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Golf at the Links at Gettysburg course a very civil affair

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
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The Links at Gettysburg is close to some of the most historic Civil War locations in the country. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)

The Links at Gettysburg is an excellent, links-like golf course, a scenic and challenging layout outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, not far from the Civil War battlefields and other places of historical interest.

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - These men wore blue. These men wore gray. Some 145 years later, these golfers wore color-coordinated, loose-fitting, late-summer ensembles.

Playing golf in Gettysburg can be a spiritually unnerving experience. How do you know that when you're standing in the fairway or the rough you're not violating hallowed ground where a Confederate soldier crawled from the nearby battlefield, crying out with his last bloody breath for his wife or mother?

Well, you don't. All you can do is pay homage to one of the great battles that turned the tide of the Civil War and enjoy the golf, just like Robert E. Lee would have urged you to do if he had won. That isn't hard to do at the excellent Links at Gettysburg, not far from where General Pickett led his calamitous charge.

The golf course, located just north of the Mason Dixon Line on the street of the same name, is a little outside of Gettysburg in the rolling farm country of south central Pennsylvania. As such, it has some good elevation changes, and some of the elevated tee boxes on the high ground show off the views of the countryside: distant hills, green fields and red barns and silos. Not too different from what those Confederate and Union soldiers might have enjoyed had they not been so busy killing each other.

It is an exceptionally scenic golf course, with dramatic red cliffs and red-sand bunkers contrasting beautifully with the lush-green, wall-to-wall bentgrass. The rolling terrain is fissured with 14 lakes and streams, which come into play often and sometimes devilishly.

The golf course - 7,031 yards from the back tees with a slope rating of 140 - is referred to as a "battlefield" by the course literature, and, indeed, it can be a lethal skirmish, particularly if you miss the fairway even slightly and end up in the deep rough. There are also some very tricky, and long, forced carries off the tee and some blind doglegs that can stir up trouble.

Stay in the fairway, and you can score. Stray into the rough, and you're looking at four score and seven, or even higher.

The Links at Gettysburg: The Verdict

The Links at Gettysburg designed by Lindsay Ervin and landscape contractor Steve Klein. The golf course actually resembles a links layout in certain spots, with the wild grasses bordering the fairways and the open interior. Of course, only Scotland and Ireland have true links courses. Still, it's a very nice effect.

Quite a few golf courses claim their own "Amen Corners," and the Links at Gettysburg's is No. 13 through No. 16. The 13th is the second-hardest hole, with the landing area squeezed by water on one side and trees on the other, and No. 14 is a long par 5. The 15th is a deceptively pretty par 3, 233 yards over water from the back tees, and the 16th is a short, tricky par 5 with a two-tiered green.

The most dramatic holes, though, are probably the par-3 third, with its green framed by a sheer, red cliff wall, and No. 7, a beautiful, 600-yard, risk/reward par 5. Word of warning: Don't try to carry the water on the right - it's longer than it looks. It's even a tricky shot to lay up safely to the left; there's water there as well if you're too long.

The greens are excellent on this course - smooth - though with ordinary speed the day I played due to recent heavy rains. They are well-guarded and beautifully contoured.

There are more than a few houses along the way, particularly in the back nine, though they are set back tastefully and rarely intrude too much.

The golf course has earned well-deserved accolades from various publications as being one of the best public facilities in the state. The Duramed Futures Tour stops here.

The clubhouse and other buildings are first-rate: It's a popular spot for weddings because of the scenery and service.

Green fees range from $49 to $99.

Gettysburg lodging

The Days Inn in Gettysburg is a good place to base your golf and history excursions. It's only two miles from the battlefields and other places of historic interest. It has a fitness center, high-speed Internet access and a pool. The motel also has a good, free, continental breakfast.

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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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