Rare Bear in Eastern PA
By Torleif Sorenson on 5/31/13
Throughout his professional golf career, Jack Nicklaus has capitalized on his fame and accomplishments in part by designing high-end golf courses. But most of his designs are at private country clubs, where the general public is not welcome. But after being closed since 2010, one of those Nicklaus designs is now semi-private — meaning that you can get on.

Great Bear Golf Club (formerly known as "Great Bear Golf & Country Club") reopened this spring with new ownership — specifically, Charlie Kirkwood, who also owns the nearby Shawnee Inn & Resort. Great Bear is located just outside East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, within a two-hour drive of both the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.

Three lakes and several streams bisect the parkland-style course, which has five sets of tees that play from 4,949 to 7,025 yards, with 48 bunkers in play. Full practice facilities are augmented by a clubhouse with a golf shop, locker rooms, a restaurant, and a grill & bar. Great Bear has been ranked among the top eight courses in Pennsylvania by Golfweek and top 20 in the state by Golf Digest, as well as a place in the top 100 women-friendly courses in the U.S. by Golf for Women.

The course originally opened in 1997, but the club's original owners closed the course in 2010 due to financial constraints caused by the deepening economic recession. Fortunately, the bank managers that held Great Bear were wise enough to have the course maintained by a well-qualified superintendent — Penn State graduate Keith Snyder:
"The golf course suffered just a little for being closed for a while, but the bank was smart enough to keep us around to protect it from catastrophic failures. We even mowed the greens to in-season heights because we were always hopeful a buyer would come along and we could open it back up right away."
Kirkwood purchased the club at auction last autumn and has (for the foreseeable future) opened up Great Bear for public play. Tee-times are available up to three days in advance via telephone at 570.213.5400, although availability might be occasionally limited on weekend mornings and on Wednesday and Friday afternoons because club members (understandably) receive priority.

The peak rates (with a cart) are $75 on weekdays and $95 on weekends, although sliding twilight and shoulder-season discounts are available, as are several stay-and-play packages with the co-owned Shawnee Inn & Resort.

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Image via Great Bear Golf Club

[ comments ]
Bowman says:
Still to pricey, the gen. public cannot afford 95 bucks a round, or even 75 for that matter. Do they want only the rich to play? A public course has to be set at a price a working man can afford. Why do you think it closed in the first place? It COST to MUCH to play. When are people going to learn, lower rates, higher volume will make them more money in the long run.
FiddySnead says:
Lower rates brings hackers into play. Hackers tear up courses and greens. Higher maintenance and employee costs leads to higher prices. Its a vicious cycle.
drew1473 says:
Also, it is not public. It is semi private. I agree with FiddySnead. Low costs bring hackers. The hackers can go play the local muni and tear it up. I am willing to pay a higher amount for nicer fairways and greens and the experience.
falcon50driver says:
You get what you pay for.
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