Bedford Springs Resort
Where History and Golf Play Together


Story and Photos by: Ed Stone

Shobers Run Creek runs through the Old Course at Bedford Springs Resort.

In 1895, a golf professional named Spencer Oldham from Baltimore laid out one of the first golf courses in America at Bedford Springs (Hotel) Resort in Pennsylvania.  Little is known about Oldham other than he was good friends with Jesse Hilles, also from Baltimore.  We know that in 1886, Hilles and his partner Samuel Bancroft of Delaware purchased the Bedford Springs property.  The connection being that Hilles and Bancroft had already begun discussions about buying the resort and building a golf course and wanted “their person” to design it.

To appreciate and understand this unique resort property, we must go back to 1796.  This was when Dr. John Anderson discovered the mineral springs in Bedford which had long been known and used by Native Americans for their curative properties.  Dr. Anderson purchased the 2,200 acres on which the resort now stands.  Within ten years, Dr. Anderson built The Stone Inn from rock quarried from the mountain adjacent to The Springs.

As word spread about these curing waters, guests began arriving after making the rugged journey from the Cumberland train depot and traveling some 21 miles through the Cumberland Valley to Bedford Springs.  The resort became more and more popular when future U.S. President James Buchanan made his first of many visits in 1821 and he would later make Bedford Springs his “summer White House” during his term in office (1857-1861).  Buchanan enjoyed the area and resort so much that he spent 40 summers in Bedford Springs including the four years when he was in office and the resort served as his summer White house.  There have been a total of 10 U.S. Presidents to visit the resort.

The par-5, "Oaks" green of the Old Course

The "Tiny Tim" par-3

The creation of the Old Course at Bedford Springs Resort involves four golf course architects Spencer Oldham (1895), A.W. Tillinghast (1912) and Donald Ross (1923).  The fourth would be Ron Forse Design who came in and worked with the new owners in restoration of the course as it is today.  Truly an “American Classic,” the Bedford Springs Old Course is steeped in history and reflects the design of course architect known for deep bunkering and flared greens.  The original course only had nine (9) holes.  When Tillinghast came on board, he expanded the layout to 18 holes and put 9-holes on the one side of the main road traversing in front of the resort and 9-holes on the resort side.  Donald Ross reconfigured the course to have all 18-holes on the resort side of the highway.  This is pretty much the way it is today with…some exceptions.  For instance, there are six holes where Donald Ross’ mark is not a part of them.  There are four holes where Ross and Oldham's work come together and one hole with that of Ross and Tillinghast surface.  To give you a better overview of who did what to the course’s design, the following chart is provided:

HOLE

TEES

HOLE

GREEN

BUNKERING

No. 1

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast/Forse

No. 2

Oldham

Oldham

Oldham

Forse

No. 3

Oldham

Oldham

Ross

Oldham/Forse

No. 4

Ross

Ross

Ross

Ross/Forse

No. 5

Ross

Ross

Ross

Ross/Forse

No. 6

Ross

Ross

Ross

Ross/Forse

No. 7

Ross

Ross

Ross

NA-No

No. 8

Ross

Ross

Ross

Ross/Forse

No. 9

Ross

Ross

Ross

Ross/Forse

No.10

Ross

Oldham/Ross

Ross

Ross

No.11

Ross

Ross

Ross

Ross

No.12

Ross

Ross

Ross

Ross/Forse

No.13

Ross

Oldham

Tillinghast

Tillinghast/Forse

No.14

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

No.15

Oldham

Oldham

Oldham

Oldham/Forse

No.16

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast/Ross

No.17

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

No.18

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast

Tillinghast/Forse


Other interesting historical facts include:

History abounds at this resort

  • 1905 – One of the first indoor pools in the nation is constructed at Bedford Springs, complete with a mineral water-fed swimming pool, solarium and hydrotherapy rooms. 
  • 1923 – Renowned golf course architect Donald Ross remodels Bedford Springs’ 18-hole golf course.
  • 1941-1943 – The U.S. Navy occupies the resort, using it as a training facility for radio operators.
  • 1943-45 – U.S. State Department interns Japanese diplomats at hotel.  
  • 1984 – The resort is designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • 1986 – The property closes because of a flash flood causing major damage to the property.
  • 1998 – Property purchased by Bedford Resort Partners, Ltd.
  • 2007 – Bedford Springs Resort is restored to its historic grandeur after a $120 million restoration and expansion. The new resort is the most modern of meeting places, featuring state-of-the art technology and conveniences.

"Oaks", the no. 5 hole is a par-5, 611 yards in a most beautiful setting.

Having recently played the course twice, I can attest to the fact that the Bedford Springs Old Course is most challenging and beautiful…most enjoyable.  Many of the holes are close to each other and the utilization of land is well planned.  On many holes, you can view a half dozen other holes on the course.  This is not a criticism, but just a fact.  Not once did our group have another foursome’s errant ball enter our fairways or playing areas.  Rolling terrain makes for placing shots in critical landing areas a must, in order to score well on this par 72 layout.  The front nine is a par 37 while the back nine plays to a par 35.  The tips measure 6,795 yards while the forward tees are 5,050 yards.  The greens, tees and fairways are Bentgrass while the rough is a combo of fescue and bluegrass.  Rather than use red, white, blue tee assignments, here they are Oldham (forward tees), Tillinghast, Ross and Medal (back tees).

