Bluestone Country Club

6,201 yards, 128 slope from the Blues

Course:  Located in Bluebell, PA and formerly the Meadowlands Country Club, Bluestone CC is a course designed by William and David Gordon, the father-son team that are responsible for a number of other well known courses, including Sunnybrook and the Saucon Valley Grace course.  The course is a parkland that is set on mild rolling terrain and is tree lined for the most part, with some forced carries over water.  The most impressive feature for me were the greens, which had a lot of movement and provided the, “game within a game” mantra of putting.  Figuring out the areas of the greens necessary for the approach shots amidst with the angles to the green while navigating the tree lines, which also made for a sophisticated short game, along with the woodsy ambiance of the course, made for an engaging enjoyable round.  The rough was also up, which made it even more critical to stay on the fairway and give yourself the best chance of negotiating the greens.

In the Philadelphia area, the parkland type course is prevalent and while many from outside the area likely enjoy them because they are not used to them in regular play (just like me with links, or even desert courses), those of us who regularly play the parkland are probably a lot more discerning about what parklands remain interesting and which get lost in the redundancy shuffle.  In other words, the courses need to do something to set themselves apart and establish an identity.  For me, I believe Bluestone’s greens, use of the flatter terrain and bunker placement give it sufficient character that it sets itself apart from the standard roto parkland.  In fact, the course did well to not have the trees overbear play and there was a lot of space to have freedom of ball flight and different lines to the greens.  While I didn’t like it as much as other parklands such as Jeffersonville, LuLu, Philmont or Plymouth, the greens here are better than some of those and it’s a solid course in general.

The First is a 492 yard par 5 (from the Blues).  The fairway bends to the right almost immediately, giving the impression that a tee shot towards the right tree line will hit the fairway, but only if there’s movement on the ball back towards the left will a tee shot benefit from that line.  Watching a lot of the members tee off, they hit a shorter club straight out towards the bunker on the left, then had two shots straightway to the green, which starts downhill after the bend.  Bunkers are on both sides of the green and the green itself is a nice introduction of what’s to come, actually being a little tamer than most.  A nice opening hole and scoring opportunity.

The First

Approach shot territory, from the right side

The Second is a 401 yard par 4.  The fairway bends just a tad to the right with trees lining both sides.  Staying to the left is ideal to accommodate for the bend and having an unimpeded line to the green.  There are a couple bunkers on the right of the green and this green has a lot of movement from back to front.  I would stay below the hole at all costs actually.  

The Second

Approach shot territory

The Third is a 148 yard par 3.  A forced carry over water to a green that slopes from right to left with a collection area off to the left.  Water can’t be seen from the tee, although it appears to be a forced carry regardless.  Lots of movement of the green and ending up in the bunkers long and right makes for a tricky shot down green to the hole.

The Third

Contours of the green

The Fourth is a 517 yard par 5.  A narrow chute of a fairway climbs to the green, bending slightly left.  Trees loom on either side of the fairway before opening a little around approach shot territory to a green that’s surrounded by bunkers and moves from back to front in general.  A tough hole with a great green that required precision placement to avoid three putting.

The Fifth

Moving down the fairway

The Fifth is a 362 yard par 4.  Crossing the road and close to the tennis courts, the Fifth is straight out, with trees and a bunker encroaching from the right side.  The green is on the larger side, with a large bunker complex on the right.  The short grass areas off the green on the far sides after the bunkers are great use that area between the green and cart path.  Definitely stay more on the left side for the best approach angle into the green.

The Fifth

Approach shot territory 

A closer approach 

The Sixth is a 197 yard par 3.  Despite the length, there is plenty of room short and the green is inviting enough, although pin positions towards the back right are much riskier to go after with the water on that side.  The green slopes from back to front and towards the water.

The Sixth

The Seventh is a 377 yard par 4.  While straightaway, the green does well to set at an angle off to the left, so right center to right side is the best play off the tee.  The green slopes from back to front and is fairly generous, but anything off the far side is likely lost in a row of Evergreens.

The Seventh

Approach shot territory from the left side 

The Eighth is a 315 yard par 4.  Driver is likely too much off the tee here, as the fairway gently descends towards water on the right, with the green on the other side of the water off the right side.  The fairway bottlenecks once it turns the 90 degrees for the green, so hitting to the fat part of the fairway, then hitting your approach over water is the best, and likely only, play.  I suppose if you hit it over 300 you could go for the green as well.

The Eighth

Approach shot territory

The Ninth is a 390 yard par 4.  A big dog leg left where you need to aim at the right side of the fairway, or even the bunkers on the right side, to get beyond the turn and have a good look at the green.  Cross bunkers on the either side of the green that moves pretty well towards the perimeter.

