Philly Munis

Walnut Lane:  Designed by Alexander Findlay

Course: Tucked in Roxborough along Wissahickon Park, the course is by far the best of the muni’s. Not at all a long course, but the holes are interesting enough with turns and elevation differences to keep it pretty amusing. And the green fees are unassuming unlike at Cobbs and FDR. The first 2 holes are pretty straightforward, literally. Then comes a nice little dog leg par 4 with a small green abutting an embankment, where a pointed approach is called for. Number 5 is a sleeper par 3 and much longer than it looks. You hit across a valley with a steep climb up to the green. Your shot must be dialed in or you’ll be scrambling. You have to cross the road for the rest of the holes. 10 is a creepy little par 4 that ends in the creek, followed by a par 3 where you’re hitting straight uphill on what feels like a bluff. Good fun. The rest of the course bob and weaves along and before you know it, you’ve enjoyed a $19 course a lot more than you thought you would. The course is in surprisingly good shape, but don’t take this the wrong way; you will never mistake it for a thoroughbred. It’s playable and there’s enough grass to go around everywhere. That gets the job done for what this is; some where for beginners or anyone else who wants to take a stroll around the park. There is a good group of regulars, mainly older guys, who have been playing here forever and are great company. I will go a little further and say this is what I always think muni golf should be. Character, cheap, fun.

Gripes: Some people use the course as a hiking trail. It’s annoying when you think you could hit them with one of your shots, or when they’re walking dogs off leash. Can get crowded at times, which ruins most of the experience. Do not expect the majority of golfers here to know ettiquette. There is also no range or short game area; just a net.

Bar/grill: They sell snacks, that’s about it.

Clubhouse: A 32 inch tv from the 1980’s, some of the old guys play cards and bust each other’s chops. It’s their place so move along.

Nearby: You have Manayunk to go for beers after your round. Try Flat Rock or Le Bus. Or if you want to get a little saltier, try T. Hogans or Dawson Street Pub, which are more in Roxborough.

Getting there: Easy enough, it’s off Henry Ave, about 5 minutes from Route 76, Lincoln Ave. Exit. Can get crowded during rush hour.

FDR:  6,004 from the blues with a slope of 116.

Course: Located in FDR Park across the street from the Linc and Citizen’s Park, this course is usually saturated, wet, and muddy. It should be golf cart only virtually all the time and you will see cart tracks throughout. There are a lot of forced carries over brush land and some ponds which actually results in some fun shots. A lot of the holes also have interesting angles and approach shots and bunkers never really seem to come into play. Probably the best thing about this course is the practice facility. Natural grass tee range and a large short game area, which is a rarity among the area’s public courses. I will say this is the place to work on your short game if you’re not playing White Clay or Scotland Run. I like grabbing a couple PBR’s, throwing out a half dozen balls and working on my lobs and bump and runs. Some times that can be better than an actual round as far as golf experiences go. Playing the course itself would, or should be, an option now and then to work on your game when I you don’t feel like paying too much and want to experience some different type holes, but the gripes section will explain why this course is not on my radar for anything other than short game work.

Gripes: Really, this course should be re-named the South Philly Country Club. Running into rough characters is not hard. Not friendly either. Envision denim shorts, white shirt or wife beater, depending on the weather, and your choice of hats, either Phillies, Eagles or Yankees. Or envision crocodile old guys who truly believe you’re intruding on THEIR course. Ugh. I can get over the clientele pretty easily, but the green fees are too high when you consider dealing with said crowds, course conditions (probably 3/10) and a backed up course (most of the time). One of the things I can’t get over is many courses like this charge just as much as some where nicer down the road. I don’t know if they’re depending on the regulars along with some stragglers who don’t know any better, but I generally believe you’d have more people in the door with cheaper rates. Money brings a lot of forgiveness for crappy tee boxes and bunkers, or having to hit your ball out of a tire track for the 20th time. If I ever had the money, I’d buy a course like this and test it out. Charge less money, keep conditions and facilities sufficient, stock the cooler and service always smiling. Something tells me it’d work. As it stands here, and a lot of other courses, you’re expected to over pay and apologize for coming. I’m not an economist, but I believe supply is bigger than demand in the area so I’ll pass.

Bar/grill: They sell snacks, but cheap beer (a weakness of mine).

Clubhouse: Don’t even think about, not that you would anyways. The crocodiles are hanging out and how dare you even come in to pay for your range balls.

Nearby: The stadiums and Chickie and Pete’s. May not work unless you have Phils tiks or something.

Getting there: Either 95 Broad Street, go down Broad from Center City or 76E near the airport exit. You’re high if you go near there during any of the games.

Cobbs Creek (Olde):  6,207 yards, slope 127 from Blues.

Course:   Really has the potential to be an interesting course. My understanding is that the Olde course hosted a major way back when and used to be considered one of the better municipal courses in the country.  You can see the bones of some holes and shots that are fun to play.  The approach to an elevated green with bunkers on the right and carrying a gorge and the clubhouse in the foreground is up there.  Same with the approach on 3 over a creek surrounding the green on 3 sides.  The tee shot on 5 makes you decide between two fairways, on one of each side of said creek that runs through the middle of the hole.  11 through 15 are long and hilly and 17 and 18 have great elevated tee shots.  Oh how I wish this course would get its act together.  They hold some interesting tournaments, such as the Irish Open (an early season tradition) and the Superintendent’s Revenge.  I like the events, but it’s the course that is a negative red bird.

Gripes:  After most of the course dwindled next to nothing many years ago, feeble attempts were made to at least get some players in the door. Then Billy Casper Management took over management and it seemed like Philadelphia would actually have a respectable muni once again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look promising. Almost nothing has changed. There are more workers in the club house, but I have no idea what they do since it still took a few minutes for someone to man the grill area. They certainly are not part of the groundskeeping crew, as the course is in very bad shape. Many holes have a very small fairway up to a green, but these fairways are tiny and narrow. Maybe you could argue that part of the challenge is trying to keep your ball on a smaller fairway; that would be fine except there is no concept of a rough here. Rough, or off fairway, is or should be more than just overgrown weeds, dirt mixed with gravel, and/or crabgrass. Rough still needs to be maintained or created to some extent, but here, it is completely ignored. Most of the holes are played on sidehills, so you need your tee shot to actually start off fairway and roll on. You can’t do that here since the rough is non existent. So really, there are some holes you cannot hit the fairway with any type of tee shot. I would say that this makes the course unplayable. The bunkers vary from puddles of mud to some that are ok. The tee boxes are the worst I’ve ever seen. There is no grass on most of them, just bare dirt. The greens are average, I mean, they are not dirt and have some grass on them, and are very slow. I didn’t really an issue with them though.

Generally, this course is not worth playing for the amount they charge. That is disappointing for me personally, but I’d rather make the trip to further away courses for a better experience and the same green fees. My main complaint is that something must be done about all of the off-fairway areas. There really is no excuse to completely ignore these areas. Any course where recovery shots and scrambling can’t be considered is unplayable. A lot more grass and fescue needs to be installed to cure this. I only hope that Casper figures this out and takes care of it. With the fees they charge, I have no idea what they’re doing with the money they’re currently making.

Bar/grill:  It’s a room with a tv.  Or you can sit outside. 

Clubhouse:  Barely adequate.

Nearby:  That’s a big fat no.  Not the best area, so stay at the course.  The beer is cheap-ish.

Getting there:  Off Route 1 and Haverford Ave. in West Philly.

Yet to play:  Juniata and Byrnes – coming soon