Before 2015 I couldn’t have named a single great public-access course in Pennsylvania. Now I know of six: the two Pete Dye masterpieces at Nemacolin Woodlands, the thrilling Old Course at Omni Bedford Springs, Glen Mills outside Philly, Pittsburgh’s Olde Stonewall and the “seriously there’s a golf course here?” Links at Gettysburg. The first five have massive populations and/or amenity-packed resorts to draw golfers from — and to garner national attention. Gettysburg has battlefields, tombstones and funeral procession lines of tourists coming to pay their respects. Somber, sobering Civil War tributes seldom scream “fiesta.”
Which is precisely why The Links at Gettysburg merits serious consideration as one of Pennsylvania’s best all-around experiences. Even for the golfer. It is the exact opposite of everything else Gettysburg represents. This is party central, a laugh (and clash) all you want without feeling guilty oasis. In historic context the words “Civil War” form a paradox. At the Links, the term is actually appropriate. The course is a friendly battlefield where many a civil war is waged daily among friends, hole after beautiful hole.
This course should be no afterthought or mere “addition” to a Gettysburg itinerary. It deserves billing alongside the marquee attractions, right there with the Museum and Cyclorama (at the Visitor’s Center). The diversity of the 7,069-yard Lindsay Ervin design is astonishing. Dramatic elevation changes blend with red-rock canyon walls, tight fairways, massive greens, gorgeous bridges and 14 polyurethane-magnetic liquid graveyards. The 144 slope rating is no misprint. This is a course whose nines could be flipped and it wouldn’t bother you; there’s plenty of drama on each side. A construction crescendo both ways. The most popular holes are a pair of par 3s, Nos. 3 and 12. The third takes a major drop from the tee over a creek to a green surrounded by massive canyon walls. The 12th sends you over another stream and an awesome bridge to essentially an island green. My personal favorite hole is the par-5 18th, which is an eagle opportunity surrounded by water and cliffs that wraps below a typically rowdy gallery of “happy” observers on the clubhouse patio.
The course can get really wet, golfers (as always) need to do a much better job of fixing ball marks (especially on the 3-pars) and management intends to address the rocks and inconsistency of the bunkers, but if you split each fairway, stay out of the sand and leave yourself tap-ins on every green, none of those things will affect you.
The biggest difference between your experience and ours will likely be expectations. We had none. Gettysburg is a must-visit for every patriotic American, and while you’re in the area, if you’re an equally passionate golfer, the Links is well worth a go round.
Ownership is in the process of formalizing their on-site “resort” plans, but until a lodge physically exists, you can do no wrong by staying in Gettysburg at the Federal Pointe Inn (see below-bar).
When you spend nine years in post-high school institutions pursuing three degrees you don’t even use, you feel like you stayed in school way too long. You say things like “no more degrees” and “never again” to people who ask you why you don’t pursue something other than the lost art of journalism. And then you go to Gettysburg, Pa., and find a school you love and don’t ever want to leave. It even has a bar in the basement. Except that, while the character of the high school building has been preserved since it was dedicated in 1897, the Federal Pointe Inn is actually no longer an academic institute. It’s a hotel, the best one in town, and it’s the luxurious former to the latter that is the Stay & Play golf experience with the Links at Gettysburg. Why didn’t they have beds like these in all my other classrooms? So comfortable. So chic. So going back to school again someday!