Central Pennsylvania: Bargain golf in the Keystone State
The 16th hole at Hershey East, the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, and Gettysburg re-enactors.
An old political joke about Central Pennsylvania goes, "What's in between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh? Alabama." Yes, the middle of the state is a wide expanse of farmland and wilderness between the state's two major cities, but there's plenty to see amid the cows and countryside: the historic Gettysburg battlefield, the old-time ways of the Amish, and the Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoons in State College. And for golfers, Central Pennsylvania is home to some first-class golf at reasonable prices, no joke.
West Course: 6,860 yards, par 72; Greens fees: $145
East Course: 7,061 yards, par 71; Greens fees: $130
The West Course is an American parkland classic, site of the 1940 PGA Championship. It was also where Ben Hogan plied his trade as a teaching pro from 1941-1951. You won't find many holes with more local flavor than the par-3 fifth--you tee off in front of the smokestacks of the chocolate factory to a green in the front yard of Milton Hershey's estate, positioned so the old man could keep an eye on his business. The George Fazio-designed East Course was designed to host Tour stops and it will test even accomplished players with demanding tee shots and elevated greens.
7,121 yards, par 72; Greens fees: $45-$59
Locals know that Dauphin Highlands, a varied, well-maintained track near a bend in the Susquehanna River, is one of the best bargains you'll find anywhere. This course in the state capital is full of challenging and memorable holes like the par-4 seventh, where a well-placed drive will leave you a short-iron over a fishing pond into a shallow green.
The Founders Course 6,972 yards, par 72; Greens fees: $65-$79
The Iron Forge Course 7,009 yards, par 72; Greens fees: $65-79
Just a short drive from the Gettysburg National Historical Park, Penn National features two high-quality tracks. The Founders Course is a traditional parkland course, notable for its collection of par 5s (including the 615-yard eighth) and mountain views. The newer Iron Forge Course has a distinctive tree-less look and a cool risk-reward option on 18.
Where to Stay:
The Hershey Hotel has the charms of a grand, old-style hotel with full modern amenities, thanks to a recent renovation. Penn State fans will want to book at room at the Atherton Hotel right in the midst of State College's shops and restaurants. Central Pennsylvania is known for charming inns and bed-and-breakfasts -- you can find a complete list at PaInns.com
What to Do:
History still lives and breathes in the fields of the Gettysburg National Military Park; kids will love the roller coasters and water rides at Hersheypark; one of the best way to tour Amish Country is by bicycle and the Lancaster Bike Club has tours for beginners and expert riders; and finally everyone know that State College jumps on Penn State home football game in the fall, but the Northeast's best college town also hosts the four-day Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in July.
Photo: The 16th hole of the West Course at Hershey Country Club (Fred Vuich); Pennsylvania State Capital (Courtesy of State of Pennsylania_, Gettysburg (Getty Images).