Course at Mount Airy Resort to Be Remodeled

Ground-breaking ceremonies for a planned $360-million project at Mount Airy Resort in the Pocono Mountains was held July 17. The work involves a 200-room luxury hotel and a spa as well as a major redesign of an existing 18-hole golf course by architect Daniel J. Schlegel of Schlegel Golf Course Design in Edgewater, Md.

Also, if the developer obtains a gambling license, a casino housing 3,000 slot machines would be built to serve as another cornerstone of the 890-acre resort.

“The golf course is integral to the amenities. We consider it and the spa of highest priority,” said Al Magnotta, president of Ceco Associates, a civil-engineering firm in Scranton that is overseeing the project for developer Louis A. DeNaples of Dunmore, Pa. “Hopefully, we can expand those amenities to provide full service for all our guests. The existing course is a little too difficult for resort visitors.”

Mount Airy Resort has retained Schlegel to master-plan a strategy that will create major improvements to the existing course as well as add a second nine- or 18-hole layout. The 18-year course-architect, who has designed more than 40 new golf courses and 25 renovations and recently built a new nine holes at the Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club in Mountain Top, Pa., said Mount Airy Golf Course contains many blind golf shots, some safety concerns and more than 100 bunkers, making it inappropriate for modern play.

“This is a great opportunity for my growing firm to showcase its talents,” said Schlegel, a Millersburg, Pa., native who started his own company a year ago. “The existing course requires enhancement to match the stature of the type of facility they will create with a hotel, casino and 40-acre lake at the center of the property. And yet the land is so beautiful that we have a terrific canvas on which to generate better golf holes.”

Paradise Township’s board of supervisors recently approved the first phase of Mount Airy Resort’s preliminary land-development plan. Magnotta said the property contains environmentally sensitive areas with high-quality water, but nearly all permits are in place. He hopes to begin golf course renovations, including installation of a new irrigation system, this fall, but said any delays may push the work back to next spring.

Magnotta intends to build a new clubhouse and pro shop in time to open in 2007. If the gambling license is obtained, the casino could open as early as December 2007, he said.

Schlegel is excited to continue a sort of personal Renaissance in design. He’s now in the final stages of restoring the 1925 vintage San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., originally designed by Donald Ross. Schlegel said Ross’s “low-profile” style influences his own work.

“That style better uses the land, minus all the framing, mounding and target bunkering that was so prevalent in the 1980s and ’90s,” Schlegel said. “The bunkers serve a strategic purpose, not just aesthetic. And we will produce more character in the greens. Even with today’s high green speeds, you can still create a lot of roll in them and keep them fun.”