Philmont CC (North Course)

6,452 yards, 138 slope from the Blues

Course:  Philmont CC is in the Huntingdon Valley area and is a private club with two courses, the North and South.  The North is the course I played and is the more prominent of the two.  Designed by legendary Willie Park, Jr., known for building Sunningdale (Old) outside London, Olympia Fields and one of my favorites, Atlantic City Country Club, Philmont is a well known course in the Philadelphia area, even hosting a few tour events in the 1990’s.

I had the fortune of getting to play Philmont this Summer and for some reason, wasn’t expecting to enjoy the course all that much.  I have no idea why, other than I looked at photos of the course beforehand and it looked like a standard parkland course with nothing really standing out.  It’s a good thing I don’t know anything, because even as I was playing the round, I knew Philmont would become one of my favorite courses.  It does have tree lined fairways and is a parkland course, but the forced carries, unique approach shots, enormous bunkers, blind shots, wavy greens and hilly terrain are all used cleverly to make it a shining beacon as to the creative possibilities out there for parkland courses to  all follow in their own way.

The other rare feat achieved here is that even though the course is very difficult, it remained accessible to all skill levels and remained enjoyable even when one of the holes turned out to punish the score card.  Most classic courses seem to strike this blend pretty well, which I think is due to light rough, allowing most balls to be easily found and instead presenting challenge by allowing opportunities to recover from mis hits.

But generally, I really liked the course as lot because each hole was its own separate entity, yet flowed together wonderfully.  That’s a great round to me, going to each hole and being presented with a set of different challenges and features, both strategically and aesthetically.  It was certainly one of the highlight rounds of the Summer for me.

The First is a 383 yard par 4 (from the Whites).  From an elevated tee shot, the hole is tree lined and gently bends to the right to a large green that slopes from right to left.  The green then slopes down to rough and bunkers on the left side, while there is also a longer bunker on the right.  It’s a nice opening hole, warming you up for more of the challenging holes ahead while remaining interesting in its own right.

The First

Approach shot territory

The Second is a 382 yard par 4.  Although it’s the same distance as the first, things escalate quickly with the fairway more constricting by trees on either side and the green is a forced carry over water.  There is room under and around the trees for recovery shots, but then you have the decision whether to get to the green or lay up.  The green slopes from back to front, yet is large enough to really think about going for it on a lot more shots than probably should be considered.

The Second

The Third is a 151 yard par 3.  The green is semi blind, yet undulates significantly, adding to the challenge once your ball is on the green.  Sadly, I forgot to take a photo, as I was still trying to figure out how my second shot ended up in the water on the Second.  Regardless, the Third is a nice par 3, with the real fun being all the different short game options and putting.

The Fourth is a 381 yard par 4.  Yes, same distance as The First and Second, yet plays completely different.  The rolling terrain is used effectively here, just like it is for the Third, as the elevated tee shot is to a fairway that then juts uphill and twists into a green fronted by a couple bunkers.  The approach shot is a fun one.  
The Fifth is a 415 par 4.  The elevated tee shot this time is to a fairway that snakes uphill before plateuing to a green that you can’t really see from the fairway.  The bunkers along the fairway are quite big, which is a pretty nice and distinctive feature here.  The green is quite large, which some how adds to the challenge of putting.  A nice classic par 4.  
The Fourth

Proceeding down the fairway.  The green can’t be seen from here
A shorter approach shot

A look at the larger green
The Sixth is a 356 yard par 4.  The course now starts to establish its unique character with a blind tee shot to a fairway that plunges downhill to a creek, with a large green set on a hill side, running towards the creek and at an angle.  Most shots will be left with a very hard downhill putt, while anything off green will either be wet, OB in a bunker or rough, leaving a difficult shot to the pin, trying to avoid water yet again.  It was one of my favorite holes on the front nine.  
The Fifth

Approach shot territory from the left side of the hole

Approach shot territory from the side of the fairway
The Seventh is a  440 yard par 4.  Again, on paper, the routing seems repetitive, but the terrain and lay out keep these holes very interesting.  The Seventh double bends, rising, then falling, then rising again to the green with a massive bunkers on each side of the green for good measure.  Setting up the tee shot for a good approach is a pretty fun challenge for this hole, considering the hills, lie and angle you’d like into the green.  
The Sixth
Proceeding down the fairway

Approach shot territory
The Eighth is a 122 yard par 3.  A short yet interesting par 3, as the green sits on a hill side that slopes off the right side and large flashing bunkers are short and left of the green.  The test here is simple, stick your short iron on the green or you will face a tough scramble for par.  It’s a nice take on the short par 3.
The Eighth
The Ninth is a 565 yard par 5.  It’s certainly one of a kind, as the fairway narrows, turns right, climbs some more, turns some more and when all is said and done, probably ends in the shape of a boomerang, playing from one end to the other.  The goads you into either trying to draw it, or hitting towards the outside so you can eventually have a clean approach to the green, but any shot that strays too far outside is blocked out from the green by trees.  It’s a great memorable hole. 

