Great Bear Golf Club in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania’s relaxing Pocono Mountains is the area’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. It opened to stellar reviews in 1997 and operated as a private club through 2011. Now, daily fee golfers have access to the course, and they will be in for a real treat when they visit.
Great Bear Golf Club plays to 7,025 yards from its longest tees and features bent grass with tee to green irrigation (conditions are always top notch) and no parallel fairways. The routing integrates three lakes, several streams, wetlands, small bridges and rolling terrain, and Nicklaus created a course that presents itself differently to golfers of varying skill. For the experienced player, the course offers interesting challenges and pro tees that will bring out your strongest game.
While brawny, Great Bear was also designed to be a course with ultimate “playability”, ensuring an enjoyable round for even the average golfer. The layout slowly and surely reveals the designer’s and shaper’s intricacies and craftsmanship, and become more apparent each time you play the track. It should be noted that Nicklaus took the natural advantages of the site and worked harmoniously with them to create a course that is a sublime experience in golf and aesthetics.
“Great Bear Golf Club is the premier golf experience in the Poconos,” said Gary Strausser II, PGA| Head Golf Professional/General Manager. “It offers beautiful views, superb playing conditions and much more.”
Strausser joined the club as the new GM this year, while Sean Duggan returns as Regional Manager for Brown Golf Management, which operates Great Bear and 20 other facilities. “We are looking forward to a great season of golf,” said Strausser. “Our best rates throughout the season can be found by booking online at www.golfgreatbear.com, where you will find `daily steals’, rewards, the lowest rates and much more.”
As mentioned, Great Bear offers up a feast of well-designed holes. The fairways are on the ample side, the greens rather large, and there are several doglegs that call for acute course management and proper club selection on tee shots and into putting surfaces. The par-fives here are a real strength of the routing.
Great Bear has five sets of tee boxes, and the best play for the first timer is the gold (6,537 yards) or the blue (6,105 yards) markers. Even the white tees, while playing just 5,754 yards, will offer even proficient players plenty of challenge.
The first hole is a pleasant way to start your round, a 376-yard par-four (tips) that features a blind tee shot up a hill followed by a downhill approach to a wide green. It’s a feel good hole to get you on your way, but it still calls for accuracy to avoid woods on the left and right and bunkers near the green.
The second hole is 189 yards and is a rather straightforward task. There are several bunkers on the right side of the green, which is 33 yards in depth.
We come to the third hole, a 455-yard par four that Nicklaus personally designed. “It’s the number one handicap hole at Great Bear,” said Strausser, “and it’s sure to test your total game. It demands accuracy and precise shot placement tee to green.” The tee shot must be threaded between woods to leave you with a long approach to an oblong green. There’s a bunker to the front right, which shouldn’t be an issue, and a larger one to the center front extending to back left that could cause issues.
The fourth hole is the first of the superb par-fives on the course. It’s only 514 yards from the tips but it’s a double dogleg, which prevents most players from attacking the green on their second shot. The wise play is a tee shot to around 250 to 260 yards and then a fairway wood or long iron to pitching wedge distance. There are two bunkers guarding the right side of the putting surface, which is 33 yards deep and rather narrow.
The seventh hole is another really nice par-three. The tee shot is over a waste area, but the distance to clear should not cause problems off any of the tees. It’s 175 yards from the back and the green is long and narrow. There are bunkers front, back and left that will catch errant tee shots.
Here we go, another strong par-five, this one a real tester. It plays 578 yards from the champion markers and the hole narrows as it progresses to the green. You will have to hit a lusty tee shot and stay clear of bunkers to the right of the fairway landing area. The second shot, and this really is a three-shot hole, sets up the approach but it has to be very precise to avoid trees and a bunker to the right side of the fairway. There is a large sand trap on the right near the putting surface and another back right, as well as short left. The green is a tough one to hit, as it is only 31 yards deep and very narrow.
The 10th hole is a 460-yard par-four with the tee shot over water, again nothing that should bother most players. The fairway is rather narrow and the green is also squeezed and snakes front to back.
The 12th hole is a sharp, 450-dogleg, which adds distance to its 405 yards. Big hitters can try and work the ball left to right to cut off some of the distance, but trees will grab your ball if you wander too far right. Again, the green is long and narrow with bunkers guarding the left side.
The 14th is another dogleg right par-four, this one measuring 451 yards. You must be on the left side of the fairway to set up an unfettered approach to the green, which sits at an angle. A good tee shot will leave you with a downhill look at the putting surface and there is a bailout area to the left were you can scramble for par. There are no bunkers on the hole.
The 18th hole is as good a finisher as you will find anywhere. Okay, maybe it isn’t as grand as the 18th at Pebble, but it is a masterful creation. The par-five plays 575 yards and the drive must steer clear of two bunkers to the right. There’s a bunker to the left that shouldn’t come into play. The second shot is to a narrow fairway with a bunker to the right. Avoid that bunker at all costs as the third shot is to a green fronted by a small stream that waits to taint a good round.
For après golf, there’s Jack Pub, which has indoor and outdoor dining. There are a number of membership options at the club and the staff can arrange stay and play if you decide to stick around for awhile and get another crack at the course or play some of the other Brown Golf Management layouts.
Great Bear Golf Club
East Stroudsburg, Pa.