The course at the Bedford Springs Hotel dates back to 1895. Altered on separate occasions by A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross, it was renovated by Ron Forse in 2007. Today's layout is quite short (under 6,450 yards) with half the holes laid out alongside the waters of Shobers Run.
Ron Forse was interviewed by golfclubatlas.com in November 2020 and he mentioned his work at Bedford Springs: “Everything was reconsidered and rebuilt with a foothold in the history of the three architects who had worked there.
1895 Spencer Oldham from Baltimore. He designed one of the first 6,000-yard courses in the U.S. Tillinghast came in 1912 very early in his career and turned it into 9 holes. D.J. Ross, using existing holes in many cases, built a complete 18-hole layout which opened in May 1923.
Prone to severe flooding, the low portions of the course had to be raised simply to avoid play and revenue shutdown. In fact, the entire resort was shut and had to be restored. The historic hotel as well as the course had to be rebuilt/restored to the tune of $120 million. The developer said working on the golf course was simple compared to everything else for him.
Seventy thousand cubic yards of topsoil were gathered by the lowering and restoring the stream and adjacent wetlands back to pre-colonial elevations. This enabled us to raise grades as needed in the valley for positive drainage and playability. A great example of how function and architectural integrity work together.
Features from the original 1895 course were retained, even the grass on them. The entire course was restored according to the architecture of each designer yet we incorporated other improvements beyond the restoration.
New bunkers and mounds were used to build on the strategy and variety of the course, hole-by-hole, in the way appropriate to the individual architect and the entire 18-hole composition.”
I loved Bedford Springs. It was my first ever round of golf in the US, and it exceeded expectations. The conditions were great, the rough was up, the fairways were excellent. There were several standout holes including the 1st, 4th, 10th, and 18th. Very good golf course, highly recommended
Traveling to Bedford Springs is akin to a walk back in time. The facility came of age over a century ago in 1895 when the well-to-do would pack up bags and head out from the major cities - in this specific case Philadelphia -- for an opportunity to rejuvenate mind and body.
The resort has been updated by its connection to Omni while still maintaining its authentic ties to its original roots. Given its near halfway location between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike does make it quite easy to reach.
The golf course has the fingerprints of different architects - namely the likes of Donald Ross and A.W. Tillinghast who provided updates to the original 1895 effort by Spencer Oldham. Amazingly, the roster of key visitors over the many years have included 12 US Presidents. Tillinghast did some redesign work in 1912, when the course was reduced to nine hole and Ross came forward in the 1920s to complete the layout.
The facility has a number of key amenities and the interior architecture speaks richly of a time of splendid grandeur. Bedford Springs encompasses 2,200 acres of property and architect Ron Forse was called in to tie all the loose ends together in 2007 and did a fine job.
The starting hole begins the round in fine fashion. When looking at the scorecard one sees a very short par-4 of 317 yards. Ripe pickings -- right? Hardly. The Tillinghast hole features two distinct levels -- lower and upper. A series of mid-placed bunkers is the dividing point. Players have to decide -- either take an aggressive route and carry the bunkers with an eye towards getting the tee shot as near as possible to the green.
Or -- conversely, there's a conservative option where laying-up before the bunkers provides 100% safety. The downside is you have a much longer shot to an elevate target and one where you cannot see the entire flagstick from that position.
The bold route also runs the risk in going out-of-bounds if hit a bit too far left. Go too far right and you're likely to reach the outer area of Shuber's Run - a serpentine creek that plays a continual role in the design.
The 1st is a grand way to start the round because all handicap levels face a series of decisions. The only downside -- a paved cart path runs alongside the green on the left side and given the wetlands on the far right side there's no real alternative.
At the 2nd you experience the first of five par-3 holes. There are also an equal number of par-5 holes. The 2nd is a quality hole
The main plus deals with the routing. In the case of resort courses there's sometime the mistaken belief that one must return to the clubhouse at the end of nine holes. That fortunately does not happen here. The aforementioned Shuber's Run provides a danger point to the immediate left of the green. There's room to bail out to the right but missing too far to that side will require some additional work to escape with par.
Be sure to check out the donut bunker on the par-5 3rd -- quite a neat inclusion. At the par-3 4th you come
The par-3 4th is a brilliant hole - called "Volcano." The hole plays UP-hill significantly at 223 yards. The approach is akin to the skill needed to land a fighter jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier! There are steep drop-offs on both sides and anyone forced to recover will need to borrow the skills of Seve Ballesteros to pull it off.
At the par-4 7th you once again deal with Shubers Run on the approach shot. The inward half concludes with sand bunkers enveloping the par-4 8th and the par-5 9th a likely birdie hole.
The inward half is begins with a short par-3 that requires a pinpoint play to the elevated target. Two par-5's constitute the bulk of the yardage on the back nine -- with the 13th and 16th hole playing 615 and 593 yards respectively. The 16th is quite good -- golfers need to pay attention to trees which hang near the green on the right side for one's approach.
The par-3 17th is another fine hole -- here the elevated green is angled and protected fiercely by a frontal bunker. Nothing is gained on the hole without the surest of shots played from the tee.
The round concludes with a short par-4 of 366 yards -- where placement is paramount as a series of bunkers frame the fairway. The green is also done well -- elevated and high above the fairway with a small frontal area widening out a bit towards the rear area.
During my spring time round at Bedford the rough was unusually long and quite thick. I have no issue with any course having rough -- the issue becomes twofold -- speed of play and the wherewithal for recovery play being part of the program. The other issue is getting the course to play as firm and fast as the turf can provide. The different types of holes encountered would play even better with the turf not being kept as moist.
Overall, Bedford has clearly benefited with Omni leading the way in providing the much needed financial resources to keep the resort on a high level across the board The totality of the amenities clearly makes for a getaway for families to enjoy. The Keystone State does not have a rich depth of quality courses open to the public, however, Bedford Springs is clearly among the upper echelon and worth checking out if ever in the vicinity.
M. James Ward