Golf Course Review - Hershey Country Club (East/West Courses)
Apr 3, 2007, 15:45 GMT
Hershey, PA - FACTS & STATS: East Course Architect: George Fazio (1967). Year Opened: 1970. Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania. Slope: 136. Rating: 74.5. Par: 71. Yardage: 7,156. West Course Architect: Maurice McCarthy (1930), renovation (1990). Year Opened: 1930. Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania. Slope: 130. Rating: 72.6. Par: 73. Yardage: 6,860.
Hole-by-Hole (East Course):
1 - Par 5 500 Yds 10 - Par 4 393 Yds
2 - Par 3 193 Yds 11 - Par 4 420 Yds
3 - Par 4 448 Yds 12 - Par 4 414 Yds
4 - Par 4 437 Yds 13 - Par 3 187 Yds
5 - Par 4 356 Yds 14 - Par 5 540 Yds
6 - Par 5 554 Yds 15 - Par 4 467 Yds
7 - Par 4 458 Yds 16 - Par 3 215 Yds
8 - Par 3 224 Yds 17 - Par 4 449 Yds
9 - Par 4 445 Yds 18 - Par 4 456 Yds
Par 36 3,615 Yds Par 35 3,541 Yds
Key Events Held: NIKE Hershey Open (1997-99), BUY.COM Hershey Open (2000-01), Nationwide Tour Hershey Open (2002), Reese's Cup Classic (2003-04).
Awards Won: Rated 4 stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play (2006), Golf Magazine Silver Medalist (2000-06), Top-50 resort by Golf Digest (1999-2006).
Hole-by-Hole (West Course):
1 - Par 4 437 Yds 10 - Par 4 422 Yds
2 - Par 5 568 Yds 11 - Par 4 354 Yds
3 - Par 4 305 Yds 12 - Par 3 180 Yds
4 - Par 4 307 Yds 13 - Par 5 568 Yds
5 - Par 3 176 Yds 14 - Par 4 354 Yds
6 - Par 4 345 Yds 15 - Par 5 501 Yds
7 - Par 5 550 Yds 16 - Par 5 517 Yds
8 - Par 3 232 Yds 17 - Par 3 182 Yds
9 - Par 4 389 Yds 18 - Par 4 424 Yds
Par 36 3,358 Yds Par 37 3,502 Yds
Key Events Held: Hershey Open (1933-39, 1941), PGA Championship (1940), Pennsylvania Open (1935, 1953-62, 1964-66, 1971-72), LPGA Lady Keystone Open (1975-94).
Awards Won: Rated 4 stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play (2006), Ranked 60th by Golfweek - America's Best Resort Courses (2006).
HISTORY: You've heard catchy slogans like, 'Greatest Show on Earth,' for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 'Just do it,' by NIKE and 'Think outside the bun,' for Taco Bell. But, when Jackie Gleason coined the phrase, 'How sweet it is,' during his Honeymooners days, he most certainly must have been talking about Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The brainchild of Milton S. Hershey, the man behind the Chocolate Bar, Hershey created the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1903 with golf soon to follow. The West Course, first known as the Highland Park Course, started construction in 1915 with Maurice McCarthy designing the layout.
By 1930, Hershey decides to organize Hershey Country Club and uses his home, High Point Mansion, which sits behind the par-three fifth hole, as the clubhouse until 1974. Originally playing to 6,400 yards, the West now stretches to 6,860 yards, as it has been retooled over the years.
The most heralded of the two courses is the West Course, a combination of beauty, brawn and strategic thought. Certainly not long by today's standards, the West features short par four's, monster par five's and an interesting mix of par three's.
Just three years after opening, Milton Hershey brought the PGA Tour to Pennsylvania for the inaugural Hershey Open, won by Ed Dudley. By doing so, the Hershey Chocolate Company became the first corporate sponsor on the PGA Tour.
Henry Picard, the 1939 Masters and 1939 PGA Championship winner, became the clubs first head professional in 1934 and promptly captured the Hershey Open in back-to-back years (1936-37). Picard, a 26-time PGA Tour winner, remained at Hershey until 1941. Nicknamed the 'Hershey Hurricane,' Picard participated on two Ryder Cup teams and registered 22 of his 26 wins while associated with Hershey Country Club.
