted as the ultimate offer of risk/reward. It was designed to create heroes and tragic figures of epic proportions. As we got to the tee box at number 12, Mr. Jones’ well-known face (as well as the microphone I was holding in front of it) caused a crowd together around us as he described what his father had done with the most famous par three in golf.

Jones pointed out how the wide, narrow green on the 12th follows the path of Rae’s Creek which runs in front of it.

“It appears that the creek and the green are running almost perpendicular to the tee box at 12, but the right side of the green is actually significantly further away from the golfer than the left side. This is critical when it comes to playing the Sunday hole location on the right side of the green. Because of the way the hole is framed by water and bunkers, the golfer is deceived into either selecting the wrong club or taking a half swing, which often leads to a shot into the water.”

Jones’s words proved prophetic, as Brooks Koepka and Francisco Molinari made watery double bogeys that doomed their championship hopes. Woods, on the other hand, made par on 12, providing the spark that eventually led to his victory. How did Woods negotiate the 12th?

Again, RTJII shared his crystal ball. “Jack Nicklaus played the 12th better than anyone because he always played to the middle of the green,” noted Jones. “Jack felt that whether the pin was on the right or the left, a shot over the front bunker to the center of the green would take a big number out of play and maybe leave an opportunity for a birdie.”

Sure enough, on Sunday while pretenders to the throne went pin seeking with either the wrong club or ill-advised half swings, Woods channeled his inner Nicklaus, hitting a full-swing 9-iron with conviction to the middle of the green and safely two-putting. It was at once humble and heroic. It was the thing that heroes and champions do: survive demons in order to slay dragons. The moment his tee shot on 12 landed safely was the moment that I, and many others, knew in our hearts that Tiger Woods was, in fact, going to win again at Augusta. It is a singular accomplishment, made possible by his combination of wisdom and nerve at number 12 on Sunday. Amen, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Exploring Ireland: Where to golf, drink and stay on the Emerald Isle. Pt. 6. Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Cork

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In these series of articles, I will be taking you around the Emerald Isle providing you with great golf courses to visit in some of the loveliest spots in Ireland. I’ll also be highlighting the best and most authentic Irish bars in these spots, as well as places to stay, eat and how to get there. Whether you’re taking a golfing holiday to Ireland in 2019 or are interested in doing so sometime in the future, I’ll make sure to let you in on the best places to spend your time.

In Part Five of our Exploring Ireland Series, we travelled to Parknasilla Golf Club in Kerry. For Part Six, we’re staying down South and heading into County Cork.

Known as “The Rebel County” dating back to the days of Henry VII and also for its role in the Irish War of Independence, Cork is one of the biggest cities in Ireland, and its locals will tell you that it is indeed Cork and not Dublin which is the real capital of Ireland. Cork caters to everyone, full of history, natural beauty and ruggedness, and it also possesses one of the nicest city centers in Ireland, full of top restaurants and bars

Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Cork

@FairwaysFundays

While for the most part in this series we’ve been focusing on slightly lesser known courses in Ireland and keeping the purse strings a little tight, when you get to County Cork there’s one golf course that you just cannot ignore, no matter the price. Old Head Golf Links is the course in question, and in all honesty, if you haven’t heard of the course yet, then the photos will likely be enough for you to put this course on the bucket list.

Set upon 220-acres of sprawling land above the Atlantic Ocean, Old Head Golf Links offers unrivalled views of the south coast of Ireland. The rush you will feel when walking this golf course is like nothing else, and even the quickest of golfers will find themselves more than likely playing more deliberately in order to soak up every moment of their experience here! The famous Lighthouse watches over you as you make your away around the iconic grounds.

@wunderlan

You’ll hear the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the giant cliffs as you play, and you’ll smell the salt in the air on every shot. While that sounds fantastic, you can also expect some brutal winds from time to time, so pack the appropriate clothes and also stock up on some golf balls, as even the straightest of hitters are bound to lose a few to the deep blue sea.

