In our exploration of public golf courses around the country, this time we go and look at the best public golf courses in Pennsylvania.
This is a hugely popular state in the northeast of the country littered with quality private and public courses.
I’m a big believer you can tell the quality of a state’s golf pedigree, by looking at the quality and strength in depth of its public golf courses. Well Pennsylvania is definitely up there as one of the top ones.
A lot of the golf courses are centered around some of the big cities with a good number dotted around in rural locations. So regardless of where you are, you’re sure to find a course for you.
The best public golf courses in Pennsylvania
|1||Nemacolin (Mystic Rock)|
|3||Omni Bedford Springs (Old)|
|4||Nemacolin (Shepherd’s Rock)|
|5||Broad Run Golfer’s Club|
|6||Links at Gettysburg|
|7||Hershey Country Club (West)|
|8||Jeffersonville Golf Club|
|9||Wyncote Golf Club|
|10||The Bucks Club|
|Value for money||Jeffersonville Golf Club|
|Groups||Links at Gettysburg|
|Clubhouse||Hershey Country Club|
|Views||Broad Run Golfer’s Club|
1. Nemacolin (Mystic Rock & Shepherd’s Rock)
Hidden amongst Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, is the outstanding Nemacolin Resort. Here you will find two world-class golf courses designed by the great Pete Dye. These are Mystic Rock and Shepherd’s Rock.
The resort is vast, set within hundreds of verdant acres south east of Uniontown towards the community of Farmington.
The resort was the brainchild of Joe Hardy, a Pittsburgh boy and later founder of 84 Lumber. 84 Lumber became, and is, a hugely successful cash-and-carry lumber business. This allowed Hardy to enjoy a prominent career recognised amongst various ‘wealthiest people’ lists.
Fast forward to 1987 when Hardy purchased a few hundred acres of land which is where the first-class Nemacolin is now based.
The awe-inspiring resort has a number of accommodation options, which is where you’ll need to reside should you wish to gain access to the golf courses.
Mystic Rock Course
Mystic Rock was the first of the two courses to open, which it did in 1995. This is Pete Dye at his best, with a splendid championship layout stretching across the Laurel Highlands.
It is also phenomenally tough, with from the back tees the course yardage just short of 7,600. No wonder the course was a host venue on the PGA Tour for the Lumber Classic between 2003 and 2006.
For hotel residents, it might be worth choosing your tee box carefully to avoid what could be a very long round of golf! But boy will it be fun. Recognised as one of the best public golf courses in Pennsylvania, this is a must play with a number of classic architectural features.
Shepherd’s Rock Course
Shepherd’s Rock opened to instant acclaim some twenty-two years after its sibling in 2017. Again designed by Pete Dye with support from local architect Tim Liddy, this wasn’t a blank canvas.
The routing was built on top of a pre-existing layout called The Links, which itself had existed for some fifty years. Needless to say, there is very little resemblance between the two, with Shepherd’s Rock another Dye masterpiece.
The front-nine is open, calling out for driver play. Generous landing areas with big green complexes. Whilst the back-nine is more tree-lined necessitating precise and strategic play to plot your way round.
These are not just some of the best public golf courses in Pennsylvania. They are up there with some of the finest public options in the country.
2. Olde Stonewall Golf Club
Located just forty minutes from Pittsburgh, is the sensational Olde Stonewall. This is a premier public facility which has been lauded with praise and recognition from the likes of Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
The club is located in Ellwood City, to the north west of Pittsburgh and on the road to Youngstown in Ohio. On two sides of the plot are dense woodland whilst running along the north side is the Connoquenessing Creek.
This really is a gorgeous and serene location, perfect for a top class golf course. But as serene it may be, it is also rugged and challenging.
The topography constantly changes, with elevation changes a consistent feature. It is rare to get a nice flat lie!
With five sets of tee boxes, the course is accessible to most. But do be warned, there are some very challenging holes, particularly on the back nine. But this variety is also what makes Olde Stonewall so much fun.
Where on one hole you’ll be teeing off an elevated tee box into a generous fairway. On the next you’ll be trying to thread the ball through a tree-lined vista to avoid a ravine. This is Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry at their very best.
The conditioning is superb and what other golf courses do you know of with a castle as a clubhouse? This is an experience I couldn’t recommend more.
3. Omni Bedford Springs (Old Course)
Hidden away in southern Pennsylvania, up in the Allegheny Mountains, in the magnificent Omni Bedford Springs Resort.
This is a five star luxury resort with everything you could want for a weekend getaway. To highlight how impressive this place is, there is no shortage of accolades from respected publications like Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.
And ditto for the golf course, which has also received its fair share of acclaim. It is consistently rated as one of the best courses you can play in the state, and for good reason.
The Old Course is a masterpiece and was designed by not one, but arguably two of the greatest architects of all time, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross (albeit not at the same time!).
Originally opening in 1895, making it one of the oldest courses in the country, it was some seventeen years later in 1912 Tillinghast laid his mark. At this point, the course was a nine-hole layout. So in 1932, Ross was commissioned to make this an 18-hole course.
In more recent times, Ron Forse completed a major renovation restoring the course to its original style.
It is short for today’s standards, at just 6,450 yards from the back tees. But the layout, conditioning and natural beauty more than make up for the lack of length. Strategy and clever play will get you round in good shape.
4. Broad Run Golfer’s Club
Broad Run Golfer’s Club is set within a vast 372-acre plot. It feels like this site was destined to become a top class golf course.
To create this top class golf course, they called upon the celebrated Rees Jones who has a distinguished C.V. And boy did he do a sensational job.
The main feature is the constant elevation changes, which allowed for some impressive tee shots. Beautifully conditioned fairways cut through the hillside with many uphill approach shots.
