McCall Golf and Country Club

4,469 yards, 115 slope from the Blues

Course:  McCall is in Upper Darby, PA, directly next to Cobbs Creek.  It’s a private club that was established in 1912.  Initially, McCall was a club for PECO employees as one of the perks working for the company.  Believe it or not, there was a time when workers would stay with the same company their entire career and in turn, those companies would do what they could to take care of its workers.  Just like Dupont, McCall was the result of this trend.   The course started as a 9 hole when Donald Ross took some time to draw up a design in the middle of building Gulph Mills.  Golf became so popular at the club that it bought up more land and had William Flynn design an 18 hole course.  Land was limited, so the course is relatively short based on today’s standards.  Many of the holes are uphill, which probably increases the actual length some what significantly.

McCall is still private, but offers associate memberships to non-PECO employees.  The membership dues are reasonable and you must be sponsored by a current member.  Your name is then listed as a prospective member and if no one objects, you’re in.  It’s an uncomplicated process and is a good example of how this place works.  There are no tee times; you simply walk and play with whoever you catch up to.  There are no carts, it’s walking only; unless you have a medical issue.  And as far as I know, there are no monthly food minimums or capital fees; the dues are the dues.

I live relatively close to the club and have been interested in playing it for quite some time.  The good ole Victory Golf Pass gives me a couple rounds there, so I was finally able to get over there and check it out.  Of course, I’ve been wondering about joining here, as the proximity would be ultra convenient.  And quite frankly, a shorter course means a shorter round, which probably makes sense for me as I try to golf as much as possible with limited free time.  Some times, the drive to the course, a 4.5 – 5 hour round, then the drive back makes for an entire day.  It’d be great to be able to slip out of the house and get back with a full round under my belt in a couple hours and I imagine I’d actually get a lot more golf in that way as well.  So my round was not only to give you my review, but also to figure out if it would be some where I might join.

The course itself is set on hilly terrain with par 3’s and 4’s.  There are numerous blind shots.  The focus is on the short game, as the green complexes are surrounded by bunkers, undulate with severe slopes and the greens are pretty small with run off areas all over the place.  The hills are used effectively, giving you drop shots, elevated tee shots and shots to uphill areas, as well as said blind shots of all kinds.  Trees, creeks, bunkers and a few dog legs present the challenges here.

I’ve heard McCall referred to as Little Merion and that might be an apt name for it.  Although this course is short, it presented plenty of challenge and the holes were usually defended with tough greens and bunkers.  I believe your putting and short game get sharp in a hurry here.  McCall makes great use of its limited space and the round remained interesting throughout.

I checked in at the pro shop and made my way to the first tee.  It looked like there was a range that allowed you to practice short irons and there was of course a couple putting greens, which I decided to use to get a sense of what to expect.  Once I was ready, I started my round with no fanfare, starter, or anyone else around.  Just me and the course.

The First is a 298 yard par 4 that starts uphill at the beginning of the fairway, then dog legs right to the green.  There are bunkers along the right of the fairway, then again to the right of the green.  Trees line the entire left side of the fairway.

The First

The Second is a 191 yard par 3.  The shot is downhill to a green that is protected by cross bunkers, leaving a very narrow opening in the front.  The green slopes to the front as well and with the bushes and trees around the green, there’s little room for error.  The green was empty, so I hit my tee shot, which landed about 10 feet from the pin.  Before I could properly enjoy the shot, I saw some guys come out of the bushes where their tee shots went.  I didn’t realize they were still on the hole, so apologized for hitting on.  They could have cared less and invited me to play with them, as well as complimenting my shot.  That was some kind of friendliness that really resonated with me.  I ended up playing the rest of the round with the threesome, whom were all members.

The Second

And it turned out I was really glad to have played with them.  The course has many subtleties that you only find out about if you play here enough.  These guys were nice enough to point them out, which was always welcome and added to the enjoyment of the round.

