Thursday, December 25, 2014

Country Club of Hershey - South Course

Hershey South is more sweet than sour

Planning a weekend trip to HersheyPark with the family anytime soon?

At a glance
Getting There: The Parkview Course of the Country Club of Hershey is at 600 W. Derry Road, Hershey. Take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Lebanon/Lancaster exit, then follow Route 72 north to Route 322. Follow Route 322 to Hershey Park Drive. Phone: 717-534-3450.

Greens Fees: Weekends, $65; Weekdays, $55.

Carts: Mandatory at all times.

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Spikes: Nonmetal preferred.

Amenities: Moderately stocked pro shop; bar and grill; outings and leagues welcome.

Information accurate as of 8/16/2002

If you are, and if there's any chance you can squeeze in a round of golf during your stay, most definitely throw your clubs into the trunk. In the proverbial shadow of the theme park, there are three fine, fine golf courses - two semiprivates, one daily-fee - all worth the effort.

They are the West, East and South Courses of the Country Club of Hershey, but don't let the name fool you - no memberships are required here.

To play the West Course, a four-star track that's the best of the bunch, you'll have to purchase one of the golf packages that include a room at the country club, or be a guest at the Hershey Hotel or Hershey Lodge. Same for the East Course, a 3 1/2-star loop that's a slight cut below but a strong course.

But to play the South Course, also a 3 1/2-star layout that was known as Parkview until May 1994, all you need to do is pay a daily greens fee. There are worse ways to spend your money.

The West Course, once home to the LPGA's Lady Keystone Open, stands out among the three. At almost 6,900 yards, with a 131 slope, it's an absolute delight - hills and wide, sweeping tree-lined fairways, not to mention a tough par 3 that plays right up to the front yard of Milton Hershey's old mansion and benefits from the waft of chocolate in the air. It's a course in the best tradition of old East Coast country clubs.

The East Course adjoins the West, and if it didn't, it would probably get more of the attention it deserves. On the East, just when you hit a stretch of two or three holes that don't quite measure up to the West, you suddenly come across another two or three that make you wonder why the West gets all the attention.

But because of the restrictions on play on those two courses, it's the South Course - a separate place about a mile away - that will get our attention.

Granted, when you pull into the parking lot at the South Course, with its public-course-looking clubhouse and rubber-mat driving range, it appears to pale in comparison to the country-club scene over at the East and West.

So what? A clubhouse is not always a true indicator of the golf course that lies beyond. If the South Course were in the suburbs of Philadelphia, it would be an immediate favorite among area golfers.

The South Course, opened in 1927, was designed by the same man responsible for the West: Maurice McCarthy, an Irish immigrant and teaching pro who was a friend of Milton Hershey.

Just as at the West Course, McCarthy took full advantage of the foliage, hills and creeks that will give any golfer fits on at least two holes.

At its best, the South Course can hold its head almost as high as the West. At its worst, the South Course is inconsistent, even unfair, in a couple of places. But the two or three sore spots don't sour its overall quality.

The South Course plays only 6,204 yards, with a 121 slope from the blue tees, but that seems misleading. It plays longer and tougher, more like a 128 slope. Head professional Steve Krall said the USGA has been asked to reevaluate the course.

Good golf holes come at you early on at the South Course. No. 2 is a downhill par 3 over a creek that looks innocent enough from the tee, but proves deceptive and very difficult to par.

That's quickly followed by No. 4, a 305-yard par 4 that's a personal favorite. Though short, the hole looks ominous from the tee, thanks to a wide creek that runs up the left side of the hole, then veers right and drastically squeezes the fairway to about 15 yards at just about the spot your tee shot might land. This hole can be either an easy par or a nasty double-bogey.

Then comes a par 3 that seems short on the scorecard - only 140 from the blues - but it's a blind shot up a nearly vertical hill, made even more difficult when the wind is swirling.

South Course regulars say the course doesn't really show its colors until you hit the 8-9-10 stretch.

No. 8 is a long, straight 450-yard par 4 that's complicated by OB on the left, OB on the right, a fairway with a left-to-right slope, and a swale that can leave even a good tee shot with a blind, long-iron approach into a distant, uphill green.

Then comes No. 9, a treacherous downhill, dogleg-left par 5 that features a blind tee shot and a zigzagging creek that creates an island fairway/landing area for your second shot. The first time you play this hole, you'll cuss it as unfair; the second time, you'll love its nuances.

The toughest hole - and the favorite among regulars - is the 10th, a devilish, tree-lined, uphill 419-yard par 4 that's as pretty as any hole around. From the well-elevated tee, the green looks to be about two miles away.

But it's also at the 10th that the South Course needs some work.

Even if you hit a career tee shot, you face an uphill mid- or long-iron into a huge green that's banked like a turn at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and tiered in a fashion that makes even a terrific second shot seem inadequate. If the pin is on the top tier, a bogey will seem like an accomplishment.

My only other complaint about the South Course is the 15th, a 455-yard, dogleg-right par 5 that demands a blind tee shot and blind uphill second shot. Two blind shots in a row seem a bit much, even if you know the course.

Even so, the pluses of the South Course far outweigh the minuses. Play here once, and chances are you'll find yourself saying to the kids, "Hey, what do you think about a trip to HersheyPark?"

Originally published May 11, 1997

Joe Logan INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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