Course: Near Harleysville, PA, Lederach was designed by Kelly Blake Moran and opened in 2006. At the time, the public golf scene in the Philadelphia scene was not as abundant with lots of different designs and this course was a bold departure from many of the courses around at the time. The most noticeable departure is with the greens, which are large, undulating, sloping and difficult. For me, the design goes beyond the greens and I’m even more stricken with how strategic many of the tee shots are, rewarding repeat play and pulling off risk/reward decisions pretty well. It is indeed a nice course that challenges you many different ways. One of them is putting, as the greens here are tough to read and vary in speed. There are mounds all over the place on those greens so sometimes your GIR means nothing, as you’re still 50 yards away and have a triple breaker. A lot of bunkers seem to come into play here, some times even in the middle of the fairway (the Eighth). As Moran describes on his website, “There are a number of holes with wide fairways, and diagonal fairways, which are matched with greens whose undulations and pin areas favor a particular spot in the fairway making for some dramatic and strategic holes.” I couldn’t agree more. Many tend to have strong feelings about Lederach one way or another. While some seem to think the greens are tricked up and lament there are bunkers in the middle of the fairway, I am in the camp that the course is well designed and successful in emphasizing different design features that are different than typically found in this area. Because of that, I find Lederach a refreshing and interesting course. I also find it a tough but fair test of golf skills, especially when the rough is up. When I am finished with my round, I usually feel accomplished when I score well here because I know I earned it. Combined with facing a unique set of holes, Lederach is a great public course I feel fortunate is so nearby. Below is a hole by hole review. This was one of the first course reviews I did, so I saved that below the hole by hole for some reason, but it offers a few more thoughts on the place.
The First is a 347 yard par 4 (from the Blues). The fairway cants from left to right but is rather wide, although the further right your tee shot, the longer your approach will be. There is a bunker on the left side which is hidden from the tee for the most part. The green is also semi blind, but sits on a ridge and is shallow yet wide. The green complex is a good one to set the tone for the rest of the round; wildly undulating and a premium is placed on the approach shot.
Approach shot territory
The Second is a 391 yard par 4. You are again faced with a fairway that slopes from left to right and a hidden bunker on the left from off the tee. The first part of the fairway is downhill, then dog legs, climbing back up hill to the green. The green itself is fairly wide and also slopes dramatically from left to right.
Approach shot territory
The Third is a 558 yard par 5. The hole is essentially a modified Cape, as the green can be seen off to the right of the tee, but the fairway starts out left of it before taking a sharp turn right about 225 yards out and goes straight to the elevated green. There are mounds, rough and marshland separating the fairway from the green off to the right, creating some risk reward decisions on how much to cut off the turn on either the tee or second shots. If the wind is up, this hole becomes a lot more complicated. The green is actually smaller than most of the other holes, but is a lot more straightforward as well. It’s a nice hole that can be played a number of ways.
Moving down the fairway
After the dog leg, with the green off to the left
The Fourth is a 424 yard par 4. The tee shot is a forced carry over a ravine to a fairway that slopes from right to left. The left side of the fairway actually drops off to OB while the right side is whole lot of rough. The approach shot is typically long and blind for the most part, as you hit uphill over a ridge to the green that sits on the other side. There is a severe bunker off to the left that is no fun to get out of, so keep the approach to the right side and have it feed to the hole.
Approach shot territory
The green. Off to the left is a bunker where they should consider putting in an elevator to get out of.
The Fifth is a 208 par 3. The tee sits above the green, which runs from front to back and has slopes running downhill from left to right on the left side. Pin positioning can make this hole any where from a cake walk to virtually impossible and it’s one example of this course not giving you any help just because your shot landed on the green. It’s imperative that you stay out of the rough and try to stay below the hole as much as possible.
A view from further back
The Sixth is a 527 par 5. And yes, the course has been stretching its legs the last few holes, making sure to test your long game while constantly emphasizing the wedge and putter. The tee shot is a forced carry to a uphill fairway that immediately turns right to the hole. Once it turns, the fairway slopes from right to left all the way to the semi blind green that hides its multi tiers and can make putting very challenging if your approach leaves you on the wrong tier. There really isn’t much room for error here.
Looking back at the Sixth tee
On the fairway looking towards the green
The bunker that come into play off the tee. Just to show the rough and bunker type.
