Luxury Living and Great Golf Amidst the Scent of Chocolate
Hershey, Pa. bills itself as the “sweetest place on earth,” an obvious reference to the wonderful chocolate-making facility that has been spreading tasty joy to the world since 1903.
Well, there are a lot of other sweets in this little city in the south central part of the Keystone State, three of which are the majestic Hotel Hershey, the Hershey Lodge and Hershey Country Club. Guests of the hotel and lodge have access to two splendid 18-hole tracts, a nine-hole golf “beginner” course that was recently renovated and is due to reopen this July, a wonderful new clubhouse, and a superb practice facility.
Before we get into a discussion of this unique world-class resort and the country club we simply must back up a little, in fact all the way to 1903, when Milton S. Hershey opened a nine-hole “Links Course” on his sprawling property. The little course served his purposes well for a number of years before a decision was made to construct The Highland Park Golf Course, now known as the West Course, in 1930. The layout was designed by Maurice McCarthy. Another 18 was added when the George Fazio-designed East Course was built in 1970.
Both tracts are visually stunning, challenging and well manicured, playing to slopes of 130 (West) and 136 (East). They have hosted a number of professional tournaments, including the 1940 PGA Championship, the LPGA’s Lady Keystone Open, and the Nationwide Reese’s Cup.
The forward thinking Milton Hershey also built Spring Creek Golf Course in 1930. Originally named the Juvenile Golf Club, it was the first course in the U.S. open to boys and girls ages 17 and younger. While remaining beginner friendly, the remodeled Spring Creek will play to 2,220 yards with a new set of tees stretching the course to 2,416 yards.
The legendary Ben Hogan served as golf professional at Hershey Country Club for 10 years, from 1941 to 1951, during which time he recorded some of his most significant feats. Henry Picard, another notable early Touring pro, had preceded Hogan as head professional. By the way, there is a collection of Hogan memorabilia on display on the second floor of the clubhouse.
The grand Hotel Hershey, which the late world traveler Lowell Thomas once call “a palace that out-palaces the palaces of the Maharajahs of India, was inspired by a trip Milton Hershey took to Europe the early 1930’s. Included in the spectacular Mediterranean-style hotel are 232 deluxe guestrooms, 25 suites and The Milton Hershey Presidential Suite. There is a formal dinning area, a more casual café, and a clubhouse café and creamery, were a visitor can enjoy an overstuffed sandwich topped off by a hand-dipped ice cream.
The Hershey Lodge has 665 rooms including 18 suites, with a 100,000 square-foot convention center, ballrooms, meeting and exhibit space and several restaurants and cafes.
The 30,000-square-foot Spa at The Hotel Hershey, which recently underwent an expansion, offers services for those who wish to relax in luxury after their rounds at Hershey Country Club. You can pamper yourself with such delicious treatments as the Whipped Cocoa Bath, the Chocolate Fondue Wrap, and the Cocoa Massage. Another interesting tidbit about the spa: The Mojito Sugar Scrub and Noche Azul Soak are treatments inspired by Milton Hershey’s holdings in Cuba from 1916 to 1946.
And you may well need a spa treatment. Given the quality of the golf at Hershey Country Club, you might find yourself playing 36 a day. The club allows no daily fee play with those visiting needing to be members of the club or guests at the hotel, the lodge or the Pine Meadow Campground.
“One of the things that we are most proud of,” said Jim Reed, head golf professional, “is the conditioning and quality of the courses. Mark Malasavge, our director of golf course maintenance, does a tremendous job.”
The country club recently underwent an extensive, $18 million renovation that included a new clubhouse, swimming pool, year-round pavilion and an enhanced tennis facility. There is an extensive practice range at the club. Both courses at Hershey Country Cub have received numerous plaudits for their design, challenge and overall conditions.
“The courses are stern tests of golf from the back tees,” said Reed. “But they are both very playable from the middle tees and forward tees. The West Course is more of a traditional, Northeast layout with changes in elevation and a parkland type of routing. The East Course is a more modern, tournament type golf course.” The courses host around 42,000 rounds a year combined.
“Having the two courses to offer golfers allows us to always maintain availability on each,” noted Reed. “I would say our rounds are evenly split between our 750 or so members and resort guests.”
The West Course plays to around 6,800 yards and has an unusual par of 73, with five par-fives, three on the back side. There is a pleasing mix of beefy and shortish par-fours. Big hitters can reach the 307-yard fourth hole, but trees on both sides pinch the tee shot with the green well protected by bunkers. The 18th, a 424-yarder, is a solid finishing hole that requests a well-placed tee shot to set up the approach to an elevated green protected by bunkers on both sides.
But the signature hole on the West Course is the fifth, a delightful 176-yard par-three that offers a stunning view of Milton Hershey’s famous mansion, which serves as a backdrop.
The East Course stretches over 7,000 yards and is a testing, yet straightforward routing that demands well-placed tee shots, accurate approaches and a good short game to navigate the undulating greens. The course plays to a par of 71.
The signature hole on the East Course is the eighth, a 224-yard par-three that plays shorter because the green is located below the teeing area. Be sure to check out the views of the surrounding countryside.
Number 15 is a brutal, 457-yard par-four that has water lurking on both sides of the landing area, with the initial shot from an elevated tee box. If you miss the green on your approach getting up and down is a chore.
Number 18 is another great par-four, measuring 456 yards. Finding the fairway is imperative in order to set up a modest approach that must carry water in front of the putting surface.
Rene Coleman, the club’s general manager, said Hershey Country Club draws visitors from throughout the Northeast, while maintaining a vibrant and growing membership.
“We have had more junior executive memberships the last year or so and our membership base draws from about a 20-mile radius. We are very active in promoting the club to guests of the resort and we have a number of packages, like our `Nine and Dine,’ which brings in the children and utilizes the Spring Creek Golf Course. We have packages that include accommodations at the hotel or lodge, breakfast, dinner and the opportunity to play both 18-hole courses at the club.”
A popular selection is the “Tee and Chocolate Golf Package,” which entitles guests to deluxe accommodations at The Hotel Hershey or Hershey Lodge, dinner at a restaurant of choice, breakfast, a chocolate welcome gift (of course!), one round of golf per person at Hershey Country Club with choice of play at either the West or East courses, and admission to Hershey Gardens and Hershey Museum.
The reopening of the refurbished Spring Creek Golf Course will allow the resort to enhance its marketing opportunities to families and junior golfers.
Coleman said the history that pervades the grounds of Hershey Country Club is another of its selling points.
“We talk a lot about or history and legacy here. Having had Ben Hogan as a professional and hosting all the tournaments is wonderful. We are lucky to have someone as qualified as Jim Reed and two other PGA certified pros on staff. It’s a major plus for our guests.”
The location of Hershey Country Club to recreational and cultural venues in the area, such as Hershey Park, Chocolate World, Hershey Gardens and Hershey Museum is a strong lure for visitors. There is also a plethora of shopping venues and the Gettysburg National Battlefield is only an hour’s drive away. Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, is about a 20-minute drive from the resort and golf club.