Course Architect: Gil Hanse
Year Opened: 2003
Location: Elverson, Pennsylvania
Slope: 136. Rating: 72.5
Par: 71
Yardage: 6,725
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 360 Yds    10 - Par 3 172 Yds
                      2 - Par 4 475 Yds    11 - Par 5 544 Yds
                      3 - Par 3 216 Yds    12 - Par 4 490 Yds
                      4 - Par 5 539 Yds    13 - Par 4 456 Yds
                      5 - Par 3 117 Yds    14 - Par 4 382 Yds
                      6 - Par 5 564 Yds    15 - Par 4 292 Yds
                      7 - Par 4 361 Yds    16 - Par 5 518 Yds
                      8 - Par 3 186 Yds    17 - Par 3 231 Yds
                      9 - Par 4 404 Yds    18 - Par 4 418 Yds
                      Par 35  3,222 Yds     Par 36  3,503 Yds

Awards Won: Ranked top-30 Best New Courses by GolfWeek (2003).

Events Held: AJGA Coursemax/Philadelphia Runner junior (2005).


HISTORY:  Not  much history to  speak of,  as the course  has only been open a
short period of time, however, French Creek seems to have been around forever.
Located  on the  rolling  terrain of  the French  Creek  Valley and  Watershed
about  an hour  outside of Philadelphia, the  land was once called home by the
Lenni-Lenape   Indians.  Moving  forward  to  the  21st  century,  local  golf
architect   Gil   Hanse,  who   has  designed  some   notable  gems,  such  as
Applebrook  Golf  Club in  nearby Malvern,  PA and Rustic  Canyon Golf Club in
California,  was  brought in with the  natural surroundings in mind. The Hanse
design  team draws  its inspiration  from nature  and all  its splendor.  "The
study  of  the land  and  respecting  it in  the  design  and construction  is
foremost  in  importance," commented  Hanse.  As  a  design associate  of  the
hottest  architect  in the  land, Tom Doak,  Hanse did much  of the field work
for  Doak and  also had  a hand  in restorations  at Merion  Golf Club's  East
Course,  Kittansett Club  south of  Boston, and  Fishers Island  Club in  Long
Island   Sound.   Hanse's  work  at   French  Creek  is  beautiful,  sculpting
bunkers in their truest form. The industry buzzword that is thrown around more
often than not is minimalism.

REVIEW:  French  Creek  opens with  somewhat  of  an  easy  par four.  I  say,
"somewhat",  as the hole is only 360 yards from the tips, but plays uphill all
the  way to the  green. The fairway is quite accommodating, but don't miss the
short  stuff,  as bunkers protect  the sloping fairway  to the left, 220 yards
from  the tee and a quartet of traps lay quietly 270 down the right. Even with
a  big  tee shot, club selection  will be key, as  you try to reach one of the
longest  greens on the course, stretching 47 yards. The putting surface slopes
from  right to left and back to front, and is quite undulating. Sand and thick
fescue  grasses  await any  errant shot left  and right. When  all is said and
done, making par is quite a good score.

The  second  is a  majestic par  four, doglegging to  the right and stretching
downhill  475 yards. Though  it drops 20-30 feet from the tee, this hole plays
every  bit of its yardage. Your tee shot must favor the left side to avoid the
difficult  bunkers guarding  the corner  of the  fairway, leaving  mid-iron to
another  difficult putting  surface,  just 26  yards in  depth.  A deep  swale
sloping left to right fronts the green, while sand and fescue are left and the
back  of  the green falls off  the table. In  a nutshell, be precise with your
approach, or you'll have little chance of making par.

One  of the prettiest  -- and most difficult -- holes on the course is the par
three  third.  From the tips, the  hole plays 216  yards and is all carry over
marsh.  The  green is quite  wide, but  very narrow with  a deep trap left and
woods  right.  The putting surface  features a ridge  in the center, then runs
from back to front with a shaved chipping area short and left.  It's too early
in  the round to  be suckered into going for the stick with a back-right flag,
so play your shot to the center of the green, two-putt and move on.

One of the most difficult driving holes, the fourth is an outstanding par five
that  moves right, then left towards the green, once again playing longer than
the  posted 539 yards  would indicate. The tee shot first must carry 200 yards
over marsh and fescue to the fairway, then another 60 yards to reach an uphill
ridge  in the  fairway. The  longer drive  will leave  an easier  shot to  the
landing  area for an  approach with your third, or set up a chance to get home
in two. Realistically, there are two choices here. The first is a lay-up short
of  the  thick rough  dividing the  fairway that  leaves you  150 yards to the
green.  The second option has you taking a little more club to carry the rough
and  reach the second  fairway, leaving just a short pitch. Either way, do not
miss  right at  all costs. Thick rough  and marsh will snare all errant shots,
while  left of  the green is virtually  death due to sand and tall fescue. The
putting  surface  is only  24 paces deep  and slopes from  left to right, with
chipping  areas surrounding the green. Don't get coy, take your par, as birdie
holes await.