The green, which has lower (to the right) and upper (to the left) tiers, which cannot be seen from the fairway
The Seventh is a 151 yard par 3. A little reprieve from the preceding holes, the green does undulate more than it looks and the rough is rather nasty if you get stuck in it. Otherwise, throw it on the green and try for that birdie.
The Eighth is a 354 yard par 4. This is the hole with the infamous bunker in the center of the fairway. The hole is on the short side and the fairway is wide enough to avoid the bunker or carry it altogether. The green runs severely from back to front and any approach shot that is too far towards the front will likely roll off the green. There used to be trees towards the front of the green on the left, but Hurricane Sandy took them out. I actually think it makes the hole more creative, as the left side is now an option.
Approach shot territory
The Ninth is a 368 yard par 4. Lots of temptation on this hole, with everything in front of you on the elevated tee. The hole turns right to the green and water is along the entire right side. The temptation is the green and the illusion you can take off a lot of the water to shorten up the hole. The fairway is on the narrow side as well. The green is characteristically undulating, sloping towards the water. It’s a terrific par 4.
The front nine has a great collection of holes and is a great test of golf. If I had to rank the front 9, I’d go 1, 6, 9, 2, 3, 4, 8, 5, 7. The par 4 and 5’s are very good while the par 3’s are decent.
The back nine starts with the 394 yard par 4. The fairway sweeps from right to the left curling and ending on the left side of the fairway. There is a fairly large tree placed precariously in front of the green, a little off to the left, which seems to make an approach from the right side much better, which will typically mean driver is not the preferred club off the tee. I appreciate the hole, but admit it throws me off kilter. The last time I played it, I found myself in the rough off to the left and opted for the hero shot of going right over the tree to the green. It some how worked out and was one of the the most memorable shots of the round. So I suppose the hole has that going for it; the ability to provide you an opportunity to execute a memorable shot.
The Eleventh is a 377 yard par 4. The tee shot is a forced carry over water. There is a a long fairway to hit to off to the left, but the green is actually tucked away off to the right, making this left fairway seem entirely out of place or at the very least a gimmicky ploy to have you hit over to that side and lengthen the hole. I actually think putting an alternate green off to the left fairway would make this hole exponentially more interesting. At any rate, the green is narrow yet deep and if your drive is hit towards the green, you should have a manageable approach shot left.
Approach shot territory
The Twelfth is a 628 yard par 5. It’s also uphill. It’s also against the wind. So yeah, it’s a monster. From the Blues, the tee shot is a forced carry over a ravine to the fairway, which begins to climb up to the green. There’s not too much standing in the way of getting to the green, as the distance, wind and elevation are probably enough. The green does have a false front, but is much easier than most other greens on the course.
Second shot territory
Looking back at the tee area, with the forced carry from the Blues and back
Approach shot territory
A look at the green and false front area
The Thirteenth is a 382 yard par 4. The hole goes back downhill and the tee shot is blind. The green is way off to the left and can only be accessed if you get far enough down the fairway. It’s also a forced carry to the green from the fairway, so any ball sitting in the rough or a bad lie makes it tougher to hit the green. It’s a shotmaker’s hole for sure.
Approach shot territory
The Fourteenth is a 211 yard par 3. Nope, the course doesn’t let up. The green is way uphill of the tee and is blind. The green is very large though, albeit undulating, so get it up there and get that flatstick to work.
A look at the green
The Fifteenth is a 445 yard par 4. The hole dog legs to the left while trees line the left side. The green sits on a ridge with a line of bunkers protecting the front. The green is wide yet shallow and runs from right to left. The approach shot sticks out as one of the tougher on the course, as it’s typically a long club to the green and a good amount of precision is required to avoid disastrous results.
Approach shot territory
A closer look at the protective bunkers in the front
The Sixteenth is a 133 yard par 3. It’s the shortest par 3 on the course, but the green is blind from the tee and its difficulty varies greatly based on pin position. The green is probably the largest on the course, but its two ends are separated by short grass while anything too far right is in bunkers or OB. It’s a nice homage to links golf and makes a short par 3 much more interesting.
