Wyncote

6,690 yards, 135 slope from the Blues

Course: Wyncote is different than any course in the area. It is a links type course, but do not call it links. Links courses must be along a body of water, be comprised of sandy like soil that is unfit for agriculture and characteristically have very few trees.  WC is not near a body of water.  Instead, it is inland. Inland links courses are called Heathland courses. That is your golf education today. Alas, this heathland style course relies on its contours, carries and I HATE YOU rough to take you through a challenging round. The experience is different, yet refreshing. You are surrounded by farm land and I’ve often seen this Amish guy plowing, or tilling, his land with the horses leading the way across the street. I dig that. As for the course, there are very few trees and keeping your ball in the fairway is vital. I’m not kidding about the rough. It’s like steel, which makes your short game that much more important. And the greens are slick, so bring your best reading glasses.

The clubhouse

The course is well known and is nice to play.  There’s a good combination of blind shots, forced carries and contoured greens.  Designed in the early 1990’s by Brian Ault, Wyncote possesses many of the characteristics of a links course.  As mentioned above, the rough is quite penal and there are very few trees, which make wind come into play on occasion, changing the entire dynamic of the course.  And most if not all of the green can be accessed by running the ball up the front.  Because of this, there are a few ways to play many of the the approach shots, inviting creative short game play.  Wyncote is another example of taking farmland and being very creative with a unique set up.  Although some holes seem to drift from this general character and at times it can feel more like target golf than heathland, the course is certainly unique, challenging and scenic as a very well done change of pace course.  

The First is a 521 yard par 5 slightly downhill to a green that rests a little above the fairway.  Tall grass is both left and right of the fairway, so any ball that goes too far in either direction will be lost.  Water is short left and there is no room right of the green, so it’s best to lay up short of the green or otherwise nail your tee shot.  It’s one of the tougher opening holes.

The First

Approach shot territory

The Second is a 185 yard par 3.  The green is angled and slopes from back to front  and you have to carry a waste area to reach the green.  It’s a deceivingly tough hole.

The Second

The Third is a 361 yard par 4, where the carry in the middle of the fairway that doglegs right is just right and gives you a tough but fair approach shot to a well protected green.

The Third

Second shot territory

The Fourth is a 444 yard par 4 with a blind tee shot to a fairway that slopes from right to left.  The green is slightly raised and protected by bunkers, but is fairly large and undulating.  It’s a nice hole that can get much more difficult if you get caught up in that rough that I hate with a passion.  You’re also able to figure out the best combination of first and second shots to get to the green.

The Fourth tee shot
Going down the fairway
Approach shot territory

The Fifth is a 363 yard par 4 with a collection of bunkers along the left side while the right side is rough and heather.  It’s a great scoring hole, provided you don’t get caught up in said terrible rough.

The Fifth
Approach shot territory

The Sixth is an uphill par 3 at 172 and the wind is usually a factor.  Anything over the green here is dead.  The contouring also makes any shot short and right pretty annoying.  This would be a great hole to set up a Redan, which would favor the draw and generally encourage a right to left approach into the green.  As it stands now, an approach in any direction will do, as the green undulates in several directions, but uniformly from back to front.

The Sixth

The Seventh is a 391 yard par 4 and is one of my favorite on the course.  It’s a downhill par 4 that dog legs right with a blind tee shot.  I like the hole because there are a number of ways to get down to the green.  You could go left or right off the tee for different approaches, you could try and bomb it or lay up off the tee, any way works on the hole depending on the approach you want and/or where the pin is.  The green is protected by a number of bunkers and is much wider than deep.  It’s one of the tougher greens on the course.  

The Seventh
Approach shot territory

The Eighth is a 379 yard par 4 and a great scoring opportunity.  It’s straightaway, so you really only get in trouble here if you go too far left or right.  Bunkers surround the green but again, you can run the ball up to the green if flying your approach could lead to trouble.

The Eighth

The Ninth is a 566 yard par 5 and is another one of my favorites.  It dog legs right, with  left  OB, but right slopes severely down to an area with killer rough and bunkers.  It’s a great risk reward hole, as you can figure out how much of the dog leg you want to take out of play and possibly reach the green in two, as there is a pretty good downhill to the green starting about 120 yards from the hole.  If your second shot isn’t ideal, then you still have a chance to get out of it since the right side isn’t OB and doesn’t automatically penalize you.  

