Shawnee Golf Resort's history, 27 holes make it worth the visit

By Darryl Berger, Contributor

SHAWNEE-ON-THE-DELAWARE, Pa. - Saying Shawnee Golf Resort has some history is like saying there's been some talk about why Tiger Woods hasn't been winning majors lately.

The history of the course along the Delaware River in the Pocono Mountains runs deep and colorful. The course has hosted a major, been aplayground for some of the biggest TV stars of the 50's and it's where golf's king met his queen.

Shawnee Golf Resort was designed by one of the giants of American golf architecture, A.W. Tillinghast. It was the first project for Tillinghast, who would go on to layout Winged Foot and Bethpage among others. Most of the course's 27 holes are on an island in the Delaware River. There are two par 3's that actually play over the river! Tillinghast designed the Blue and Red nine-hole stretches which opened just after the resort did in 1912. The White nine-hole section was added later.

Shawnee Golf Resort was the site of the 1938 PGA Championship. The final match pitted little known Paul Runyan against a golfer who would become a legend, Sam Snead. Chances are you would have found few people who would have picked the slight Runyan to knock off Slamin' Sammy, but he dominated the match and won 8 and 7.

Fast-forward almost four decades to 1967 when Shawnee Golf Resort was the site of the NCAA Championships. That year's winner, Hale Irwin, was from the University of Colorado and he would go on to win three U.S. Opens.

As a destination, Shawnee was on top during the 30's, 40's and 50's. During the 50's one of the most charismatic entertainers of the day was television and movie star Jackie Gleason who decided he wanted to take up golf. The rotund comedian became obsessed with the sport while playing at Shawnee and was able to break 80 just 15 months after shooting 143 in his first-ever round!

Also in the 1950's, a young golf pro named Arnold Palmer from western Pennsylvania was playing at Shawnee when he met a young lady he would eventually marry. Winnie was at his side as he became one of the most popular stars the game has ever produced. They remained married until her death several years ago.

The history is interesting, but it doesn't mean much when it's time to tee it up. Fortunately, the golf course at Shawnee Golf Resort can stand on its own. The traditional layout offers up lots of enjoyable golf with plenty of challenge and entertaining holes. But the courses tend to be basic, minus the bells and whistles of some other high-end resort golf. "Its classic design is timeless," said Shawnee Head Professional Joe Stead.

The second hole on the Red Nine and the seventh hole on the Blue Nine are both really great golf holes. The other 25 holes are less dramatic and might not be appreciated by those accustom to the flash of modern target golf. But the subtle design provides one solid golf hole after another and you'll invariably run into sufficient trouble along the way.

Doylestown, Pa., resident Pete Radley has made an annual fall trek to Shawnee Resort for nearly 20 years. "I go with one or two foursomes and we love the course! It's the kind of course that no nonsense golfers enjoy," says Radley, adding the fall foliage is also a major attraction in early October.

Radley also reports a marked improvement in course conditions since an irrigation system was installed about 10 years ago. Stead says conditioning is a priority, "We get a fair amount of play, but we strive to always keep the course in top shape."

The Tillinghast Golf Academy is a recent addition to the resort. It focuses on helping players with the hard to master short game. Tom Doak designed the new short game course.

Shawnee Golf Resort: The verdict

Some golfers will say the course lacks appeal. But it's in a beautiful setting and is a real test of your game. Course conditions and the service from the staff is top notch. You can go to the resort with your friends and immerse yourself in the game or take the family and know everyone will have something to do.

Where to stay

Shawnee Golf Resort has a variety of accommodations from the historic Inn to cabins to time-share apartments. Stay and Play packages include golf, breakfast, dinner and accommodations.

Shawnee Golf Resort: Dining

There are several dining options at Shawnee Golf Resort. Charlie's Place is fine dining and serves breakfast and dinner buffets. The Riverdance Grill over looks the Delaware River and offers casual fare. The brand new Sam Snead's Tavern has three levels of indoor and outdoor dining.

Off the course

Shawnee Golf Resort offers lots of stuff for non-golfers and golfers when they are not on the course. Shawnee River Adventures can schedule a trip down the Delaware in a raft, canoe, kayak or inner tube. The Shawnee Playhouse presents professional productions throughout the year.

Fast Fact

Shawnee Golf Resort was built by New York businessman C.C. Worthington, who was one of the original organizers of the PGA of America. He was also was a member of the "Old Apple Tree Gang" that built the first golf club in the United States, St. Andrews Golf Club at Mt. Hope, N.Y.

Darryl Berger, Contributor

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