6,188 – 6,300 yards, 133 slope from the Golds
Course: In Fort Washington and about 20-30 minutes away from downtown is Manufacturers’ Golf and Country Club, a club founded by industrial leaders in 1887. The golf course was designed by William Flynn in 1925. Ron Forse did restoration work in 2014, which consisted of bunker work and taking out a lot of the trees that had overgrown throughout the years. “Mannie’s” borders LuLu and is on similar rolling terrain, but is hillier, with a lot more hollows and knobs that Flynn used fabulously. You gotta love Philadelphia; a classic Donald Ross on one side of the road and one of Flynn’s best on the other.
Mannie’s features greens that use the slopes and terrain brilliantly, with what feels like movement every where, that opens up much of the strategy, options and accessibility of the course. Like most Flynn courses, the routing is very good, starting off on the top of the hill where the clubhouse sits, looping around to the bottom of the hill, then going back out again before looping back and either finishing at the bottom or top of the hill, depending on which green is being used. There is great quirk here that makes the course stand out and a lot of fun around the greens. The character and creativity seen in using the terrain, including the quarry in which a short par 3 was placed with a punchbowl green, are memorable. A perfect site for the clubhouse resting above the course and almost sprawling the width of it, there’s a balance of grandiose with the charm and uniqueness of the course.
My experience with Flynn courses has grown this year, as has my appreciation for him. While I’ve always loved his routings, I’m starting to really like and understand just how diverse a designer he was. From Rolling Green with its timeless challenge to Harrisburg with its severity of terrain and quirk, Mannie’s shines with intrigue and diversity. While all these courses are on hillier terrain, they are all different from one another while still maintaining common themes such as terrific routing, interest around and on the greens, and complex challenge. Mannie’s is definitely my favorite Flynn course played up to this point. In fact, it’s one of my favorite in the area. And to think, I haven’t even scratched the surface of courses considered among Flynn’s best!
Very similar to Llanerch, I was aware of Mannie’s and had heard really good things about it, but didn’t know much about it other than you take a tram from the Eighteenth green to the clubhouse if you finish to the par 4 green. While I had seen photos of the holes, I have come to learn it’s difficult to appreciate them unless you have been there and played it. So even though I knew of the holes and had heard great things, I had no idea why it was generally regarded as a good course. Discovering that for myself was one of the highlights of the season.
I played Mannie’s on one of the hottest days of the season. Sunny and clear with not a hint of wind. That wore me towards the end of the round, but bounced back with a par at the end. Even so, the heat wouldn’t stop me from the elation that I was out on the course yet again, amongst one of its masterpieces.
The First is a 379 yard par 4 (from the Golds). Teeing off from atop the hill upon which the clubhouse sits, the fairways runs straight out ahead of you, with bunkers and a few trees along either side. A tree near the right side of the green forces the issue in terms of lines into the green and there are bunkers on either side of the green as well. The green itself runs off the back side and left to right in general. A nice warm up with a terrific opening tee shot, where you’re literally jumping into the course from heights above.
The Second is a 350 yard par 4. A dog leg left with a creek running alongside the left side. More on that in a sec. Trees on the left and bunkers on the right are well placed to compel pressure on the tee shot, which must go far enough to clear the trees, avoid the bunkers and mind the dog leg, all so that you have a clear line to the green with a good lie, since the green is on the other side of the aforementioned creek. In fact, the green sits perpendicular to the end of the fairway and creates different angles to it depending on where you shot is. There are trees on the far side of the green, but otherwise it’s nice and wide, with runs offs on all sides, with the creek running directly on the right side.
At each new course I play, there is some point in the round where I’ll perk up, realize there might be something interesting here and get a little excited. At some courses, that may never happen while at others, it may not happen until one of the closing holes. Here, it happened at the approach on the Second. The placement of the green with respect to the creek and how it set up with the fairway was brilliant and played just as well.
The Third is a 390 yard par 4. Playing straight ahead back in the direction of the clubhouse, the fairway climbs to the green with a couple bunkers along the right side and trees on either side of the fairway. The fairway feeds into the green, which moves left to right, although the bunker on the right brings a little of a slope in the other direction. A challenging green for sure.
The Fourth is a 148 yard par 3. Speaking of challenging greens, we are now back on the hillside further down from the clubhouse, which gives a lot of right to left movement of the green. There is a bunker on the front right side, above the green, which should be avoided at all costs. There are also a couple bunkers on the left lower side and with the movement of the green towards them, gives this hole some Redan characteristics. It’s a fun shorter par 3 where respect must be given to the slope, accounting for how the ball will moves once it lands on the green.
