6,475 yards, 131 slope from the Blues
One of the parts of any golf round I like to reminisce about is the journey that gets you to the First tee. That can mean a flight and hours in a rental car, or can be a few minutes from home, but whatever it is, I firmly believe it contributes to the experience a little more than we care to admit. I some times mention that journey (my Pasatiempo review comes to mind) and other out of state voyages are worth writing about a little as well.
Locally, I probably get a little more enjoyment than most moving into the bucolic areas nearby. The change in the setting is both geographic and a lot of times temporal. The rolling farmlands breezing by and then stumbling upon an occasional small town before leaving it behind and moving on to more hills and fields; it’s easy to forget that Philadelphia proper is an hour and some change away. Some times it’s moving into more mountainous terrain. Others, it’s the coast. It’s really the transitions of settings and surroundings that I enjoy. It’s part of the escapism that encompasses golf in my opinion.
Probably the only club that I played before knowing how to properly say its name, Moselem Springs is among those notable transitions. The drive takes me to the end of 422, then through farmland before heading into the hills until I feel like I’m stepping out of the car some where else altogether. It’s a lot quieter from whence I came and yes, feels like I’ve stepped back in time just a bit. Some feel that a remote location or distance may impact the popularity or regard for a course but I say, too bad for those not willing to make the trip.
Designed by George Fazio in 1964, it is considered a modern layout because it comes after 1960, but has more of a classic structure of play. Set among the foothills of Hawk Mountain, the hilly terrain comes into play often. This is no truer than at the greens, where the hills and ridges come what may, disregarding the green surfaces or any need to flatten out. Indeed, there’s a smooth rolling, bulging nature to the greens that I have found at one other course; Hershey East, which just happens to be designed by George Fazio as well. The collection of par 3’s is strong, all of them quite varied as they take advantage of the different points of the property. Moselem hosted the 1996 U.S. Women’s Open, as well as the Pennsylvania Open in 1996 and 2011.
There’s an interesting style here where the classic tenets of using the land and incorporating options and strategy are interspersed with the budding modern components of increased challenge with more dramatic measures of penalty for missed shots, as well as incorporating faster green speeds. It works well, adding to George Fazio’s design identity, which is indeed distinct in this way and becomes more apparent the more I play his designs.
Moselem is a solid course and could be better. The bunkering takes on a unified saucered shaping that drains some of its character (yet was a staple in the 1960’s) while the off fairway areas lack creativity. But make no mistake, I look upon this course fondly as a very good play worthy of praise. And of course, there’s the drive out to it.
The First is a 391 yard par 4 (from the Blues). The clubhouse is above us to the right, looking on as we tee off to the hillside that moves right to left. The tree line on the left separates the hole from the driving range but all signs tell us to favor the right side anyways. Bunkers scatter about the green but leave an opening at the front, once again mind the right to left movement, which prevails through the green.
The Second is a 389 yard par 4. A slight bend to the right from the tee as the fairway goes up and over the ridge. The green is pushed up a little with a few bunkers about the front while there is scant room behind and to the left. Now the hillside cants left to right, which needs to be accounted for on both shots. There is little room off fairway or even off green for that matter to work with.
The Third is a 166 yard par 3. Bunkers dominate the landscape on the first par 3 of the round. There is significant right to left movement at the green while long right is the only reasonable place to miss. The cart path is right in the ideal line; I could see it being more of a factor than it probably should be. It screams for the tee shot to be shaped either direction.
The Fourth is a 360 yard par 4. A dog leg left with an elevated tee. There is all the room you could ask for off to the right. A couple bunkers are to the right of the fairway, which tilts right to left. The fairway ascends to the green. It should be noted that while the bunker shaping is fairly singular, their placement is more inventive than standard side to side or linear. For the time it was built when bunkering was seen as fairly geometrical and took on an ordinary, predictable position at the fairways and greens, these could be seen as some what of a departure from that norm.
The Fifth is a 175 yard par 3. We come to the banks of the mighty Moselem Creek and must carry it to reach the green on the other side. The bunkers are rather large and cover most of the front and back of the green. The green moves towards the creek and the entry point, hastily. Another solid par 3 to Moselem’s portfolio.
The Sixth is a 403 yard par 4. We cross Moselem Springs Road and head up hill, which cants substantially from left to right. Again, I can’t emphasize enough how much I like the side to side movement pretty much every hole has. The tree line on the right remains rigid up to the green. There’s a bunker on the left of the green, which runs off to the right and drops off the hillside. Pondering that horizontal movement at each shot is well advised.
The Seventh is a 541 yard par 5. The tee shot looks down upon the fairway, which we can see dog legs to the right and climbs uphill from there. Bunkers and trees protect the inside of the dog leg. This is one place where off fairway areas could be improved. Instead, it’s miles and miles and rough. After the turn, the green is up the hill, deep and narrow, a bunker on each side.
