Shannondell

6,100 yards, 119 slope from the Blues.

Course:  The Club at Shannondell is part of the Norristown 3, or my name for the three public courses real close to each other in the Norristown area.  Shannondell is mainly comprised of sharp dog legs, a few elevation changes and a couple forced carry tee and approach shots.  Trees come into play often.  The course is not on a very big tract of land, which explains all of the tight dog legs and takes the driver out of play frequently.  More on this later, but in general, I’ve always seen Shannondell as a weekday type of place to go when crowds are sparse and green fees are low.  There are a couple nice holes, some gimmicks, and a lot of prototypical park land holes that you can find at most munis on the East coast.

The first hole is a shorter par 4 that dog legs right with large trees along the right side that prevent you from cutting the dog leg.  The fairway descends to a green you cannot see from the tee.  The green is pretty easy to read, but may not roll true due to maintenance issues.  The second hole is a par 4 that dog legs left.  Hitting driver will put you in the woods and a creek.  The approach is pretty standard to a larger green.  A semi deep bunker on the left side of green makes you favor the right.

Approach shot on Hole 2

Hole 3 is a 170 yard par 3 to a generous green with one bunker on the left and another on the right side of the green.  Ho hum.  Hole 4 is another par 4 that dog legs sharply left.  Driver is usually too much, but a strong draw could work well here off the tee.  The approach is to a large green and there is a bunker on the left side to collect errant shots.  Yawn.  Hole 5 is the first par 5.  Your tee shot is to a gargantuan fairway then you basically keep hitting until you get a big green with a bunker on the left and one on the right for errant shots.  Snoring.  Up to this point, holes 1 -5 are basically faceless; hit it straight and you’ll be fine.  Don’t hit driver off the tee.  If your approach is wildly left or right, you go into a bunker.  My point is there is no strategy to playing these holes.  That is fine if you want to score well or are practicing for a weekend round with your buddies, but you don’t do a whole lot of thinking here and there is nothing tempting you on risk/reward scale.  You could also argue that these holes are warming you up for the tough stuff ahead, so we’ll go on.

The tee shot on 6 actually gives you your first course management decision.  This is a par 4 dog leg right with a large bunker at the right side of the turn.  The bunker intrudes into most of the fairway, so your options are to try and carry the large bunker, aim to the left and try to get beside the bunker, or lay up forcing a tougher second shot.  The approach and green are easy enough though.

Tee shot at the 6th

The 7th is a very short par 4 that runs parallel to a busy road.  Yes I’ve seen a few tee shots bouncing along that road over, on and into cars.  We’re back to hit it straight-ville.  The green is a little interesting.  I like hole 8.  It’s the second par 3 on the front 9 and is pretty close to being a reverse Redan.  Look at the Glen Mills review to find out what a Redan hole is.  A large bunker on the left hides the green while the green itself slopes away from the bunker.  That means any shot in the bunker or to the left of the green is pretty tough to get close to the hole.  This hole is a great time to bust out that draw shot; in fact, I’m not too sure hitting it straight helps you more often than not.

8th Hole

Hole 9 is also a nice hole.  It’s a par 4 that dogs legs slightly to the right, but a large bunker on the right and trees on that side prevent you from cutting a longer approach shot.  Your approach shot must carry a waste area to a severely sloping green.

Hole 10 is a great tee shot, as there is a large bunker that baits you to carry it instead of going to the right of it for less distance.  Another good example of temptation here; I love bombing to carry that bunker.  Every time I’ve felt like it’s going in the bunker and then it just gets over and I get another 10-15 yards of roll and am rewarded with a short approach.  The approach and green are easy, assuming you played your tee shot well.  Hole 11 is a par 4 that is not a dog leg, but rather goes down hill to a well exposed green.  Hit it straight for your birdie.  True story, I saw a hawk eating a squirrel on this hole, on the green.  Is there a birdie joke in there some where?

