From the day I first picked up a golf club, I wanted to play the Old Course in Scotland. It took nearly 20 years to get there, and the round was every bit as incredible — and memorable — as I’d expected it to be. It was a Bucket List experience for me, and it’s worthy of every golfer’s dreams.
But I’m a “Bucket List” kind of guy — an itinerary addict and tireless golf nomad. I’ve compiled and worked my way through dozens of lists in my life, and a round on the Old Course in Bedford, Penn., was never scribbled, typed or even considered on any of them.
"Old” and “Scotland” have a certain classic, romantic aura to their mix.
"Old” and “Pennsylvania” … well, they don’t, at least when it comes to golf.
Or at least they didn’t.
In covering more than 300 courses across 38 states, I’ve found some major disappointments (Southern Hills, S.D.) and some pleasant surprises (Troy Burne, Wis.). I’ve also had the immense pleasure of stumbling upon some unexpected, knock-your-socks-off experiences. And the Old Course at Bedford Springs — a course I never thought about playing but now simply can’t praise enough — makes that list of special experiences.
Allow me to make one immediate clarification: Pennsylvania’s Old Course is not a replica, imitation or duplication of any sort of the Old Course in Scotland. It is no substitute for the real thing, does not crawl along the sea and is highly unlikely to serve as host for any major championship. None of which should take anything away from what it is.
This is an 18-hole masterpiece, a circa-1985 classic hybrid of Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross’ combined genius. Those credentials alone make it special and significant, but at least a dozen “signature” holes make it that much more unforgettable.
It’s also worth noting that a great deal of the credit for the exceptionality of the round belongs to the staff and resort experience beyond the links at Omni Bedford Springs. The lodging, dining and hospitality very much complement the golf.
To whatever extent “bests” are arbitrary, I can say — without any hesitation — that Omni Bedford Springs provided my family with the “Best Service” we’ve ever had anywhere. The valet service here should be the instructional model for all resort systems on Earth. The professionals at every desk, counter and table in the buildings were quick to jump to any request or need. The staff smiles were contagious and seemingly made the pools glisten brighter, the sun feel warmer, the food taste better and my kids seem less loud.
The AAA Four-Diamond, 2,200-acre resort is a National Historic Landmark, situated in the beautiful Cumberland Valley — only 90 minutes from Pittsburgh and two hours from Washington D.C. The Springs Eternal Spa is lauded across the continent, and the indoor-outdoor pool combos (one very kid friendly, the other mineral fed) create quite the draw for the four seasons’ worth of guests who pack the property’s 216 rooms and suites.
The three marquee restaurants range from the upscale and sophisticated Crystal and 1796 Room(s) to the family-friendly favorite Frontier Tavern with maybe the best Root Beer Float in the Northeast. (Also gotta try the Shoo-Fly pie and the doughnut holes.) Che Sara Sara makes a mean smoothie, and the room service muffins are incredible. (And there’s even a pet menu.)
So let’s be perfectly transparent here: The accolades are abundant for every department of the resort, and you’ll definitely pay a pretty penny for this Pennsylvania pampering, but, on the flip side, you can expect excellence — and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. There are many more-kid-friendly resorts in the Northeast (in terms of amenities), but few that will place a higher value on the personal experience of you and every member of your family.
I’m never going to tell anyone how they should feel about a place, but I can attest that we couldn’t possibly have loved our experience more. They do everything right at Omni Bedford Springs — and that’s a rare discovery in the world of golf travel.
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Eric N Hart is the GolfGetaways Course Ratings Editor for GolfNewsNet.com and freelance golf journalist writing for multiple regional and national publications — and specializes in exploring the world with his wife and children in tow. This story is part of his ongoing series exploring Family Fun Golf Resorts throughout the Northeast. Follow his adventures on Instagram @MobileGolfer.