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An Insider's View: Golf at Nemacolin, a Vacationer's Paradise

Golf at Nemacolin, a Vacationer's Paradise

Director of Golf Operations Chris Anderson offers a primer on golf season in Pennsylvania’s majestic Laurel Highlands.

Chris Anderson is no stranger to the wonderous Allegheny Mountains resort property known as Nemacolin. In fact, he’s been intimately familiar with each of the resort’s Pete Dye designs at since he joined the staff five years ago as the Director of Turfgrass, moving from The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In January 2023, he was elevated to the Director of Golf Operations and shares a distinct excitement for the 2023 peak golfing season at Nemacolin.

While Anderson arrived a year after Nemacolin opened its Shepherd’s Rock course, he’s seen plenty in his time. Two years ago, updates were made to Mystic Rock’s bunkers, playing surfaces and tee boxes with Pete Dye associate Tim Liddy on hand for the project. In 2022, the resort celebrated its 35th anniversary and earned 22 Forbes Stars for the third consecutive year and with renovations to the property’s storied [The] Grand Lodge set be unveiled in the fall of 2023, the future for this larger-than-life destination looks particularly bright.

With such anticipation for another terrific summer in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Anderson opened up about what his ideal golf trip would look like here, some of his favorite holes and what he tells his peers about what it’s like working at the 2,000-acre beauty.

JAY COFFIN: When you talk to your friends in the golf industry, how do you describe to them the uniqueness of Nemacolin as a golf vacation destination?

CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON: I would describe it as a big property with more activities than you can accomplish in one stay. There are so many different things you can do on property, from golf, obviously, to the swimming pools, to jeeps, to rock climbing walls, paintball and horseback riding. The variety of different things our guests can do from here is one of the things that attracts a lot of people.

COFFIN: Nemacolin is home to two Pete Dye courses, and some may assume that each course is exceptionally challenging. But playing from the proper set of tees makes the experience immensely enjoyable. How do you help set expectations for playing both Mystic Rock and Shepherd’s Rock?

ANDERSON: Mystic Rock and Shepherd’s Rock to me are so different in the design concepts, you can see how Pete Dye designed courses in the 90s and how he was designing courses as his career was winding down. We basically offer two different time frames in his career. Mystic Rock (which opened in 1995) is a tighter, narrowed-fairway course with subtle greens. A little more shot-making and angles come into play there. We have tees for everybody. The bunkering on Mystic is a lot different than Shepherd’s a well — they’re a lot more grand and have much more size to them.

Shepherd’s (which opened in 2017) has 10 more acres of fairways, so they’re a lot bigger and wider. There are more fescue areas and the bunkering, as I mentioned, there are more, pot-style and smaller. The kinds he used later in his career. It’s a little shorter, but the front side is a lot longer than the back. It also offers tees for every level of play.

Golf at Nemacolin

COFFIN: What are some of your favorite holes on Mystic Rock, and why?

ANDERSON: I like No. 5, it’s a par-5 that’s a risk-reward. It’s short enough from the proper tees to go for it in two. But the risk you take to go for it — there’s a double green that we move the pin on, but the bottom green that we use a couple times a week is surrounded by water on two sides. So, if you’re going for it in two you have to mess with the bunker on the right and water on the left and backside of the green.

Thirteen on Mystic is a short par 4, but the bunkering is some of the best we have. It’s a nice little simple par 4 that if you hit a good drive, you should be able to make a good score on that hole.

Then 18 really changed from a playability standpoint. We added a bunch of bunkers on the right-hand side, so it’s a good look for a nice finishing hole now.

COFFIN: Shepherd’s Rock takes you through some distinct natural settings and landforms. There’s extreme variety. Which holes stand out as some of your favorites?

ANDERSON: On the front nine, the par-3, No. 5. From the resort tee it’s a 150, 160 yardage, but it has an infinity green look where the green disappears into the big pond behind the green. It’s a nice look.

Playing No. 9 from the back tee, which plays 700 yards — playing that par-5 from the back tee is a pretty fun hole. It’s even uphill the whole way.

On the back nine, No. 11 has a nice wide fairway and a wetlands area down the left-hand side, and a wetlands area in front of the green that you have to carry. It’s in a great spot on the back nine there.

Eighteen has a good waterfall finishing hole there. It’s very nice.

COFFIN: What’s your career low score on both courses?

ANDERSON: I shot 75 on Mystic once. And at Shepherd’s I think my low is 78. Maybe 79. That’s one of the unique things about the resort and having two Pete Dyes; they are vastly different. The concepts are the same but how they’re laid out and how they play are so different from each other.

Golf at Nemacolin - Sunrise on the Course

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