Highlands of Donegal Golf Course
|Black M: 71.8/130||435||375||213||427||545||190||538||106||308||3137||400||354||167||490||365||512||150||436||458||3332||6469|
|Blue M: 70.3/128||380||365||201||387||525||175||512||96||290||2931||385||348||157||475||348||490||140||405||435||3183||6114|
|White M: 69.4/128||363||358||195||375||500||171||470||90||275||2797||355||338||148||466||336||480||132||387||423||3065||5862|
|Silver M: 66.5/115 W: 72.0/124||326||325||169||311||490||147||442||85||249||2544||322||304||138||442||326||435||122||359||387||2835||5379|
|Gold W: 68.9/120||323||312||145||277||430||124||391||78||228||2308||310||247||122||410||296||417||102||283||355||2542||4850|
March Winter Rules Play with 60 degree Weather
Can't really pick on the course conditions since it is March and a round like this is a bonus. Course is still in Winter dress but really not bad. They need to move the tees around more on the boxes because they are getting worn. It wouldn't hurt to run the bunker rake on days when the weather is going to be so nice.
Don't waste your time
I have played at more than 20 golf courses in Central PA and this is by far the worst run golf course I have ever experienced. The staff not only is unfriendly, they seem to go out of their way to do things to annoy their customers. I will never play at this course again and I strongly suggest that you find a better place to play. There are at least 100 other courses within 30 minutes of this one that are far better and have a staff that actually cares about their customers.
Nice Layout on Pennsylvania Farmland
Established in1998 as Groff’s Farm Golf Club, it is easy to see the agrarian roots of this track, now named Highlands of Donegal, giving it a Scottish air. Rolling Pennsylvania farmland was clearly a solid basis for this course. To quote from the course website: “from their origins in Scotland, golf courses were built from the land as it was found.” And, indeed, this course does seem to issue forth from the land itself, without all that much manipulation in the form of earth-moving. In any case, this is a solid layout that everyone can and should play—if they want a good test of golf. This par 70 slopes at a respectable 123 and carries a 70.1 rating.
I found it interesting that the golf course’s website refrains from calling this a ‘links’ golf course, an intelligent choice. It is not unusual for those who have played courses like Highlands of Donegal (HOD) to say that it is a links course. Yet, traditional or true links courses, their settings near or on the ocean, have a characteristic links landscape (it is termed “linksland”): natural bunkers—created by nature, essentially—and dunes, rolling hills, undulating and frequently bumpy fairways, a dearth of trees, swales and hillocks, and hard fairway surfaces by dint of their sandy soils. While not all links courses are near salt water, the majority are so, and most links courses can be found in the British Isles; in the United States, they are relatively rare, although more commonplace over the last 20 years. To get back to the point about HOD, I would call it a links-influenced course, one that takes on some of the aforementioned features, but it does not really fit the category squarely. I’ve played eight genuine links course in my travels to Ireland, Scotland, and England, and I candidly don’t think golfers from those parts would call it, if they could play here, ‘linksland.’
The course architect, Ed Beidel, did a creditable job of routing 18 solid holes. Someone in the 2006 edition of “Golf Digest Best Places to Play” commented that this course had “some quirky holes,” but I found nothing here that would fit that description. A better comment from the same edition, I think, was that this is a “fun course.” What makes it fun is the sense of openness on most holes—you can ‘let the big dog eat’ on many holes’ without trepidation—and, more importantly, quite a bit of variety throughout. HOD features numerous bunkers (as many as six or seven on several holes) multiple water hazards including a river, plateau greens, significant elevation changes, some doglegs, and yes, a couple of holes with lots of trees. Greens are frequently canted or undulating, but none of them sloped excessively. The nines are about evenly balanced in difficulty, although the front, having two par-fives, would seem to present more scoring opportunities.
