GOLF COURSE REVIEW - BEDFORD SPRINGS RESORT (OLD COURSE)
Course Architects: Spencer Oldham (1895), A.W. Tillinghast (1912),
Donald Ross (1923), Ron Forse (2006-07, restoration)
Year Opened: 1895
Location: Bedford, Pennsylvania
Slope: 140. Rating: 73.4
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 310 Yds 10 - Par 3 124 Yds
2 - Par 3 192 Yds 11 - Par 4 467 Yds
3 - Par 5 589 Yds 12 - Par 4 410 Yds
4 - Par 3 223 Yds 13 - Par 5 615 Yds
5 - Par 5 611 Yds 14 - Par 3 136 Yds
6 - Par 4 358 Yds 15 - Par 4 359 Yds
7 - Par 4 387 Yds 16 - Par 5 593 Yds
8 - Par 4 356 Yds 17 - Par 3 174 Yds
9 - Par 5 525 Yds 18 - Par 4 356 Yds
Par 37 3,551 Yds Par 35 3,234 Yds
Awards Won: National Historic Landmark (1984).
HISTORY: Picture this. The movie is "Somewhere in Time," starring the late
Christopher Reeve and the angelic Jane Seymour. The setting, a grand hotel
near Chicago back in the early 1900s. The plot (though irrelevant) features a
playwright (Reeve) who goes back in time to seek out a beautiful actress
(Seymour). Reeve is thrust back from 1980 to 1912 and awakes in an elegant
This scene is exactly what transpires when you first drive up to Bedford
Springs Resort - a view of history and a magnificent and impressive hotel.
Built in south-central Pennsylvania back in the late 1700s, Bedford Springs
was "the" spot for national dignitaries and politicians to visit. In fact,
seven sitting United States Presidents, including Eisenhower and Reagan (while
Governor of California) made frequent visits.
In 1855, all members of the U.S. Supreme Court stayed on site, in part to
discuss the Dred Scott case, in which he sued for his freedom (and lost).
From 1857 to 1861, President James Buchanan used Bedford Springs as his summer
White House. Buchanan, who was the only single U.S. President, discussed many
governmental issues and formally announced from the steps of the hotel that he
would not seek re-election.
Centrally located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania
Railroad needed to create regular trips to the Resort due to it's popularity.
Now, Bedford Springs is easily reached by car and plane, as the Steel City is
90 minutes away, Baltimore and Washington D.C. are just a two-hour drive and
Philadelphia is a three-hour distance.
The golf course was originally laid out by Spencer Oldham in 1895, but it was
the two infamous architects - A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross - who put the
Old Course on the map. Tillinghast, who designed masterpieces like Bethpage
Black, Quaker Ridge, Winged Foot and Baltusrol Golf Club, did some redesign
work in 1912 as the course was reduced to nine holes. In 1918, the course
reverted back to 18 holes, and Ross arrived on the scene to add his touch in
the early 1920s. Ross, who was in the middle of his heyday as a course
designer, crafted some gems around the United States, such as Pinehurst #2,
Oakland Hills (South), Oak Hill (East) and Seminole Golf Club. The course at
Bedford that Ross redesigned incorporates some of the bunkering of Oldham and
Tillinghast's thoughts, but the blueprint of the layout is dominated by Ross'
In the early 1940s, the U.S. Navy took over the hotel, which served as a
communication center during World War II.
With the completion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike after the war, the resort
became an even more popular destination, as the exit was just three miles from
The 60s and 70s were very prosperous years for the resort and by the early
1980s, Bedford Springs Resort was deemed one of the best remaining examples
of "springs resort architecture." In fact, in 1984, the resort was designated
a National Historic Landmark and given endangered site status.
Not only was Bedford Springs host to many special dignitaries, but several
golf icons visited the resort over the years, such as U.S. Open champions
Francis Ouimet, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Sam Parks, Jr. and Arnold Palmer.
