LLANERCH COUNTRY CLUB
Course Architects: Alexander H. Findlay (1928), James B. McGovern (1949),
Stephen Kay (Renovation, 2004-05)
Year Opened: 1919
Location: Havertown, Pennsylvania
Slope: 133. Rating: 73.5
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 397 Yds 10 - Par 4 438 Yds
2 - Par 4 432 Yds 11 - Par 4 457 Yds
3 - Par 4 467 Yds 12 - Par 3 176 Yds
4 - Par 3 205 Yds 13 - Par 4 344 Yds
5 - Par 5 556 Yds 14 - Par 4 456 Yds
6 - Par 4 416 Yds 15 - Par 4 321 Yds
7 - Par 4 393 Yds 16 - Par 5 501 Yds
8 - Par 3 221 Yds 17 - Par 3 150 Yds
9 - Par 5 490 Yds 18 - Par 4 296 Yds
Par 36 3,577 Yds Par 35 3,139 Yds
Key Events Held: Philadelphia Amateur Championship (1931, 34, 98),
Pennsylvania Open (1939),
Philadelphia Section PGA (1940-43, 65, 2008),
Philadelphia Open Championship (1942, 2006),
Philadelphia Inquirer Invitation Tournament (1945-46),
PGA Championship (1958).
HISTORY: Llanerch Country Club certainly has a storied history in the
Philadelphia area, as the club actually dates back to 1901. Still at its
current location, Llanerch was originally known as Delaware County Country
Club, a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Association
of Philadelphia. Just a couple of seasons later, the club changed its name to
Delaware County Field Club, as they joined forces with the Athletic Club of
Philadelphia. This merger of sorts was for the purpose of maintaining a "club
for the encouragement of athletic sports."
In 1914 however, this merger ended and the course name changed yet again to
Bon Air Country Club. More importantly, the course changed from sand greens to
grass just two years later. Bon Air featured a par-six of 655 yards that began
at the site of the present-day 10th green. In 1918, fire destroyed the club
house and just eight months later, a new charter was gained for Llanerch
Alexander Findlay, the father of American golf, was enlisted to redesign the
entire site and expand it to 27 holes. Findlay, who crafted the first golf
course in the state of Florida (Breakers) and the Mountain Course at Lake
Placid Club (NY), was a Scottish-born golfer, who came to America in the mid
1880s. Findlay also designed Pittsburgh Field Club and several other courses
in the Delaware Valley region.
1933 British Open champion Denny Shute was one of the first golf professionals
at Llanerch. Shute, who also appeared on two Ryder Cup teams for the United
States, was replaced in 1935 by longtime caddie and then assistant
professional, Marty Lyons. Beginning as a caddie at the age of 10, Lyons was
the head pro for 33 years and his tenure ended only when he died suddenly in
Thomas M. Fitzgerald, a wealthy, local furniture retailer and part owner of
the Philadelphia Athletics, owned the golf course in the early 1910s through
1929, when he passed and his wife maintained ownership. When Mrs. Fitzgerald
passed in the 1938, Llanerch Country Club was eventually bought by James A.
Devine a former President of the club from 1935-36. Devine purchased 119
acres, enough to reconstruct an 18-hole layout, as James B. McGovern, from the
firm of Donald Ross, came in to make the changes.
With Lyons at the helm, Llanerch was able to influence the powers that be to
host professional events from 1935 through 1946. The Philadelphia Inquirer
Invitation Tournament of 1945 was the one event that first put Llanerch on the
map. During his amazing eleven consecutive win streak, Byron Nelson posted win
number seven at Llanerch, as he shot a record-setting 63 en route to victory.
It was the 1958 PGA Championship that brought Llanerch Country Club world-wide
attention, as host of the 40th annual event. The Llanerch tournament was the
first Championship televised and the first four-day, 72-hole stroke-play
contest in PGA Championship history. Dow Finsterwald opened with a three-under
67, to take a one-shot lead over Jay Hebert. Finsterwald could only muster a
two-over 72 on the second day and was tied with Hebert at one-under par.
Following his second straight 67, Sam Snead moved into first place after round
three, one ahead of Billy Casper and two clear of Finsterwald, who shot 70. On
the final day, Finsterwald opened with a front-nine 31 to take the lead, and
finished with a three-under 67 for a two-shot win over Billy Casper. Snead
struggled on the final day with a 73 and finished third, as he bogeyed 12 and
double-bogeyed 13 to fall out of contention. The '58 championship marked the
first appearance by Arnold Palmer in the PGA. Palmer, who was the reigning
Masters champion, failed to break 71 all four days and tied for 40th. The
stellar field also included future hall-of-famers and/or major championship
winners: Tommy Bolt, Julius Boros, Jimmy Demaret, Jack Fleck, Claude Harmon,
Cary Middlecoff, Bob Rosburg, Gene Sarazen, Denny Shute, Bob Toski and Ken
It also should be noted that the 1958 PGA marked the network debut of CBS golf
pioneer, Frank Chirkinian. An Emmy and Peabody Awards winner, Chirkinian, was
Philadelphia-born and attended the University of Pennsylvania, but it was his
direction of the 40th PGA Championship that led to an amazing career.
