6,225 yards, 132 slope from the Whites
In Malvern, PA, Chester Valley Golf Club sits among the hills, its origins shrouded in mystery. It appears to have started as a club owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and named the Pennsylvania Country Club. The course may have been designed by Donald Ross but there also seems to be attribution to Perry Maxwell, in 1930. For Ross, his involvement seems to be mentioned in terms of drafting plans while Maxwell’s involvement seems more substantial, and both architects did work in the area (adding to the plausibility of their involvement), so either way, the course seems to have been born from legend. George Fazio then worked on the course in 1968 and is listed as the course architect while Ron Forse performed work in 2009.
The course is set on hilly land and for the most part, you play right over them and into the valleys below. Dramatic carries, heaving slopes and bending fairways are all part of the round. Figuring out how the hills deal with your shot after it hits the ground is part of the fun while those holes climbing uphill become more about bearing down and dealing with the blind approach. Trees encroach some what, narrowing corridors and demanding a good amount of accuracy in spots. It’s a challenging course for sure where most of the strategy is on shot placement considering the movement of the land.
I found myself in a nice swing rhythm at the First tee and in good form to take on the course. A well played front nine only lured me deeper into the recesses of the back nine, where my game inexplicably yet predictably began to crack. The course began to show its teeth, as my poor shots were given little leeway and even when I found myself with a nice opportunity at recovery, rarely did what I needed. Regardless, the course has a consistent theme and uses the hills prominently. Demanding at times with well shaped moving greens, trees impeded some what and seem to be a necessary evil; they’re needed to stop balls from falling off the face of the earth and safety, yet hold back the full potential of the ground game here. Still, those looking for a spirited ball striking round have come to the right place.
The First is a 371 yard par 4 (from the Whites). The tee shot is s forced carry over water to a nice sized fairway. Essentially you’re able select your angle into the green, so use the width here wisely. The approach is another forced carry over a creek that runs through the hole to an elevated green, whose entry point is on the right and greenside bunkers are on the left, below the hole. There are also greenside bunkers on the right as well. The green widens towards the back. A nice opener hitting the right notes.
The Second is a 537 yard par 5. Things escalate quickly. Another forced carry back over the creek to an much narrower fairway that climbs up and over a ridge, with trees lining both sides. After the crest, the fairway runs down to the green, tilting left to right and front to back, bunkers on both sides. Narrow, long, blind tee shot; the challenge shows up suddenly and won’t let go. The tee shot dictates all and the downhill shortens the distance to the hole, not to mention it’s beneficial if your second shot is a recovery out of the trees and you want the ball to run. A great green that makes sure you can stack just as many strokes up if you decide it’s time to slack.
The Third is a 321 yard par 4. Going back in the direction of the Second tee, the trees on the right and cant of the fairway suggest a fade off the tee, yet the slope is what deserves the most attention. With its shorter length, focusing on clearing the trees for a direct approach us all that’s needed, yet most will slash away with driver to get as close to the green as possible. A longer narrower green with bunkers on both sides awaits, uphill to the fairway.
The Fourth is a 349 yard par 4. An elevated tee, the fairway below flexes and constricts, as it weaves its way to the green. Little room to miss off fairway. The green is wide and moves well towards the front. Tee placement dictates most of the play here.
The Fifth is a 162 yard par 3. An uphill par 3 with lots of tilt from left to right. Much more that can be seen at the tee. I liked this hole a lot and while the short grass area short of the green can be confounding, the bunker placement is a bit redundant near the greens at this point – both sides, below the green. Here, the slope could be utilized more off green to facilitate a lot more creativity. A great place for grass bunkers and some short grass areas long and left. As it stands, it’s a fun tee shot and green.
The Sixth is a 393 yard par 4. The number 1 handicapped hole starts with a tee shot that should be well thought out. A downhill fairway that ends at a creek, it’s possible to end up in the creek, so think about ending up short; just not too short because then you’ll be left with a tangible downhill lie. The lie is vital, considering the approach is over the creek to a fairway above, which is placed in a nook in the hills, surrounded by bunkers and slopes. There’s not a whole lot of room to miss the approach here so the tee shot becomes critical in setting it up properly. It certainly earns its handicap, as the approach is difficult even with a perfect fairway lie.
The Seventh is a 163 yard par 3. A drop shot par 3 to a green with fantastic tilt from back to front and out to in. The green is a big enough target to hit from the tee distance yet again, if you miss pray that it ends up in a bunker or it will be difficult not to lose the shot. Whilt it’s always fun to watch the tee shot soar high above the landscape and land in the general vicinity you intended, putting this green was a joy. One of my favorite on the course.
The Eighth is a 385 yard par 4. The tee shot is over that creek, which has been nicely routed over the last few holes. The fairway climbs uphill from the creek, then bends slightly to the right to the green. Bear in mind that the fairway is canted left to right as well, much more than it appears at first blush. It would be cool to see the trees on either side of the fairway removed in my opinion, again to fully unleash the potential of the terrain movement. The fairway runs right into the green with a wide entrypoint, available to those that were able to nail their tee shots over to the left. A nicely placed hole that has room for much more interest.
The Ninth is a 361 yard par 4. Running along a ridge, the fairway runs gently down to the green, just a bit. There’s plenty of width, yet the trees hide the severe slope on the right side, at least from the tee. The green is straight ahead from the tee landing area, ripe for a tight approach to the pin, yet it’s a smaller green and greenside bunkers are lurking for the wayward shots. Another nicely shaped green that shows you there are certainly areas you don’t want your shot to be, depending on the pin position. The deception here is subtle and applauded. A relatively straight forward tee and approach, yet the green’s defense is the stronghold, with many not appreciating why they walked away with bogey when their tee and approach shots were so good.