Parks was enamored with the resort, as he made trips from the 1930s into the
Unfortunately, the resort closed in 1986, as the once magnificent structure
was considered old and outdated. With poor management, foreclosures and
preservation at an all-time high, Bedford Springs' doors were sealed.
Committed to reestablish the resort, Bedford Resort Partners Ltd. purchased
the property for $8 million and since the early 2000s, have invested well over
$120 million to bring the once-beloved resort back to life.
Ron Forse, who has restored over 35 Ross venues around the United States, was
given the task of preserving this classic golf course in 2006. In two years,
Forse and his design team, "made a lot of subtle changes, which included
lifting some of the greens," commented Forse. "It was more of a Retro-Redo."
Of the three architects, Bedford Springs most represents the 1923 routing of
Ross, but Oldham and Tillinghast's ideas are certainly prevalent. From
Oldham's donut bunkers and chocolate drops to Tillinghast's "Tiny Tim" par
three (14th) and Ross' classic design concepts, Bedford Springs is a
REVIEW: I love golf courses that start off with a gentle par four. Bedford
Springs' opener is just that, only 310 yards from the tips with a generous
fairway. Driver is a risky play off the tee, as four bunkers are cut into the
hillside that requires a 245-yard carry uphill. Not to mention a sharp drop-
off into a hazard on the right. The smart decision would be with a medium
iron, setting up just a wedge or nine-iron to the elevated green. The putting
surface slopes from left to right towards two traps. A back-right pin can be
tough, so attack when possible, otherwise play towards the center of the
The first of the sensational par three's, the second hole is named after the
original course designer, Spencer Oldham. A babbling brook and wetlands down
the left side remind the player just how spot on you need to be on this 192-
yard gem. When the wind is up, this hole can make club selection very
difficult. At 27 paces deep, the putting surface is one of the smallest on the
front nine. Sand and trees guard the bailout area on the right, but it shore
beats the alternative.
At 589 yards, the next hole is the "third" longest par five on the course.
This straightaway three-shotter features a pair of original design bunkers, an
S-shaped trap and a donut bunker, both down the left side. Both are indicative
of the style of golf course architecture of the era. Usually into the wind,
the third necessitates more placement than length, but at nearly 600 yards,
brawn will be needed. The putting surface is long by course standards, with a
large rise in the rear. A front-right pin can be very inviting, especially
with a little wedge in hand. Use the rear swale to spin it close.
One of the six Donald Ross holes still in use on the course, the fourth is the
most demanding of the par three's. Uphill and stretching 223 yards from the
tips, this hole is more about survival. The putting surface is 33 paces deep
and two-tiered and the edges of the green fall off sharply towards sand and
thick rough. In fact, the two bunkers on the right are some 20-feet below the
green. With a fairway metal in hand, you'll be quite fortunate to make par. It
comes as no surprise that this is the number one handicap hole on the course.
Carved through ancient oak, hickory and sycamore trees, the double-dogleg par-
five fifth features several Ross trademarks. You'll need a big drive to get
past the trees on the right, allowing for a clear look down the fairway
towards the green. The narrow fairway is highlighted by a pair of bunkers that
squeeze the approach zone for your layup. If successful, you'll need just a
wedge to attack the slightly elevated putting surface that's protected by five
bunkers on the sides and rear. Birdies are available, but don't get greedy,
especially with a back-left pin, as any shots long will make for a near
Completely surrounded by tall trees, the straightaway, par-four sixth is woven
into a beautiful setting. Start off with a tee shot that requires a carry of
over 200 yards over wetlands to reach the fairway. Three perfectly placed
traps guard the landing area as you decide just how far down the fairway you
wish to place your tee ball. Your approach to the green will have to take into
account the slight rise to the green, which is two-tiered and sloped from back
to front. A well-placed tee shot can produce a simple wedge to this inviting
green. Your other option is to blast a drive down the right leaving a pitch to
the surface. Either way, you should have a great shot at birdie.