The Third is a 271 par 4 that plays uphill to the green.  The green is a little bigger than it looks from your approach shot.  Anything too far right off the tee drops off a severe hill side and goes on the other side of the tree line.  The green slopes from left to right as well.

The Third

The Fourth is what I thought was one of the tougher holes on the course.  It’s a 230 yard par 3 to a green that’s downhill, but you can’t see from the tee area.  There is also a forced carry over a small ravine on front of the green, which is elevated.  The green has two tiers and slopes severely from back to front.  So you could try blasting to the back of the green, but that leaves you with a tough downhill chip or putt.  You could lay up, which gives you a better chance to sticking the pin, but then you’re playing for par at best.  This hole really makes you nail your approach for any chance to birdie.  From 230 out, that is a healthy task.

The Fourth from lay up land

The Fifth is a 316 yard par 4.  Although short, both your tee and approach shots have to be right on to score here.  The fairway approaches the green diagonally at about a 11:00, with trees along the right side of the fairway protecting an approach from that side.  The green is tucked in slightly right of the fairway, with a drop off on the other side.  The fairway ripples to the green as well, which makes your ball take some unexpected bounces.  One of my favorite holes here.

The Fifth
The Fifth walking to the fairway

The Fifth fairway

The Sixth is a 116 yard par 3.  An easy enough short shot gets tougher with a smallish green that slopes terribly from right to left, a bank that causes anything left on the green to run off and not a whole lot of space for a bad shot to the right.  A high fade is the best choice here.  The Seventh is a 331 yard par 4 that shoots uphill and doglegs left to a plateau green.  There’s an interesting bunker-bush combo at the dog leg, where the bush apparently prevents you from attacking the green if you go in the bunker.  The green is one of the tougher on the course, as it’s multi tiered and very fast, generally running from back to front, but also from the sides in different directions, depending on where you are.  I thought the greens were quite fast, but one of the members I was playing with said they get even faster most times.  I pulled off a great up and down from 100 yards out for a well earned par here.  I’m starting to fit right in.

Tee shot from the Seventh

Walking the Seventh fairway

The Eighth is another par 4 at 286 yards.  The tee shot is to a level fairway that drops off to the green below.  My tee shot was straight, yet it kept going on the fairway and I couldn’t see where it landed.  After walking down in disbelief, I finally found it just in front of the green.  Talk about a friendly roll.  The green is another tough one for putting, and I only managed a par, failing to take advantage of the tee shot.

Beginning of the fairway at the Eighth
The Eighth green

The Ninth is a 121 yard par 3, where you must carry a creek that crosses and then runs up the right side of the hole.  Yet another confounding green with undulations and tiers every where.

The Ninth.  Lighting makes it tough to make out the green, but trust me, it’s a pain

A nice, brisk, interesting and challenging front 9 where I used every wedge in my bag.  Ranking them, it would be 5, 2, 8, 7, 4, 9, 6, 3, 1.

The Tenth is a 311 yard par 4.  The tee shot is quite elevated to an uphill fairway.  The green is blind from the fairway, but hit it right of center and you should be good, as the green slopes right to left a good deal.

The Tenth

Going up the hill of the Tenth

The Tenth green once you reach the crest of the fairway

The Eleventh is a 162 yard par 3 going slightly uphill to a raised green that has bunkers along the left and right side of the green.  I got caught in one of the bunkers on the left, my bunker shot carried over to the tee area of the other hole, so I hit a nice bump and run to the green, but it kept rolling right back in to the bunker I was in initially.  I got up and down from there and received a hearty, “Welcome to McCall” from the group.  Indeed.  The Twelfth is a shorter 257 yard par 4.  There are two interesting options on this hole.  The tee shot is elevated, with the green below after a couple water hazards.  You can lay up short of the water and hit a lob wedge into the green, or you can try to drive the green.  The trees make sure you have to be long and accurate if you go with that option.  I decided to lay up, but the approach is tough, as the green is one that has a lot going on.  A nice short par 4 that I could play a dozen times in a row.

