By Danny and Alice Scott
All of Maggie’s “Real Life Magic” at Nemacolin in Farmington, Pennsylvania cannot be experienced in one visit. Maggie Hardy Knox’s dad, Joseph Hardy, is 99 years young and made his fortune as Founder and Owner of 84 Lumber. He bought land for Maggie to fish on and then envisioned what has grown into one of the most comprehensive, luxury wilderness destinations in the states. It is a 2,200-acre art gallery with over 1000 whimsical, traditional, and eclectic pieces worth $50m that delight guests at every turn. There are so many activities, adventures, and golf to enjoy at this Laurel and Hardy show. Nestled in the Laurel Highlands, Maggie Hardy Knox took the helm in 2000 and with her son PJ Magerko, is continually innovating and expanding.
The original Mystic Rock course is a classic Pete Dye design and former host to the PGA Tour. Pete was notorious for visual deception in his layouts and number 11, Par 5, 634 yards is a prime example. Players face a blind drive up and over a hill to the sloped landing area framed by trouble on either side. A smart caddy like Dallas directs players to aim at a distant, far left tree target and receives puzzled looks. Trust him because if you hit straighter, it rebounds off large boulders hidden from view, into the lake to the right. Too far left and the sloped fairway introduces your ball to the forest. The correct path with a generous roll, positions well for a steep, uphill challenge of reaching this par 5 in two great shots. Mulligans, a halfway house serves libations to reduce the stress of playing this hole. A mighty statue of Chief Nemacolin, the resort’s namesake and friend of George Washington is poised on the elevated back tee box of hole 16 for an impressive view from other course angles below. Last year Tim Liddy facilitated extensive renovations to enhance playability throughout this top ranked course.
In 2017, Maggie opened Shepherd’s Rock course designed by Pete Dye and Tim Liddy to honor her dad who has served as her shepherd. At the grand opening, she noted that Nemacolin “fell apart,” through the recession years but “after 250 fricking million dollars” Shepherd’s Rock represented a rebirth and indeed the resort is in full glory form. A bagpipe parade led to the ribbon cutting ceremony on the 9th green where, draped in Tartan, Val, the mascot ram joined the Hardy family, celebs from Duck Dynasty and John Daly. Huey Lewis and the News rocked the evening gala event. Goat statues monitor many tee boxes on Shepherd’s Rock with art along the way. The closing hole on any highly rated golf course should be memorable and the 18th at Shepherd’s Rock is hard to forget. Bunkers guarding the left side and a rock wall protecting the fairway on the right of this par 4, 455 yards, make it a demanding driving hole. The ground drops ten feet below the wall on the right into the high grass landscape where a lost ball is a lost cause. After a successful drive, the fairway narrows into a green that juts out into a lake. One of the most difficult holes on the Shepherd’s Rock course is also one of the most scenic, culminating with a cascading waterfall and a hippo sculpture below.
The well-equipped Nemacolin Pro Shop won the PGA Merchandiser of the Year award. Few realize as Golf Director Kelly O’Donnell shared, this requires a thesis, not just a pretty shop. But pretty it is, with nearly everything adorned with the cute Nemacolin bird logo and Aqueous restaurant and bar is conveniently down the hall.
The Nemacolin Golf Academy, like everything else on property is superior to most. All the technology needed for analysis and training avails with four stalls that open to the great outdoors plus a 1000 square foot putting room and ample couch and table seating to accommodate 60 people. It is accessible for serious golfers and fun seekers year-round. Then there is mini golf, located by the 1920 carousel which goes round and round from 12-8pm at the top of the hour to the merriment of children of all ages.
The Chateau is designed after the Chateau Ritz Paris, and it is spectacular inside and out as chandeliers compete for attention on every ceiling, even in the bedrooms where three glisten. Falling Rock is a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired design that served first as the clubhouse and is now a 5-star boutique hotel with an elaborate infinity edge pool and cabanas overlooking the golf course and highlands. The Lodge is connected to the Chateau with more economical rooms, yet all the amenities and planned enhancements.
Culinary options and concoctions at Nemacolin merit their own cookbook. At Barattolo, which in Italian means tin cup, specially crafted cocktails accompany appetizers. The “Italian Made” is a refreshing mix of cognac, Averna, lime, simple syrup, cucumber, and mint. The complete menu is Italian made. Piedmontese meatballs are enriched with pomodoro, parmesan and ricotta for “a tasty meat-a-bally.” Calamari alla Griglia is not your average fried fare, but delectable steak bites with arrabbiata sauce and lemon oil. Chicken parmigiana is lightly breaded with a crusty outside, tender inside and rich tasting sauce perched on spaghetti. Finish with cannoli of course in Chef de Cuisine, Morales’ personal selection of flavors.
At Rockwell’s steak house, vegetables are very special, starting with traditional French Onion or chilled cucumber-melon mint soup which is a single course and a show as the server pours the dreamy liquid over minced cukes. Roasted carrots are enhanced with elderflower, butter, and maple syrup while main courses delight diners in the form of lambchops, steak, chicken, and seafood.
At Mulligans special event dinner, servers were like synchronized swimmers or ballet artists as they swooped in unison to leave a delectable dish or replace utensils at our round tables of six. Mulligans has upper deck tee pads to an island green in the pond by Mystic Rock. This is where the Bachelor Show, filmed at Nemacolin in ‘21 held a “Fall in Love Fest” giant pumpkin boats race. Go google it.
These are a mere sampling of the many restaurants and bars throughout the resort, all accentuating fresh, local ingredients, often plucked from the on-site garden.
Nemacolin has a World Class Spa across from the lodge with all the treatments and amenities one could hope for, as well as a Healing Center by the golf complex, originally designed as a private spa for the PGA tour families. Dr. Lin presides over integrative medicine here including acupuncture. Unique therapy options are cryogenics, infrared and flotation which is a mental and physical trip worth trying. The meditation park might free the mind while simply breathing the fresh mountain air and communing with nature is well enough.
Nemacolin brings out the playful side of anyone. Hop on the carousel, feed the lions on wildlife safari, or head to the newest installation at the Peak, an adventure complex with a giant pool, lazy river, zipline, and tubing in summer or winter. Ride a bike or a horse, drive a jeep off road, hike the trails, play tennis, pickleball, and more, more, more. The Nemacolin Field Club offers The Shooting Academy and Orvis Fly Fishing. Gamers can head to the Lady Luck Casino run by Churchill Downs. Adults might love the Cigar Bar and fireside chats are for all. Visit the Woodlands Toy Store and Antique Car Museum or Airplane Hangar and Golf, Golf, Golf. www.nemacolin.com