Every course has a history. Not every course is history. The Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort has the distinction of being the course that launched the architectural career of the one and only A.W. Tillinghast. It opened its doors to guests and grass to golfers in 1911 and the rest is just like they say... history.
This 3-star rated resort is a located about a mile north of the Delaware Water Gap off Interstate 80 between Scranton, PA and New York City. You can call it the Poconos if you want to - and that means skiing in the winter. While the Inn doesn't have its own slopes, it does have a partnership with Shawnee Mountain just three miles up the road.
The course's history isn't just about Tilly, either. It's hosted its share of major events - literally - albeit a long time ago. Shawnee hosted the 1938 PGA Championship (Paul Runyon defeated the incomparable Sam Snead in the then match play final) and the 1967 NCAA Championship - won by Hale Irwin. It also gets a footnote in golf lore for helping establish what we now call the PGA itself all the way back in 1912. See... history!
You can't rely on everything on Wikipedia to be accurate, but there is a claim that the land the course now sits on was once the site for Fort Dupuy, a fortification used during the French & Indian War (1755-1756).
For my money, this is the best part about the entire property... You get off I-80 and ascend up a road cut into the mountain before catching the first view of the Delaware River and the course below you. I mention the two together because you can't have one without the other. Not only do you get 27 championship holes here - always an added bonus - but 24 of the 27 holes play on an island in the middle of the river.
You can't help but get chills the first time you visit. The old-timey inn just looks like it grew out of the ground like it has been there forever. The whitewashed building provides a stark contrast among forested hills (and foliage if you're in fall). This is the type of place they write stories about.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop/Practice Facilities
I already mentioned the really cool aesthetic of the Inn, but inside it isn't bad either. Not only are there two pubs on the property, but they have their very own craft brewery on-site! If that isn't the perfect pairing to a round of golf, then you're probably reading the wrong website.
As for practice facilities, it just keeps getting better. Tom Doak - yes, him - was brought in to build a 9-hole Chip N Putt reminiscent of some of Tillinghast's greatest templates and green complexes. While only six of those holes remain in play, the other three greens have been turned into targets for a 250-yard practice range. Even better still, they have lights for night play during the warmer months! I ran out of daylight and played right at the end of the season or I else I certainly would have played it.
The original 18-hole course that Tilly designed may not be there in its original state, but the general idea remains.
The course is generally flat, but has some classic fairway cross bunkering or mounding that made places like Bethpage famous. The river itself doesn't really come into play that much even though you're playing on an island, but that doesn't mean it doesn't impact the course.
Sadly, there have been some tragic floods over the years. If you have a few extra minutes, please read this 2007 Golf Digest article on the course's amazing history, hard times and perseverance - it'll break your heart, but make you want to support this course through play even more.
The whole course wasn't open the day I visited due to recent high waters, but that didn't stop the owners from finding a make-shift routing for the day to keep the destination crowd (like myself) rolling in.
There are a couple holes that play across the river, and a few holes that run the length of a par four or five, so it does have an impact.
The 'inland holes' aren't terribly interesting, but then again, I didn't get to see them all. They are definitely the opportunities to score though, so be aggressive.
The course does finish with a couple holes on the 'mainland' that are a lot of fun. A great par four with a perched green protected by mounds and bunkers, followed by a long par-3 with a enormous punchbowl green. I think the greenskeeper may have spent too much time in the brewery the night before, because to put the hole that far up the slope was just plain mean if he wasn't altered.
There are courses and there are stories about courses. This course has so many stories that each time I sat down to add something to this post, I would uncover a new fact, stat or anecdote that it took me a week to finish it. If you read it this far, then I hope you'll make the trip to play it. The course has probably seen its best days already, but you won't be sorry that you supported a true piece of American golf history.
Crusader Rating: 3.5 star course gets an upgrade to 4 STARS due to historical significance.
Last Played: 2011
More of the best shots from The Shawnee Inn:
Click for Tee Times or call 800-742-9633
GPS: 100 Shawnee Inn Drive, Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania 18356