6,228 yards, 134 Slope from the Whites
Course: In Villanova, PA, Radnor Valley was originally a Dick Wilson design in 1952, but was completely re-designed by Bill Gordon in 1965, then renovated in 1997 by Ault, Clark & Associates. The construction and expansion of the Blue Route Interstate 476 played a significant role in the re-working of the course, which left it largely changed from its original design. The club is in the heart of the Main Line, set against some foothills, Ithan Creek and the aforementioned Blue Route. The creek has tributaries, so many holes have water in play, while some holes are set in the hills. Amongst hilly woods, meadows and wetlands, the front nine loops around the south end of the property primarily in the hills while the back nine is set on the northerly meadows and wetlands.
There’s a lot RVCC needs to negotiate in the name of golf. The Blue Route likely reduced the land they had for golf and with the natural surroundings, some of it not conducive to golf, there seemed to be a lot of maneuvering to make the course work. This is remarkable in itself considering the club’s other facilities are also taking up their share of the property. Beset on three sides by hills sloping towards the course then factoring in the creeks and wetlands, the course takes on a lot of water as well. Regardless of these constraints, there is fun golf here, led by its greens and their sloping areas. There are plenty of choices to make off the tee in negotiating the aforementioned array of natural conditions. There are a good amount of forced carries with the creeks and wetland areas, which bring in a pervasive penal element. Dog legs, with some turning fairly hard, accommodate the confines of the landscape. When the shackles of these natural elements come off, however, there are some holes I really liked, such as the Fourth and Seventh. In all, Radnor Valley does its best with the hand it was dealt, which leads to spurts of good golf.
I played a tournament at Radnor Valley, which will be relevant later on, and it’s a club I have been to for tennis and some dinner functions in the clubhouse. While its fairly close to my house, I never had the opportunity to play the course until this year. Feeling the need to play each course in my immediate vicinity, I took the short drive over there to see how it measured up to all the other courses in the area.
The First is a 323 yard par 4 (from the Whites). A hard dog leg right turning downhill from the tee. Trees are on both sides of the fairway for the tee shot and the fairway slopes hard from left to right.
The Second is a 162 yard par 3. A forced carry over long grass from the tee to the uphill green, which moves from back to front. A bunkers is on each side and an apron on the front slopes downhill away from the green. While the playing field is a good size, those really offline are likely lost in the trees.
The Third is a 441 yard par 4. A straight hole with the fairway canting from right to left, bunkers start on the right before switching to the left further down. Both sets are in play off the tee for the longer hitters. The right bunkers are more of an issue since the complicate the ideal tee shot, which should be towards the right side to move with the slope towards the middle. Hitting it past the bunkers on that side is about right and leaves you with the best line into the green, which needs to carry a valley and likewise moves from right to left. In fact, the green has the Redan quality of sloping towards a bunker on the left side, except the bunker isn’t entirely positioned correctly against the green to be a Redan. The same concept applies on the approach as the tee shot; the right side.
The Fourth is a 376 yard par 4. The right to left is less severe than the prior holes and the trees open up to widen the playing corridor. Bunkers on the right off the tee again complicate the ideal landing area while bunkers on the left protect those from trying to cut off the dog leg. The fairway leads right into the green, providing options as to how to attack the pin. The left side of the green is below the hole, with the bunker a treacherous proposition, while the bunker on the right is above the hole which could leave even a tougher shot than the one on the left. The fairway allows an array of lines into the green as well as distance combinations with the tee shot and approach.
The Fifth is a 348 yard par 4. Similar to the Third, the fairway slopes hard from right to left and there are bunkers on the left side to collect shots either landing or rolling in that direction. Instead of bunkers on the right, there is rough and the tree line to contend with. The green sits uphill from the fairway and if your tee shot wasn’t hit in the fairway, it may be necessary to lay up based on the incline. The green is large, however, and I found it much subtler than others.
The Sixth is a 357 yard par 4. A gentle dog leg right with trees lining both sides. Bunkers are on the right as well. The fairway ends with long grass and a couple bunkers, leaving an aerial approach into the wide green. The bunkers short of the green and the green itself were interesting and makes for some nice approach shots. The wide green isn’t fully utilized, however, with the tree lines on both sides. Clearing or at least reducing the trees would free up latitude of the fairway and allow a lot more positions into the green, which would maximize the cool green complex.
The Seventh is a 520 yard par 5. The dog leg right some what deceives off the tee by looking like another tight corridor, but after the turn, the hole opens up and leads downhill, revealing everything below and in front of you. There is freedom in how to approach the green, including going for it on the second shot. The fairway also starts to narrow as it gets closer to the green as well, with bunkers starting on the right before appearing on the left near the green. It’s a good par 5 and was my favorite hole of the course.
The Eighth is a 178 yard par 3. An uphill par 4 with an interesting green that moves from right to left, shunning balls towards the entrypoint. A couple bunkers are below the green on the left, ensuring that area isn’t a bail out area. Instead, bailing out to the right gives you a better angle into the green anyways.
