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|Hershey Links is a scenic layout overlooking the town of Hershey, Pa. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. - You might want to consider getting yourself a big, ol' Hershey bar, loaded with almonds and caffeine, before you play golf at Hershey Links.
Believe me, you won't have any trouble finding chocolate here, especially if you drive down Chocolate Avenue. (I'm not joking. It's an actual street.) This place is Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The first thing the hotel clerk asks, after your name, is if you prefer dark or milk - chocolate, that is.
You can't swing a 9-iron in this town without hitting soft, gooey chocolate. Visit Chocolate World, where singing cows will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about chocolate.
Or check out the Chocolate Spa at Hotel Hershey, where you can get a "chocolate bean polish," a "chocolate fondue wrap" or a "whipped coca bath," in which you literally take a bath in chocolate.
The Hershey Links golf course overlooks all this chocolate-ness from a hill that looms over the city. By the time I visited, I was so stuffed with chocolate, I didn't check to see if they had any in the temporary trailer that serves as the pro shop - they're in the process of building a new clubhouse. ("The Chocolate Pro Shop"?) I'm sure they did.
The golf course used to be known as the Wren Dale Golf Club until Hershey Entertainment and Resorts took over management last year. It's now part of the Hershey Collection, which includes the two golf courses at the Hershey Country Club and the nine-hole Spring Creek Golf Course.
Hershey Links is a nice draw for golfers wanting a golf/chocolate road trip. It's a scenic layout a touch over 7,000 yards from the back tees on 175 rolling acres of natural bluffs and ravines. The elevation provides both strategy and good views over the Kingdom of Chocolate.
Architects Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry used the elevation well: There are a lot of downhill tee shots and uphill approaches. You'll find quite a few forced carries off the tee, though none will make you want to give that chocolate back to Hershey.
It's a relatively open golf course - thus the "links" in the title - with wall-to-wall bentgrass on tee boxes, fairways and greens, bordered by fescue.
There are few houses along the course to mar the views on this excellent piece of property. The layout follows a natural routing, with creeks, ponds and streams adding some visual and strategic heft. Pot bunkers add to the "links" moniker, and the "deer crossings" around the course show the sort of wildlife that frolics around the grounds.
The greens are in very good condition, multi-tiered, well-sloped and undulating: The natural ampitheater around the 15th green is a particularly nice complex.
"I love the course," said Stephen Cowlings, of New York. "By the way, I can't stand chocolate."
Hershey Links is a very open golf course with good elevation and some challenging holes - some carries, a few blind landing areas.
Hershey Links, founded in 2000, is a semi-private facility and accepts daily fee play, with green fees at $85-$100 and residents paying the lesser amount.
It has good practice facilities - a double-sided driving range over 300 yards - not long enough for me - with three target greens, a big putting green and a chipping area.
Of course, you'll want to stay at the Hotel Hershey, home of the aforementioned Chocolate Spa. It's a beautiful hotel, a Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond hotel with 230 guest rooms and suites.
Every one of the rooms has a view of the formal gardens, the front terrace or the town of Hershey and all the chocolate the law allows. All the rooms are equipped with free Wi-Fi access.
An added bonus is the savings on Hersheypark tickets guests get, as well as free admission to Hershey Gardens and Hershey Museum and access to the Hershey Country Club.
For recreation, there are the four golf courses as well as two swimming pools, a health and fitness center, basketball, tennis and bocce ball courts, bicycle rentals and nature trails for hiking.
The hotel is well-equipped to handle meetings, with 23,500 square feet of meeting space, wireless high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi.
Also, the Hershey Lodge has 665 rooms and all the amenities of the hotel, as well as an 18-hole miniature golf course. It has 100,000 square feet of meeting space.
For more information, see www.HersheyPA.com.
October 1, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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