A look at the green from the far side
A look at the right side of the green
The Seventeenth is a 418 yard par 4. The tee shot is a forced carry to a split fairway, with either side providing a nice approach. The approach shot is blind, as mounds pop up and hide the view of the green. The green itself runs from right to left and is sneaky difficult.
Moving down the fairway
In front of the green
The Eighteenth is a 308 yard par 4. A very strategic hole, as the choice off the tee is vital to scoring well. You are faced with another split tee, both of which can be reached with a club less than driver, yet the temptation is there to use driver to try and get close to the green. The fairway slopes towards the water on the left and the visuals from the tee goad you into hitting towards the left. The green itself is difficult, sloping severely from back to front. It’s one of the best short par 4’s in the area.
Approach shot territory
The back nine is likewise challenging and the par 3’s are better than the front. I’d rank them 18, 10, 13, 15, 12, 16, 17, 14, 11. I love every hole but the Eleventh.
And here is my initial review:
Usually a bunker in the middle of the fairway is punishing you for hitting a good shot, but there is more than one way to avoid that bunker and have a great approach shot, so I don’t cry foul. Many of the greenside bunkers are severe, which means bring your shovels. On 4, I think there’s an elevator on the greenside bunker to the left. If there isn’t there should be. Length is also emphasized here, as one of the par 5’s is beyond 600 yards and there’s a 210 par 3, both uphill. Oh, and ball striking is all too important here, as a lot of times you’re carrying over waste areas to elevated greens, or just elevated greens in general (I count 7 in all). So basically, bring your best putter, driver and everything else in between to do well here. Although challenging, make no mistake that this course is playable. There is certainly margin for error. Other fairways come into play and the width of most holes gives you a chance on most shots. I like it here. It’s some where you can play often and I suspect you would have to play forever to figure out the greens. Who you get paired with varies, but they will likely be a more seasoned golfer than novice. A quick stream of consciousness run down of some of the holes. 1 is a great short par 4 with a larger multi tiered green. 2 is a little longer with a slight dog leg left to an elevated green with a Biarritz fairway. You like that word Biarritz, don’t you? I won’t casually mention it and assume everyone knows what it is. Some may, some may not, but for those who don’t,
A biarritz, or biarritz green, is a green that features a deep gully bisecting its middle. The gully, which is manicured the same as the rest of the green, usually runs from side-to-side, but sometimes runs from front to back. A biarritz is especially challenging when the hole is cut on one side of the gully and your ball is sitting on the other side, requiring a long putt that must travel down the gully then up its other side to reach the hole. Some golfers choose to pitch over the gully rather than putt through it. The name “biarritz” come from the golf course in France where the first-known biarritz was constructed, Biarritz Golf Club. The club’s La Phare Course is home to the original biarritz. about.com
3 is a par 5 with woods along the left, bunkers that come into play on the second and third shots, a marsh on the right, and one of the most confounding greens ever. 4 is a forced tee shot and a second shot to yet another confounding elevated green. 5 is a par 3 simple enough, 6 is a par 5 with an angled tee shot and a blond approach shot protected by raised bunkers and a mounded green. 7 is a shorter par 3 more on the easier side. 8 has the infamous bunker in the middle of the fairway with an elevated green and is a good birdie opportunity. 9 has OB on the left and water on the right with a green sloping right towards the water and hills on the left. 10 is a nice wide hole with trouble every where. Trees obscure your approach and there is a monster bunker way right that won’t come into play unless you really misplay your approach. 11 is probably my least favorite hole, your tee shot carries over some kind of weird drainage area then you have a short approach, but for some reason, there’s all this room to the left, I guess to trick you in hitting your tee shot there. 12 is a monster par 5 over 500 yards uphill. 13 takes you back down hill, then dog legs right over a gulley to an elevated green surrounded by bunkers. A great hole. 13 is a 210 uphill par 3. I believe this is is close to a redan but the green slopes from right to left instead. You’ll find out what a redan is at some point when I find one. 17 and 18 I really like, especially 18. There’s just 2 nice finishing holes and 18 demands a downhill approach shot to yet another maddening green. A great way to finish the round.
The cart girl comes around often enough. The course is kept in great condition. Green fees are reasonable and sometimes a heist if you look online. I get the sense that those who play here regularly have no problem scoring well on most other courses they play. I don’t know how many public courses you can say that about.