The Ninth is a 409 yard par 4. A slight dog leg to the left, the tee shot is to the fairway below, which slopes from left to right. It’s wide, but there are trees and rough on either side to keep the the shot honest. The approach shot is to an uphill green where bunkers are on either side towards its front side, all below it. The rear side is surrounded by a slope covered in rough, making any shot out of it downhill to the green. It was a nice closing hole to the front green because of the wider fairway, commensurate with the wide green.
The front nine is on the higher side of the property, with the slopes and hills incorporated into each. There were some fun par 4’s and the par 5 was the best hole of the bunch. I would rank them 7, 4, 9, 3, 6, 1, 5, 8, 2.
The back nine starts with the 510 yard par 5 Tenth. The creeks make their presence felt early and often on the back, with not one but two forced carries over them on this hole. The tee shot can either lay up short of the first creek or carry it, where the fairway turns left and uphill to the green. The willow on the right off the tee is actually a nice touch and you see them throughout the back nine. The second shot is a forced carry over another creek, all uphill towards the green. Bunkers start to rear up as you get closer to the green and with a good amount of width, there’s enough room to negotiate the slopes and bunkers as you see fit. The green slopes from left to right and undulate with a couple hollows on the left side. A nice opening for the back and it’s the number one handicapped hole.
The Eleventh is a 171 yard par 3. Likely on the highest point of the back, the hole follows across a ridge and is a bit uphill from the tee. Bunkers are on either side and the angle from tee to green gives it a little more interest.
The Twelfth is a 412 yard par 4. With the Blue Route along the right side, the tee shot is down hill to a fairway that cascades to a creek. An array of trees are on either side, but there is good width here. The approach shot is a carry over the creek to the green, with water long left and the green wide and shallow. There’s a generous apron in front of the green as well, so plenty of space to avoid the water lurking here.
The Thirteenth is a 309 yard par 4. A short par 4 that’s semi blind off the tee. Decide what gets you in the fairway and how you want to approach the green, which is set off to the left…on the other side of a creek. The green is wide and shallow, with bunkers guarding it on either side. The approach needs to be fairly exacting, which in turn makes the tee shot that much more important to get right.
The Fourteenth is a 412 yard par 4. Still moving along with the Blue Route to the right, the fairway dog legs right and uphill to the green. Again, the width is nice here and the variance in trees adds to the ambiance. The tree line on the right rigidly lines that entire side, so the left side is enticing, and necessary to get a clear look at the green. Of course, bunkers line the left side leading up to the green to ensure one cannot barrel his way to the green with reckless abandon. Likewise, the green is sufficiently guarded by bunkers on all sides, except for a narrow entry point in front.
The Fifteenth is a 402 yard par 4. The tee shot is a forced carry over a creek of this dog leg right, where trees guard the right side, although leave enough room to carry them off the tee for those bold enough to try. There is a lot of room off to the left and straight, with the main purpose to clear the trees on the right for a clear look at the green. The green is above the fairway, but leads into it, allowing an approach on the ground if desired. The green moves from left to right and anything too far right hopefully is saved by the bunker on that side. Otherwise, it is likely lost in the trees or creek.
The Sixteenth is a 132 yard par 3. A florally scenic hole, the forced carry is over water to an angled green with bunkers on either side. The green is a good one, running from back to front and sloping diagonally, hitting the green is only half the battle here. If you’re off green, hopefully you’re in one of the bunkers, otherwise it will be tough going finding your ball.
The Seventeenth is a 365 yard par 4. The trees and slope conspire here to create a vexing tee shot, where you use decide to shape the shot around the trees to the left, lay up short of them with enough distance to clear the tree line on the left and avoid the bunker on the right, or try to bomb it down the right side and try your luck with the trees on the right. If done successfully, the green reveals itself and there is plenty of room to attack the hole as you see fit. It’s all about the tee shot here and with a number of options at your disposal, choose wisely.
The Eighteenth is a 401 yard par 4. The closing hole features a tee shot that must carry Ithan Creek before it turns left to the green. The creek is diagonal to the fairway, so the further left you go, the longer your tee shot must be to carry. The fairway then runs straight up to the green, with movement from back to front. The creek continues to run along the left side, so avoid going over to that side, as there’s plenty of room on the right.
The back nine meanders through the lower side of the property amidst the creeks, meadows and wetlands. It maintains nice width on most of the holes, with many turning and twisting to accommodate the landscape. I’d rank them 17, 18, 10, 12, 16, 13, 14, 15, 11.
Generally, Radnor Valley provides a challenging enough golf course for its membership on property that was confined a bit a couple decades ago. The dog legs, hills and trees are presented in different ways throughout the round and the greens move several directions. There’s some fun in setting up the approaches based on that and again, tee shots need to be thought out. There are places where removal of trees could enhance things, especially on the front nine. The challenge in accuracy here keeps things engaging throughout, however, even if the questions asked of you remain pretty much the same.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop. They are different buildings, but the clubhouse is a charming affair with nice outdoor seating areas while the pro shop is a separate structure well stocked.
Practice area: Driving range and putting green in one area and short game practice area a short distance away.