All you need to do on the fifth is choose the right stick. Just a wedge should
be  sufficient on this  117 yard, uphill par three. The green slopes from back
to  front and  should yield plenty of  birdies. However, if the wind is up and
you  underclub and come  up short, then you'll have a tough time making bogey,
as a sandy, fescue fate awaits some 15 feet below the green.

The  sixth  hole presents  another birdie  chance, though you  must be able to
negotiate  plenty  of sand in  the process. At 564  yards, this is the longest
hole  on  the course and  requires both accuracy and  length to conquer. A tee
shot down the left side is the best course of action, however, this does bring
sand into play. After a solid tee ball, your approach must carry 190-200 yards
to clear the crossing bunker that juts out from the right. This trap, slightly
reminiscent  of Pine Valley's  seventh, is 40 yards in depth and a whopping 60
yards  wide,  so it  is not to  be taken cavalierly.  Clearing the bunker will
leave  a simple  wedge to a raised  green that slopes from back to front, with
sand left and right. This "r" shaped surface plays most difficult with a back-
right flag, but as with most par-fives, should be attacked.

The  par-four seventh is another hole that can be had, but all depends on your
play  off  the tee. A 250-yard  wallop down the left-center, avoiding the deep
traps  on the right will set up a little wedge to an uphill green, 32 yards in
depth.  The putting  surface slopes from right  to left, so play right of your
target  and  let the ball  feed towards the hole.  Missing left and long could
spell danger, with sand and thick rough.

The  final par  three on the outward  nine, the eighth is a downhill beaute of
186  yards  and features  a great  view of a  nearby farm  and town. Don't get
caught  up  in the  ambience of  the hole, because  you'll be tested severely.
First  up is  club selection.  Dropping some  30 feet  from tee,  the hole  is
susceptible  to  the wind, making your  choice quite difficult. A mid to short
iron  should  get it done,  but if  the pin is  back-left, then who knows. The
putting  surface,  although only 30 yards  deep, is quite severe, with a large
slope  riding  through the center.  Left is jail,  with three bunkers and deep
rough  and  trees, while right  is no bargain either,  as it falls off sharply
into rough. Your short game will be tested as you try to save par.

Talked  about visually intimidating, the ninth is just that. Although only 404
yards from the back buttons, the hole features a split fairway with a carry of
230  yards. The upper  portion of the landing area on the left leaves the best
approach  to the green, usually with a mid to short iron. The right side, with
a  wider fairway, plays  below the green and leaves a difficult, blind shot to
the surface. Factor in a putting surface at just 24 paces in depth that slopes
hard  from left to  right, well you get the message. Miss left and you'll have
virtually  no shot at getting up and down and right, well two deep bunkers and
fescue will be hell. The bottom line, below the hole and two putt for par.

The  home nine opens  with a downhill par three, 172 yards in length. From the
elevated tee, a mid-iron is required to reach the putting surface, which cants
from  right to left  and is just 26 yards in depth. Sand flanks the right side
with  deep rough, left  and long. The hole is quite exposed, so if the wind is
up, club selection could be difficult.

The  par  five 11th is a  gem, with a forced  carry of 250 yards from the back
tees.  Favor  the left side off  the tee, as a  group of trees guard the right
landing  area.  With a big  tee ball, reaching this  green in two is possible,
but,  and there  is always a but, danger  lurks. First of all, a rock wall, 27
yards  short  of the green protects  the entrance. Second, the green falls off
severely  on the left  side into deep woods and the right side and deep are no
bargain either, with more trees and marsh. The sensible play is to layup short
of  the wall, leaving  yourself a short pitch to set up a short putt. Although
narrow, the putting surface is 30 yards long and slopes from back to front, so
stay below the hole for your best chance at birdie.

One of the most difficult holes on the course, if not the hardest is the 12th.
Stretching a mighty 490 yards from the tips, this par four requires length and
accuracy.  A blow  of 230 yards is  needed just to reach the fairway, which is
protected  down the left  side by marsh. After a successful tee shot, the hole
doglegs  left with a creek cutting through the fairway and down the right side
through  the green.  Your best chance at par  is to play left and short of the
green  and then chip close. Now is not the time to be brave. Use your head and
worse case scenario is bogey, not bad on this monster par four.

The 13th seems to be a pushover compared to the last, but guess what, it's 456
yards,  uphill!  260 yards off the  tee is required  to reach the crest in the
fairway. The landing area is guarded on the right by sand and deep tall grass.
Although  its the  longer way, play left  off the tee to the ample fairway and
then  add  two clubs to your  second shot, as  it plays straight uphill to the
putting surface. This means a long iron or fairway metal to a receptive green.
Do  not make the mistake of going short and left on your approach, as two deep
sand  traps  can make a  mess of  this hole. The  putting surface runs back to
front, so stay below the flag for any chance of par.

