If you think chocolate is just for kids, you’re wrong. And if you think a candy bar can’t buy real estate, you’re wrong again.
Chocolate baron Milton S. Hershey designed and opened the Hershey Country Club in 1930. Since then, legendary golf heroes have graced Hershey’s fairways, including Ben Hogan (former club pro), Henry Picard, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Certainly a sweet history, although Hershey’s involvement appeared to end in 1994 when Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co. sold the golf courses to National Golf Operating Partnership, which renamed it Country Club of Hershey.
Then, in April 2002, the story picked up where it had left off: Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co. bought the property back. Last fall, the company announced plans for a $18 million overhaul. Slated for completion in 2006, the renovation includes rechristening the property with its original name — Hershey Country Club.
It’s safe to say that Ben Hogan, who was the club professional here for 10 years in the 1940s, would be pleased with the renovation plans, which call for razing the existing clubhouse while preserving the footprint of the original building — including the Pennsylvania stone and bedrock — and replacing it with a 43,000-square-foot structure more in line with today’s standards. Tag Galyean, an award-winning resort design consultant, is overseeing the renovation. Galyean’s golf club experience includes The Greenbrier, The Broadmoor Hotel and Kingsmill Resort.
The two courses at Hershey are very different. The West Course is the original course designed by Maurice McCarthy in 1930 and was the pride and joy of Milton Hershey. The signature hole on this course is a 176-yard par 3 with Hershey’s stone mansion as the green backdrop. (I was six feet from the hole on my shot from the tee box.)
The East Course was built in 1970 and features a number of elevated greens, water hazards and more than 100 bunkers. The designer of the course, George Fazio, worked in some spectacular views of the Pennsylvania countryside. The course is home to the Nationwide Tour Reese’s Cup Classic, which has been played since 1997.
The East Course
Bring plenty of club and don’t be fooled by this 71-par masterpiece. This course has elevated greens on most of the holes. A key point to remember: Take an extra club on all the shots to the green. To be fair, the greens were holding and most of them were elevated in the front without a great slope to the back. Shots over the green were playable on most holes.
Hole 1: A good hole for getting the lay of the land. Water is to the right and should not come into play — but it does. The hole is a long dogleg to the right, and it is very possible to blow your shot through the fairway if you don’t make the turn. It’s a good starter as your second shot is to one of the most elevated greens in the course, protected by bunkers. Make sure you make a clean shot. If you think you need a 7-iron, you probably need a 6 or a 5.
Hole 3: This is the No. 1 handicap on the course. It is a long par 4, 448 yards from the blues and 421 yards from the whites, again to an elevated green. Your landing areas, left and right, are protected by a set of bunkers on both sides.
Hole 5: A par 5, this is a long hole at 554 yards from the blues and 515 yards from the whites. It is an ever-so-slight dogleg to the left, with the right and left landing areas protected by bunkers. Fairly open, you can whack away at your second shot. Big dogs can nearly make the green in two or prepare for a third shot. Risking a second shot pulled to the right will get you into the greenside bunkers. The green is elevated, but not as high as most.
Hole 9: I personally like this hole. You are driving downhill and then launching your second shot to an elevated green that looks and feels like it’s the height of the Empire State Building. Hole 9 is the No. 3 handicap due the elevation of the green and the slight dogleg to the left. I pulled my tee shot left and landed behind a tree near the left fairway bunkers. As we were playing team golf and were behind several holes, my partner and I decided I should try to go for the green by slicing the ball with my 5-wood. I won the hole with a par. You are going to like this one.
What would a course be without a “monster” hole? Hershey East’s is Hole 14, a 540-yard par 5. It should not be difficult. It’s fairly straight with fairway bunkers on the right for landing one and two, but you need three really good shots. Stay away from the trees on the left side.
You may think this is a par 5 when you look at it, but it’s not. It’s a 467-yard par 4 — a dogleg right with water on both sides of the fairway. Great drives disappear in the drink if you head slightly left off the tee. Depending on your drive, you will have about 177 yards to the green, which runs uphill.
This is a great finishing hole with a downhill drive to a pond just before the green. Your second shot to the green can be intimidating because of the water. Try to keep the ball in the fairway to make the green. If you clear, there are several traps guarding the green.
This is a great venue for a weekend game of golf. A massive spa recently opened at Hotel Hershey — great for unwinding after your game.
HERSHEY COUNTRY CLUB
1000 E. Derry Road, Hershey, PA 17033
tel 717 533 2360, fax 717 533 2752
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