The 1936 event also had some historical significance, as Sam Snead made his professional debut. On the opening hole, Snead hit his first tee shot out of bounds. He then popped his next one out of bounds as well, then promptly drove the green, some 350 yards away.
Ben Hogan, who captured his first PGA Tour title in PA, the 1938 Hershey Four- Ball with Vic Ghezzi, became the club's next head professional in 1941 on a recommendation from Picard. Hogan, who remained on until 1951, finished second at the Hershey Open in 1939 and won the ninth and final Hershey Open held in '41.
In 1940, the PGA of America brought its marquee tournament to the West Course, the 23rd annual PGA Championship. Some of golf's most notable players reached the match play portion of the event, such as: Picard, Gene Sarazen, Snead, Walter Hagen, Jimmy Demaret, Byron Nelson and Hogan. Sarazen edged Picard to join Snead in the quarterfinals in the top half of the drawn, while Hogan and Nelson also reached the quarters. Trailing Sarazen 3-down after 28 holes, Snead rallied to edge the 'Squire,' 1-up. Snead then cruised past Harold McSpaden to reach the finals. On the other side, Hogan was 5-under par for 34 holes against Ralph Guldahl, but lost 3 & 2. Nelson reached the final by whipping Eddie Kirk and then edging Guldahl on the final hole. The 36-hole final was an epic battle, as Snead trailed 2-down following the morning round, but battled back to hold a 1-up lead with three holes remaining. Nelson would not be denied, as he holed back-to-back two-foot birdie putts for a 1-up advantage. On the final hole, a par three, Nelson struck his three-iron to within 10 feet, while Snead missed the green. Snead failed to hole his next shot and Nelson two putted for the 1-up win, the first of his two PGA Championship titles.
The saddest time in the annals of the Hershey legacy is the passing of Milton Hershey in October of 1945. Born in 1857, Hershey lived a long and full- filling life before dying at the age of 88.
The LPGA came to town in 1975 for a 20-year run as the Lady Keystone Open. Susie Berning captured the tournament the first two years of its existence. The event had Hall-of-Fame winners over the years, such as Pat Bradley in 1978, Nancy Lopez in 1979, JoAnne Carner, the second back-to-back winner in 1980-81, Amy Alcott (1984) and Juli Inkster (1985-86). Jan Stephenson was a two-time champion, capturing the title in 1982-83 and Laura Davies won in 1989. The tournament concluded in 1994, as Elaine Crosby edged Davies by one shot for her second and last career title.
Construction of the East Course began in 1967, as George Fazio was brought in to design a top-notch venue, which opened in 1970. Stretching to a lengthy 7,061 yards from the tips, the East features a rating of 74.5 and a slope of 136, as it plays to a par of 71.
The East Course has hosted its share of Tour events, starting in 1997 with the NIKE Hershey Open. The inaugural tournament was captured by Barry Cheesman, who stormed from three shots back with a closing 66 for a one-shot win. Only 11 players finished under par, with the course playing to a scoring average of 73.076, the fourth most difficult on Tour that season.
Michael Clark became the first wire-to-wire winner of the Hershey Open in 1998, as he led from start to finish to edge Bob Burns by two shots. Burns carded a course-record 64 during round three, but overall, the East Course proved to be most difficult once again. For the week, the course average was 73.309, the second highest stroke average on Tour.
Playing as a par of 70 in 1999, Edward Fryatt came away with the win, as he won for the first time in his career on the NIKE Tour. Fryatt shot three rounds in the 60s, for a three-shot win over Brett Wayment. The course continued to play havoc on Tour, as it played as the hardest venue on Tour in 1999 at 73.150. The 14th hole, which was converted to a par four for the event, was the most difficult at 4.489, the second hardest on Tour.
For the second consecutive season, the East Course was the hardest on Tour, playing to an average of 74.234. Paul Gow outlasted the field, finishing three-under par to edge Paul Claxton by a shot.
PGA Tour player John Rollins registered his first career title when he captured the 2001 Buy.Com Hershey Open. In the first playoff in event history, Rollins birdied the first extra hole over the hard-charging Rod Pampling for the win. Pampling had tied the course record of 64 during the final day.
