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Mystic Rock and Links golf courses at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania: Scenery, drama and a Pete Dye challenge

Kevin DunleavyBy Kevin Dunleavy,
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Nemacolin Woodlands Resort - Mystic Rock G.C.
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The conditioning at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort's Mystic Rock is almost always pristine. (Courtesy of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort)

Combine the name of dastardly designer Pete Dye with these daunting numbers -- 7,526 (yards), 77.0 (course rating) and 147 (slope) -- and it's easy to see why players might be intimidated by the Mystic Rock Course at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa.

But those with a realistic view of their ability have no reason to fear. Play from the appropriate tees, and a round at the muscular course in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania can be as satisfying as the view on the signature 12th hole, an arresting par 3 over rock and water.

Opened in 1995, Mystic Rock is one of two dramatic mountain courses at Nemacolin Woodlands. The Links Course, which traces its roots to 1970, is built on a similar tract of rugged land and comes as a surprise to those who have heard so much about Pete Dye's creation.

"The course itself was amazing, talking about the Links, not Mystic Rock," wrote jepst14, of Pittsburgh. "The scenic view on each hole makes your round exciting and (it felt) like a getaway."

Designed by William Rockwell, the par-70 Links Course checks in at 6,658 yards with a rating of 72.6 and a slope of 134. By contrast to Mystic Rock, whose 18 holes include a staggering 95 tee boxes, the Links has a traditional set of tees -- blue, white (6,274 yards) and red (4,716 yards) -- and a traditional feel.

Nothing is traditional about Mystic Rock, the result of the vision and (some say out-sized) ambition of resort owner Joe Hardy, who made his fortune with the home-improvement chain 84 Lumber.

When Hardy brought Dye to Farmington, Pa., the legendary architect was overwhelmed by the prospect of building a course on such inhospitable land. But the promise of an unlimited budget convinced Dye to take on the project, and he went about the familiar business of moving heaven and earth.

Dye's work is evident on virtually every hole, as sprawling bunkers extend as long as 150 yards along fairways, and decorative boulders dot the landscape and mark transition areas. Rocks also abut cart paths and water hazards. Ravines are loaded to the brim with boulders that were blasted from the land and transported.

The result is a unique resort course with wide fairways and plenty of undulation, especially around the greens. Mystic Rock hosted the PGA Tour from 2003-06 and ranks No. 1 among public golf courses in Pennsylvania (Golf Digest, Golfweek). The best endorsement might have come from Vijay Singh who called the majestic clubhouse the best in the world.

GolfNow.com raters rank both courses at Nemacolin Woodlands an average of 4.6 on a scale of 5, many of them impressed by the abundant amenities, including the lavish practice range, touch-screen GPS and forecaddies.

Over the years, Mystic Rock been softened from the days when it had a 78.1 rating and 151 slope. The back tees are still as long as ever, but at 2,700 feet, distances are inflated. The next most-distant set of tees come in at 6,791 yards with a 73.5 rating and 139 slope; a course many more players can consider tackling.

"Beautiful layout (in) pristine condition," u000005180014 wrote on GolfNow.com. "Fastest greens I have ever played! Pace of play was slow at a little over 4.5 hours. Other than that, it's a must-play for any avid golfer."

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Kevin Dunleavy is a longtime resident of northern Virginia, a graduate of George Mason University, an award-winning reporter covering golf, colleges, and other sports for the Washington Examiner, and a single-digit handicap still seeking his elusive first hole-in-one. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KDunleavy.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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