The Ninth
Approach shot territory

The front nine boasts a couple great par 5’s and some nice variety in their par 4’s.  The par 3’s are standard fare, but still solid holes.  Ranking them, I’d go 9, 7, 1, 4, 3, 5, 8, 2, 6.

The back nine starts with the par 5 Tenth at 517 yards.  So yes, two par 5’s in a row to beat you up.  Water comes into play on the right as you approach the green.  It’s a very similar hole to the First and actually parallels it, but there are more bunkers and mounds along the right side.

The Tenth
Second shot territory.  Clouds are messing up my pics.

The Eleventh is a longer par 4 at 426 yards with a wide fairway that slopes from left to right.  If you play along the left side, this hole is fairly easy.

The Eleventh
Approach shot territory

The Twelfth is a 342 yard par 4.  It’s similar to the Third, as the fairway ends into a waste area with a forced carry to the green on the other side.  It is possible to drive the waste area, which creates another risk reward option here.  Otherwise, too mid/long iron shots will get you to the green.  

The Twelfth

The Thirteenth is a 401 yard par 4.  It’s an interesting hole with a semi elevated tee shot into a sunken fairway that severely slopes from right to left.  You better get all of your tee shot, as there’s a pretty big bunker about 200 yards out on the right side.  So either belt it or lay off.  The green here is also one of the tougher ones on the course.  The sloped fairway gives you a bunch of sidehill lies and in combination with the rough and bunker placement, things can get nasty very quickly.  Looking straight past the green on this hole is where I usually see all the plowing of earth by horses.

The Thirteenth
The Thirteenth green

The Fourteenth is a downhill par 3 at 163 yards.  The green goes from back to front, making any putt left or right of the hole a little tough.  Bunkers are left and right front of the green, so stay straight and any miss length wise should be ok.

The Fourteenth

The Fifteenth is a 342 yard par 4 and gives you a good birdie opportunity to make up for any strokes you gave up on the murder’s row, 9 – 13.  It’s a blind tee shot uphill and there really isn’t any trouble here unless you really screw one of your shots up, which I of course have.

What you see from the tee.  The flag can be seen on the left

The Sixteenth is a 408 yard par 4.  Don’t get caught in any of the bunkers since they are all steep and almost certainly make you lose a stroke.  The green is monstrous, so you’ll get that GIR, but could still be 60 yards away from the hole.

The Sixteenth
To the right of the fairway.  Note the mounds popping up on the way to the green and the rough, which I hate with a passion

The Seventeenth is the last par 3 at 180 yards.  It’s probably the most interesting par 3 on the course, as you need to carry a waste area about 160 yards to a shallow but wide green that undulates left and right and also back to front.  Not just any tee shot will stick on the green, so you really need to know the green to place your shot so that it stays on and gives you a decent putt.  Anything short and right of the green ends up in a large bunker set down hill.

The Seventeenth

The Eighteenth is a 529 yard par 5 and is definitely my favorite here.  It’s is a bear going up up up, then a right turn to the green.  It’s a double dog leg that is all uphill.  There’s also some risk reward here similar to the 9th, where it’s possible to cut off the second dog leg to the green.  Except if you aren’t successful, you’re in tall grass and will probably lose a stroke.  What’s great about this hole is that the second dog leg is so close to the hole that course management becomes real important.  How you plan each shot and distance, taking into account the uphill and wind that usually factors in, gives you a lot of options.  Your approach has to be well executed or you end up in bunkers or the now infamous rough that closely surrounds the green.

The Eighteenth.  One of my favorite course photos.

Going up the fairway.  The green is straight ahead, yet the fairway turns almost directly left before swinging all the way around.
The green

The back nine is just a touch shorter than the front and features very good par 5’s, a few strategic par 4’s and the best par 3 on the course.  Ranking them for me would be 18, 12, 10, 15, 16, 10, 11, 17, 14.

Generally, I play here a few times a season and although I find this course pretty challenging, always enjoy myself.  There isn’t a course with this design style any where else in the area and the challenge here is subtle, such as getting caught up in the rough or trying to figure out how to maneuver around the Ninth or Eighteenth.  Scenery is great and you’re so far removed from Philly out there that you automatically start relaxing once you pull into the lot.