From the back tees, the course measures 6,751 yards. Not necessarily the longest. But length isn’t what it’s all about here. Strategically plotting your way round the course, knowing when to position yourself, when to play safe and when to attack.
This is a fantastic course and another great example of the quality of public golf courses in Pennsylvania.
5. Links at Gettysburg
There are some mighty impressive public golf facilities in Pennsylvania, and the Links at Gettysburg continues that trend.
First and foremost, you’re playing golf close to one of, if not ‘the’ most historic point in the country’s formation. Close by is where the Confederate and Union soldiers fought in the defining battle of America’s Civil War.
It is appropriate then that the Links at Gettysburg is a fine golf course and a ball to play.
It was designed by Lindsay Ervin with the support of Steve Klein, opening in 1999. Together Ervin and Klien have created a first class challenging routing. Although let me stress, this is no links course!
Instead this is a sprawling parkland course with constantly changing elevations. The layout is a formidable test with stray shots being badly penalized. Water comes into play on nearly every hole due to the ten lakes, creeks and waterfalls across the site.
Yet despite the stern test and all its defenses, this is an aesthetically pleasing course. Mature trees are dotted through whilst there are fine vistas across the surrounding countryside. Add to that the occasional red rock formations that are visible, which adds an injection of color and character.
6. Hershey Country Club (West Course)
To the east of Harrisburg in southeast Pennsylvania, is Hershey Country Club. There are two fantastic courses onsite, the West Course and the East Course.
The club was for many years in the limelight having hosted some high-profile tournaments. In 1940, the West Course was selected to host the PGA Championship, won by the legendary Byron Nelson. And for just under a decade it also hosted the PGA Tour’s Hershey Open.
First and foremost though, yes, this is a private club. But non-members can gain access by residing at a selection of local accommodations. These include the Hershey Lodge, the Hotel Hershey and the Hersheypark Camping Resort.
So now that’s cleared up, on to the courses. The West Course was the first to open, designed by Maurice McCarthy and opened in 1930. The East Course opened thirty nine years later in 1969 and was designed by the renowned George Fazio.
Although both courses are great fun, it is the West Course I would lean towards. Granted, it is shorter and potentially even less challenging. But it has a traditional and classic elegance about it. Whilst the East Course is the one for big hitters and those seeking a bit more of a challenge. Over one hundred bunkers litter the course with three lakes also coming into play.
Overall this is a great facility with two fantastic courses to choose from.
7. Jeffersonville Golf Club
The celebrated and widely respected Donald Ross was a busy man around Philly during the early half of the twentieth century. A whole raft of courses have his name against them. And this includes the fantastic Jeffersonville Golf Club.
The site which is some 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia was for many years popular for horse racing. People would come from miles around to this location between the King of Prussia and Norristown. And watching thoroughbreds race was the main event.
But this all changed in 1919 following the acquisition of the land by Anton Evans. The racing was discontinued and a golf course was very quickly constructed. All under the watchful eye of Donald Ross.
Fast forward to more recent times and this fine course has been completely renovated by Ron Pritchard.
Pritchard specializes in renovating Ross courses, ensuring those time-honored and classic Ross features are reinstated. The project at Jeffersonville also included rebuilding forty bunkers from Ross’ original design that had been lost. This was a comprehensive project.
Yet this has now elevated Jeffersonville back to its position amongst the finest public golf courses in Pennsylvania.
8. Wyncote Golf Club
So where is Wyncote Golf Club? That’s a good question. To be fair, a little bit in the middle of nowhere! Close to the Pennsylvania/Maryland border and around a forty-five minute drive from Wilmington in Delaware.
But I couldn’t recommend it enough! Yes, it might be a little far from everything, but the drive is well worth it.
This fine public facility opened for play in 1993 and since then has received recognition from numerous parties. Golfweek, Golf Advisor, Golf Magazine, Golf Digest…you name it. This is clearly a place to come and play.
Brian Ault was the brains behind the design, creating an excellent Heathland style layout. Ault isn’t the most recognized architect and amongst the courses he’s designed, Wyncote is definitely up there as one of his best.
The gently rolling fairways are reminiscent of a Scottish healthland layout. Although there are ample wetlands which also come into play like on the second and twelfth holes. The routing is clever with tall fescue grass lining most fairways. Holes 1 and 10 feature a double green which is entertaining and fronted by a large water hazard.
The site is vast and offers very little protection when the wind blows, which it inevitably does. And from the back tees, the yardage is just short of 7,200. Considering the fescue grasses and winds, scoring well here is no easy feat.
And if you’re anything like me, regardless of how you played golf you’ll no doubt enjoy the comfy and smart pub.
9. The Bucks Club
Last on our list of best public golf courses in Pennsylvania, is the fine course at The Bucks Club. This is up towards Jamison to the north of Philadelphia.
Upon arrival you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a distinctly private club.
Beautifully manicured grounds, an impressive clubhouse with upscale dining facilities and a top class golf course. But I assure you, this is open to the public and with golf rates starting from as little as $30 for a midweek twilight round, outrageous value.
The course was designed by Bill Gordon and David Gordon and opened for play in 1961. What they designed is without doubt a tale of two halves.
The front nine kicks things off gently. What you see is often what you get with this traditional parkland course. But on the back nine, things hot up. Strategic bunkering, tricky greens and doglegs keep you on high alert.
The course can be walked and isn’t one of the longest out there at just 6,300 yards. But do appreciate there are a number of treks from green to tee as well as a number of elevation changes.
What is the best public golf course in Pennsylvania?
The best public golf course in Pennsylvania is the Pete Dye designed Mystic Rock at Nemacolin. Opening for play in 1995, the routing takes the course across the Laurel Highlands with stunning views across the surrounding countryside.