The 12th is first par 3 of the back 9 at around 165 yards.  This hole starts my rant about the trees here; they need to be better maintained.  Over hanging trees in the tee area kept knocking down tee shots and not in a challenging or strategic way.  This definitely interferes with playability and affects you in many holes on the back nine.  I am hoping those trees were trimmed for when I come back this season.  The 13th also plagues you with overhanging trees in the tee area.  The 13th is a slight dog leg par 4 with a green perched on an ascending fairway.  Hole 14 is another par 4 that dog legs left.  A draw could help you with a much shorter approach shot, but the approach isn’t all that tough anyways if you don’t feel like trying out a draw.  Hole 15 is a dog leg right par 4 with a bunker at the dog leg to keep you from cutting the hole.  Hopefully you see the pattern with the bunkers and dog legs.

Hole 16 is the last par 3 and is around 200 yards.  There is water to carry, but a bail out area along the right side of the hole until you run into a large bunker that abuts the right side of the green.  Trees surround the hole.  Although hazards abound on this hole, your choices are to hit your 190 shot (since it’s downhill) to carry the water and get to the green, or lay up short right for a nice approach shot for an up and down par.  It’s still a choice though.

Hole 17 is a par 5 that dogs legs 90 degrees right.  The tee box is against the tee box of 13, so groups alternate teeing off.  You don’t, and can’t, bomb your tee shot, but if you don’t clear the dog leg with the tee shot, you have no shot at advancing on the hole and will be forced to lay up at the turn.  If you clear the dog leg, you have to decide what you’ll do with your second shot.  You can go for the green, but there is a creek short of the green that forces you to pure it to get on.  You could also lay up, no problem there.  If you waste your second shot to clear the dog leg though, then you’ll be more tempted to go for it, which could result in a ton of strokes.

Second shot at 17

Not a fan of 18, which is a par 4 that dog legs left.  The dog leg goes up hill and after the turn, you have to carry over a pond with a fountain in the middle to the green.  A little gimmicky here, but your tee shot needs to be placed well for a strong second shot to the green.

Generally, this course injects a little decision making and strategy with a lot of holes that reward the straight shot and penalize any approach that goes left or right with a bunker.  Like I said, that is fine for me when I want to practice or give myself a good shot at scoring well, and makes this course accessible to almost every golfer.  For those with a little more skill, a lot of repeat play here could result in getting the course wired in no time.  The small tract of land puts a lot of holes on top of each other, but it’s not something that really bothers me.  Course maintenance is adequate.  The starters and guys in the pro shop are great; a lot of them are old timers that like to talk golf with you.  The people I’ve been paired with are far ranging, from the guy shooting even par to some obnoxious gentlemen that would walk in the lines, hit two balls off every tee, then complain about slow play.  One guy bragged about how he was a caddy at a high end local course, but could never find his ball.  My buddy asked for advice for the tee shot at Hole 2  since the guy said he played the course all the time and his advice was to hit driver and make it stop on a dime.  Since the course is accessible to all, you’ll find a pretty broad range of players here.  I honestly can’t remember ever running into a cart girl, so if I ever see one I’ll update that.  The weekend rates here are too much and the course does back up relatively easy.  Regardless, I try to get here a couple times a season.  I will call this course a great place for beginners.

Gripes:  The design lacks a whole lot of strategy, which means it doesn’t hold my interest.  At times, I’m ok with not thinking during a round.  The green fees are too much during the weekend.  A lot of the trees are interfering with play and like I said, I’m not complaining about legitimate hazards.  Some of the players you’ll encounter here are clueless.  Is often crowded.

Bar/grill:  There are a few options here.  They have a nice restaurant with a bar attached, but I have a feeling they try to keep golfers out of there during the weekends, as they have a lot of non golfers eating and drinking there.  There is also a nice patio over looking the 18th green.  Or you could grab a beer and sit in the pro shop’s nice leather couches and watch their big screen.  The Golf Channel is almost always on.

Clubhouse:  Like I said above, great area to drink a couple beers on some nicer couches.  Good selection of hats and shirts, some equipment.

Nearby:  A lot of stuff.  Applebee’s, Texas Roadhouse, Dunkin’ Donuts.  Pick your poison.

Getting there:  Trooper Road exit off 422 to Egypt Road.

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