White Manor CC

6,702 yards, 135 slope from the Bronze tees

Course:  Located on the western main line in Malvern, PA, White Manor is a well established and well known private course in the area.  It is currently ranked the third highest modern design and the fourteenth overall in Pennsylvania.  Originally designed by Gordon, but re-designed and renovated by Bobby Weed in 2003 (who designed Glen Mills), White Manor is an expansive layout that enjoys an exceptional natural watershed landscape, which is utilized quite well and provides a scenic and challenging round.  I found the routing very well done, as there was a variety of play from one hole to the next, and the green complexes with surrounding bunkering provided a lot of its character.  The terrain primarily rolled vertically along the hills, with water coming into play a healthy amount.  Trees were present, but were used sparingly to prominently dictate play and were rather used in areas to give form to some of the holes.  The greens were a lot of fun, yet fast and complex.  There were also a lot of bail out short grass areas around the green, which created a lot of short game options.  Also, the rough.  It was pretty tough in spots.  The speed and complexity of the greens was something I took note of numerous times throughout the round.  There were several times where I would hit the green on approach only to see my ball bounce and roll away from the hole, oftentimes into one of the short grass/false front areas.  To me, this helps reward repeat play and keeps the course a fresh experience for the members, studying the greens and how best to attack the approach shots.  The natural landscape also provided a relaxing and solitary environment.  There were times during the round it seemed nothing was around the course for miles.

White Manor is the largest private club I have visited.  It almost seemed like a resort, as the clubhouse and other buildings almost span the entire width of the front of the property.  There were multiple practice areas, grill rooms and dining areas and yes, I did get lost on one occasion.  The pool area rivals that of some hotels as well.  Everything was well equipped all while tastefully understated.  Just like the facilities, the members were welcoming and hospitable.  While I was fortunate to play here as part of a tournament, the members I encountered were friendly and engaging.  On more than one occasion, they were curious what I thought of the course and were nice enough to talk about the re-design.  Finally, Sean O’Hair is the PGA Tour Professional for the course.  Sean is from the area and I have heard he plays here when he is in town.  I can safely say I have seen parts of the course with my single round that Sean probably has never seen, like the OB area on the far side of the Tenth green, the long grass of the Sixth, etc. etc…..

While the tournament was a shotgun start and I started play on the Fifth, this review will start with the First.

The First is a 384 yard par 4 (from the Blacks (6,330 yards/131 slope)).  Starting from an elevated tee shot, the landing area is semi-blind and creaks to the right on a significant downslope.  While a more scenic fairway than the First at Glen Mills, I couldn’t help but think how each of the starting holes run downhill to the green.  The First here is a bit more interesting, as the left side of the fairway spills over, providing a little more area for a safe tee shot away from the trees on the right.  The fairway ends near the green, creating a forced carry to a wide but shallow green.  With the downhill approach shot and the fast shallow green, yet needing to carry the fairway break, the approach into the green creates much consternation.

The First

Approach shot territory

A look at the green

The Second is a 404 yard 4.  Lots going on with the tee shot, which is a forced carry and a bunker on the right side, then a little further on down on the left side.  Visually, it complicates the tee shot, as it doesn’t appear to be a clear landing area, so it’s effective in that respect.  The approach shot is fairly easier, but the fairway narrows a little to the green, which invites a number of different short game options.

The Second

Moving down the fairway

The green

The Third is a 214 yard par 3.  The elevated tee shot makes the distance a little shorter than stated and the green is fairly generous, yet deceptively undulating.  This was one hole where I hit a great shot and that I stuck it close to the pin, only to see it roll, and keep rolling, to the back of the green.  There are bunkers to contend with from the right center to the right, which goads you to the left side of the green, yet the margin for error is less on that side because of the slope away from the green.

The Third

The Fourth is a 372 yard par 4.  A terrific par 4 that starts with a tee shot to a fairway that climbs then sweeps right around bunkers, then curls left, around the green that sits to the left of the fairway, but essentially straight away from the tee area.  The uphill fairway makes the tee shot blind for the most part.  The approach shot is to a green that sits above the fairway and is fronted by bunkers.  A well struck tee shot is important for a manageable approach shot, as the longer out you are, the more difficult the shot, that must carry the bunkers, will be, especially considering the green being quite narrow from most approach angles.

The Fourth

Approach shot territory

A look at the green from the right side

The Fifth is a 380 yard par 4.  Even though the par 4’s at this point are similar in distance, they play nothing like each other.  The tee shot is once again blind, but is due to the fairway creating downhill and veering right, before climbing back uphill back to the left, with the green off to the left and a large short grass area covering the front left all the way around to the back right.  Cross bunkers are above the tee landing area and shouldn’t come into play unless your tee shot is very well hit or your approach is very well mishit.  The green is great here, as the short grass area gobbles up a lot of approach shots and forces some forethought on how to proceed.

