Country Club of Scranton

6,774 yards, 134 slope from the Golds (Old Course)

Course:  Located in Clarks Summit, PA, which is a little north of Scranton proper, lies the Country Club of Scranton.  It was established in 1896 as a social club, with the course designed and shaped by Walter Travis in 1927.  In 1988, Dr. Hurdzan designed another nine holes, so the club now has 27 holes that comprise 3 different sets of 18 holes.  The original set of 18 holes is aptly called the Old course, which is what I played when I had the pleasure of a round at the club.

A few words about Walter Travis are in order.  Travis was born in Australia, but arrived to the U.S. when was 23.  It would be another twelve years before he would take up golf, almost 35 years old.  A month afterwards, he won a club championship and within four years, won his first U.S. Amateur Championship.  He successfully defended his title the next year, then won it again two years later.  Travis was the first American to win the British Open as well.  Travis contributed to the game in a number of ways, as he was a prolific writer and even fostered advances in equipment.  As far as course design, Travis likewise made quite an impression.  His designs include the legendary Garden City CC, while he was original architect of the Golf Club at Equinox I recently played, as well as the Ekwanok Country Club next door (which happened to be the site of a dramatic U.S. Amateur Championship won by Francis Ouimet).  Travis had no formal training or education in golf course architecture, but rather learned while he was on various projects.  His greens are renown as some of the best in the world, exhibiting an understanding of playing strategy, while his routings were typically superior.

The golf course at the CC of Scranton possessed the above attributes as well.  The greens are some of the most distinct I’ve come across, the shaping of mounds throughout created some unique playing situations and I found the routing flawless.  The course is set on dramatic hill terrain and while it runs against a larger lake at the Seventh, water doesn’t come into play.  The course is scenic and features a combination of beauty due to the surrounding setting while the course is visually enjoyable yet every part of the course serves a purpose in dictating play.

To get to the point, my round here was the most enjoyable of the season.  The course had a terrific sense of fun and thrill all while requiring skill and strategy to play well.  The contours of the greens and mounds presented so many different shots and were receptive to several different approaches.  There was never a lull in the excitement of the round, nor did I ever feel any sense of slight or misfortune with where my ball ended up after a shot.  Bad shots were handled appropriately and good shots were rewarded to the extent they were executed from a sound strategy.  Each hole seemed to come at the exact right spot during the round and each shot seemed like a new and different experience from the prior.  I had a sense of fulfillment after the round not due to how I played, but more so because the course provided a complete experience.

The club itself seemed very much traditional.  The colonial style clubhouse sits on a hill on all sides, very much giving it a sense of esteem.  The locker room is expansive yet old school, with a full bar and grill attached to it, which was filled with cigar smoke and men embellishing their triumphs on the course.  The clubhouse had terrific views of the course below it and provided various sitting rooms and patios to enjoy it.  While my interaction with members was limited to a passing hello, the staff in the pro shop were very friendly and talked a little about the course.  I enjoyed the sense of the facilities as a nice and fitting setting for golf.

The First (from the Whites) is a 363 yard par 4.  The tee shot is some what elevated to a nicely wide fairway with intermittent groups of trees lining both sides.  The fairway then terraces down to the green, which includes bunkers on either side and short grass/bail out area off to the left.  The dips and contours of the fairway hold additional interest and slight challenge to a nice gentleman’s handshake opening hole.

The First
Approach shot territory

The Second is a 320 yard par 4.  This shorter par 4 is a lot of fun, mainly due to its bunkering.  The left side off fairway features a larger bunker with the church pews made famous at Oakmont (my shot was too far right to get over and take a photo of them).  There is a larger bunker with a pronounced steep lip on the left approaching the green, which affects depth perception of how close the green is to it.  The bunker off to the right of the green creates an interesting approach shot where the right side of the fairway provides the best angle.

The Second
Approach shot territory

The Third is a 163 yard par 3.  Another hole that piqued my interest, the green is slightly raised and surrounded by bunkers.  The bunkering added a lot of the course’s character and this hole is a good example of how.  While I think this hole would be very interesting without the bunkers because of the  green’s complexity and the short grass areas, the bunkering here is visually appealing and adds so many other different types of recovery shots in conjunction with the green.  The manner in which this hole, and many others, foster and allow for short game creativity is another strong characteristic of the course.

The Third

The green from the left side.  I love how the bunkers, green and contours all meld together to create countless different shots to the hole.  The back of the hole is even more of this, which I wish I took a couple photos of.

