Bedford Springs Resort reopens after comprehensive 'retro-rebuild'

At Bedford (Pa.) Springs Resort, they know something about history. And 107 years after its original opening, the Bedford Springs Golf Club has reopened after a historic and comprehensive "retro-rebuild" by Forse Design, Inc. The resort reopened earlier this month.

Bedford Springs Resort
Bedford Springs Resort is open again for golf after a comprehensive "retro-rebuild."
Bedford Springs ResortBedford Springs Resort
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The Bedford Springs Golf Club has long been a staple of golf in Pennsylvania and has gone more than 80 years without a major renovation. Originally designed by Spencer Oldham in 1895, the golf course was retooled 20 years later by A.W. Tillinghast. Not long after that, in 1923, the course was given a full restoration by legendary golf course architect Donald Ross.

The recent changes to the course, implemented by Frontier Golf, were intended to preserve and integrate the diverse styles of these three legendary designers. And the project was substantial, to say the least - Forse and Frontier rebuilt every green, tee and fairway, while integrating state-of-the-art drainage, irrigation and soil-profiles.

"It was an enormous project but also an extremely nuanced project," Frontier Golf President Nick Scigliano said.

The job of restoring the historic club was a complicated one. The Frontier and Forse team restored Oldham's unique serpentine and donut bunkers on the No. 3 hole, and pulled old photos from the National Archive to restore Tillinghast's "Tiny Tim" green at hole No. 14, a hole Tillinghast felt strongly enough about to include in his book "Gleanings from the Wayside."

After that, the team went to work at the superhuman job of restoring the more than 80 bunkers Ross included, as well as well as countless other improvements. Course Superintendent Dave Swartzel said it was an imposing and impressive project.

"The only thing we didn't have on this project was the initial clearing and grubbing process. In every other way it was basically new construction," said Swartzel. "Frontier did an outstanding job on an extremely tight time line. Considering the scope of the work, they went above and beyond the call of duty to get this done on time. When you're working that fast, sometimes corners can be cut. There was very little of that — but when we did see something, there was no hesitation to go back and make it right."

Frontier Golf often employed more than 100 workers on its Bedford Springs crew - even as it was working on rebuilding the River Course on Kiawah Island along with Tom Fazio Golf Course Designers. Scigliano said the work was complicated, but was done impressively and professionally.

"We've worked several times before with Forse Design, but never in the service of so many different classic design styles, on such tight schedule, with so many significant side projects, like the stream restoration," Scigliano said. "We broke ground at Bedford in early June and essentially built an entirely new golf course, and seeded it, by the middle of October."

But while the Bedford Springs renovation was huge in scope, Frontier and Forse always kept an eye on the historical perspective of the course. While they had an imposing number of bunkers to rebuild, bulldozers weren't used for them, as Frontier sacrificed speed to stay true to the look and feel of Ross's work.

"All of our bunkers are built with an excavator so we can change the angles, create the small valleys cut in the saddles that give a bunker that classic feel," said Doug Show, general superintendent for Frontier Golf and project super on the Bedford project. "We may push up the dirt with a dozer, but we always finish shape with an excavator, which is unusual. We can always tell when a bunker has been built with a bulldozer. It's too uniform."

Forse Design and Frontier Golf have a long and successful history of working together, including renovation and restoration projects at Indian Creek Country Club in Miami Beach, Fla., the Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., and the Longue Vue Club in Verona, Pa., among others.

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