The Fifth

Approach shot territory

The green, from the right side

The Sixth is a 512 yard par 5.  While the tee shot is not blind, it tighten considerably compared to the prior holes, with a bunker on the left and trees lining both sides of the fairway.  The fairway crests, then begins to proceed slightly downhill to the green, which is placed towards the right side of the fairway.  While the green sits level with the fairway, it rests on a hillside with bunkers protecting the left side and drop offs on every other side.  The entire front of the green invites the fairway, so there are several ways to approach the green, yet failing to hit the green will make for a difficult recovery.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 306 yard par 4.  One of my favorite holes on the course, as many who have read my reviews, one of the best ways for me to fall in love with a course is to have terrific short par 4’s.  This is certainly one of them, as there are several options and considerations to attack the hole off the tee.  The cross bunkers, water on the right and larger bunker just short of the green on the left all present a formidable challenge in figuring out where to place your tee shot.  The area just short of the green begins to bottleneck to the green and the cross bunkers make you second guess a mid iron off the tee. There is a generous landing area beyond the cross bunkers and short of the larger bunker that likely takes a longer club to reach and leaves a wedge in.  Those who want to gamble will likely take aim away from the water and challenge the larger bunker on the left.  Such a fun hole.

The Seventh

Moving down the fairway

The Eighth is a 122 yard par 3.  A short hole that is a forced carry over water, with very little room for a bail out, the Eighth essentially challenges your short iron game and makes you pay the consequences if you fail to rise to the challenge.  A peninsula green with the only land towards the right, but a bunker covered in deep grass occupies that area to collect those shots going short and right.  There is some area on the far side of the green, but the green runs from back to front, which will complicate putts and chips in that direction.

The Eighth

The Ninth is a 385 yard par 4.  The hole is mainly uphill back to the clubhouse, so plays some what longer than the stated yardage.  The tee shot is met with a bunker on the left side, with trees lining both sides.  Moving up the fairway, there are bunkers along the right before the area clear leading up to the green, which is multi-tiered and runs from back to front consistent with the hill on which the hole sits on.

The Ninth

Approach shot territory

The green (yes that’s my approach, but missed the birdie putt!)

The front nine loops on the west side of the property from the clubhouse, featuring a collection of diverse holes that abound with character and pose a stout challenge.  I would rank them 7, 4, 8, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 9, but there really wasn’t a hole I didn’t like or felt was standard fare.

The back nine starts with the 382 yard par 4 Tenth.  The back nine proceeds down hill on the south side of the clubhouse, with the Ninth and First off to the right.  The fairway is tree lined on either side  and while bunkers on the right are the first to greet you here, bunkers further down on the left and short of the green collect most mis-hit approach shots.  The green is inviting, but similar to the Sixth, the green operates the same way as if it was pitched, as any shot missing the green will tumble off its sides and face a very stiff recovery shot.

The Tenth

Approach shot territory

The Eleventh is a 492 yard par 5.  One one of the tighter tee landing areas and the fairway canting from left to right, the fairway leads to a creek that must be carried before canting in the opposite direction and turning left to an elevated green, which is pinched on the front by bunkers.  The angles of each shot, the rolls the ball can take, the creek and the moderate-sized green all make this hole a fairly solid test against par.  Lots of different ways to play it and while I’ve only played it once, would venture it doesn’t play the same way twice.

The Eleventh

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The Twelfth is a 170 yard par 3.  A very good par 3 where pin placement can change things quite dramatically, the green curls around a prominent bunker in the center, which needs to be carried if the pin is placed on the left side and center.  There is also a short grass bail out area on the far side of the green, which is where I ended up to ensure I didn’t have to content with any of the trouble on the short side.

The Twelfth

The Thirteenth is a 428 yard par 4.  The fairway is rather wide, with water along the right and it does end within tee shot range, which makes the approach shot a forced carry to a green that has all the room in the world on the right side and a bunker that wraps around the left side.  The short grass bail out area is gargantuan, but the slope will make for several different shots to the pin, while anything above the hole must be dealt with the utmost delicacy.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory 

The Fourteenth is a 190 yard par 3.  Another longer par 3 that’s less forgiving of mis-hits, as bunkers are on either side of the green.  The green slopes pretty well from left to right as well and there is rough around the bunkers.  An exacting shot is necessary here, or you’ll be facing a challenging recovery shot.