The following year Cliff Kresge was four shots off the pace when the final round began, but shot a four-under-par 67 to clip Joel Kribel, Brian Claar and Steve Ford in a playoff for the win. Kresge, who opened the tournament with a 67, birdied the third extra hole for the second of his three Nationwide Tour titles. The course was the fifth-most difficult on Tour in 2002, averaging 72.736 for the week.
Joe Ogilvie captured his fourth career Nationwide Tour title in 2003, as he outdistanced four other players by three shots to win the Reese's Cup Classic. Current PGA Tour player Zach Johnson, who tied for second, was the only player in the field to post four subpar rounds. How tough is the East course? During the event, the stroke average was 72.243, the fourth most difficult on Tour that year.
The Reese's Cup Classic came to a close in 2004, but not without some excitement. In the second longest playoff in Tour history, Ben Bates won for the second time in his career, as he defeated Paul Gow with a par on the eighth extra hole. The East Course was again a formidable layout, ranking fifth on Tour, with five of the 18 holes ranked in the top-50 as the most difficult.
After selling the courses to National Golf Operating Partnership, who changed the name to the Country Club of Hershey in 1994, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company bought the properties back in 2002, renaming it Hershey Golf Club. By 2004, the club returns to its original name.
Hershey Country Club has not rested on its laurels. The resort recently completed a $18 million renovation of the clubhouse and a $750,000 reworking of the nine-hole Spring Creek Golf Course, originally built in 1934.
REVIEW: EAST COURSE - One of only two holes on the front nine that features water, the first is a dogleg-right par five that bends around a lake as you head towards the green. Out-of-bounds (driving range) off the tee must be avoided, not to mention the H2O. Although just 500 yards, reaching this one in two is difficult, as the putting surface is elevated well above the fairway. Several deep traps guard the two-tiered green that slopes hard from back to front. The key is picking the right club for your shot to the green.
The second hole is an uphill par three and despite it's 17th-handicapped rating, is quite difficult. The green slopes severely from back to front and with four traps guarding the surface, club selection is quite important.
Ranked as the hardest hole on the course, the third is a rugged, dogleg-left par four stretching 448 yards from the tips. A nice draw starting down the right side and avoiding the long, fairway traps is ideal for the sloping landing area. A mid- to long-iron will remain to the uphill green that's only 29 paces deep. The putting surface is quite tricky, as it cants from the center to the front and back. Making par here is one tough task.
One of the most difficult driving holes, the fourth is a straightaway par four with tall pines guarding both sides of the fairway. Your approach to the green is uphill to another smallish surface with two deep bunkers, one short and one left that will make an up and down quite impossible.
A solid hole, the fifth is the shortest par four on the course at just 356 yards. The object here is to avoid the pair of traps down the right side of the fairway, leaving only a short-iron to a slightly elevated green. The putting surface slopes away on both sides and is guarded by a trio of bunkers. A definite birdie chance.
In contrast, the sixth is the longest hole on the course at 554 yards. Bending to the left, the player must split the landing area off the tee, as numerous bunkers and trees guard each side of the fairway. Your second shot must be precise, as the fairway narrows as you get closer to the green. Laying back around 90-100 yards is the best play, setting up a simple wedge to the biggest green on the front nine.
The seventh is a rather longish par four, in fact, the second longest on the course. Moving slightly to the right, a big drive will be needed to thread the tree-lined fairway. A medium- to long-iron will remain to a well-guarded green that falls sharply to the front. Making par here will help the scorecard.
Some call the eighth at Hershey East the signature hole. It certainly is one of the most striking and difficult holes on the property. A massive par three of 224 yards, the eighth plays from an elevated tee and offers an outstanding view of the countryside. With few trees to block the incoming winds, you'll need a fairway-metal or hybrid to reach the green. Speaking of the putting surface, it's guarded in front by a very deep bunker and the green, well it's only 21 paces deep. During the inaugural 1997 Hershey Open on the NIKE Tour, Barry Conser registered the first hole-in-one, when he aced the gem with a four-iron.
