The average stay of guests visiting Penn National Golf Club and Inn has increased in recent years. Some guests spend a few days, others stay a lifetime.
It’s no wonder. The dynamic property features two championship golf courses, a charming inn, great food in a casual restaurant and other amenities that include tennis and swimming, all located in the bucolic, rolling countryside of central Pennsylvania. It’s hard to leave once you’ve arrived.
Penn National, conveniently located from major metropolitan areas of the East, such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City and Pittsburgh to the west, has seen its reputation as a destination resort grow significantly since it first opened its doors almost 40 years ago.
Visitors find the area--located close to Gettysburg and Amish country at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains--so enjoyable many have decided to make it their second home or primary residence. Listed as one of America’s 100 best master planned communities every year since 1999, the Penn National Golf Course Community has some 1,000 homeowners.
At the sporting center of Penn National are its two golf courses, The Founders Course, which opened in 1968, and the Iron Forge Course that was christened in 1997.
The Founders Course features a classic blend of tree-lined fairways, large greens, bunkers and a large lake that comes into play on several holes. The Iron Forge Course is more of an “American links” style course, one that is more open than its sister course. It has generous fairways, undulating greens and enough bunkers to catch your attention on the tee and from the fairway. Fescue grass grows tall in the summer and stands ready to gobble up errant shots, further complicating navigation of this delightful track. Both courses are consistently ranked four stars and above.
The Founders Course recently underwent extensive work to its bunkers, which were re-sculpted, with several fairway traps expanded and some moved away from greens to open up the putting surfaces a bit. The project was overseen by Bill Love, the designer of the Iron Forge layout.
“One of the main appeals of our resort is that it has two fabulous golf courses that are very different from one another,” says Dave Beegle, head professional at Penn National, which has a warm-up practice area and putting green on premises. “The Founders Course is more traditional and tree lined, while the Iron Forge is a modern, open style layout with bent grass fairways and tees. Both are very good tests of golf.”
Beegle says that because the resort has 36 holes of golf, getting a tee time on either is never a problem, even when the club hosts tournaments or outings.
It’s difficult to get enough golf at Penn National, as both tracks will leave you wanting more.
The first hole at The Founders Course is a nice, 356-yard par-four that has a green guarded by bunkers with water to the rear of the putting surface. You can start out with an easy four or a bogey or worse if you don’t pay attention
Number seven is a 615-yard beast of a par-five that has bunkers in the fairway and surrounding the green. The 184-yard par-three 13th offers sublime views of the countryside, and the 16th is a great par four. It measures 461 yards from the back markers and is a dogleg right. Water guards the left side of the fairway.
The Iron Forge Course is a neat departure from the Founders Course. There are two superb par-threes on the front side, the 217-yard third that offers stunning views from the tee when the fescue grows high, and the 176-yard sixth that calls for nerves-of-steel in order to deal with water in front of the green.
The tee shot on the 427-yard ninth hole is from an area 50 feet above the fairway and offers great views. And the 18th, a 396-yard par-four, is an interesting way to finish a round. It features a split fairway that begs you to go to the right to shorten the hole. But the safer play is to the more ample landing area to the left, where the flag can be attacked from a better, albeit more distant, angle.
The two courses both measure around 7,000 yards from the tips and play to a par of 72.
One of the strong attractions for visitors to Penn National is the close proximity of the inn to the resort’s fine amenities. The 52-room inn is only a long tee shot from the pro shop, allowing visitors to walk to the courses for their rounds. The Founders Grille, located at the clubhouse, is an ideal venue to cap off a round of golf or enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner. While Penn National is located in Guilford Township, which prohibits the sale of alcohol, guests and groups are welcome to bring their own alcoholic beverages during their stay, however long that may be.
Says Beegle, “Our traditional stay and play package was for two nights and three days. But now people are tacking on an additional night. They will come in on Thursday, play a round of golf that day and have dinner. Friday and Saturday are usually 36-hole days and they’ll play another 18 before they leave Sunday.”
Penn National’s inn is a majestic, two-story brick Georgian manor house that overlooks the “White Rocks.” The building dates back to the late 1800’s and is loaded with history. Confederate Col. Jeb Stuart was said to have paid a visit to the occupants of the home during the Civil War on one of his raids into Pennsylvania.
Being that Camp David is located only a few miles away, a number of Presidents, including Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton, have visited Penn National to play golf.
There is plenty of fun to be had at Penn National for those who aren’t accomplished enough to tackle the Founders or Iron Forge courses, or who simply don’t play the game. There are two, recently resurfaced tennis courts, a swimming pool in season, and 36 holes of miniature golf at the Golf Center, a 40-acre practice and teaching facility located about a half mile from the clubhouse. Golf schools (including America’s Favorite Golf School), junior camps and private lessons are offered by PGA and LPGA professionals. Other local activities include some of the best fly fishing in the state, hiking, antiquing and outlet shopping. Of course, the Gettysburg national battlefield is a short drive away.
“We are very attractive as a resort destination,” says Laura Nicklas, director of marketing for Penn National. “There is so much to do at the resort and a wealth of cultural and other attractions in the area. We offer customized packages, and the options are nearly endless. Penn National can offer fly fishing trips with a local Orvis-endorsed angler, theater and musical packages, corporate meeting facilities and historic tours. If you can dream it, we can probably accommodate it!”
Penn National’s residential community has attracted individuals from as far away as Alaska and Germany. There are a variety of home options at the community--from golf villas priced around $300,000 to custom homes valued at more than a million dollars.
The resort recently purchased 400 acres to its south, and there are plans for additional recreational amenities as well as a town center, which will be home to various stores and shops and professional offices, says Nicklas.
Multi-day golf packages are available for as low as $299 (value season) or $375 (regular season) based on double occupancy and a three-day, two-night stay. Packages include lodging at the Penn National Inn, golf, cart, breakfast, and dinner at the Founders Grille, gratuities and all taxes. Call 800-231-0080 for more information about the resort’s packages.