Approach at the Twelfth

The Thirteenth is a 298 yard par 4 that goes back up the hill.  It reminded me a lot of the Tenth, as the green is blind, but the green doesn’t have a dominate slope in one direction.

The Thirteenth

The Thirteenth green

The Fourteenth is a 263 yard par 4 that is similar to the Twelfth.  You have an elevated tee shot at a green that has a carry area in front of it and gives you the same options as before; lay up or try to bomb it to the green.  This green is framed by weeping willow trees and also has a tough undulating green that features a ridge in the middle; anything in the front half rolls towards the front while anything in the back half rolls off the rear.  There’s also a good sized bunker on the right size of the green to consider.

Tee shot at the Fourteenth

Approach at the Fourteenth

The Fifteenth may have been my favorite hole on the course.  It’s a 104 yard par 3 with a horse shoe bunker that wraps around the entire front half of the green.  There’s also no room in the back, so you have a nice short par 3 that tests your short game and makes you pay if you can’t get the shot right.  I probably also like this hole because I came within a foot of an ace, but it’s a nice visual short par 3 that rewards you without being a pushover.

The Fifteenth

The last three holes are all par 4’s, which provides a nice closing stretch.  The Sixteenth is a 286 yard par 4 that proceeds uphill, then dog legs left to a narrow but long diagonal green.

Tee shot at the Sixteenth

Approach at the Sixteenth

The Seventeenth is a 363 yard par 4 that is also the longest hole on the course.  The fairway descends from the tee, then dog legs right, continuing downhill to the green that has bunkers on the left and right side.  Your tee shot has to be along the left side of the hole, as anything right means you can’t get to the green on your second shot.

Tee shot at the Seventeenth

Seventeenth fairway
Seventeenth green

The Eighteenth heads back uphill to the clubhouse and is a 265 yard par 4.  It was a great finish to the round when my entire group got their GIR and everyone hit in for par or better.  My advice on this one is to err on being short of the pin.  The green runs from back to front and any downhill putt is dangerous.

The back 9 would be ranked 15, 14, 12, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 13.

Generally, I really liked playing this course.  More than anything, the camaraderie among the membership was terrific and I can easily say that I enjoyed things exponentially because of the company.  It seems to be a tight nit group that opens up to anyone else that plays the course.  I felt the course was a nice test of golf that forced you to hit it straight and shore up your short game, or else.  The length issue is a non issue, as there are enough defenses here that a long bomber is never going to over power the course for a low score.  Conditions were great as well.  The bottom line is I felt a sense of contentment and satisfaction after the round that I usually have when I felt I played decently enough and had a lot of different shots and decisions to make.

Would I be a member here?  I believe so.  I had a nice score and part of me wonders if the course would get a little easy, but I could also see me coming out, spraying shots all over the place and wondering how I was 10 shots off my handicap.  My thinking is that any course where you’re not breaking par can’t be boring is reinforced here, but it goes beyond that.  Aside from scoring, would I like to play these holes over and over again?  The answer there is absolutely.  The holes were diverse, required thought and demanded an ultra precise short game.  When you consider the great membership and that you’re done in a little over 3 hours, there’s a lot to like about McCall.

Gripes:  There’s no cart girl.  No carts are allowed and I think one here would detract from the experience, but some times you feel like walking the course with a nice cold drink.  Some of the traffic from Route 1 is audible, but never bothered me.  

Bar/Grill:  Nice and comfy, with a nice outside area as well.  Apparently the milk shakes are great, but I didn’t have one.

Clubhouse:  Well sized with a good selection of equipment and apparel.  Very respectable.

Practice area:  A short iron range and a few putting greens.  I imagine you’re able to chip on at least one of greens as well.

Nearby:  Stuff in Havertown, Wynnewood and Bryn Mawr.

Getting there:  Route 1 just before Route 3.

         

2 thoughts on “McCall Golf and Country Club

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