The Ninth

Moving up the fairway
Approach shot territory
Looking back at the fairway from the green
The front nine is a great play, ranging from distinct holes to well done classics, all of which present different challenges and flow together nicely.  There was not a weak hole.   I’d rank them 6, 9, 8, 5, 2, 3, 1, 7, 4.  
The back nine starts with the 315 yard par 4 Tenth.  The tee shot is blind because of a mound in front of the tee area, then the green is straight away.  Local knowledge pays off here, though, because there is a large trench bunker in front of the green that makes for a difficult approach if you much carry it.  If you’re further right of the hole, it takes the bunker out of play, yet a sloped run away area on the left side of the green still demands precision of the approach.  It’s a great short par 4.
The Tenth

Approach shot territory
The Eleventh is a 213 yard par 3.  This longer par 3 is to a some what elevated green with bunkers protecting it on the front sides.  The green is rather large and sloped as well.  A nice classic long par 3.  Sadly, I don’t have a photo; I was too busy getting one of the strangest pars ever.  Thinned my tee shot, then left a wedge shot short on the fringe, then putted in from about 15 feet.  
The Twelfth is a 482 yard par 5.  The fairway twists and ripples to the elevated green, protected by massive bunkers on the front.  It’s one of my favorite green complexes on the course, as the bunkers in front of the green are intimidating, but hitting well back of the green leaves you with a tough putt back down to the hole.  Very good challenge here.

The Twelfth
Going up the fairway

Approach shot territory
The Thirteenth is a 317 par 4.  The fairway drops from the tee area before climbing back up to the green, which becomes level again with the tee area.  More massive bunkers pinch the front of the green, forcing an aerial approach to an enormous green that forces some difficult putting if you end up in the wrong place.  

The Thirteenth
Approach shot territory

The green.  Very expansive.
The Fourteenth is a 430 yard par 4.  The hole dog legs right early, then goes to an uphill green.  The area in front of the green has lots of interesting, severe and small mounds and the green is one of the more fun.  
The Fourteenth

Approach shot territory

Some of the mounding found in front of the green
I don’t know how it happened, but I don’t have any more photos of the course.  I thought I took some, so not sure if they were deleted, or if I was enjoying myself so much I forgot.  I’ll try to describe the rest of the holes and it looks like I found a pretty good reason to get back for another round.
The Fifteenth is a 377 par 4.  The hole dog legs slightly to the left down hill, with trees and a bunker on the inside of the dog leg, as well as on the outside.  The green distinguishes itself by being flat, yet surrounded by bunkers.  I found it to be one of the easier holes and a good scoring opportunity.
The Sixteenth is a 439 par 4.  This hole is also downhill, yet much straighter, with the real challenge sticking the green, as there is a steep drop off on the far end and a false front.  Another good scoring hole, so long as you keep it short of the hole.
The Seventeenth is a 163 yard par 3.  The tee shot is a forced carry over water to a green that is actually quite small, with deep bunkers on the either side to collect errant shots.  Lots of hazards to force you to execute your tee shot here and really no where to hide with a bad shot.
The Eighteenth is a 336 par 4.  The fairway proceeds slightly uphill from the tee, while everything cants significantly from left to right, with trees lining either side.  The green is also on the smaller side compared to what you’ve seen on the earlier holes. 
The back nine features more bunkers, more doglegs and more elevated greens.  It was another solid nine holes and not once did I find a hole repetitive or a bore.  On the contrary, it was a classic course simply done very well.  Ranking them, I’d go 10, 12, 17, 13, 14, 18, 11, 15, 16.
Generally, Philmont is one of my favorite plays in the area.  It’s yet another example of such interesting classic design that has found a way to establish character through forced carries, massive bunkers, trees, expansive greens and rippling false fronts.  The way in which the fairways would rise and fall, turn and twist was terrific and the green complexes were challenging yet fun.  If the opportunity becomes available for you to play a round here, I would take it and cancel whatever else you have going on.
Gripes:  Only that I’m not sure if I’ll be able to play here again, not much else comes to mind.
Bar/Grill:  I was unable to stay after the round, but I imagine it is well though out, with an outdoor patio area overlooking the South course.  
Clubhouse:  Nicely stocked with some great deals on apparel.  And a nice hat design logo!
Practice area:  A grass range, putting green and chipping area.  
Nearby:  Oh Bryon’s is a cozy little dive bar, with what I’ve heard has some pretty good shrimp.  I had the Irish nachos and they were good.
Getting there:  Located off either the PA turnpike or Route 1, in the Huntingdon Valley area, about 30 minutes from Center City.