6,370 yards, 135 slope from the Blues
Waynesborough CC is on the western Main Line in Paoli, Pennsylvania. The hip upscale quasi-rural feel of the area is almost as notable as the hilly, rolling brook parkland terrain throughout, which yields some remarkable golf. Aronimink is a five minute drive down the road, St. David’s in the vicinity yet a little further, Phoenixville even, and so on. Waynesborough is the proverbial new kid on the block, designed by George Fazio and opening in 1965 – almost sixty years ago. Tom Fazio has updated every now and then while Andrew Green is currently slated to come in and perform work.
The course is set on splendid parkland terrain that fits the description above; rollings hills with a few brooks and ponds while fescue outlines it all. Scalloped bunkers flash at the golfer throughout, creating aiming corridors and structuring the fairways at times, yet always signaling to the golfer what lies ahead, all while having its intended effect of an appealing visual contrast with the fairways and greens. The shaping and size of the bunkers varies, as does their depth and challenge. The fairways and greens share in this shaping theme, some times sharply jutting or dropping while a gentler stroke comes in every so often. It’s a sporty course, where the challenge is directly before the golfer, the daring temptation to take it on dangerously strong. Some times there is no compromising in that challenge; the course has these intermittent gut checks that the golfer either passes with gusto or is sent to the drop area, bunker or rough in shame, likely already scheming to take it on again at the next round. While the front nine lingers among the same hills out and back before taking an outer loop and returning to the clubhouse, the back nine uses more of the interesting land features on the property, including a high ridge we encounter early on and some smaller hills and hollows as we move towards the closing.
It was host of the PGA Pennsylvania Classic in 2000 and 2002. That sporty feel certainly translates to a modern tournament venue. In terms of a modern layout, Waynesborough separates itself with its terrain and how it’s incorporated, especially on the back. It is not, however, a course you want to miss too much on. Getting out of position can get tough real fast. Its degrees of interest and challenge result in an engaging round that has a lot of ground movement around the greens, which adds another level of interest that many other courses of this time unfortunately strayed from. The bunkers comprise much of its character and in terms of visuals and playing structure, fit in well.
An overwhelming sense of confidence took over as I patted myself on the back after an outstanding warm up session at the range. That carried over to the opening tee shot, where I almost called out where my ball would land in the fairway. Then there was coming back to earth and missing the second shot, and walking away from the First with a double. Some would say there’s almost too much humility in golf. We carried on as spring continued to saunter in, softly and gently.
The First is a 352 yard par 4. The elevated tee overlooks a slight dog leg left, the tree line on the left and bunkers on each side leading up to the green. Clearing the tree line on the left for a clean approach is the priority and then avoiding the bunkers near the green on the approach is the other. The bunkers make it feel like there’s less room than there is near the green and with its back to front movement, avoid too much club into the green.
The Second is a 383 yard par 4. Heading back towards the clubhouse, the tee shot is to an uphill fairway that crests down and tilts to the right. The fairway outright dips down before coming back up at the green, which moves from right to left. A couple different terrain directions to consider on the approach yet the ground game is there for those who want to make full use of the contours.
The Third is a 415 yard par 4. And back out from the clubhouse, an elevated tee shot to a dog leg right fairway, bunkers on both sides of the turn. Bunkers are at each side of the greens as well while the entry point flows from the fairway.
The Fourth is a 156 yard par 3. A forced carry over water to a large green that moves back to front, a large bunker on the left and an apron short for a little more room to make use of after the water. Gut check time.
The Fifth is a 390 yard par 4. A dog leg left where some of the interest in the terrain shows itself. A hillside blocks the a view of the fairway from the tee and after the turn, starts to climb to the green. The twist and turn of the fairway and some of the bunker shapes keep things fresh while the green has a bit more movement than it looks.
The Sixth is a 194 yard par 3. The off green area is notable here, especially positioned away from the deep bunker on the left. Those steering away from that bunker and miss the green will have some delicate shots back to the hole, yet it also provides a little more variety and bail out room for those that miss the green. Likely the wildest green we’ve come across yet, anything above the hole will be nervy.
The Seventh is a 522 yard par 5. Although straight out, the hills, mounds and bunker placement make it anything but. The tee shot is to an uphill fairway, which may be blind for those who hit it after the crest. Then heading downhill, the fairway weaves through a bunker on the left and another further up on the right to the green. The entry point and short grass area before the green is off to the left while most approaches will need to carry the bunker on the right, which ends up guarding most of the green. Depending on how the golfer’s second shot goes, the approach may be a longer one and that bunker is larger than it looks from the fairway. A bit of strategy here in how to navigate to the green, especially since there’s so much room to the left to play with.
The Eighth is a 345 yard par 4. A slight dog leg left at the permitter of the property, getting in a position for a preferable approach is very much needed to deal with the green complex, which is yet another interesting one. The green is blind for the most part with its entry to the right. From the entry, the green moves up and around the front green side bunker, then drops sharply off to the left, way down. This is purgatory. The green actually moves towards that area, so knowing it’s there and hedging enough to get to the pin without gaining too much momentum to head down it must be plotted carefully.
The Ninth is a 415 yard par 4. Heading back to the clubhouse and parallel with the Second, the difference here is more bunkers and a smaller green. The fairway also heads downhill a little more after the tee without any of the horizontal tilt of the Second. Bunkers reside along the right side of the green while the entry point feeds in front and center.