You'll have to be at your best to tackle the par-four seventh. Just 387 yards
from the tips, accuracy is keen in an effort to make par. Water and wetlands
cover the entire left side of the landing area prior to cutting a path in
front of the green. Three metal should be the play from the tee on the only
hole at Bedford Springs devoid of sand. Avoid the tree down the left and
you'll have a simpler approach to an undulating green. Tricky mounding around
the putting surface could make for a difficult pitch if you've missed the
The eighth is one of the shorter par four's on the course, just 356 yards in
length. Playing straightaway, you'll need a 200-yard shot off the tee to carry
the creek and wetlands to reach the fairway. The landing area is generous, but
missing the short grass could prove costly. Left is a meandering creek and
fescue and right, thick rough and a fescue patch. I suggest driver off the tee
down the right side, setting up just a little wedge. The putting surface is
miniscule at 3,275 square feet (25 feet deep) and very undulating. Six bunkers
surround the green, one of the most difficult to get close. Whatever you do,
avoid the waist-high bunker in front.
From an elevated tee box, the closing hole on the front nine is realistically
the only reachable par five on the course at just 525 yards. A tributary of
Shober's Run splits the fairway at the 340-yard mark, so reaching the water is
doubtful. Two bunkers down the right side will certainly keep you honest.
Going for it in two can be risky, as water runs down the right side through
the green. The real difficulty of the ninth is the putting surface. Although
not deep, it features three separate plateaus and many humps and bumps.
Missing long and right can end up in sand and make for a difficult up and
The easiest hole on the course is the little, par-three 10th. Just 124 yards,
this little one-shotter requires a wedge over a ravine to the most undulating
green on the course. The two-tiered putting surface sits 55 feet above the
abyss. Any ball missing the green short or right will be just as disastrous as
placing your approach on the wrong tier. With a front flag, use the slope to
your benefit. A deuce always looks good on the scorecard.
After playing three consecutive birdie holes, the course stiffens up at the
rugged 11th, the longest par four at Bedford Springs. A whopping 467 yards
from the Medal tees, this monster is played from an elevated tee with out-of-
bounds down the entire right side and fescue mounding on the left. Devoid of
sand off the fairway, the landing area is generous, but miss and you'll be
hard-pressed to cross the creek from the thick rough. With a mid-iron, you'll
need to be precise with your approach, as the green is long and narrow. Two
deep bunkers on either side of the green mark a par save next to impossible. A
ridge in the center-left portion of the green repels balls towards the rear
and can make two-putting a real challenge.
The key on the par-four 12th is avoiding the two fairway bunkers down the left
and the OB on the right. A drive of 265 from the tips will clear the trouble
and reach the generous landing area. Just a short iron should remain to a very
undulating green, fronted by a bunker, short-left and five grassy knolls
short-right. Miss the putting surface long and you'll end up in a deep trap.
Although the green is small, the numerous slopes and mounds make two-putting
The longest hole on the course, the 13th is a monster par five stretching to
615 yards. With out-of-bounds running down the entire right side, most players
will bail out towards the left, however one must avoid the 25-yard long
fairway trap that sees plenty of action. The hole snakes to the right for your
layup. Once again, sand plays a prominent role with your second shot with a
bunker reminiscent of St. Andrews. Mounding left and right in the rough can
make your green approach difficult. The putting surface is slightly elevated
with a trio of waist-high bunkers guarding the promised land. At 25 paces, the
green is the smallest on the back nine and filled with plenty of slope.
In contrast, the 14th is the second shortest hole at Bedford Springs, just 136
yards from the tips and aptly named, "Tiny Tim." Playing from an elevated tee,
the putting surface below requires just a wedge, but it must be accurately
struck, as water fronts the green and five traps surround the right and rear.
Just to keep you guessing, a series of Hershey kiss mounds awaits to the left
of the green. The putting surface is fairly benign, however a small ridge near
the center will repel balls to the right.