Crowds have never been an issue on this course for me and for the most part, you feel like you have the place to yourself. The starters are all nice and will try to accommodate you as much as they can.  There are a number of deals online that make paying for gas more than the green fees.  This place makes the list for places you’d take someone from out of town.

Gripes:  This course generally earns the accolades bestowed upon it and I really like the course, but a few things really bother me about it.  The routing is different and I don’t know if I feel it flows as well as it could.  The par 5’s show up at the beginning and end of the sets of nine and there’s a point in the round where you you just assume all of the holes are par 4.  I also feel lukewarm about the par 3’s.  Wouldn’t this be the perfect course for a Redan (paging hole 6)?  That would certainly make that hole much more interesting and I feel like everything is there for it to happen.  Look at the Glen Mills review if you’re trying to figure out what I mean by a Redan hole.  Finally, the similarity of the First and Tenth is agitating, although many courses in Scotland are similar, even using double greens to complete it.  One other thing. I don’t see this as a course I could play all the time. It’s always great when I do get out and is among my upper tier of courses, but playing it more often than the occasional round almost gets boring.  One of the key characteristics of a links, or heathland course in this case, is that the course is continuously evolving and reveals itself in different ways each time you play, which makes frequent play and course knowledge rewarding.  They achieved that here with 7, 9 and 18.  But for the most part there is usually only one way to play the holes, so you’re hitting the same shots over and over. Once you get those shots down and haven’t died from rote memory, you are already looking for the next challenge.  The characteristic of a continuous different playing experience each time I’m there just isn’t there for me.

As for non-course considerations –  True story, me and my buddy were waiting to get some beers before our round and were waiting patiently when this guy cuts us off and gets served immediately. When we asked what that was all about, we were told that he was the owner, hence he gets served before everyone. Really? The guy who owns the place has no problem with dicking over the people that keep the place running? I can’t tell you if he was the owner or not, but assuming he was, I kind of hope he sells or something. If he wasn’t, the bartender should come up with a better excuse. To that end, service at the bar is extremely slow for some reason. Other players are usually pretty good and range from good guys to some that aren’t so nice.  It’s not enough of a factor to sway me from coming here though.

Again, I really like the course, but obviously have some opinions on how it could improve.  Just because I have gripes doesn’t mean I wouldn’t automatically recommend this course to anyone.

Bar/grill: Although on the slow side, they have a good set up and beer selection. Outside patio area is nice too. A lot of non-golfers come here for their fancy lunch or dinner, so you can some times feel out of place.
Clubhouse: Big, equipped with tv’s and usually some good deals on equipment. They also have a discount area, which I love.
Nearby: The dude who plows and tills with the horses. Stay at the course.
Getting there: Put your iPod on random and zone out until you reach Oxford, PA from Route 1. Probably over an hour on 1 from 76.

Update Update Update

July 2013:  I went on a golf extravaganza and visited Wyncote after my round at Pilgrim’s Oak.  I’ve updated my original review with a lot more photos and a few more comments about the holes.  It had been a while since I’ve played here, but once I got on the course I remembered everything like I had been here all along.  The course is in fantastic shape and we had a blast.  Course-wise, I almost appreciated it a little more than I had in the past and enjoyed the design a little more.  It really does foster creativity of the short game and the short par 4’s lets you get creative with shot selection.  It may not be the forced shot course I alluded to in my initial review, but I still don’t know I could play here all the time.  I think what I was getting at in the initial review is that many links and heathland courses reveal themselves over time, having numerous subtleties that take many rounds to figure out.  Here, the course is very well done without including much subtlety.  It’s all in front of you and is set up as strategic, it just doesn’t have that subtlety you’d find in courses like it.  At least not yet at least.  Regardless, it’s one of my favorite in the area and I speak fondly of it any time anyone asks me about it.

The service was much better at the bar.  We were able to get lunch and beer served just before our tee time.  I was impressed.

Me and my buddies were engaged in fierce match play for dinner that came down to me making a 5 foot putt for par on the Eighteenth.  If I made it, my team would win; if not, it would be a push with no tie breaker.  As I stood over my putt and started thinking what a great round it had been, it didn’t matter to me whether I made the putt or not.  Another great day of golf on a terrific course with better company.  Summer is in full swing and these are the days of the year I look forward to the most.  Of course I missed the putt, I like to think as an act of mercy to the other team, but I felt just as good as if the putt went in.

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