The Fifth is a 378 yard par 4. Now starting move back down the hill, the fairway follows the movement of hillside, from right to left. A large bunker on the right is very much in play off the tee while the fairway starts to widen just after it. The fairway leads down to the creek we saw on the Second, which incidentally is called, “Sandy Run.” Like the Second, the green is on the side of the green, actually, it’s literally sitting on top of it. The green moves opposite of the fairway, from left to right, with lots of width that extends off the green, with trees on the far side. Again, it’s a brilliant placement of the green with respect to the creek, and the fairway with respect to the hillside, that results in a strategic hole thatch be played a variety of ways, all of which starts as you stand on the tee.
The Sixth is a 180 yard par 3. An uphill par 3 where the green is blind from the tee, the shaping of the slope leading up to the green and the bunkers placed short of the green as well, everything you see from the tee is strongly suggesting that you reach the green at all costs. The green moves from back to front, making any putt in that direction difficult. Trying to stay below the hole while clearing the steep uphill is a tricky proposition but makes for yet another great par 3 and exceptional use of a blind shot.
The Seventh is a 480 yard par 5. A dog leg right where clearing the trees on the right side from the tee gives you a chance to go for the green on your second shot. Bear in mind there is a bunker on the left off the tee as well, meant for gathering over ambitious tee shots that run through the fairway. You can use the right side of the fairway and its hill side to get a lot of roll off the tee as well. The green is set above the fairway, with a large bunkers guarding it well short and then one on either side guarding the narrow entry point. The green runs away from the entry point on the left and from back to front. With the movement of the green and hazards around it, deciding whether to go for it or lay up for an ideal position is a tough ponder. It’s an effective short par 5.
The Eighth is a 105 yard par 3. This is aptly called the Quarry hole. The clubhouse was built from Chestnut Hill stone, which was mined from the quarries on the property, which includes the area in which this hole is placed. A short par 3 made even short since the green is below you, the front of the green drops suddenly and severely further downhill while the entire green moves swiftly from back to front. The hill side of long grass and bunker on the back side is more in play than it should be, as you need to avoid the chasm before the green and getting a little too aggressive could be costly. In terms of short and challenging par 3’s go, this one is up there with the best.
The Ninth is a 468 yard par 5. Hitting to the fairway below, we march straight back in the direction of the clubhouse. A few large trees and bunkers loom on both sides of the fairway, but it’s important to get in a position for a good approach into the green, which sits above the fairway and has a larger bunker on the front right side. The green moves quickly from back to front as well. The entry point to the green is on the left, for those who want to use it to get the ball moving towards the hole. A great green site, while the hole is more of a half par to me, yet I’ll take any extra stroke I can get.
The front nine loops around the north west side of the property, utilizing the large hill where the clubhouse is along with a couple elevations on the other side of the course. The par 3’s are excellent, the use of the creek is exemplary and every hole is of unique character. I would rank them 6, 4, 7, 8, 2, 5, 3, 9, 1.
The back nine starts with the 415 yard par 4 Tenth. A dog leg right that drops downhill at the turn, with a larger deposit bunker on the left side in that area. The outside of the turn is more ideal for the approach than the inside, although a tee shot that will run downhill will likely be better to start near the right center of the fairway. The fairway runs downhill and ends at the creek we have by now come to know and love, with the green on the other side and two larger trees posted at either side of the back end of the green. The green is subtle here, moving right to left and back to front in general. With the hill and green set downhill along with the creek running just before it, the approach shot is a tricky one.
The Eleventh is a 175 yard par 3. The green is uphill from the tee and is semi-blind. Leading up to the green, three cross bunkers collect underwhelming shots while a ridge before them slopes towards them, creating a cradle of a ledge and making any shots short of it very difficult to deal with. An entry point from the collection area swings over to the right and climbs to the green, with everything to the left of the entry point sloping down sharply to rough. While there is lots going on here, all of it is screaming at you to err on the longer side, where you’ll be faced with a fast putt downhill to the pin. While this theme is similar to the Sixth, the slopes on the sides and front, and bail out area on either side assert its distinction. Yet another outstanding par 3.
The Twelfth is a 493 yard par 5. One of the more wide open holes ion the course, this dog leg right has large bunkers along the right side at the turn and the fairway cants from left to right. The fairway narrows as you get closer to the green, which is raised a little from the fairway. Two deep bunkers are on either side at the front of the green, which is seemed like one of the smaller on the course. Seemed like a potato chip shape of a green, which moves from back to front, towards the bunkers in general.
The Thirteenth is a 175 yard par 3. While that’s the yardage stated on the scorecard, this hole played well over 200 yards for us. By far the longest par 3 on the course, there’s a lot of room running up to the green to lay up with as well as from side to side. There’s an entry point on the right, with the green running downhill away from it towards the green side bunkers on the left, giving this hole a Redan feel as well. Considering its length, there are plenty of places to miss and try to scramble for par while the green is large and has enough movement to receive well struck shots and reward those that are well executed. The last par 3 we encounter is a good one.