The Fourth is a 466 yard par 5.  The hole is straight, but with the placement of the tee, bunkers and green, it feels anything but.  The fairway is narrow and the first hazard is a C shaped bunker.  Water is further down the left while a bunker in another interesting shape is on the right, but those hazards are staggered.  The front of the green is protected by bunkers as well, making an aerial approach the preferred course of action here.  The hole demands strategy, as the sequence of hazards makes it difficult to try and bomb it to the green.  The bunkers near and around the green also create some visual trickery here, messing with depth perception.  But with the shorter distance, there are various ways to find a way to score here.

The Fourth

Second shot territory

Approach shot territory

The Fifth is a 176 yard par 3.  This is a fairly straightforward par 3, with bunkers guarding each side of the green, but the short grass areas surrounding the green makes for some creative short game recovery for shots off the green.

The Fifth

The Sixth is a 417 yard par 4.  The tee shot is blind because the fairway goes downhill, and this is the first hole where trees line both sides of the fairway and come into play on each side.  The green is set off to the right and the hole in general bends that direction.  It is set facing towards the fairway off a hillside, which means shots hot off the far side will face a steep recovery back to the green (which I know from experience).  The Sixth seems to change the tone of the round, as trees become more prominent and things tighten up a little.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

Another look at the green

A closer look at the green, and how the mounds affect play around the green

The Seventh is a 369 yard par 4.  The fairway is wider than the Sixth, or at least appears that way, which then turns right to the green.  The bunkers are significant and are placed nicely throughout the hole, with short grass areas and mounds surrounding the green.  Again, anything off the far side is either OB or faces a difficult recovery shot.

The Seventh

Off the right side of the hole, looking at the green

Approach shot territory 

A closer look at the green 

The Eighth is a 265 yard par 4.  This short par 4 is a little longer yardage-wise because it’s uphill.  There’s a little bit of a carry to the tee shot, but it doesn’t come into play unless your tee shot is terrible.  The fairway is shaped in such a manner that it strongly suggests you lay up, but a well struck drive leaves you on the green, or close to it.  Even if you hit off fairway with your drive, the recovery shot is likely close to the green, which made me not hesitate to use driver.  It’s a fun hole where you’re able to decide a number of ways to score.

The Eighth tee, with water along the right side

Another view of the tee

One more because it’s pretty scenic

The Eighth

Approach shot territory

The Ninth is a 319 yard par 4.  Another hole that climbs uphill, the tee shot is blind due to the slope. The approach shot is also at least semi-blind, as the green is on a plateau and two deeper bunkers guard the front of the green on either side.  The green runs from back to front and the top of the bunkers slope towards the green.  It was a deceivingly difficult short par 4.

The Ninth

Approach shot territory

A good look at the front of the green where the bunkers meet the green

The front nine is as interesting a series of holes as I’ve come across.  Diverse in challenge, terrain and creativity, yet with a solid routing.  I’d rank them 3, 4, 8, 9, 2, 6, 7, 1, 5.

The back nine starts with the 386 yard par 4 Tenth.  The hole runs downhill and is parallel to the First, yet on a steeper downslope.  There’s not a whole lot to prevent you from scoring, as the fairway is wide and the entire fairway spills into the green, allowing for any type of short game approach.  There are cross bunkers on either side of the fairway, which would obviously make this hole much more difficult.  The view from the Tenth tee is something to take in as well.

The Tenth
Approach shot territory

A look at the green

 A look at the Tenth in reverse

The Eleventh is a 138 yard par 3.  The green sits level with the the, but dips and rises between points. Large bunkers pinch the green, but it spills past the bunker on the left.  Pin positions near that left bunker could really toughen up the hole.

The Eleventh

The Twelfth is a 428 yard par 5.  Similar to the Fourth, the hole is straight, yet doesn’t feel it due to the sequence of the hazards and this hole climbs uphill.  Bunkers begin on the right side, then left, before reaching the green, which is protected by two bunkers on either side on the front.  Yet another hole where I enjoyed the bunkering a lot, even when I was hitting out of it.  

The Twelfth

Up the fairway

Bunkers on the right

Close up of one of the bunkers

More looks at the bunkers

The Thirteenth is a 348 yard par 4.  While there is a bunker off to the left just off the tee, it’s a good line to take to carry those bunkers and set up your approach shot.  The fairway bottlenecks to the green, which forces consideration of a shorter club off the tee to properly manage the hole.  The bunkers once again take prominence near the green, which add character and challenge to the course, especially how they mold into the green.

