In so many varied aspects, Milton Hershey was an unparalleled visionary. The fact that the Hershey Companies remain governed by his Trust created in 1918 speaks for itself as the 99 year old document has fended of such multi-national suitors as Mondelez’s 23 billion dollar bid in 2016, frequent overtures by Cadbury and scuttled auction to Wrigley Co. in 2002. Despite Hershey’s battles in the M&A arena, the Company remains controlled by the Hershey Trust Company headquartered in the quaint town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Along side the towering stacks stamped Hershey, the West Course of the Hershey Country Club meanders along Spring Creek and still boasts its Golden Age roots hole after hole.
Naturally, Milton Hershey commissioning the building of a golf course cannot be a simple and straightforward tale of design and construct. To the contrary, Mr. Hershey opened 54 holes of wonderful golf in 1930 at the very height of the Great Depression. Hershey C.C. West was complimented by the public Hershey Parkview (NLE – 2005), Spring Creek 9 (world’s first “juvenile” course) and the Hershey Hotel 9 hole track. This golf complex was only a portion of Hershey’s “Great Building Campaign” of the time when the Hershey Community Building, the Hotel Hershey, the Hershey Theater, the Hersheypark Arena and Stadium were constructed. Lest we forget, Mr. Hershey founded the Hershey Bears, now the longest tenured club in the American Hockey League to be the Winter tenant in the Arena.
As for the “West”, it’s a total treat, start to finish. The land is interesting, the short fours some of the best in the world and the routing is imaginative and challenging. I would go so far as to say that the short 4 fourth is one of the finest of its genre in the sport. Maurice McCarthy designed a spectacular hole with only 285 yards in total. An elevated tee looks down at a narrow fairway drifting away on the oblique with a step bank flanking the right and a small creek and forest on the left. The green is tucked at the base of a sheer faced rock outcropping. Pull out your driver and have at it, but don’t be cursing Mr. McCarthy if its a 6 or worse on the card. Accuracy, imagination, guts and a sound putting stroke are required to tame the 4th. It’s a beauty, that has stuck in my head for 40 plus years having been confounded by the 4th in several Pennsylvania Junior’s in the 1970’s.
The balance of the track is delightful. The Hershey Mansion is the backdrop for the lovely par 3 5th and for the tee on the devilish dog-legged 6th. The 225 yard 8th may be the toughest on the course (rivaling the demanding 1st) and the outward nine closes with a deceptively difficult 4. The inward half is an ever-changing mix of par, angles and elevations. Two par-3’s, three par-5’s and four par-4’s (including the back to back 5’s on 15 & 16) provide great interest to the player. I was reminded of Doak’s bold par structure at Pacific Dunes (sans the Pacific Ocean). Book a room at Hotel Hershey and grab a tee time on the West and it will be a memorable experience.