Although short by today's standards, the 15th provides plenty of drama from
tee to green. A sharp dogleg left, this par four is just 359 yards long, but
requires a drive shaped from right to left to a slightly raised fairway. Not
only is the landing area slightly elevated, but a trio of deep bunkers guard
the promised land, not to mention a tall tree that needs to be negotiated
around. Just a short iron remains to a green that runs from front to back and
is one of just two on the course without sand. The putting surface is a
remnant from the original layout and is elevated with subtle slopes and
Yet another long par five, the 16th is a shade under 600 yards and plays
downhill bending from left to right. There's plenty of room off the tee down
this rolling fairway. Avoid the bunkers on the left and you'll have an outside
chance at getting home. Realistically, the smart play is the left side of the
sloping fairway, leaving just a pitch to an elevated green. The putting
surface, which slopes from back to front, drops off on all four corners with
several bunkers guarding the short grass.
The final par three on the course, the 17th is all Tillinghast. Played over
wetlands to a raised putting surface, this gem requires a mid-iron to one of
the longest greens on the course at 33 paces deep. Two head-high bunkers flank
the left side of the green that slopes from right to left. Short-side yourself
and you'll make bogey, but if your approach is below the hole, then birdie is
a distinct possibility.
Talk about a finishing with a view. The closing hole at Bedford Springs offers
the golfer with a sensational glimpse of the Resort hotel and majestic
Allegheny mountains. The 18th has been completely restored and is a wonderful
end to a great round. The S-shaped fairway is woven in and around six fairway
bunkers, including the 9-shaped trap on the left. At just 356 yards, keep the
driver in the bag and go with a long iron or fairway metal. This will set up a
100-yard wedge to an elevated, V-shaped green. A deep trap right and one deep
will keep the player cautious, but despite the left-to-right pitch of the
green, this is one hole that should be attacked.
FINAL WORD: The Old Course at Bedford Springs is a golfer's delight, a classic
in time. From the moment you make your drive into the elegant entrance of the
resort to the time you put your peg into the ground on the first hole, you're
in for an experience you'll not soon forget.
Ron Forse and company have done a marvelous job in refreshing this Donald Ross
gem into what will soon become a favorite of today's heavy-hitters. The real
kudos, however, must be bestowed upon the new owners who decided to restore
this sensational resort to what was and what will be. The powers that be even
revitalized Shober's Run, and its floodplain that runs through the center of
the golf course.
The course statistics are quite appealing for all types of players. Four sets
of tees, three of which are named after the course designers, ranging from
5,100 to just under 6,800 yards. A wonderful mix of short and long par
threes, challenging par fours and some of the longest par fives on the east
coast. This is no pushover course, as the course rating of 73.4 would
indicate. The number one course in the world, Pine Valley is rated at 73.5!
Aesthetically beautiful, Shober's Run creek works its way throughout the golf
course, coming into play on 13 holes. Surrounding the entire course are 200-
year-old oaks that stand proud in and around the holes. Despite the valley
setting, Bedford Springs features many elevation changes, such as the uphill
fourth and the roller coaster 13th.
Bentgrass occupies the tees, fairways and greens, while Bluegrass and Fescue
encompass the rough. An all-around practice facility, complete with driving
range, putting green and short game area, should suffice for the serious
The icing on the cake is that Bedford Springs Resort is very accessible to
many of the greatest cities in the east, from New York to Pittsburgh to
Washington D.C. Wonderful golf and spa packages are available throughout the
year. That's right, a 30,000 square-foot spa featuring Natural Mineral
Springs. To top it off, stay in one of the 216 well-appointed guest rooms,
that reflect the history of the wondrous property.
Bedford Springs will always hold a special place in my memory banks, as I'm
sure it will in yours. Take the occasion to journey back to an era when
dignified lifestyles were the norm, and when time stood still.@sportsnetwork.com.