The closing hole on the opening nine is a great, sharp dogleg-left par four. Looking down towards the fairway, the player must move the ball from right to left, avoiding the lake on the right and the 45-yard long trap on the left. Your approach is uphill to another miniscule green that slopes hard from back to front with a bunker short and one deep. Club selection is key, especially with a back pin on the two-tiered putting surface.
The back nine on paper seems to be a simple par four, but it's anything but. Just under 400 yards, the hole plays deceptively long. The landing area off the tee is fairly tight with six bunkers dotting the right side and trees guarding the left. Your approach shot is played uphill, so make sure to take an extra club to reach the smallest green on the inward holes. Just 25 paces deep, the putting surface is two-tiered from left to right and with a back- right flag, quite difficult to attack.
Playing alongside the previous hole, the 11th is a straightaway par four that requires pinpoint accuracy. Your first play, from an elevated tee box, must favor the left side, avoiding the sand and trees down the right. A mid-iron will remain to a wide, shallow, elevated green protected in front and on the right by deep bunkers. The surface slopes hard from back to front, so stay below the hole for your best chance at birdie.
A rock-solid par four, the 12th is a dogleg-left, uphill 414-yarder. Your tee ball must dissect the quartet of bunkers that guard the narrow fairway. Once again, don't forget to take an extra stick on your approach to the elevated green. The circular putting surface runs from back to front and is guarded on the right by a horseshoe-shaped trap. A good hole to make par.
The first par three on the back nine, the 13th is the shortest on the East Course at just 187 yards. Playing downhill, this hole is very deceptive, making club selection quite difficult. Four bunkers surround the putting surface that slopes away on both sides. With the wind in your face, the 13th will not be the easiest hole on the course as the scorecard indicates.
Next up is the long and lean, par five 14th. Well positioned bunkers guard the right side of the fairway, while thick trees flank the left. Your opening shot plays downhill towards the tight landing area, while the next plays uphill. The layup area is extremely narrow, so you might want to play to the 100-yard marker, as sand covers the right for 30 yards. The putting surface, the longest on the course, runs from back to front with sand front and left. A back-left flag will add one to two extra clubs for your approach.
The closing four on the East are real strong holes. First up is the longest par four on the course, a whopping 467-yard, dogleg right. Downhill off the box, your tee shot must work from left to right, avoiding the two small ponds on either side of the landing area. A word of caution - avoid the trees down the right, or you'll be pitching out to the fairway. The approach is uphill towards the green, a putting surface that slopes from right to left and back to front. Sand right and left guard the putting green and are next to impossible for an up and down. It's no small wonder that the 15th is rated as the second-hardest on the back nine.
By far, the 16th certainly ranks with some of the best par threes in the state and can be considered one of the signature holes on the East Course. This downhill gem is 215 yards from the tips, with water short left and right. The putting surface is long and slants to the right, hugging the pond. Wind usually comes into play, making club selection extremely difficult. Make par here and you've picked one up on me. During the 2003 Nationwide Tour event, the 16th played to a stroke average of 3.313, the hardest hole on the course.
The tightest driving hole by far, the 17th, although short, requires one to be straight and accurate, especially off the tee. Uphill all the way, your drive must avoid the pair of right-side traps, not to mention the trees guarding both sides of the fairway. Just a short-iron should remain to the wide, but smallish green. Two wide bunkers front the elevated green, so make sure you have enough stick to reach the surface.
A classic finishing hole, the 18th is a beaute, reaching 456 yards from the back markers. A blind shot off the tee, take aim at the clubhouse in the distance, as you play from the elevated box. The fairway is ample, but play down the left side, as the right features a four-leaf clover bunker and trees. Riding over the hill, the site of the closing hole is quite picturesque. A medium- to long-iron will be needed to clear the pond and numerous bunkers to reach the promised land. The putting surface slopes from back to front, so stay below the hole for your best shot at birdie.
WEST COURSE - Most courses open with a relatively simple hole to ease you into your round, not Hershey West. The first hole is ranked as the most difficult on the scorecard, a whopping 437 yards from the tips. This dogleg-right par four, features trees down the left side and a perfectly placed bunker on the corner of the fairway. A mid- to long-iron will remain to the miniscule, sloping green. Only 25 paces deep, the putting surface is guarded by a pair of bunkers on the left and a foursome of sand on the right. The bottom line, a tough hole to mark par.
