Taking in the pastoral beauty of south-central Pennsylvania makes it difficult to imagine that not so long ago — three years after the inaugural British Open — this was the scene of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. The town’s history — the Battle of Gettysburg and President Abraham Lincoln’s famous address (see “History Lesson”) — is the main draw for the 1.8 million tourists who descend on the small town of 7,490 each year to see the view from Little Round Top and walk among the rocks of Devil’s Den. Of course, there’s plenty of worthwhile golf here, too.
Several new courses have debuted within a half-hour of the battlefields, their topography ranging from the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains to the rolling farmland of the Susquehanna River Valley. As a result, golfers can experience everything from wind-swept inland links-style courses to rolling wilderness tracks. Better yet, there are no triple-digit greens fees in Gettysburg — fourscore and seven Yankee dollars is about as costly as it gets, and that includes a cart.
Where to Play
Penn National (800-221-7366; www.penngolf. com; greens fees: $55-$68) The Founders Course at Penn National is a parkland design that started the stay-and-play trend in south-central Pennsylvania. Rugged par 4s and small greens guarded by deep bunkers provide most of the challenge. Low handicappers have their hands full from the tips at 6,958 yards, but from the forward tees, less experienced players will find few forced carries and no hidden hazards. The Iron Forge Course (1996) is the polar opposite of its older sibling. With nary a tree in sight, Bill Love designed a bentgrass roller coaster with an abundance of mounds, broad bunkers and huge greens.
Links at Gettysburg (717-359-8000; www.thelinksatgettysburg.com; greens fee: $80) Although only 4 years old, the Links at Gettysburg is the area’s most talked-about course. Lindsay Ervin and Steve Klein collaborated to create a 7,031-yard test that mixes tight doglegs carved from hardwoods with links-style holes draped over rolling farmland. The front nine is benign, with several medium-length par 4s and one reachable par 5, but the back nine can be a war. It features three par 4s stretching more than 440 yards, and there’s water in play on the last seven holes.
Carroll Valley Resort (800-548-8504; www.carrollvalley.com; greens fees: Carroll Valley: $30-$39; Mountain View: $40-$55) Located near Penn National, the 36-hole Carrol Valley Resort has two fine tracks. The original Carroll Valley Course, set at the base of Liberty Mountain and surrounded by hills, is a deceptively difficult 6,633-yard, par-71 spread. With the shortest of six par 3s measuring 153 yards, plus a few long par 4s protected by meandering Tom’s Creek, you need solid iron play to tame this Ed Ault design. Beware of the greens, which are uncommonly small and slick. The resort’s second venue, the Mountain View Course, is three miles away. The front nine, routed on a flat piece of ground looking to the Catoctin Mountains, is wide open; the back is tighter and tougher. The greens are quick but flatter than those on the original course.
Bridges Golf Club (717-624-9551; www.bridgesgc.com; greens fees: $40-$55) Drawing its name from the 14 bridges that dot the course, the Bridges Golf Club in Abbottstown was deftly created by brothers Charlie and Fred Altland. At only 6,713 yards, and with few opportunities to incur penalty strokes, you might think you can overpower this easy-on-paper track. But mindlessly smashing the ball is a mistake: Strategically placed bunkers, mounds and mature trees penalize errant shots. And the ultimate challenge is found on the greens, where an array of dips, ridges and swales may leave you scratching your head. The clubhouse is a refurbished 19th-century furniture factory with 12 rooms for overnight guests.
Where to Stay
The Bridges, Penn National and Carroll Valley offer lodging, but Gettysburg features some charming historic bed-and-breakfasts.
Herr Tavern and Publick House (800-362-9849; www.herrtavern.com; weekend room rates: $129-$209) Built in 1815, this country inn was a safe house for the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Commandeered by the Confederates, it was used during the Battle of Gettysburg as a makeshift hospital. The 16-room inn offers fine dining and a lounge called the Livery.
Farnsworth House Inn (717-334-8838; www.farnsworthhousedining.com; high-season room rates: $125-$165) Confederate sharpshooters holed up here during battle, and about 100 bullet holes remain to prove it. Some believe the shot that killed Jenny Wade, the only civilian casualty, was fired from the garret at the house. Oil paintings of the opposing commanding officers, General Robert E. Lee and General George G. Meade, hang in the dining room, which offers such period fare as game pie and pumpkin fritters. Five of the 11 rooms are hyped as haunted.
Doubleday Inn. (717-334-9119; www.doubledayinn.com; $95-$130) The Doubleday Inn was named for Abner Doubleday, the man (mistakenly) known for inventing baseball. Doubleday’s real contribution was serving the Union with distinction, issuing the order to return Confederate fire at Fort Sumter in South Carolina in 1861, which started the Civil War. In Gettysburg, Doubleday’s charges stood firm against encroaching Confederate forces on the site that is now the only B & B on the Gettysburg National Military Park Battlefield.
More than 51,000 soldiers died or were wounded or were captured during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in the summer of 1863. That fall, President Abraham Lincoln arrived by train to dedicate Gettysburg’s National Cemetery and deliver a 268-word address that inspired generations of Americans. Golf nuts who double as history buffs will enjoy HistoryAmerica’s “Lincoln at Gettysburg” tour, a six-day in-depth excursion led by guide John C. Waugh, author .of Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency. Tour dates: November 14-20. 800-628-8542; www.history.america.com