A couple of miles down the road from Whitetail Mountain Resort in south-central Pennsylvania is a first-rate newcomer that may have even the most avid skiers hoping the snow melts early so they can tee it up at the first hint of spring.
Nestled in a valley in the Keystone State's Capital Region (Gettysburg, York, Lancaster and Hershey), the 6,950-yard, par-72 Whitetail layout was built by Rick Robbins, a former senior design associate for Jack Nicklaus. Opened last April, this pristine, housing-free course has already established itself as one of the most attractive venues in the area. Set on 250 acres, the layout boasts a 100-foot elevation change, with excellent views from the elevated tees of domed peaks and broad ridges in the Catoctin Mountains.
Whitetail has two predominant themes. Open, links-style holes are stretched across rolling farmland, their fairways delineated by tall native grasses. The remainder of the holes scale the side of a mountain or weave through a thick forest of oaks, maples, spruce and cedar. Occasionally, Robbins blended both elements on a single hole, as at the Jekyll-and-Hyde 423-yard eighth, a left-to-right dogleg described by head pro Joe Wisocki as "our best par four." The tee shot is played across open ground, but it must avoid a creek that cuts diagonally across the fairway. The second shot is aimed through a tree-lined chute to a well-defended green.
The 12th, Whitetail's longest par three at 202 yards, departs the valley and kicks off a memorable five-hole stretch of genuine mountain golf. According to Wisocki, "long or left is very undesirable" at the sharply downhill 12th. That's an understatement: Hooked or pulled shots disappear into an abyss below a green benched into the side of a hill. A tee shot played to the right, the safer side, will generally kick onto the large, flat green.
The most scenic hole at Whitetail and one of the prettiest in the region is the par-five 15th, which gives players an unobstructed 30-mile view of distant mountains and, closer at hand, the tiny town of Mercersburg. A classic risk-reward hole, the downhill 15th is strategically bunkered and offers numerous options. Canny golfers can safely tack their way down the upper or lower fork of the split fairway, but bold players can attack the heavily contoured green with their second shots. An eagle putt awaits those who are long, fearless¿and a little lucky.
Located seven miles north of the Mason-Dixon line, Whitetail is a kissing cousin of the rugged mountain courses in northern Maryland. The six-acre practice facility is an excellent place to warm up for the round. Also, carts are equipped with a GPS yardage system that enables first-timers to pinpoint exact distances. Whitetail Golf Resort, which plans to build a 90-room conference center and clubhouse in the future, is located just over an hour's drive from downtown Baltimore and is 90 minutes from Harrisburg, Penn.
Green fee $43 Monday-Thursday, $50 Friday-Sunday. Rates, effective April through October, include mandatory cart. Green fees drop after 2:30 p.m. and again after 5:30 p.m. Replay rates available for cart fee only ($20 per rider).
the deal Through Oct. 31, golf packages with accommodations at the Inn at Whitetail start at $73 per person, per night, double occupancy, Monday to Thursday. Rate includes golf, cart and range balls.
contact Whitetail Golf Resort, 11573 Blairs Valley Rd., Mercersburg, PA 17236; 888-493-4169;