Feature: Above Par: The Best Courses
#7: ROLLING GREEN GOLF CLUB
Designer: William S. Flynn
Contact: 610-328-5535, rggc.org
How a classic layout by the legendary William Flynn could remain so little-known is befuddling. The course hosted the 1976 U.S. Women’s Open (in which not a single golfer finished under par), so it’s hardly a classified secret. But ask area golfers about Rolling Green, and you’ll receive a blank stare from half; the other half won’t shut up about it.
Those in the know praise the course’s collection of elevated approach shots, its plummeting and canting fairways and maddening false-front greens. And a spate of improvements during the past five years has returned the course to Flynn’s original vision. Not able to scrape together the $20,000 initiation and $4,300 annual dues? No problem. With the club’s easygoing, unassuming membership, cozying up to someone who has is hardly a chore.
#6: PHILADELPHIA CRICKET CLUB,WISSAHICKON COURSE
Designer: A.W. Tillinghast
Contact: 215-247-6001, philacricket.com
Most clubs would have rested on their laurels. After all, the PCC was already blessed with a classic layout (by the famed A.W. Tillinghast) that vexes golfers with its subtle contours and rewards for precise shot-making. The sweeping doglegs and cleft-lipped bunkers were penal enough to have hosted the 1998 Pennsylvania Open.
Today’s big bombers, however, like to make use of their $500 drivers, which prompted the PCC to commission designers Mike Hurdzan and Dana Fry to build a behemoth “championship-style” layout in 2002 on 250 adjacent acres. Although we remain partial to the bucolic charms of the club’s original course, the net result has been a doubling of membership.
#5 THE OLD COURSE AT STONEWALL
Designer: Tom Doak
Contact: 610-286-3030, stonewalllinks.com
Fifteen years ago, a few members of Pine Valley set out to found a new private club on a secluded 185-acre hillside an hour west of the city. When they went looking for a designer, they found a guy named Tom Doak. At the time, Doak was a relative nobody, an enfant terrible with big ideas and an ego to match. Today, the designer of the acclaimed Pacific Dunes, Cape Kidnappers and Sebonack courses is considered a brilliant iconoclast, perhaps the game’s finest architect. The advocate of the “minimalist” design movement, he has spent decades demonstrating the value of conjuring courses from the terrain, as opposed to bulldozing it into submission. Seen in this light, the Old Course (the second of the two Doak courses on this list) is the work of a young genius in bloom. With slippery, postage-stamp greens punctuating fescue-lined fairways, it gambols over the grounds of a former farm, delivering a dizzying links-style treat.