I have been slacking on providing updates on courses I have already reviewed, but played this season. I have been playing a lot of these courses, so I thought it would be a good idea to go through most of them to provide the most up to date feedback. Lots of interesting changes happening while others haven’t changed at all. Yet as I have played these courses more and more, we see a shake up of the rankings-mania. Without further adieu:
Glen Mills: I can remember playing here December 2015 and May 2016 off the top of my head, but it could be more. This is one course that hasn’t changed a bit and doesn’t need to. Conditions were great when I was there and the greens were as confounding as ever. Glen Mills sees a steady stream of players, but the tee times are sufficiently spaced out that I have never had a slow round. I enjoy every round at Glen Mills and as I have become a marginally better player over the last couple years, I have enjoyed testing myself on the course from the White and Blue tees. Continues to be my favorite public course in the area.
Jeffersonville: This actually moved up in my rankings for a number of reasons. J-Ville has seen an uptick in its slope rating, so played a little tougher, I think mainly due to what appears to be more rigid contouring and the greens are a lot faster. I play here often and just like Glen Mills, I enjoy every round here regardless of score. It’s been cool to see the transition over the last decade in conditions here, moving from decent to its current form, which is very good. And I’m not the only one to notice, as J-Ville was ranked as one of the top 10 public courses in the state on Golfweek’s list.
One big change I noticed this season was the cutting down of trees around the green of the par 3 Twelfth. There used to be a number of trees around the green, which limited the landing area and creativity around the green if your ball landed off the green near them. Now, the green is wide open and relies more on its contouring and rough to provide challenge to those balls hit off the green. The grass in that area is also a lot more grown in, now that the trees aren’t taking up all the water and sunlight.
|The Twelfth at Jeffersonville. The trees behind the green are now gone|
The service at J-Ville is still terrific as well. One example is when I forgot a pair of pretty nice sunglasses in my cart after the round. I thought they were gone, but I called a couple days later anyways and was told they were in the pro shop. They check every cart after the round to make sure nothing was left behind. That is not my experience at all courses, so it was refreshing that my sunglasses were waiting for me. They also have some really good deals in the pro shop. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go there and grab another hat.
The knock on J-Ville is it can get crowded. While I haven’t had a five hour round, I think it got to 4.5 hours on one Saturday. Yet this is the norm at a lot of public courses in the area and is the nature of the beast. Still though, there are numerous times the course is not crowded and a fast round is possible.
LuLu: I have not played here this season, but unfortunately the clubhouse burned down last year. The course is still open for play and I don’t know whether a new clubhouse is being built yet, but wanted to get the info out there in case some of you were planning on hanging out after your round.
White Clay Creek: I played here in August and sadly, the course is in the worst shape I have seen it. Several fairways were damaged, either from the heat, humidity, over-saturation or a combination of everything. Weeds were growing on the outskirts of some of the greens. The rough was burned out in places around the green, which meant shots off green would roll a lot further than intended by the design, some times out of bounds. The course also did not seem to get a lot of play on the day I played it, but granted it was a weekday.
Over the years, my opinion and feeling for White Clay has evolved. At first, I found it a very nice course, but almost tortuously difficult. Despite that, I would play it in a heartbeat, mainly to see if I could play it any better. As I became a better golfer, and learned the course a little better, I saw it as a stern test of golf, but not dramatically or unfairly tough. It’s a course that demands good shots and there are spots where bad shots simply are not tolerated. My affection for the course has grown and I try to play it a handful of times during the season.
I’m hoping that course conditions improve here. I feel they will, but as of now, the greens fee isn’t justified unless you get a very good deal.
Wyncote: Wyncote is another course I have enjoyed more and more over the years. Not a whole lot has changed here from what I can tell, but it’s consistently in great shape and is a lot of fun to play. The course drains phenomenally well, so I end up playing here several times a year, even in wet conditions. It’s yet another course I find challenging from the White or Blue tees and there are some holes that have my number. Every. Single. Time. It’s a great play and a unique heathland design to the area. It goes up in my rankings and is one of the better public courses in the state on Golfweek’s list.