The Fourteenth is a 385 yard par 4. A straightaway par 4 where the fairway tilts from left to right. There’s a large bunker short right, I suppose to collect badly hit tee shots. It’s fairly easy to see your ball land and roll towards the right side of the fairway, ultimately rolling off and below into the rough, so the left side is ideal off the tee. The green moves left to right as well and while there is a similar Redan feel since the entry to the green is on the left side and it moves towards a large green side bunker carved below, we can see how Flynn used the movement of the terrain to incorporate strategy into the course. The green makes approaches from the right side ideal, but that means flirting with the tilting fairway and possibly ending up in the rough. Maybe that’s not that big of a deal for some, while for others, maybe a clean lie from the left side doesn’t make messing with the right side worth it. Regardless, there’s a lot of fun and thought here.
The Fifteenth is a 525 yard par 5. The longest hole on the course, as well as the number one handicap, moves uphill and bends slightly to the right. Trees and bunkers intersperse both sides of the fairway, with a large apron and a moderate size green. The difficulty with the hole is with the length and tightening of the fairway compared to most others. While there is room to accommodate offline shots, the bunkers and trees compounds any error and makes recoveries lean towards being tough. Still, the par 5’s are a bit behind in complexity of the other holes here, yet still fit into the challenge themes encountered throughout the round.
The Sixteenth is a 404 yard par 4. Bunkers along the right side and trees along the left, with the green curling to the right. Starting just to the right of the second bunker is a deep quarry area, which runs all the way to the front of the green. This deep chasm should be avoided at all costs, but comes into play the further right your tee shot, as you will need to carry it to reach the green. Going in it means having to hit about 30 feet out of it, trying to hit the green, which will be completely blind. Advancing up the left side off the tee, then feeding your approach from the left side so it moves to the right is ideal. In other words, do not give in to the temptation of trying to shorten your approach by teeing off to the right unless you’re confident in not missing the green short. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.
The Seventeenth is a 345 yard par 4. An elevated tee shot to a fairway that runs downhill to our beloved creek. Driver may not be the best club off the tee. Some may be able to get close to the creek with driver, leaving a wedge into the green, but there’s not as much forgiveness here on off-line shots, so many may want to hit something more accurate for them that will leave them with a longer approach into the green and likely a bit of a downhill lie. Pick your poison but make sure you leave yourself with a clean line into the green. The green moves from left to right, with a bunker left and right of the green towards the front. With the tilt of the green and how it tightens up towards the front, it will be tempting to go for the wider rear portion, but mind the rear hill, which has deep rough and much longer grass further back. A deceptively tough shorter par 4.
The Eighteenth is a 393 par 4, or 505 yard par 5, depending on which green is in play that day. We played it as a par 5. The tee shot is a carry over Sandy Run one last time to a fairway that climbs uphill before cresting, leaving us a blind tee shot. As a par 4, the green is set to the left of the fairway, so it’s more of a dog leg left, with the green running right to left towards larger bunkers sitting just below the green. And mind the false front leading up to the green, which will send shorter shots away from the green and to the left. The par 4 finish means you get to take the tram back up the hill to the clubhouse, a Philly golf favorite, so enjoy!
For those playing the hole as a par 5, we stay to the right of the par 4 green and rocket straight uphill to the plateau green, which is adjacent to the clubhouse patio. For the first time playing, the second shot was tough conceptually, as you’re literally hitting your ball into a hillside. Because of the severity of slope, I was afraid it would roll back down, so I intentionally aimed for the rough, which I though would be easier to get up in the air for my approach shot anyways. The green moves from back to front and is fairly wide, yet the approach will be blind, again hitting very much uphill. Once you reach the green, take it all in and rejoice; the journey from the majestic hillside down into the fray of the course and back up again is complete and regardless of score, you’re a better golfer for it.
The back nine loops around the southeast side of the property, features a strong opening and a strong closing while the mid-holes are special in their own right. The par 3’s continue to shine while the par 4’s all assert themselves in different ways. The last, when played as a par 5, is my favorite of the course because of the severity and quick of the approach shot and green. Ranking them, I’d go 18 (I love how it can alternate between par 4 and 5 and how different it plays for each), 11, 14, 13, 16, 17, 10, 12, 15.
Generally, Manufacturers’ was one of my favorite played this season and really cemented a higher level of admiration for Flynn. While this admiration was probably inevitable as I played more and more of his courses, I saw a lot of creativity here that worked really well, including the blind shots, placement of greens near the creek and the green complexes. The quarry areas and dual greens on the Eighteenth are also very well known but truly enhance the diversity and strategy of the course rather than serve as gimmickry. The par 3’s really stood out and typified what I loved about the course; different looks, different ways to play each and fun greens to use a variety of ways. The terrain was used splendidly, putting a lot of memorable character into one of Philadelphia’s gems.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: The Chestnut Hill stone from quarried from the property was used to initially build the estate of a wealthy sugar magnate, but is now a spectacular sprawling structure atop a hillside offering majestic views of the course. The outdoor patio area is terrific to soak in those views while the pro shop has everything you would want.
Practice area: A couple range areas, short game area and putting green.