6,217 yards, 143 slope (from the Golds)

Course:  Just about 45 minutes from downtown Philadelphia in Ambler, PA sits Talamore Country Club, a private club that opened in 1995 and was designed by Robert Levy, Jr.  While the property was the site for numerous clubs in the past, including the Pine Run Golf Club, Bankers Country Club and a rifle club, Levy designed and constructed an entirely new course for the club.  Talamore belongs to a trio of clubs, including Applecross near Downingtown (reviewed here) and the Talamore Resort Course near Pinehurst, North Carolina.  It was named one of the country’s best new private courses when it opened by Golf Digest and named one of the top 100 courses for women.

Talamore is Scottish meaning, “land of great value,” which I think is fitting as far as the course is concerned.  With its moderate rolling terrain, wetland areas and abundance of trees, Talamore provides one of the area’s few Carolina low country style courses.  There are forced carries over wetland areas, water comes into play frequently, and trees shape many of the holes.  Of course, bunkers are incorporated a lot as well, adding to the emphasis on the aerial game for virtually every shot.  Harbour Town is a prime example of a low country course that is one of the best in the world.  The dense brush within the trees typically makes it impossible to recover out of them, which is different from parkland courses, where punching out of the trees is usually feasible.  Aside from the play, the sounds and overall feeling of the setting, moving in and out of the tree and brush formations, over and around the various ponds and creeks, provides an easy laid back ambience that you’d encounter down in the low country itself.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed Talamore.  Since the course is connected with Applecross, I always assumed that it would be similar and more intended to serve as a nice feature for those who lived in the development than a course that holds up on its own.  I was also anticipating a house-lined course, which would detract from its ambience.  I was wrong on all counts.  Talamore is a challenging course that really demands accuracy.  It’s probably the only course I know of sitting at 6200 yards with a slope rating of 143.  The course simply has a number of defenses that make it imperative to hit your target areas and if you don’t, recovery is any where from difficulty to a lost stroke.  There is no way to avoid an aerial game, as most holes have at least one forced carry and several pitched greens add to this.  The variety of holes and necessary shots, the setting and challenge make for a course that compels repeat play, to either improve your score, or enjoy the peace and quiet.

The First is a 403 yard par 4 (from the Golds).  Things start off in the deep end with the number 2 handicapped hole, as the fairway climbs uphill to the green while bending to the right.  Bunkers, trees and the rough essentially collect all mis-hit the shots while the fairway narrows towards the green, which provides no relief by being deep and fraught with undulations.  Welcome to Talamore.

The First

Approach shot territory

The Second is a 343 yard par 4.  A forced carry tee shot to a smaller fairway, but because of the shorter hole, driver is not the only club that can be used off the tee.  It’s imperative to hit the fairway to pull off the forced carry approach shot over water, which is more pronounced on the left.  The green is on the small side as well, emphasizing even more the precision needed for the approach.  Still, with each hole isolated from the others and about a million different shades of green around you, the setting is nice and in some ways, unique to the area.

The Second

Approach shot territory

The Third is a 323 yard par 4.  Another challenging tee shot that must contend with the trees on the left and bunkers on the right, but if well executed, is rewarded with a shorter approach shot to a green above the fairway that is fairly large.  The incline of the hole makes it a little longer and the openness of the green provides some leeway on the approach, but the score all depends on a well struck tee shot.

The Third

Approach shot territory

A closer look

The Fourth is a 150 yard par 3.  The first par 3 is a forced carry shot over a maze of bunkers, which wrap around the majority of the green very similar to a moat hole.  The green and possibly a little off right are the only safe options, otherwise you’re likely facing a sand save for par.  But at least recovery is possible here.  A cool looking par 3 with challenge.

The Fourth

A look at the green from the right side

A closer look at the bunkers short of the hole

The Fifth is a 541 yard par 5.  The tee shot is a forced carry to a narrow fairway that drops off a bit on the right.  The fairway finally crests and gently descends and dog legs left to the green, so shorter second shots will be left with another forced carry on the approach.  The green is a little more forgiving with others, as there is a bail out area on the right side.  It’s a tough par 5 that requires distance on top of precision, but the approach shot is a little more lax than others because of the green.

The Fifth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The Sixth is a 407 yard par 4.  While the tee shot looks tough, the fairway is much wider than it appears and there’s more room to work with than on most holes.  Likewise, the approach is to a wide green with a larger short grass area off to the right.  The hole can still be tough if you get into trouble, especially on the greenside bunker on the left, as the green sits fairly high up, so an exacting shot is necessary.  Even though the approach shot allows more room for error, a pin on the left may be too tempting to pass up and could lead to trouble.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 345 yard par 4.  The fairway is downhill from the tee area and as an added bonus challenge, there is water on the left side of the fairway that’s tough to make out from the tee.  The fairway then bottlenecks and funnels to the green, with the water on the left encroaching a little on that side.  Driver isn’t required here, but use whatever possible to get the ball on the fairway so you have a nice look and lie on your approach.  And make sure your rangefinder is giving you the right distance to the pin so you don’t airmail the green like I’ve seen happen on occasion…

The Seventh

Approach shot territory

The Eighth is a 178 yard par 3.  Forced carry now to be expected to a green that curves right around a deep set bunker that’s below the green.  Trees on the left make sure you don’t rely too much on that side, forcing a straight shot or right to left ball flight.  It’s a nice solid par 3.

The Eighth

The Ninth is a 301 yard par 4.  A shorter par 4, but one where the tee shot is tight and getting on the fairway to take advantage of a shorter approach shot is mandatory.  As expected, the approach shot is to a smaller green with bunkers on both sides and a very narrow opening, perched above the fairway. A nice short par 4 that still requires two well executed shots to get on the green in regulation.