Lederach: Not much has changed here and that’s fine by me. While it’s a polarizing course, as many take issue with bunkers in the middle of fairways and what are claimed to be, “tricked up” greens, t’s one of my favorite public courses to play in the area. The bunkers and greens are similar to what you would encounter on links courses and to me, make the course more interesting. Instead of being rewarded for a tee shot down the middle of the fairway, you have to negotiate the bunkers and favor either side of the fairway, while the greens are large, yet require you to hit to the right area to be rewarded. Simply getting your shot on the fairway or on the green isn’t enough here, which keeps play here new and exciting instead of ho-hum bland. I last played here in July 2016 and I believe some work was being done with the bunkers on the Fifteenth, but otherwise conditions were nice and I haven’t encountered a crowded round here in quite some time.
Downingtown: The course has really grown on me, especially since Jaws took over ownership. Lots of trees were also taken out, most notably around the green of the Thirteenth, for the better.
|The Thirteenth green. The trees over on the right are now gone|
The stalwart membership of a few years ago that was not happy about opening up to the public seems to have diminished and now D-Town is one of the better public courses in the Philadelphia area, combining fun and challenge in subtle ways just as George Fazio was known for. The steep cart fees are now gone and the greens fees make it one of the better values out there.
Broad Run: Broad Run is one of five Rees Jones designed courses in Pennsylvania and has many of the features you encounter from Rees; numerous forced carries and demanding tee shots, among others. The course was not in good shape a few years back but has rebounded tremendously. The houses along the Twelfth are now completed and the course is in great shape. Some lament that the course cannot be walked and have a problem with “cart golf.” It’s never bothered me and based on the terrain and environmental restrictions, I imagine that there wasn’t much that could be done about it. It’s a scenic course that requires focus on pretty much every shot, with almost every hole simply not very tolerable of severe offline shots, meaning you will be OB most of the time. The par 3’s except the Seventeenth, are the weak spot here though.
Raven’s Claw: Another course I frequent and continue to like. The greens fee schedule has become innovative, allowing nine hole rounds and some very good twilight rates. Like some others, it can get crowded at times. One other thing I’ve come to realize, even though it’s reflected in the slope rating, is that the front plays a lot easier than the back, even though from the Twelfth on, I seem to score fairly well. But you start to recognize that the front provides a good number of easier holes before starting to get difficult towards the end of the back nine and again in the beginning of the back.
Rancocas: I didn’t review this course, but used to play it a good deal and returned last year because I had just read a Robert Trent Jones biography and wanted to play it again with an eye on Jones’ design features. While it has some nice intrigue design-wise, the crowds were horrendous. I booked my tee time online on what was shown as an open tee sheet, only to get there and find out the course was packed. The pro shop said they forgot to reflect it online, but it certainly left a bad taste, almost like I was lured to the course under false pretenses. At any rate, the course challenges you in different ways, mainly by tempting you with heroic shots and ensuring you calculate the forced carries correctly, while the front nine is more wide open and the back nine narrows considerably amongst trees. Conditions were ok only, but waiting 5-10 minutes between shots took a lot of enjoyment out of the round. While I see this as one of those public courses that could be a classic design treasure if managed and maintained correctly, it receives more than enough play and may be happy squeezing as many tee times in as possible while keeping things on the cusp of adequate. I might go back on some very off peak time to see if things are any better.
Cobbs Creek Olde: Another course that suffered a clubhouse fire during the off season, with a temporary facility now in its place. I believe it is unclear if or when another clubhouse will be built, but the bigger question is if the course will ever receive the sorely needed restoration plan that has been developed through private funding. This plan would return Cobbs Creek to its original design by Gil Hanse, would turn the Karakung course into nine holes while using the other Karakung land to give the Olde course the capability of turning into a PGA tour stop by extending holes to those necessary distances. I envision a revival similar to what Bethpage underwent many years ago. There are various obstacles to this becoming a reality and a lot of it has to do with the City’s handling of the course. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, as this was be one of the biggest boons to Philadelphia proper public courses I can remember.
As for the course, it’s actually a bit better than in years past. The biggest problem I saw with the course was typically in late summer, conditions would get burned out from a lack of maintenance and upkeep. The best time to play was the spring, when the grass had grown in and everything was still fresh. This has changed some what, as conditions are holding decently through the late summer.