Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club

Omni Bedford Springs Resort

Bedford, PA Public


From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:

Golf architects Ron Forse and Jim Nagle, the principals of Forse Golf Design, specialize in remodeling and restoration—Nagle from a base in western Pennsylvania, Forse from his relocated home in south Florida. They’re the perfect odd-couple team. The red-haired freckle-faced Forse, now in his mid-60s, has always looked like director Ron Howard (his childhood nickname was Opie) and is a bundle of nervous energy. Nagle, in his early 50s, looks like a suave leading man from one of Howard’s movies, and is so cool in every situation, I’d never want to play poker against him.

Forse graduated from West Virginia in 1979 and after practicing landscape design for a decade, established his course design business in 1989. His first design associate was Bruce Hepner. Nagle, likewise a WVU grad (14 years after Forse), became Hepner's replacement in 1998.

Forse has always been a student of classic architecture. He studies green contours the way a bettor studies a racing form, and can describe in remarkable detail the size and shape of a Ross or Tillinghast or Flynn putting surface that he hasn’t seen in half a dozen years. Nagle is the technician, making sure a green patterned from Forse’s memory will work under today’s technology.

One of my personal favorites from their portfolio is The Old Course at Bedford Springs at The Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford, Pa., where they rescued the resort's 18 holes from an unharnessed floodplain and years of neglect.

(The restored Omni Bedford Springs Hotel is worth a sidebar. Built in 1806, it was in 1855 site of the only U.S. Supreme Court session held outside Washington, D.C. The hotel also served as President Buchanan’s summer White House before the Civil War. It's every bit as impressive as the hotel at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.)

The Bedford Springs resort boasts that their course was the work of three “architectural masters”: Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross. Oldham was no architectural master. He was simply a Baltimore club pro who staked out the first nine in 1898. Tillinghast and Ross were definitely involved at different times, and remnants of both were still evident when I walked the site back in 1997 after the course had been closed and was overgrown. But it looked to have been a mediocre layout, despite that pedigree. It took Forse and Nagle, a decade later, to turn it into a timeless golf design.

In 2006 and 2007, they revitalized it by rebuilding every hole, retaining only a couple of good holes in the process. They kept the 225-yard uphill fourth, which was one of Ross’ most treacherous par 3s ever. It's dubbed “Volcano” because of the location of its green atop a domed hill. (Ross built the hole in 1923 and Walter Hagen soon thereafter declared it one of the best in America.)

They also recaptured the spirit of Tillinghast’s 1916 pitch-shot par 3, “Tiny Tim,” played over marsh and pond to a tricky green ringed by knobs and bunkers.

But mostly they created new holes in existing corridors that look, feel and play like classic oldies. Every hole at Bedford Springs is now a delight, even the final two that Forse and Nagle fashioned from the previous driving range. (A new range is behind the 15th green.) The par-3 17th, called “Ronnie,” is Forse's nod to a Redan, without the runaway green, while the short, S-shaped par-4 “Home” 18th throws a mix of Tillie and Ross at us, with challenge bunkers, cross bunkers and an elevated, canted green.

I especially admire all their greens complexes, some with dramatic slopes, others with subtle rolls, every one of them sized to the appropriate shot and molded to the topography. Their work is so good, I put Bedford Springs a notch ahead of the glorious Old White TPC at The Greenbrier as a must-play resort course.

Does that mean I consider Forse and Nagle better architects than C.B. Macdonald, who laid out Old White? No, but they’re great at what they do, and part of what they do is borrow from Macdonald’s playbook. For instance, on the par-5 13th at Bedford, they decided the second landing area needed a bunker, so they built one patterned after the Hell Bunker at St. Andrews. Not as deep, not as frightful, and off to the left side, but still recognizable to golf design fans as Hell Bunker.

C.B., who spent his career replicating famous golf holes, would have been flattered.


Holes 18
Length 6785
Slope 140
Price $219
Facility Type Public
Designer Tillinghast/Ross


Best Courses in Every State

Ranking history:

Best in State: Ranked 25th 2019-'22.

Current ranking: 32nd.


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