The front nine has a good par 5 while the green complexes made for a variety of approaches and short game quandaries throughout. The out and back routing wanes a bit but the greens at the Seventh and Eighth are a strong way to close things before the challenging Ninth. I would rank them 7, 8, 5, 1, 6, 4, 9, 2, 3.
The back nine starts with the 404 yard par 4 Tenth. Heading off from the back of the clubhouse, the elevated tee shot is to a more wide open corridor than we’ve come across at this point. The fairway and rough, tree lines further out, it’s beckoning us to swing away. Just make sure you hit the fairway, as the approach will be a forced carry over water. There is a sliver of fairway tip toeing around the water on the right but for all intents and purposes, it needs to be carried. The green is deep and curves around the bunker on the left, so there’s ample room to work with on the approach; just make sure it stays dry!
The Eleventh is a 391 yard par 4. The tee shot is a forced carry over water, picking up where the last approach left off. The fairway finally ends at a creek and must be carried to the green, which sits on a ridge with a bunker guarding it at the front center. It’s a challenging approach and likely on the longer side. The hill is steeper than it looks from the fairway before the creek and if you end up short, it’ll be a blind steep recovery. The course is starting to bear down on us. Gut checks all over.
The Twelfth is a 325 yard par 4. A short par 4 teeing off from the elevated ridge, the creek needs to be carried yet again but shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a dog leg right but the fairway and green are essentially blind after the turn and a row of bunkers on the right are a defense from those longer hitters trying to go for the green altogether. There’s strategy and variety of lines here but the conservative players will be pleasantly surprised at how short their approach will be just going for the wide fairway before the bunkers. It’s a cool little par 4.
The Thirteenth is a 365 yard par 4. A dog leg left with plenty of room off the tee, the course makes the most of the rear of the property where the creek is as we head back in that direction. Bunkers are on the inside of the turn then on to the right further down. The green is on the other side of the creek and must be carried. The green and short grass contours around it are a lot of fun and with everything running back towards the water, deftness of touch is advised.
The Fourteenth is a 135 yard par 3. A shorter par 3 that’s a forced carryover water to a wide green that fans out before us. The short grass areas off green and once again impressive and add a lot more variety to the hole while also giving the golfer a much larger target area. Still, the water looms and there’s no getting around taking it on.
The Fifteenth is a 498 yard par 5. Dog legging to the left early on and framed by bunkers and trees, the tee show is harrowing navigating all of that but once the fairway turns, there’s a relatively clear path to the green until you run into the bunker trio short fo the green. The bunkers are staggered, on the right coming first well before the green then the others to the front and sides. The first bunker creates the visual that the green is just on the other side but there’s actually a lot of yardage between the two. The green is yet another interesting one that generally moves from back to front.
The Sixteenth is a 387 yard par 4. The tee shot is wide open but there are bunkers to contend with to the right off the tee. The green is elevated, climbing up and around a bunker on the left. This leaves the entry point to the green off to the right and the more right you are for the approach, the better your line into the green. I really liked the approach shot and how the green was configured with the fairway. Fairway position really matters and changes the approach dynamics.
The Seventeenth is a 166 yard par 3. Dark came quickly but we were still able to find our shots some how, so we soldered on to the finish. The trouble is off to the sides while the green has some sharp interior undulations and moves from back to font. Beyond the green, it looks like they have an additional green set up that’s like a short game area and Nineteenth hole.
The Eighteenth is a 527 yard par 5. Heading back up to the clubhouse, a slight dog leg right with plenty of length and a narrower fairway, a final note of challenge upon us. The bunkers on either side come into play off the tee but threading them is vital to stay in the hole. Essentially every shot will be contending with bunkers to some extent, so navigating those while planning your path to the green requires thought and execution. The green is set off to the left with bunkers crowding the entry point, all of them deep set below the green. It’s the pinnacle of the challenging round, ensuring that the golfer does not leave unscathed unless he’s at his best. The green feels like a summit in many ways, the refuge of the clubhouse steps away.
The back nine is better routed than the front and has a more interesting set and sequence of holes. From the strategic short par 4 to the longer thoroughbred Eighteenth, there’s a good deal of variety while the shaping and movement of the greens were a nice balance of challenge and fun. I would rank them 12, 16, 11, 13, 14, 18, 15, 17, 10.
Generally, Waynesborough is in a spectacular setting and a great example of a course having plenty of challenge without being unnecessarily difficult or penal. The golfer most always has a chance at recovery and the challenge is rarely a seemingly impossible heroic shot; instead the challenge lies in execution and being able to massage the well shaped greens with an assortment of approaches. It’s a more sophisticated sporty challenge than other courses that rely too heavily on forced carries, narrowness and small greens. The flashed bunkers telegraph to the golfer how to go about getting to the green and there are several that would be best avoided. The back nine is much more exciting with a stiff finish. A nice bellwether course that will tell you flatly yet correctly inform the golfer the state of his game, I look forward to see what Green does here. If his work at nearby Sunnybrook is any indication, there’s a lot to be excited about.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Sitting at the top of the property and well adorned in a modern comfortable tone.
Practice Area: A range, well moving putting green and a short game area within the interior of the course.