Gripes: The houses. They line a lot of the course and I know at least one guy who is not happy about the golfers in his, “back yard,” as he almost killed our entire foursome when my buddy was watering some plants on 17. You can hear the occasional kids yelling, etc., which can get irritating as well. Might back up some times. 9 is up against a busy road, someone should stop those cars when I’m teeing off. This is also some where they like to cram you in the carts together, even if you don’t know the guy you’re paired up with.
Bar/grill: Nice. Large screen tv’s, bar area and can sit down at tables inside or out, over looking 9 and 18. Good beer selection, never all that crowded.
Clubhouse: Also nice. All equipment you’d need with good selection of hats and fancy divot tools.
Nearby: If you want to get away from the course, there’s some nearby restaurants, my recommendation is Bones. Great bbq.
Getting there: Just off Lansdale exit of 476, easy enough.
Update, July 2012: Played one of the Black and Blue tournaments here and had a great time. The course was great and the greens played as tough as I always remember. There was an issue with a couple small areas needing repair, particularly the fairway of the Twelfth, but nothing that affected play. Lederach continues to be one of the better plays in the area. You either love it or hate it, but everyone I know loves it, I love it and in general it get its due respect. The complaints I’ve heard about the place are that it’s tricked out or gimmicky, but I don’t see that. The greens are tough and undulating, but not unfair. And the pin placement gives you room to lag putt or put your approach close. Yes you get some blind shots and the course puts a premium on approach shots, but really that’s not all that different from a lot of well known courses. Bunkers in the middle of fairways is also nothing new. You either drive around it or even if you hit it short of the bunker, you have a very short approach shot to the green (I’m talking about the Eighth).
This was one of my first reviews and my hole by hole review was pretty brief, but I kind of like it. I will mention a few things to give you some more insight on the course though. The First is one of the better holes on the course. The approach is blind and the green is wide but shallow. All of the swales knock your ball off the green, so my advice is to stay to the left on the approach to deal with that. The Third is much longer than it looks, especially your second shot. Get it past the marsh for your approach. The Fourth gives you a tough tee shot. Yeah you have to carry a ravine, but you have to get it to the left center of the fairway so you have a good look at the green. But the fairway is narrow and drops off completely on the left side, so too far left and you’re done. Going to the right could be safe, but your second shot will be blind, which doesn’t bode well for avoiding the enormous bunker to the left of the green. The Sixth is also a blind approach shot, as the green is protected by a mound. The green also slopes severely from left to right and is multi tiered. If the pin is left, hit it left of the pin and if it’s right, hit it to the right side and you should be fine. The Tenth green is protected by a huge tree, so plan for it on your tee shot. The Twelfth has yet another partially hidden green. Err on the side of hitting the green long. The Fifteenth green is protected by a swath of bunkers. Don’t try to go for it in two, as there’s no room in the back and hitting it short will put you on the beach. The Seventeenth is another blind approach. If you go up the left side of the hole, you’ll be fine.
If I had to rank the front 9, I’d go 1, 6, 9, 2, 3, 4, 8, 5, 7. The par 4 and 5’s are very good while the par 3’s are decent.
The back 9 would be 10, 13, 18, 15, 12, 16, 17, 14, 11. I love every hole but the Eleventh.
Lederach is one of the better courses in the area and I continue to hold it in elite standing in my rankings.
I took some photos as well:
Fairway of the First
The Third. The marsh you need to get it past is in the center of the photo.
Tee shot at the Sixth. Fairway goes due right after the bunker
Approach shot at the Sixth.
Tee shot at the Eighth. Bunker is in the middle of the fairway here.
Second shot at the Tenth. The tree at center guards the green.
Fairway of the Twelfth. Still 300 yards away from the green from here.
Tee shot at the Thirteenth. The green is tucked into the trees far left
The green of the Thirteenth
Tee shot of the Fifteenth
Second shot of Seventeenth. The contours and hills blocking your view ahead is prevalent here
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
May 2015: I was able to return here and provide a more comprehensive review. The course remains in terrific condition and I actually forgot how much I enjoy playing here. Make no mistake that the course is challenging, but I have never thought it was unfair. The rough was punishing, but added to the enjoyment of the challenge. Most of my thoughts are above on this course and I still think it’s a notable course to mention when speaking of Philadelphia’s great public golf course scene.