Each of the holes have names such as Springs, Spencer Oldham, Ross’ Cathedral, Shobers Run, etc.  The Shobers Run Creek, a tributary of the Juniata River (the one that created the flash flood) comes into play or in view throughout the front nine, plus four holes on the back nine.  A couple of other hole names deserve mentioning are: Long which is the longest hole on the course at 615 yards from the blue tees; Hole O’ Cross, the 15 hole, par 5 stretching some 593 yards from the blues.  The number one handicap hole is number 4, a par-3, elevated blind shot to the green playing 223 yards from the back tees and rightly named, Volcano.

"Tiny Tim" a par-3 requiring a precise shot

 "Long" is the longest hole on the course at 615 yards

 "The Gully", no. 10, par-3 at Bedford Springs Resort

 

Rikki Boparai, general manager of Bedford Springs Resort

Rikki Boparai is the general manager at Bedford Springs Resort.  He recalls his first time to see his new assignment arriving some 16 months prior to the 2007 reopening of the property.  It was late in the afternoon, dark and a few lights were on in the hotel where carpenters were working on the extensive renovations.  As he entered the construction areas, he could see where the summer of 1986 flood had stained the first floor walls and floors.  He knew he had a challenge before him.  He knew the property was such a treasure during the Civil War, the Confederate Army had planned to capture the property and hold it hostage.  His company, Benchmark Hospitality had already designed the interior and mechanical for the property.  Rikki accepted the challenge and the rest is history.

Critical to redesigning of the property was protection from another flood.  Benchmark knew it had to be environmentally sensitive to whatever it did to this portion of the Juniata River.  They expanded the Shobers Run Creek bed to twice its size, created a trout spawning area and planted indigenous shrubs to prevent erosion to the tributary…all of this with the involvement and approval of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corp of Engineers.

Front of the beautiful and historical Bedford Springs Resort

Aside from being one of the most interesting and charming historical golfing resorts, Bedford Springs Resort offers a full compliment of amenities for non-golfers.

For the meeting and conference planner, there is 20,000 square feet of meeting space which includes eight breakout rooms.  The resort can handled 350 in banquet style and 450 for theater setup.  Bedford Springs Resort has all the bells and whistles for fulfilling technology needs.  They offer wireless high-speed Internet access and wired T1 lines, state of the art in audiovisual equipment, on-site catering, a business center with shipping, copying, notary service and personalized service for conference planners.

Whatever your palate is craving, Chef Konrad Meier (above) can provide it at Bedford Springs Resort.  From delicious pastries to the finest of dining.  The Crystal Dining Room is shown to the right.

When it comes to delicious food, Bedford Springs Resort has a plethora of places to dine as elegantly as you want or as casual as you need.  Fine dining in the 1796 Room is upscale 18th century d├ęcor with American cuisine.  The Crystal Dining Room is the resort’s largest restaurant and serves an outstanding buffet for most meals.  If you prefer a relaxed, casual atmosphere, try the Frontier Tavern with a pool table and enticing menu selection of burgers, sandwiches and your favorite drink.
 
The Bedford Springs Resort’s Springs Eternal Spa provides guests with therapeutic massages, body wraps, hydrotherapy baths, reflexology, skincare treatments, and hair and nail care.  The 30,000 square feet of outstanding space is well designed and beautifully decorated.  Combining a day of golf with a massage is about as good as it gets!

Aside from golfing, there are lots of recreational activities for the guests to enjoy both on the resort property and in the immediate area of Bedford Springs.  The resort offers two swimming pools, one outdoor and one indoor.  The outdoor pool has an expansive sundeck overlooking the Old Course and the Allegheny Mountains with an oversized Jacuzzi and private cabanas.  The indoor pool is perfect for year-round swimming and one of the first indoor pools built in America.

The outdoor swimming pool overlooks the Old Course and the Allegheny Mountains

 Bikes and other recreational activities are available at the resort

Close by, resort guests can find some great fly fishing, hiking trails, canoeing and kayaking on the Juniata River, horseback riding, carriage rides, biking trails and cross-country skiing in the winter.  There are three downhill ski resorts within 50-miles of Bedford Springs Resort.

For guests looking to enjoy the local surroundings, the town of Bedford is worth a few hours to explore.  There are 14 covered bridges in the area and many of them are still in use today.  They range in length from the 136 foot Herline Bridge to the 56 foot Palo Alto Bridge.

There are 14 covered bridges in the Bedford area.  Many are still used by today's vehicles.
Top: The Dr. Knisely Covered Bridge, top left the Ryot Covered Bridge and left is the Claybomb Covered Bridge.

In all my travels, there are few resorts that have preserved the history and continue to serve the guests as that of Bedford Springs Resort.  With more than 200 years of providing hospitality and a place for relaxing in the beautiful Allegheny Mountains, this is one place I strongly recommend as a “must visit.”  You do not have to be a golf addict or a history buff…but it helps.


FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Bedford Springs Resort
2138 Business Route 220
Bedford, PA 15522
Phone: 814-623-8100
Fax: 814-623-8052
E-mail: info@bedfordspringsresort.com
Website: www.bedfordspringsresort.com