The Fourteenth

The Fifteenth is a 307 yard par 4.  Christmas arrived early for me, as this course has not one but two outstanding short par 4’s.  The Fifteenth features bunkers confounding and limiting the area of an acceptable tee shot, forcing you to hit it short of them, go off to the right, or carry them altogether.  Most will opt for the right side, which sets up a tougher approach shot in my opinion, as the green slopes from right to left and any shot hit towards the far side will possibly run off form that angle.  I’d probably lay up short of the bunkers if I were to play it again, giving me a nice straight shot to the green and if I roll out, would have more of a chance of staying on.  The bunkering around the green is great and while the green is of a nice size, the undulations and general right to left sloping provide a good deal of complexity.

The Fifteenth

Approach shot territory

A look at the terrific bunker shaping

The Sixteenth is a 405 yard par 4.  More of a traditional hole, the tee shot is straight out and the green is set off to the right, with the tree line and a couple bunkers protecting things on that side.  The green is defended by bunkers on either side as well, so the approach is more demanding that the tee shot.  The green reveals that you are on one of the high points of the property, with the Seventeenth below along with what I believe may be the Eleventh off to the right.  It’s a nice place to survey the property and appreciate the terrain upon which the course is on.

The Sixteenth

Approach shot territory

A closer look at the green

The Seventeenth is a 505 yard par 5.  The tee shot is quite elevated to the fairway below, which provides ample room to stay in play.  Most of the strategy begins on the second shot, as setting up the approach shot is important, since the green sits off to the left of and perpendicular to the fairway, with water along the front and not a whole lot of room on the other sides.  The approach shot is indeed demanding, but a well struck second shot should enable a short iron on to the green.  One of the players in my group sunk a 30-foot putt for an eagle here, so he laid out the perfect road map on how to play the hole; a monster drive right down the middle, a monster approach shot leaving you downhill of the hole, then sink the putt.  Easy enough.

The Seventeenth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

A closer look at the green.

The Eighteenth is a 372 yard par 4.  The hole is parallel to the Ninth and likewise runs uphill back to the clubhouse.  The green complex sets this hole apart from the Ninth, however, as it is semi-hidden and tucked in behind bunkers on the left, yet extends down towards the fairway from short grass.  Again we see a green where pin placement can change the entire character of a hole and the positions to the left create a good deal of challenge in contending with the bunkers and the steep bail out area off to the left, where even shots landing on the green could roll down towards.  It’s a nice finisher and the attention to detail of the green complex typifies what is seen throughout the round.

The Eighteenth

Approach shot territory

Closer to the green

The back nine remains consistent with the front in terms of featuring diversity and outstanding green complexes, as well as terrific bunker shaping.  I would rank them 15, 11, 13, 17, 18, 12, 10, 14, 16.

Generally, aside from Pasatiempo, White Manor is the only other course where writing the review made me actually enjoy the course more than I initially thought.  It takes time to digest each course, separate it from how good or bad I played and make sure that doesn’t affect my view of the design.  While I enjoyed the course as I was playing it, I was getting a lot of bad bounces and rolls, which made me initially think the course was harsh on rewarding good shots.  But after stepping away for a bit, it’s actually a strength of the design; those were not bad breaks, but I was simply playing to the wrong areas of the green or fairway.  Developing knowledge of how best to approach each hole and having the course reveal itself to you slowly over time are important components of a well designed course, so I have grown to appreciate that aspect of White Manor quite a bit after some reflection.  The diversity of the holes, bunkering and green complexes were also very well done, making for an exciting and challenging play.  While I saw similarities with Glen Mills, the terrain here is superior and there were no outlier holes like at GM.  There was a lot a little more complexity, but in all honesty all of the aspects of GM that make me love playing there were present here, adding to the overall enjoyment of the round.

The Philadelphia area has a number of well known private clubs featuring exquisite courses and White Manor should definitely be in that conversation.  I have no basis for comparison, but the re-design likely rejuvenated many aspects of the course and it proved to be an enjoyable test of one’s overall golf skills in a sprawling bucolic setting.

Gripes:  Nothing.  As a guest, I felt welcome and the members and staff were friendly.

Bar/Grill:  I believe there are several, both inside and outside.  The room we congregated in after the tournament featured a good amount of televisions, a nice view and various places to sit.

Practice areas:  Again, there are several.  The putting green sits above the First tee, there is a range with comprehensive indoor stalls when needed, and I think there are two short game practice areas.

Nearby:  The course is in Malvern, with downtown Malvern and the western main line nearby with lots of shops and restaurants.

Getting there:  It’s off Route 252 or Route 30.  After taking a couple roads that meander around farmland, you are there.

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