Taking advantage of the green, rolling terrain of its Pennsylvania setting, the Old Course at Omni Bedford Springs picked an idyllic spot to spread throughout this rural stretch of the Rust Belt. Fortunately for visiting players, the course’s four designers took full advantage of this Omni destination’s valley home.
Working in evolutionary stages since 1895, the work of designers Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross combined over the decades to create a track that fully exploits the natural beauty of its Bedford Springs locale. Most recently, the Old Course underwent an extensive renovation supervised by classic golf course restoration architect Ron Forse – with all work intended to bring the course back to its original layout.
So, one of America’s very first golf courses now stands much as it did around the turn of the century. Playing 6,785 yards from the tips and 5,106 from the forward tees, the course avoids frequent bunkers in favor of elevation changes and tree-lined rough.
There is no hole in which par lies beyond the grasp of the experienced golfer, while the neophyte could lose a few pellets in the aggressive rough. Meanwhile, any player will find plenty of spots to have a look about, pull a deep breath of fresh air and simply enjoy the scenery.
While the course itself took a step back in time, its new, $2.5 million clubhouse includes an upgraded pro shop and a new restaurant. Busy before and after rounds, the space becomes an after hours destination complete with outdoor fire pits.
If there is a quibble to be made, one aspect of the course’s design edges beyond what players expect from a resort golf course. A few of the greens could break the average player’s stride and push scores beyond something he or she is likely to feel good about during the walk off the 18th green.
Now, the designers might debate this point — and could have a point while doing that. The toughest greens are on the holes most easy to approach such as the par 3s. Golf design theory states such holes need difficult putting layouts to remain a challenge like holes with more difficult tee angles, fairways or bunker collections. This writer found cups set on uphill/downhill angles, and that’s nasty for any amateur.
That niggling concern aside, it’s difficult to name too many golf destinations from New England to the Midwest that can boast a more beautiful natural location than Omni Bedford Springs. The Old Course is a pleasure, even if it asks you to work on your putting before you arrive.