The Ninth

Approach shot territory

The front nine maintains a consistent theme of forced carries and required accuracy with ball striking, yet an array of shots and acumen throughout your entire set of clubs is necessary.  Recovery from poor shots can get difficult, which tests your course management skills.  Terrain wise, there are some elevation changes and I really enjoyed the setting on what was a very laid out set of nine holes.  Ranking them, put me down for 9, 4, 6, 1, 5, 2, 8, 7, 3.

The back nine starts with the 381 yard par 4 Tenth.  Just like the Ninth, the tee shot here requires execution, as the tree line on the right forces you to contend with the water, which must be carried at least 150 yards.  Bunkers further narrow the acceptable landing corridor for the tee shot.  The fairway then bends to the right to the green, which sits slightly above it.  It’s one of the tougher tee shots on the course, as well as one of the tougher holes.

The Tenth

Approach shot territory (from the extreme right side of the hole)

The Eleventh is a 378 yard par 4.  A dog leg right, the tee shot is similar to the Tenth, but the carry to the fairway isn’t as long.  The fairway then dog legs, with the green straight ahead for one of the easier approach shots on the course.  A bit of a breather from the Ninth and Tenth.

The Eleventh

Approach shot territory

The Twelfth is a 194 yard par 3.  A generous green with some undulation and a wide open run up to the green provide yet another opportunity to rehabilitate your score.  It’s the second highest handicapped hole and comes at the right point in the round.

The Twelfth

The Thirteenth is a 548 yard par 5.  Break time is over, this is the number one handicapped hole on the course.  A narrow tee shot corridor to the fairway must be nailed to get far enough down the hole to be able to get over the ravine breaking up the fairway.  If you’re scrambling after your tee shot, you almost certainly will have to lay up to it, which will make your approach over 170 yards.  The approach and green are receptive, however, so if you make it over the ravine on your second shot, you should have a good chance at par.  Like many of the holes, success off the tee is most of the battle.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 184 yard par 3.  The tee is slightly elevated from the green.  The green itself s kidney shaped, with water and bunkers on the left while bail out room is off to the right.  The green provides most of the challenge on this hole, which runs back to front.  If your ball is on one end of the green and the hole is on the other, then it will be quite the task not to three-putt.

The Fourteenth

A look at the green from the right side

The Fifteenth is a 406 yard par 4.  A dog leg right that reminded me of the Eleventh, except the tee shot isn’t elevated.  It is of course a forced carry over wetlands while bunkers on the right are in play. The fairway is pretty wide and the green is fronted by bunkers on either side, which runs from back to front.  Kind of a redundant hole.

The Fifteenth

Approach shot territory

The Sixteenth is a 345 yard par 4.  One of the more visually intimidating tee shots over a taller wetlands area that blocks the beginning of the fairway from view.  The tree on the right side is also imposing, again narrowing the acceptable landing area.  The fairway widens after the tree then bottlenecks to the elevated green, which is fronted on either side by bunkers.  It’s a great looking hole, even though it can downright mean if you miss one of your shots.

The Sixteenth

Approach shot territory

The Seventeenth is a 327 yard par 4.  Yet another forced carry tee shot over water on this shorter par 4.  While other clubs besides driver can be used off the tee, you still need a good amount of carry to get over the water and safely on the fairway.  As for the fairway, it climbs to the green, which is raised from the fairway and protected by bunkers below on the left side.  Another great looking hole and setting up a nice series of closing holes.

The Seventeenth

Approach shot territory

The Eighteenth is a 463 yard par 5.  The tee shot isn’t as demanding as others, but a good shot can get some roll on the fairway, which proceeds downhill to the green.  The fairway narrows as you get closer to the green, with water on the left and bunkers on the right.  A scenic ending and a hole that balances out challenge with a little more room for mistakes and creativity, it does a lot to end the round with the right tone.

The Eighteenth

Approach shot territory

Getting closer to the green

The back nine is a little longer than the front and the spectrum of difficulty was a little more broad.  I liked the back more, especially with the last three holes setting up a terrific ending.  I’d rank them 16, 18, 17, 10, 13, 14, 11, 12, 15.

In general, Talamore provides a nice backdrop for a course that challenges the tee shot more than anything else, yet that challenge is well calculated and interspersed with moments of respite that get you ready for the next wave of difficulty.  It is certainly is easy to pile up strokes if your game is off, although the greens seemed straightforward even with the various undulations and contours.  I enjoyed the course a lot more than I thought I would.  It reminded me of White Clay with a little Broad Run, but flowed better than either of those.  While challenging, good shots were rewarded while poor shots are probably penalized more than most courses.  I’m also drawn to the low-country feel of the place, which sets it apart from many other courses in the area.  All in all, Talamore provides a challenging round with pretty good routing in a peaceful wetland area.

Gripes:  For a private course, it was backed up and we had to wait on a lot of shots.  Granted it was the weekend, but you’d hope for a little quicker of a round.

Bar/Grill:  They actually brew their own beer, which gets a big old plus on my book.  There was lots of room in the indoor bar with different areas, all dark wood and plenty of t.v.’s.

Clubhouse/Pro Shop:  Good.  Stocked with lots of apparel and equipment and well sized.

Practice area:  Lou Guzzi is a well renowned instructor and he has his academy here.  Lots of areas to hit, including mats, grass and indoor bays.  Separate short game areas and putting greens as well.  I found it be very nice.

Nearby:  Other courses are in the area and lots of places to go off Route 309, probably about 5-10 minutes away from the course.