The Eighth is a 454 yard par 4. The last of the three holes on this side of the road, the elevated tee looks to a fairway that seems to disappear quickly around the corner into the trees. I like this green a lot; it moves from right to left and there’s a bunker on the high side of the green, knowing approaches need to land there to utilize the land movement. Getting to the left side of the fairway for the approach puts one in the best position, yet that is much easier said than done.
The Ninth is a 335 yard par 4. Back over the road, the tee shot needs to carry the creek. The hillside is immediately apparent to us that its moves significantly from right to left, signalling the tee shot should favor the right. Indeed, the ball will land and roll forward and left. Any shot too far to the left will catch the creek, which wraps around the start of the fairway. The green is on the left in line with the terrain movement. Another great hole with plenty of decisions, an approach from the right will need to ride the hillside and mind its speed to the green while those on the left can take advantage of the movement as a back stop of sorts.
The front nine covers the lower portion of the property with a couple great par 3’s and some interesting par 4’s that twist and tilt with the terrain nicely. I would rank them 3, 9, 8, 1, 5, 4, 2, 7, 6.
The back nine starts with the 386 yard par 4 Tenth. We start at the base of the upper hills with this dog leg left. A creek runs along the entire left side before crossing in front of the green. I really like this hole, even though it is deceptively difficult. It uses the natural surroundings extremely well and really makes you think about each shot. The tee shot needs to thread between the creek and trees/bunkers on the other side while the approach is off angle with the terrain moving towards the creek and the creek then moving across diagonally, with bunkers lurking at each corner of the green. A great start to the back nine.
The Eleventh is a 422 yard par 4. We switch back and head down the hill, a dog leg right between trees. The fairway starts to narrow as we get closer to the green, a bunker on the lower right side. The trees will block out most missed tee shots but there’s a lot of room to work with on the approach.
The Twelfth is a 492 yard par 5. Back up the hill, the fairway dog legs left up the hill off the tee, which is also blind because of the hillside. The fairway keeps bending to the left even after the initial turn, the fairway significantly narrowing to the green and bunkers taking up a lot of room before it. The pull to the left is heavy near the green and there’s a lot of interesting movement at the green, which is at the top of the hill looking down at the clubhouse.
The Thirteenth is a 209 yard par 3. Riding the upper part of the hills, the tee shot carries a valley to the green, which moves hard right to left. The hillside indeed moves strong, so the tee shot favoring the right is wise, which must also carry the deep set bunkers at the front. Missing the green usually means a very tough scramble. The bunkers and hillside make it so.
The Fourteenth is a 378 yard par 4. Still riding that high side of the hills, the right to left movement stays with us in a big way. The tee shot will move left and the tree line is there for all of it. The green is up and to the right, long and narrow. The approach will need to negotiate the trees, bunkers and hill to reach the green. It’s a tough, splendid hole.
The Fifteenth is a 142 yard par 3. The final par 3 sits below the tee, slabs of bunkers laying across the hillside about the green. It’s another one where missing the green leads to nothing good and the golfer should hope he ends up in one of the bunkers so the hillside doesn’t take his shot and tumble it down some where unfavorable.
The Sixteenth is a 402 yard par 4. Just below the Fourteenth running the opposite direction, the bunkers are well placed off the tee and the hillside will now have the ball running off to the right. Same with the approach, the bunker on the left knows you need to use that side for the terrain movement, so it’s a balancing act using that side and avoiding the bunker.
The Seventeenth is a 394 yard par 4. Moving back in the opposite direction, the hillside isn’t done with us. The inside of the dog leg pulls downhill probably more severely than any where else, into the deep dark woods. Bunkers on the high right side serve their purpose of guarding the favorable tee landing area. After the dog leg, the green is uphill, a tree on the left and bunkers at each front corner defending things. And yes, the green moves like it’s running out of style, to the left.
The Eighteenth is a 436 yard par 4. The final tee shot does away with the hillside we have been dealing with most of the back nine by jumping off of it altogether to the fairway below. Water is on the right and is in play for the longer hitters off the tee and narrows the fairway at that point. The left side is favorable for the approach to see the green and avoid carrying the bunkers and waters while the right side is easier to get to off the tee, yet must then deal with all the features on approach. The green is wide yet a bit shallow, so account for that as you plot the final shots of the round.
The back nine uses that higher hillside as the dominant feature throughout, starting at its base then climbing up to it and riding it horizontally before jumping off of it, which creates a lot of exciting movement once the ball lands and bounces around. I would rank them 10, 12, 14, 17, 13, 16, 15, 18, 11.
Generally, Moselem Springs is a fine example of early modern design that still embraced the natural features and terrain, working around them instead of through them, yet shifted to a more testing round where missed shots found a bit more disfavor than measured degrees of recovery. There are places to miss here but they must be learned. The movement of the ball is a paramount consideration here, which largely ensures a thrilling, thoughtful round.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Sitting upon a ridge line between the First and Fourth, there is lots of room inside and out as well as lodging. The pro shop enjoys the left side of the clubhouse.
Practice area: The range is next to the First while the putting green is by the clubhouse.