The second hole is the one of two 568-yard par fives on the course, the longest at Hershey Country Clubs two venues. From an elevated tee, the hole plays downhill towards a pinching, bunkerless fairway that narrows the further down you go. Trees guard the left side, so favor the right side. The most critical play is your layup shot. The fairway runs out at the 100-yard mark before climbing to the upper landing area and the green. If possible, take the fairway-metal to reach the top of the hillside, as this will leave a short pitch to a very accessible putting surface. Laying up short with an iron, leaves the player with a blind, uphill third to a very long green with sand right and left. One word of caution - any shot long and right might reach OB, so be careful.
A real shot at birdie, the third requires pinpoint control, but can yield a low score. Just 354 yards long, a fairway-metal should be the club of choice off the tee, as bunkers line both sides of the tight landing area. With a short-iron remaining, the player must be aware of the out-of-bounds to the right of the green. The putting surface features two bunkers short left and one right, so take advantage of the short distance and be aggressive.
The trickiest hole on the course, the fourth is a sharp, dogleg left with a slim landing zone. Another elevated tee box, just a mid-iron off the tee should be the play, as the hole plays shorter than the yardage indicates. The fairway is tree-lined on both sides, so accuracy is key. The difficulty with your approach will be the over-hanging tree limbs, not to mention the tiny green. Sand left and right will keep you honest, as well as the steep hillside behind the green.
The signature hole on the West Course, the fifth is a beautiful par three stretching a modest 176 yards. The hole is exquisitely landscaped as you play towards the front of High Point, the Milton Hershey mansion. What makes this hole even more difficult, is the small, sloping green that's next to impossible to hit. Three dastardly bunkers surround the putting surface, that cants hard from back to front and right to left. Rated one of the easiest holes on the card, but far from it.
Another sensational hole, the sixth is a fun, dogleg left par four. Fairly short at 345 yards, the crucial play is the tee shot. From an elevated box with the Hershey smoke stacks to your right, the fairway sits well below with a stream running from right to left, angling towards the green. A short-iron remains to a wide green with traps on both sides and the resort logo in the rear. An attacking second could result in three.
The seventh is a long and lean par five, bending slightly to the right. Trees guard the entire left side, while deep rough flanks the right. The first key is avoiding the fairway trap on the right. Next objective is to split the narrow landing area, as it pinches towards the green. Going for it in two is quite risky, so laying up to a reasonable distance should leave a simple pitch. The green is long and well-guarded on both sides by numerous bunkers, however with a wedge in your hands, birdie is in reach.
That is not the case on the long, par-three eighth. At 232 yards, this one- shotter is quite a bear. What makes matters worse is the green is only 24 paces deep with bunkers on either side. The play here could be short of the surface, chipping close and sinking the putt for par. Sure beats making double-bogey.
The closing hole on the front nine is a solid par four of just 389 yards. The yardage is deceiving, as the ninth requires accuracy off the tee and with your approach. The boomerang-shaped tee box forces a fade to a fairly wide landing area devoid of sand, although two traps are on either side of the fairway, some 300 yards away. Your approach with a short-iron must be precise, as the green, just 27 paces deep, is surrounded by five bunkers and slopes hard from left-to-right. Despite it's short stature, the hole is ranked as the third- handicap hole.
Although the 10th is mainly straightaway, the green is perched to the right, making your approach a little awkward. One of two, 400-yard plus par fours on the back nine, the 10th requires accuracy off the tee, as two traps right and one left guard the landing area. A medium-iron remains to a green that slopes away to the rear with traps on either side.
Talk about accuracy, you better hit your mark on 11, as this short par four is as tight as they come. Just 354 yards, the fairway is undulating with trees down both sides. Just a short-iron is left, but you need to be precise, as the green is just 18 steps deep, has two bunkers on either side and out of bounds long. Yikes.
The par-three 12th plays slightly uphill to a round putting surface surrounded by seven bunkers. The green slopes hard from back to front, so play below the hole for your best shot at par and make sure to take enough club.