On  paper, the 14th  seems benign at just 382 yards, but don't be misled. This
hole can bite you where it hurts at a moments notice. The dogleg left par four
has  one of  the tightest  fairways  on the  course,  followed by  one of  the
narrowest  greens at  French Creek. The ideal  play is a fairway metal off the
tee,  thus setting  up a short iron to  the green. The problem here is that if
you  miss the fairway left, you're in jail with sand, rough and woods. Missing
right  you'll have  to contend  with  trees and  out of  bounds. Although  the
fairway  extends  downhill on the right,  using driver is out of the question.
Next  up is the approach, a downhill shot to a putting surface that falls off,
left,  right  and deep.  Once again, back  to front slope,  so with your short
iron, play below the pin to give yourself the best shot at birdie.

Risk-reward.  That's  the call  on the  15th. A  great short  hole of just 292
yards, this par four can be had, but alas, perfection is key. From an elevated
tee,  a  blast of 250 yards  is needed to clear  the sand and slope before the
green and to the right. The putting surface is elevated from the left fairway,
which  is not a  bad place to come in from. Using a long iron or fairway metal
down the left side, will leave a short uphill pitch of just 70 yards to a very
narrow putting surface. Missing to the right with driver or three metal should
be  enough  to carry to the  upper fairway, leaving roughly the same distance.
However,  any shot  off line, left, right or long spells trouble. Thick fescue
and  deep  sand traps  loom everywhere, making  this, the perfect go-for-broke

The  final par five on the course, the 16th is another hole where you can take
a  chance,  with consequences. A  big, slinging draw off  the tee can set-up a
shot  at getting  home in  two, as  the fairway  on this  dogleg left,  slopes
downhill  towards the  green. A couple of problems creep into the equation. If
the tee shot is left or short, then sand and marsh will gobble up your strike.
Right,  well, trees and  out of bounds. Next is the layup. The fairway narrows
considerably  as you get closer to the hole, which brings the out of bounds on
the  right  into play and a  deep trap on the  left, 23 yards in length in the
zone.  Finally, the putting surface, although long, is very narrow and raised,
which  means  any shot  just missing  the green  to the  right, will kick away
towards  the white  stakes, which are dangerously close. The green slopes back
to front and right to left, so to err, go left.

At  231 yards, the 17th, by far is the longest and most difficult par three on
the course. Not to mention that it's uphill to boot. There is little margin of
error  here  as well,  as the  putting surface is  just 26  yards in depth and
slopes from back to front. Missing right spells all kinds of trouble with sand
and deep rough, so if you are to miss, short-left is the call. Making par here
is a blessing.

When  the  south-west winds  are blowing,  the 18th  could be  one of the most
difficult  holes in the region. At 418 yards from the gold tees and doglegging
left, the last at French Creek is a dandy. With a view of the clubhouse in the
background,  your tee shot  needs to favor the right side of the fairway, thus
avoiding  the deep trap and marshlands left. From there, a mid-iron remains to
a  fairly small green at just 30 yards in depth, guarded left by a large pond.
With  the  match on the line,  this is one of  those holes that brings out the
best  (or  worse) in you. The  play is to shoot  towards the right side of the
green and draw it in to set up the winning shot. A classic finishing hole.

OVERALL:  From  top to bottom, French  Creek is an outstanding layout with all
of  the  amenities. Let's  start  with  the  20,000 square-foot  clubhouse,  a
colonial  fieldstone building  with elegance  and charm.  With beamed  vaulted
ceilings   and  gigantic   windows   providing  breathtaking   views  of   the
surroundings,  there might not be enough adjectives to describe the clubhouse.
The  pro shop  is well-stocked with quality merchandise and the staff, well to
say  their accommodating  would be an understatement. The first-class practice
facility  is outstanding. By the way, even the name of the facility is classy,
it's  called a practice field. Next, it's the golf course. Wow! Nothing fancy,
just  a  solid, classic venue, reminiscent  of Scottish links courses with all
the  extras. Except for  the 16th hole, which I believe the slope on the right
side  of the green might be slightly unfair, as it could shove a marginal shot
out of bounds, this course is phenomenal. For a golf course that is spread out
beautifully  over  this Revolutionary  War-era style  colonial farm, the final
three  holes  are a little  close together, but I  might be too critical. This
course is very fair for all levels and quite challenging to boot. Ranging from
4,900  to 6,725  yards, French  Creek is  a course  for all  players. The  low
handicapper  might think this is a pushover, but he'll soon find out that this
is  the  toughest and longest 6,700-yard  venue he's ever played. French Creek
also  has seven different membership options to choose from. Take notice. This
course  looks like  its been around for  years. There is not doubt that French
Creek  Golf  Club will  soon become  the most sought  after destination in the
area. I just hope I get invited back.