The Ninth

At the turn

The front nine had some interesting holes with even more interesting greens.  When the greens have so much going on, it pervades all the way back to the tee and that was certainly the case here, where even a couple straight tree lined holes were fun to play as you set up the best angle for the pin.  I’d say that getting off the tee was most important, then scrambling if/when you get out of position, which provides a comprehensive challenge of skills.  Ranking them, I’d go 3, 2, 4, 5, 1, 6, 7, 8, 9.

The back nine starts with the 336 yard par 4 Tenth.  A slight dog leg right with bunkers on the outside of the turn to an elevated green that’s surrounded by bunkers.  The green slopes from back to front and is a fun approach shot, especially to a front pin position.

The Tenth

Approach shot territory

The Eleventh is a 401 yard par 4.   It’s a narrower fairway with trees on either side that’s straightaway to a kidney shaped green with a lot of movement from left to right.

The Eleventh

Approach shot territory

The Twelfth is a 171 yard par 3.  A forced carry over a creek to a larger green surrounded by larger bunkers, the green has a few mild tiers, and with the size of the green, getting from one side to the other in less than three strokes is a challenge of the flatstick.

The Twelfth

The Thirteenth is a 338 yard par 4.  A hard dog leg left similar to the Ninth, this one is shorter and give you the option of something less than driver off the tee to get in the fairway, yet goads the longer hitters to blow over the dog leg and get closer to the green, which has a nice landing area short of the green.  The options off the tee and reward for those who are able to shape around the turn, or go long, makes this a nice shorter par 4.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 360 yard par 4.  A hole that bends gently to the left, the trees on the right are more menacing than those on the left, although you need to favor the right side off the tee to have a clear line to the green.  The green is wide and is set at an angle to the fairway with a bunker on the front and rear side.  A longer approach shot means those bunkers come into play more often than they appear at first blush.

The Fourteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fifteenth is a 410 yard par 4.  The number 2 handicapped hole is a dog leg left that requires a good deal of precision off the tee to clear the trees and have a good angle to the green, which is narrow yet deceptively deep.  There’s a ridge in the middle of the green where the rear half drops downhill, which is not visible from the fairway, and a deep bunker off to the right collecting shots mis played on that side.  A challenging hole coming at the right time during the round, with a very challenging yet lively green.

The Fifteenth

Approach shot territory.  A deceiving look at the green from here.

The Sixteenth is a 151 yard par 3.  Shrouded in trees, the green is of moderate size, with an apron running up to you on the short side.  The trees, bunkers and size of the green all message one thing; now’s the time to nail your tee shot, or the recovery shot will be more severe than earlier in the round.  The increase in challenge and decrease in forgiveness towards the end of the round is a nice characteristic.

The Sixteenth

The Seventeenth is a 475 yard par 5.  With the yardage and with the downhill fairway, there is temptation to go for the green in two, but carrying the water hazard and being able to safely reach it are serious considerations.  Otherwise, the fairway turns a little to the left from the tee, with trees making their presence felt on both sides.  Those who get out of position off the tee have a chance to get back on track, and probably have a manageable approach shot.  The approach shot is to a wide yet shallower green that slopes from back to front, with a thumbprint on the front left, which creates movement from right to left.  Lots of different ways to play this hole, the approach is one of the more visually appealing shots on the course and the green maintains its high level of creativity, all of which makes this my favorite hole of the course.

The Seventeenth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The Eighteenth is a 380 yard par 4.  A dog leg right where water and trees protect the inside of the turn, ensuring that most will favor the left side, making the approach a little longer, which it will be anyways because the green is elevated.  The fairway narrows as you get closer to the green and bunkers line both sides of it.  A great finishing hole that again favors challenge and strategy.

The Eighteenth

Approach shot territory

The back nine had a great finishing stretch of holes, focusing on challenge and making it ideal for match play.  I found the back a little more interesting than the front, mainly because the closing stretch has the best holes in my opinion.  Ranking them, I’d go 17, 15, 18, 16, 13, 10, 12, 14 11.

Generally, Bluestone is an enjoyable parkland course with an impressive set of greens.  There was sufficient variety and even when tee to green may have been standard, the greens more than made up for it.  It was an engaging course that favored ball striking and the ability to recover out of rough, bunkers and out of trees, while a handful of holes required some strategy and thinking to score well.  The Gordons are known for their greens and this course is representative of that.  

Gripes:  Nothing come s to mind.  The driving range made me develop a slice before the round, but that’s about it….

Bar/Grill:  There are a couple and they all looked like good places to hang out pre and post round.  I believe they recently remodeled the main clubhouse and it was quite nice.

Club house/Pro shop:  A separate building that houses the locker rooms and appeared to be well stocked.

Practice area:  All the necessaries; driving range, short game area and putting green.  Spend time at the putting green!

Nearby:  Bluebell is nearby, with a ton of places to hang out, although the club is probably the prime spot.