Some pundits believe the 13th can be reached in two. Good luck. Bending slightly to the right, a blast off the tee favoring the right is needed to have any shot. The ribbon-like fairway falls sharply to the left, so any shot just off center will bound down into the rough, negating any shot at getting home. The landing area for your second is wide open, but deep rough left and a quartet of bunkers right should keep you honest. The green is long and trapped on both sides by eight bunkers. Be satisfied with par.
If you're going to hit a fairway-metal off the tee on the short 14th, you'd better be straight, as sand guards the landing 200 to 240 yards off the tee. Instead, take the big dog and let it rip past all the trouble, setting up a simple pitch to another small green. The well-bunkered putting surface cants from right to left and is quick. Avoid long and left, I wish I did.
A successful score on the 15th is all predicated on your tee shot. This short par five can be had, but a lot of thought is required to make birdie. Trees down the right side of the fairway will keep you honest, but the landing area is devoid of sand, so take dead aim. Where this becomes tricky is the second shot. Should you layup or go for it? By laying up, you're playing down into a valley where the fairway narrows. This will leave a severely uphill approach of 100 yards to a tiny green that slopes from back to front. If you go for the gusto, you must strike a solid blow with a fairway-metal to reach the putting surface. By the way, two bunkers lay in wait on the right and trees guard the left. Good luck!
You'll have another shot at birdie on the second consecutive par five, the 517-yard 15th. Again, the tee ball is key, as you must carry 243 yards on your opening shot to reach the top of the fairway. Laying up is not the worst thing in the world, as the hole plays uphill towards the green. Play towards the end of the fairway, leaving a full 110 yards. Remember, take enough club, as the putting surface sits well above the fairway. The back to front sloping green is guarded on both sides by sand, so be accurate.
The 182-yard 17th is anything but the easiest hole on the course, as it is ranked on the scorecard. Your mid-iron approach must be dead on, as three traps on either side of the small green see plenty of action. If that wasn't enough, the slick, undulating putting surface will play havoc with the best putters around. You'll be most fortunate if you make par.
As you head for home, you'll have to negotiate the difficult, but fair par- four 18th. A rugged dogleg right of 424 yards, the finale is guarded down the right side with trees and on the left by a 20-yard bunker at the corner of the fairway. From an elevated tee, a power-fade would be the play of choice, thus setting up a mid- to long-iron to an elevated green. With the clubhouse in the foreground, take enough club to split the traps on either side of, yet another tiny putting surface.
FINAL WORD: First of all, I've got to say that Hershey Resort and Spa and the golf courses at Hershey Country Club, get it. You've got a world class retreat, top of the line amusement park, sensational golf and much, much more.
The renovation of the 40,000 square-foot clubhouse was remarkable, featuring dining and banquet halls, an enormous pro shop, well-maintained locker rooms and a very accommodating and knowledgeable staff.
Where to stay you might ask? Take your pick, from The Hotel Hershey, complete with a full-service spa, with many chocolate treatments or the Hershey Lodge with 665 guest rooms and suites.
One of my favorite things about Hershey is the wonderful and distinct aroma of chocolate. From the moment you drive into town, the sweet smell of cocoa tantalizes your nostrils throughout your stay. Not to mention satisfying your taste buds with the different varieties of Hershey Chocolates.
The golf courses are a real treat to play. The West, a traditional-style layout, requires pinpoint accuracy and control, as the fairways are tight and the greens are miniscule. The East features elevation changes, water on five holes, over 100 sand traps and rolling fairways. Even the nine-hole layout, Spring Creek is a blast, as it can play to 2,416 yards.
With all of the new bombers-paradise venues opening up around this country, it's nice to play courses that not only challenge the best players, but afford the higher-handicapped golfer a chance to knock it around, especially at such a family-oriented venue.
By the way, when you tire from golf, HERSHEYPARK, Chocolate World, ZOOAMERICA, Hershey Gardens and Hershey Museum are just a whiff away. Hershey Country Club and Resorts posted the right slogan on its website, 'The Ultimate Sweet Spot'.
Aces, pars or bogeys, send your thoughts to email@example.com.
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