Nemacolin, if this place doesn’t blow you away nothing will.
How a hunting lodge, a French chateau and a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired boutique hotel all work in unison is difficult to imagine, but the three styles come together at Nemacolin in the sweet harmony of a world-class resort where champagne wishes, and caviar dreams just might come true.
Nemacolin is no-detail-overlooked luxury, where the belief that nothing is impossible when it comes to providing guests with the ultimate resort experience exudes from the executive wing to the valet staff. The family-owned resort can’t match the pedigree of resorts now centuries old, but it walks in lockstep with such places around the world when it comes to luxury, service and amenities.
The unlikely genesis of this over-the-top pampering that includes everything from personal butlers to big-game animal adventures is a lumber company. When immersed in the Nemacolin luxury, one can only wonder how many two-by-fours Joe Hardy’s 84 Lumber company needed to sell to build a resort with its own private jetport, a 12,000-bottle wine cellar and two Pete Dye golf courses on mountain-goat land so rugged that on Dye’s initial visit to the property he told Hardy he was crazy to try and not even he could build a golf course on it.
But money talks, and Hardy, a believer that you can’t take it with you, has spoken very loudly. He built his fortune starting in 1956 with a single lumber yard in the unincorporated area of Eighty-Four, Pennsylvania, and his family built it into a national empire that now generates $4 billion annually in sales.
The Hardy family spent—and still spends—lavishly turning a small hunting lodge originally built by Pittsburgh business magnate William F. Rockwell into 2,200 acres of opulence to the lifestyle of the rich and famous. A recent $250 million overhaul successfully molded Nemacolin, now 35 years old, into one of the world’s great resort destinations. And while golf is central to the Nemacolin experience, the resort would stand above most others even without it.
When Hardy, now 99 years old and still tooling around the massive property, wanted to expand Nemacolin’s amenities to include golf more than 25 years ago, he called Dye. After telling Hardy it was impossible to build a course on such rugged, rocky, snake-infested land, Nemacolin legend has it that Hardy reeled Dye in by agreeing to never ask him how much money he was spending. In an unbelievably short amount of time, Dye had created the aptly named Mystic Rock, a challenging creation of hills, streams, ponds, and Fred Flintstone-size boulders that were bulldozed from the land and craned into place to line water features or build up tee boxes and greens.
While the design of Mystic Rock is thoroughly modern, Dye maintained ties to classic architecture where shot values and positioning lead the way to low scores. The resort’s second course, Shepard’s Rock, is unmoored from such traditions. At times you’ll be wondering who Pete was mad at when he redesigned the resort’s run-of-the-mill original course into a turbulent state of massive dimensions of land that heaves and rolls like a theme park thrill ride. Other times, say when you’re staring down a 30-foot putt over hill and dale that breaks more ways than a slithering snake, you can’t help but think to yourself, or perhaps be moved to say out loud, “How cool is this?”
Shepard’s Rock’s scorecard numbers (7,290 yards; 74.7/137) only hint at what’s to come. The layout’s immense footprint is intimidating, especially on the lengthy front nine. The shorter back nine often relies on deceptive visuals that foster uncertainty.
How big is Shepherd’s Rock? On a recent carts-on-the-path day I trudged uphill to my ball in the fairway on the massive par-5 fourth hole and was so flabbergasted by the length of the walk I decided to laser the distance back to my cart, now 83 yards away. And I still have 20 more yards of fairway my tee shot could have come to rest in.
The greens at Shepard’s Rock undulate with such authority that it is not only possible but almost guaranteed you will find yourself facing such a wildly long and winding road to the hole that two-putting is cause for celebration. Lead photo is from behind the green of Shepherd’s Rock 18th.
Shepard’s Rock may not be a course to play every day, but it’s a course not to miss on a visit to Nemacolin. Nemacolin’s feature course, Mystic Rock, held the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic from 2003 to 2006 and typically appears on list of the best public and best resort courses in the country.
If Shepherd’s Rock is calculus-hard, Mystic Rock (7,526 yards, 77.0/149) is like doing logarithms in the front row of a Def Leppard concert. Dye asks for everything you have, and even that might not be enough. Visually, the course is all right there, but almost from start to finish even the slightest miscues add strokes. The closing holes, a familiar Dye cadence of a par 5 where the green is guarded by water, a waterlogged par 3 and a long and difficult par 4, all turn up the heat much like the three finishing holes at TPC Sawgrass.
The rugged beauty of Mystic Rock tends to lull one into thorough enjoyment, even if the number in the far-right box of the scorecard doesn’t well reflect your handicap.
Thankfully, there are plenty more amenities to enjoy at Nemacolin, where even the motto “Expect the Unexpected” doesn’t prepare you for up-close encounters with African lions, tigers and exotic animals in the resort’s wildlife academy; or for the quality of offerings from the wine cellar; or for the personalized approach to life balance and wellness at the holistic spa; or the indoor axe throwing or off-road Jeep-ing.
There aren’t enough hours in a visit to experience all the experiences at Nemacolin, even if you don’t play golf. You need time to enjoy the unsurpassed culinary experience at Lautrec, one of only 32 restaurants in the world to receive Forbes five-star and AAA’s five-diamond ratings, or the three other fine-dining restaurants at the resort. You need time to chill in the The Tavern and finish the day at PJ’s Ice Cream Parlor. YOu need to spend time at The Peak, where a zip line, a canopy climb, or a harnessed free fall await. And that’s not to mention the ropes course, paintball, cosmic bowling or a relaxing swim in the Pools at the Peak. And you certainly need time to explore the private art collection of more than 1,000 pieces displayed throughout the resort and valued at $45 million.
At Nemacolin, it’s the unexpected that makes the luxury so comforting. And it’s all done without the air of stuffiness.
Check it out for yourself. Nemacolin