HOD’s front nine possesses two interesting par threes, and the one of them—the third hole—ranks first among the five par-3’s here, in my judgment. A 210 yard par three, it played into the wind on the day my son and I were here. The water edging the green’s left side (it also has bunkers on the right) made me work hard not to overdraw the ball into this green complex, though the green itself is receptive and large. It’s an eminently fair hole, and also a beautiful one. By contrast, the seventh hole’s green is something of a postage stamp, but what really makes the hole nerve racking—at a mere 104 yards, straight downhill—is the river behind it. Also deserving mention on the front is the tantalizingly short ninth, but, to keep you honest, hazards abound from tee to cup, not the least of which is the plateau green with water encroaching on two of its sides. You’ll need nerve to hit your approach, likely a short iron or wedge, with precision to find this putting surface. And the fifth hole is a stunning looking five on which you must take care to avoid the left side OB and other hazards on the way to a green 537 yards from the tee. It may well be the best hole on the golf course.
The back nine at HOD is almost entirely treeless and has several holes that border on exceptional. On this half, I really appreciated the full magnitude of topographical variations on this landscape. And many of the holes were beautifully set to follow the land ‘as found,’ leaving its magnificent contours unmoved and unspoiled. The stretch from 13 through 18 has to be played to fully grasp how exciting, in places, the course can get, and I’m not sure describing each one will do them full justice. But thirteen and fifteen were two outstanding par fives, holes that will favorably stand up to any among the four we played while in Pennsylvania (on vacation).
The one negative apparent when playing HOD was the condition of its fairways. Considering that large strands of grass appeared intermittently on many of the fairways and others were a bit shaggy, it is safe to say that the greenskeepers had not been out mowing it regularly prior to our visit. In fairness, we played the course in the early part of April, so perhaps it’s pardonable. The greens were in good shape, however, although the rough was quite uneven.
While Highlands of Donegal may not be upscale or fancy or highly manicured, its playing challenges will still satisfy single-digit players. It also fits a wide range of golfers. Interestingly enough, my son and I were out playing the course in the afternoon as Tiger Woods was making his epic comeback on Masters Sunday. Accordingly, few players were out playing—here at Highlands of Donegal—until the Masters was wrapped up. And although I respect Tiger’s talents, this still seemed (call me crazy) a better place to be. For me, this simply points to the value of DVR’s.
Hidden Gem in Central Pa
My favorite Central Pa Public golf course. Very open and forgiving.
I've played many Links courses in Ireland and Scotland and this course would be called a Hidden Gem if it were located along the coast..
Very 'links" feel to it.
Staff has always been great and easy to work with.
Fairways are smooth, rough is not penal, and greens are top notch even in this summer heat.
Four Teeing grounds make it a challenge for any level player.
I have played this course several times over the last few years. If you haven't played it recently, you haven't played it. Management has made an effort to improve conditions in the last two years and they have done a great job. The fairways are good, the greens are excellent and the bunkers have greatly improved and are very good. The tees are average but are being improved. Although 15 out of the 18 holes appear to be wide open, the links style makes it play more difficult than it looks. Holes 7, 8 and 9 are challenging and and worth the trip.
Highlands of Donegal
Course name changed to above - prior review was 2 years ago - course is now in excellent condition and is fun to play - rates are moderate
Terrible course conditions, poor pace of play
I played this course a couple of times this spring/summer and was disappointed each time. The first time was in April and the course was in rough shape. Almost all of the tee boxes were cut way too high and the grass was absurdly patchy. They really were awful. The fairways and greens seemed to be ok enough but the sand was rock hard. We went back a month later to see if maybe the grass had grown in a bit, but it was still in very poor shape. To make things worse, the pace of play was awful and there was a group of teenagers playing a few groups ahead that were yelling and carrying on the entire 4+ hours. The marshall working there did nothing to move along the pace or stop the yelling. I will not be going to this course in the foreseeable future. Do not be tempted by their low rates. You're much better off going elsewhere.