The course itself features six tees, which is not just great since it caters to golfers of different standards, but it also allows for adjustments should you find yourself here on a particularly rough weather day. Those tees range from 5,413 yards to over 7,100 yards, and the course plays as a par-72 with five par-5s, eight par-4s and five par-3’s. The inconsistent wind makes matters very tricky around here, but the club does attempt to help their visitors out as much as possible by setting up the course differently daily depending on the weather forecast.

@EIGtravel

Relatively new, work began on creating this special links course in 1993 when visionary John O’Connor together with his brother Patrick set their sights on building one of the most beautiful golf courses in Ireland. The course opened for play in 1997, and while some controversy lingers over a private golf course being situated on The Old Head of Kinsale, the links course continues to provide its visitors with a breathtaking experience.

@fariwaysfundays

A visit to Old Head Golf Links does however come at a price. The course closes in Winter, and during the off-peak period (April-May, October) the green fee is around $200, while during the summer months the rate rises to $350. The course also features a top-class restaurant and a spa. It may cost an arm and a leg, but for the golfing purists out there, it will undoubtedly be worth the money.

Food & Drink – The Spaniard/The White House

@johnspillane09

Despite going top-heavy on the golfing experience in this trip to Cork, there are some excellent bars in the village to enjoy a well-earned pint and chat about what you’ve just experienced on the course. Staying in the village of Kinsale, you have both The Spaniard Inn and The White House which provide two different, yet two equally excellent options for a fun night.

@Lordted2011

The Spaniard Inn looks more like a little house than a pub. The thatched-roofed cottage is an old-school atmospheric pub that puts an emphasis on conversation, music and good homely meals. The pub also has a restaurant if you want to dine more formally, but the pub grub is just as tasty, and being so close to the coast makes their fish dishes a must try.

@KCSPA_FundRaise

The White House is a little different in that with its brighter look it doesn’t quite capture that homey feel, but it makes a big deal over its food, and it also provides live music. Should you visit here, then it’s well worth booking a table at their restaurant where they offer the freshest Lobsters, Oysters, Scallops etc. You name the fish, and they more than likely have it!

Where To Stay

From $275-375 a night, you can stay on-site at Old Head Golf Links in one of their suites. The price doesn’t just include the convenience of being able to sleep in before your tee-time, the suites offer impressive views of both the Ocean as well as the courses 18th green.

For a cheaper option, The White House provides rooms for around $140, and from there it’s just a 20-minute drive down to the spectacular Old Head Golf Links.

@gotoirelandus

Blarney Castle and Stone is one the most popular tourist attractions in Cork. According to folklore, those who kiss the Blarney Stone are said to receive “the gift of the gab” (translated in English: Ability to chat well about all sorts of topics!).

@kal__1211

I’d also highly recommend a visit to Cork City Gaol, which was open from 1824 until 1923. The prison was all-female from 1878 to 1920, and it’s well worth a trip if you find yourself in the Rebel County.

For history buffs, a visit to a Michael Collins attraction is a must while in Cork too. A museum for the Irish revolutionary soldier and politician who was instrumental in creating an independent Ireland lies in Clonakilty, which is a 40-minute drive west of Kinsale.

How To Get There

Kinsale is a 25-minute drive from Cork airport, and if you’re making your way here from Dublin City Center, then you can expect it to take at least three hours to get to the southern village.

 

 

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Sharp Park in Pacifica, California

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member Zach Heusser who takes us to Sharp Park in Pacifica, California. The course has been around since 1932, and according to Zach Heusser, the supreme layout of the track justifies a visit, while cautioning that the maintenance budget appears to be minimal.

“Seaside MacKenzie track. Unbelievable layout.”

Fellow GolfWRX member pt73 is also one who champions the course as a hidden gem, stating

“I played there a few times when I lived in the Bay Area (San Mateo) back in the late 1990s and loved the course layout.”

According to Sharp Park’s website, 18 holes around the Californian course will cost you $49.

@jemsekgolf

@gfordgolf

@findagame

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

 

 

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19th Hole

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