The Thirteenth 

The Fourteenth is a 491 yard par 5.  The hole slightly and gradually dog legs to the left from the tee, with what appear to be center line bunkers when teeing off.  This appears to be yet another clever use of bunkers affecting visuals, as it’s tough to find the proper line for the tee shot.  Generally, you want to hit it between the bunkers and make sure you are over far enough to the right to avoid the tree line on the left blocking you out.  The fairway then depends into the green and I suppose due to the challenge on the first two shots, provides a bit of reprieve with a receptive green and not much in the way of hazards off the green.  With the clubhouse and course sprawling in the foreground, above you while on the green, its a nice hole for many different reasons.

The Fourteenth

Moving down the fairway past what look like centerline bunkers from the tee

Approach shot territory

A look at the green 
A look art the course beyond the green

The Fifteenth is a 382 yard par 4.  The tee shot is blind as it climbs back up the hill you came down on the Fourteenth.  The fairway narrows towards the middle of the hole and with bunkers on either side, poor tee shots off to the side have a good chance of going in.  This green complex is a bit different, as large trees closely guard the green, along with bunkers on the right.  It’s yet another hole that is deceivingly difficult.

The Fifteenth

Approach shot territory

The Sixteenth is a 421 yard par 4.  The tee is off to the left side of the hole, which even though is fairly straight, sets up as a slight dog leg left since your tee shot must negotiate trees on both sides, which generally rules out the straight ball off the tee.  You do have more room off the right than it appears on the tee though.  The approach shot is a forced carry over a small gully and the green is slightly elevated, with bunkers protecting both sides.  The course has now fully opened up, which continues throughout the end of the Eighteenth, which allows you to take in much of the course, but also allows for wind to become a factor at times.

The Sixteenth

Approach shot territory

The right side of the green and another look at terrific bunkering

The Seventeenth is a 184 yard par 3.  Similar to the Eleventh, the green is fairly level with the tee area, but there is a forced carry over the same gully you encountered on the Sixteenth and the false front slopes away from the green, towards the gully.  Another similarity to the Eleventh is the grenade bunker that encroaches on to the green, making pin placements in that area a much more challenging hole.

The Seventeenth

The green from the front

The Eighteenth is a 459 yard par 5.  And what a finishing hole it is, with probably the most bunkers placed on this hole than any other.  A row of them await your wayward tee shots on either side, while another group of bunkers await your approach shot, with one almost directly in the center of the hole, demanding a forced carry.  The green also is protected in the front on either side by bunkers, while the rear sides have fantastic mounding and short grass areas, creating a variety of options if your ball ends up in those areas.  Challenge, fun, character; all at the Eighteenth and in general typifying the overall nature of the course.

The Eighteenth

Moving up the fairway

The clubhouse, off to the right

Approaching the green, off to the right, with a healthy dose of bunkers

The green from the left side, with terrific mounding and short grass area

The back nine rolls on a few more hills while it is about 400 yards longer than the front.  There is generally a bit more challenge, but that is usually a great place during the round to place most of the difficulty.  The interest of the holes is just as high as the front as well and the finishing hole is a terrific punctuation point.  Ranking them, I’d go 18, 14, 12, 16, 17, 13, 15, 10, 11.

Generally, this round was one of the highlights of my summer.  The bunkering and green complexes were thrilling and the routing resonated with me.  It’s a classic design where the style of the architect showed through.  The challenge was not with length, but rather by allowing so many different styles of play succeed on the course, all while remaining interesting and fun.  This was most evident around the greens, where the mounding and bunkering were unique and promoted creativity.  Another well done aspect of the course was the visuals created by bunker alignment, causing a few issues with depth perception.  Considering all of the attributes of the design and placed in a parkland setting that ranges in terrain, corridor-esque trees to wide open space, the scenery enhances the play to further make the round as enjoyable as possible.

While a bit of a drive from Philadelphia, the Country Club of Scranton was one of the better designed and enjoyable courses I’ve been able to play in the state.

The halfway house (between the Twelfth and Thirteenth) was well stocked and the pro shop was great  in recommending apparel.  The men’s locker room and adjoining grill were a great place to wind down from the round and as I stay perched at the clubhouse looking down at the course, was able to replay a few of the more memorable shots and take it all in before heading back home.

Gripes:  Nothing, other than I have to figure out how to play here again.

Bar/Grill:  I was only able to get to the bar off the the men’s locker room, which was a casual setting perfect for the 19th hole.

Practice areas:  The putting areas was large and right next to the clubhouse while the range was down to the right of the First.  There’s also a nice short game practice area.

The range

Nearby:  No help here.  There was a pizza place about 10 minutes away that was pretty good.  At the bottom of the hill.

Getting there:  From Philly, take the Northeast Extension north of Scranton, then it’s about 15 minutes from the exit.

The clubhouse

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