The front nine stays on the south side of the property, crossing over the hills, creek and valleys between the hills on that side. The greens and terrain bring a lot of character while some of the greenside bunkering gets a little rote and trees stifle a bit what is a unique and strong landscape. The ballstriking and putting were engaging though, as I simply tried to ignore what would happen if I started missing too wildly. I would rank them 9, 1, 3, 7, 8, 5, 6, 2, 4.
The back nine starts with the 188 yard par 3 Tenth. While the clubhouse is behind the Ninth green, we journey on across Swedesford Road, where the Tenth through Fourteenth holes reside. Likely the toughest par 3, the tee shot is across a valley to a saddle green that runs off in many directions and has some dangerous bunkers around it. This is a hole that showcases the terrain nicely and while I managed a nice shot, again shuddered to think of those poor souls who didn’t fare as well.
The Eleventh is a 347 yard par 4. Well my friends, I was finally able to experience what would happen if I missed this shot or that one, as they crept in to my swing and stayed for most of the back nine. While this hole sets up nice to the valley floor below, at an angle and subtle contouring, I was playing my approach from the fairway to its right, then hobbled my way with bad shot after bad shot to the green. The fairway is the slightest of doglegs and ends at a creek before the green. Tn apron ramps up to the green, where the left side is to be avoided while the bunkers on the right are well below the hole. It’s a very good hole that allows you options off the tee and on the approach, yet looks upon misses and woeful swings with disdain.
The Twelfth is a 396 yard par 4. Up the hill we go from whence we just came. The tee shot is a chute to the fairway, which leads up to the green. Another nicely laid out hole that I butchered. Did I mention how oppressive the heat was during this round? That was it, my swing finally succombed to the inhumane conditions, despite how much I liked this hole. The tee shot is straightforward enough while the uphill approach is to a green that has a false front before cresting at a plateau with much more room than appears from the fairway. The left side is ideal in terms of views and taking the bunkers out of play, yet the right side allows you to use the rear part of the green as a back board of sorts and could be the better angle into the green, despite bringing the bunker into play. These are the types of shot decisions I am here for.
The Thirteenth is a 416 yard par 4. Running parallel to the Eleventh, I was familiar with this fairway and was determined to use this familiarity to my advantage. My swing had other plans. The fairway crests, then shoots downhill and turns right just a bit. The tee shot is likely blind. The fairway ends well before the creek, with the green on the other side, deep and some what narrow with a short grass apron in front. The tee shot dictates most and again, looks down on those whem are too loose laterally.
The Fourteenth is a 466 yard par 5. We now run parallel to the Twelfth, up the hill once again. The creek is a menace from the tee and decisions must be made whether to lay up short of it or go for the carry. The fairway then starts its climb. I don’t mind the treeline on the right, as it forces you to the left more, which is the preferred line anyways. There are safety considerations as well and without them, those on the Twelfth would be in line of any sliced shots. It forces a left to right flight and takes the draw out of play, which always seems to confound me. A couple twists and turns of the fairway, bunkers on either side, and we reach the green, which refreshingly has a single bunker on the low right side. The hole appears to be a shorter par 5 but once the hill and creek are accounted for, is well defended in other ways.
The Fifteenth is a 174 yard par 3. Back over Swedesford, this is the last par 3 of the round. As we’ve seen a few times, a short grass apron before the green, which is then pinched by greenside bunkers on either side before expanding after them. The green is a good one and while it’s generous in size considering the tee shot length, landing areas and parts of the green must be factored in to negotiate the green.
The Sixteenth is a 402 yard par 4. The strongest dog leg we’ve seen so far, moving right. Bunkers are on the inside to defend those trying to short cut the hole while left is fine, albeit a longer approach into the green. The further left is a better line into the green as well, so staying conservative here is smart.
The Seventeenth is a 381 yard par 4. A dog leg legt turning just as much as the Sixteenth, clearing the trees on the left is the main goal off the tee. Once that’s done, you have a clear approach but similar to the Ninth, the green lures into a false sense of security. Placement into the green is critical to avoiding putting woes. A terrific green.
The Eighteenth is a 413 yard par 4. The hillside shrouds the tee shot a bit on the left, yet also propels shots left and towards the hole. A well placed shot will use the hill and gte considerable roll to the end of the fairway, where there is water. The approach to the green is a carry over the water. The apron short of the green runs up to it while the green bends and crest left, running towards the rear side. It’s a nice finishing hole and does well to distinguish itself from the others, especially the tee shot utilizing the hillside the way it did.
The back nine is a stronger set of holes in my opinion, regardless of how poorly I played them. The par 3’s are varied and interesting and there’s enough with the par 4’s to keep it challenging, although the parallel holes of 11/13 and 12/14 were a tad redundant. I would rank them 18, 11, 10, 15, 16, 17, 12, 13, 14.
Generally, Chester Valley does well on challenging land where many of the greens were impressive and there are bushels of difficulty encountered throughout the round. The terrain movement is substantial in parts which is used nicely on some holes, yet could be used better on others. It’s a strong test of ballstriking and putting, which I’m sure holds true no matter how many times you play it. The dramatic vistas, the heroic carries to some of the greens and the greens themselves really stick out from my round here.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Nice size, a separate bar area and fantastic outdor patio with a cool 19th hole island green.
Practice area: A driving range is set over near the Fifteenth.