6,440 yards, 135 slope from the Blues
In Concordville, Pennsylvania, which sits northwest of downtown Philadelphia just outside West Chester, is Concord Country Club, with a course designed by William Flynn. All eighteen holes were open for play in 1925. Geoffrey Cornish redesigned parts of the course in the 1970’s, including the Sixth and Sixteenth, and built new holes at the Fourth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Seventeenth. Most recently, Forse and Nagle have undergone what the club characterizes as “restoration and modernization” work. Both are proficient in Flynn’s design style and essentially worked to bring the course back to Flynn’s original design while making Cornish’s work cohesive with it. When I played it, the new Fourteenth was just about to open as well. The course has evolved and currently presents as an open layout on the front while marching into the wooded hills on the back until finally emerging back into the open on the final two holes.
Concord CC played well to me. Indeed, I would characterize it as a ‘modern’ Flynn. It plays like a classic, yet the green surrounds and shaping has a modern sculpted feel. There are a number of forced carries but an exciting ground game is there for the taking. The land comprises of hills, which then drift into a lower portion carved by a creek that runs through a lot of the property. Philadelphia is the land of Flynn and while Concord has evolved over the years, many of Flynn’s design tenets are in tact. The terrain features are utilized well and accentuated, bunkers are well placed and flashed, yet most importantly, the course holds your interest. First and foremost, Flynn strived for interest in his courses. That is certainly present here, from the opener until the final putt.
In the late Spring, I finally had an opportunity to play Concord. I didn’t know much about the course beforehand, other than of its Flynn origins and that it was near Glen Mills. I enjoy showing up to courses without knowing much about them at times. I have no preconceived notions and allow the course to do all the talking. That was certainly the case here and after meeting our gracious host, I promptly belted my opening tee shot into the trees way to the right and began my foray into Concord.
The First is a 375 yard par 4 (from the Blues). A dog leg left with water on that side, presenting an elevated tee shot where you can take on as much as the water you’d like. Trees are camped on the right, scolding those who go too far off in that direction, or even too far straight. The fairway cants from right to left, towards the water, as it climbs to the green that tilts in the same direction. Lots of ways to open the round, with the more conservative among us opting for right and dry with a longer approach while the daring set give in to visions of carrying all the water and landing on the green. It’s all before you; what you do with it is the question for the ages.
The Second is a 317 yard par 4. A short par 4 that is all uphill, the tee shot dictates all. Again, temptation lurks for those who want to use length off the tee while the hole is short enough that hitting to the fairway with something shorter can be just as effective. Avoiding the bunkers is paramount if there’s any desire to get to the green on the second shot, so however you make it to some portion of the fairway is the play. The first bunkers gets close to center, which makes you want to carry it off the tee or hedge to the right, but too far right is a bunker below the fairway altogether. Bunkers also guard the front of the green and with all of it moving from back to front, the approach is a delicate dance. A nice two hole opener that is less of a handshake and more like skipping the small talk.
The Third is a 335 yard par 4. A dog leg left with the fairway sloping left towards the bunkers and downhill away from the tee. Water separates fairway from green, which sits uphill. Like the Second, the tee shot is vital and driver is not the only club that can be used effectively. Mind the movement of the fairway off the tee as well.
The Fourth is a 182 yard par 3. The green is a tad uphill yet there’s lots of width that leads right up to the green. The internal contours have the green large and rolling, generally from back to front. Now’s the time for birdie, friend.
The Fifth is a 354 yard par 4. The tee shot sets up similarly to the First, with the fairway set at a left to right angle, water on the left, trees on the right and the fairway moving towards the water. Take off as much as the water as you can to set up the approach, which is a forced carry over water to the green. The green is small, so there’s a lot of incentive to get as close to it as possible from the tee.
The Sixth is a 550 yard par 5. Now at the top of the property and following it across, the fairway rises, falls, then rises again to the green. Like the others before it, there’s a general cant to the fairway, this one left to right. There’s many hats to the second shot, so pick the one that suits you and get on with it. The green is larger, uphill from the green and for some reason, reminded me of the Fourteenth at Merion East. Perhaps because of the expansive yet abrupt rise of the fairway to the green.
The Seventh is a 429 yard par 4. A heave of the fairway makes the tee shot blind, with the fairway turning left then uphill to the green. The green side bunkers on the righter well below it, yet the green entices those to go directly for the green, even though it’s likely a longer shot than it looks. It’s a challenging hole, playing as the number 2 handicap. Enjoy.
The Eighth is a 175 yard par 3. Looks easy enough, the wide green sits below the tee, just waiting to guide your ball to the hole. The bunkers are more geometrical than usual, off to the sides and looking more bark than bite. Maybe it’s the bolder features of the green or that the bunkers impose more than we want to admit, but the hole plays a little tougher than it looks, yet just as fun.
The Ninth is a 404 yard par 4. We head straight away, the sky beyond, the grass and sand before you, artfully and welcoming. Get it out there, then the green. The bunkers are few yet substantial. The green is inviting as well, all making for a nice ease to close out the front.
The front nine loops around the high side of the property, open and airy – relying on the ground contours, bunkers and a few water hazards for its character. I really enjoyed the walk around these nine holes. It just had a nice natural ease. I’d rank them 6, 2, 8, 9, 7, 1, 5, 3, 4.
The back nine starts with the 329 yard par 4 Tenth. A short par 4 where the fairway dips from tee to green, upping its length. The fairway tilts from left to right, which makes the fairway bunker on the right well below fairway and green. The green is deep yet narrow and falls off completely on the right. The green moves quickly from left to right as well, so moving up the right side makes some sense.
The Eleventh is a 179 yard par 3. A steep uphill green is larger than it looks from the tee, but any shot off the green will likely be well below it, in deeper rough. There’s a little hit it or else feeling here and for me, it was or else land. The good thing is all the walking on this hole was enough of a workout for the dinner I planned on taking on afterwards.
The Twelfth is a 435 yard par 4. We begin the eventual march into the woods and lower side of the property. A some what manageable approach….so long as you nail the tee shot, which is to a fairway sloping hard to the left. A creek bisects the fairway, seemingly floating in mid air since it’s above the first fairway, with the second fairway clamoring all the way up to the green. Confinement starts to creep into the round, as those wayward shots are treated with less hospitality. The height of the green makes shots into the green from the first fairway much longer than it looks, so take it into account. All of a sudden, that 435 yards starts to stretch out a bit.
The Thirteenth is a 419 yard par 4. It’s the number one handicapped hole, going deeper into the woods. The trees thicken on both sides as the fairway winds down to the green. A creek splits the fairway into two, making the closer left side tighter and right side more forgiving. The green is off to the left and just uphill from the turning fairway. Moving with the hillside to the right, a bunker collects shots off the right side, with the creek below that. Lots going on within those trees.
The Fourteenth is a 543 yard par 5. At the lowest point of the course, the tee shot is a forced carry over water to an uphill fairway. The hole is in a bit of a flux right now, with a new green being built in what I believe will turn into a par 4. When I played it, the fairway continues straddling the bottom of the hill until eventually turning hard right then climbing to the green. Those who know the hole intimately can carry the hillside and cut the turn to the green, but the shot is completely blind so it’s imperative you know the angles well. A long climb to a wide smallish green and the torrential rain we faced on this hole came to an end.
The Fifteenth is a 156 yard par 3. An elevated tee shot to a larger green with wide bunkers on each side an an entry point front and center. Some movement to the left with the hillside but the green contours also fight that and move right.
The Sixteenth is a 443 yard par 4. Almost out of the trees, this slight dog leg right is tree lined that leads to an intriguing green complex with a single green side bunker that the green boomerangs around. Finding the right angle off the tee, then selecting a good line to the green considering how you’re oriented to that bunker and the green slopes gives this hole lots of interest.
The Seventeenth is a 313 yard par 4. All uphill to the green, the fairway snakes between bunkers on each side. More bunkers are closer to the green. Dealing with the slope and bunkers is sufficient challenge now that the course widens back up.
The Eighteenth is a 502 yard par 5. With the hole and clubhouse in full view below, the fairway starts to move to the left before ending into water. Water is on both sides closer to the green as well, so those trying to reach the green on the second shot need to be fairly on line. Bunkers of all shapes and sizes protect the green, which sits above the fairway and in view of the clubhouse. Setting up the ideal approach is advisable to ensure the green is reached with the approach and avoid all that trouble up there.
The back nine loops around the lower side of the property, coming in and out of the woods. A different character than the front; a little more elaborate and sharper angles to deal with. I’d rank them 16, 10, 18, 11, 17, 13, 14, 12, 15.
Generally, Concord transitions nicely from one landscape to another in terms of design style. The front nine on the higher side of the property is more open and ground-based, likely draining faster and stays firm and fast for the most part while the back nine adjusts to the wooded terrain and creeks of the lower side. Flynn’s design has been revised, supplemented, then restored over the years, yet most of the holes have Flynn in them. From the use of the creek on the Thirteenth to the tee shots on the First and Fifth, the round consists of strategic negotiating of the natural landscape in a variety of ways. While a few holes were ho-hum, Concord was an enjoyable low profile layout with lots of impressive features.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: The clubhouse overlooks the First, Seventeenth and Eighteenth, with views both indoors and outdoors, while the pro shop is well stocked.
Practice area: A smallish driving range, short game area and putting green near the First.