Over the years, many changes to the grounds have taken place, from a clubhouse
expansion, a new pro shop and tennis courts, to an automated irrigation
system, however it wasn't until the late '90s that the members initiated a
master plan. In 2000, with the hiring of superintendent Brendan Byrne, major
course projects began to unfold, including a new irrigation system. With
overwhelming support from the club in the fall of 2004, the course was
closed for renovation work by local architect, Stephen Kay.
"This was a very exciting project for me," said Kay, a native New Yorker, who
lives just outside Atlantic City. "To take a classic golf course, modernize
it, but keep the same historic feel is a dream job for any architect. I think
Llanerch can stand up there with any course in the Philadelphia area."
Kay completely regrassed the entire course, including the greens and renovated
all the tees and bunkers. Let's not forget the removal of some 400 trees for
Agronomy purposes. After a recent visit to the course, local golf historian
Jim Finegan commented, "I hope they do not change anything here, the course is
REVIEW: Llanerch Country Club opens with a solid, straightaway par four,
stretching 397 yards from the blue tees. The right to left sloping fairway is
flanked by tall pine trees down the right and a bunker on the left. Your
approach shot is played uphill to a fairly long green guarded on the right by
a U-shaped bunker and thick rough around the putting surface. The green slopes
hard from right to left and back to front, so stay below the hole for your
best chance at par.
The second hole is the first of six par four's over 400 yards in length.
Number two is a tough-driving, dogleg right that the course has deemed as the
number one handicap hole. Trees down the right and sand left leave no room for
error off the tee. The green is open in the front, but once again sloping from
back to front. Sand on both sides of the putting surface will garner plenty of
At 467 yards, the third is the longest par four on the course. Bending to the
left, the tee shot is of utmost importance, as sand and trees right certainly
come into play. A mid- to long-iron will remain to a small, sloping putting
surface. Any shot long will prove to be quite taxing in an effort to get up
The first par three on the course, the fourth plays downhill at 205 yards.
Sand guards the wide, but shallow green and must be avoided at all costs. A
back-left pin could be the most difficult on the course, as the slope of the
green is hard to handle. Back in 1958, three-iron to three-wood was the norm,
now four-, five- or six-iron is the play. Better golf through technology.
After completion of the fourth, players walk across Steel Road to the longest
hole on the course, the fifth, a robust par-five stretching 556 yards. Sand
guards the right side of the landing area off the tee and must be avoided if
you have any thoughts of getting home in two. The second shot must be shaped
around the right to left dogleg, avoiding the trees on both sides of the
landing area. The two-tiered green is very accessible with a wedge in hand,
but long with a front flag will make for a difficult two putt.
The sixth is a straightforward par-four, not long but very tight off the tee,
as trees stand guard down the right and sand on the left. A short-iron will
remain to one of the smallest greens on the course, surrounded by menacing
sand traps. One word of caution, going long on this hole could result in OB,
as the course boundary is behind the green.
Running along side the northern boundary of the course, the seventh is a
beautiful, dogleg right, downhill par-four. Just 393 from the tips, so three-
metal off the tee down the left side is the play. This will leave just a
short-iron to a green fronted by a winding creek and sand left, right and
deep. So it goes without saying that accuracy and club selection is key. Any
drives down the right side of the fairway could result in a blocked approach
shot, as trees flank the landing area. The putting surface features a ridge
through center, which can play havoc with your approach.
Crossing back over the road, the par-three eighth is the longest of the set,
reaching 221 yards. You'll need a rescue club or five-metal to reach this
fairly long green that slopes from back to front. The putting surface is well
protected by sand around the back, left and right. Miss short and you'll leave
yourself a respectable chance of getting up and down.
The closing hole on the front nine plays as a par-five on the scorecard, but
for tournament play, it's a 490-yard four par. Uphill off the tee, the key is
splicing the tree-lined fairway as the hole bends to the left. Even with a
successful tee ball, you're faced with a long-iron or fairway-metal to another
slick, back to front green with the wind in your face. Sand left and right
guard the putting surface and must be avoided at all costs.
Playing alongside the ninth, the opening hole on the inward nine is a downhill
par-four with trees running down both sides of the fairway. Playing shorter
than its yardage, the 10th can be reached with just a short-iron for your
second, but you'll be playing it off a downhill lie. The creek 20 yards short
of the green should not come into play, but you never know. The two-tiered
putting surface slopes hard to the front. Two deep traps guard the entrance to
the promised land with one trap in the rear to capture any long approaches. A
back pin placement is next to impossible to get close, but if you're ball
lands on the top shelf, then you'll have a reasonable shot at birdie.
Back across the road, the 11th is the second longest par-four on the course,
457 yards from the blue tees. The hole plays slightly uphill and requires a
big and accurate tee ball to negotiate the tight landing area. The putting
surface is one of the largest on the course. Sloping from right to left, this
green is deceptively quick and hard to judge. Stay below the hole and you'll
One of the shorter par-three's on the course, the 12th is a beauty, surrounded
left, right and deep by sand. The putting surface is lightning in a bottle, as
it slopes hard towards the front of the green. Let's not forget the 45 paces
in length and narrowness of the surface and you've got yourself one tough
hole. By the way, miss this green and you'll be happy with bogey!
The 13th is a breather of sorts at just 344 yards in length. The key is
choosing the right club off the tee. A long-iron or fairway-metal should
suffice, thus leaving just a short-iron to an undulating and miniscule putting
surface. Although its the rated as the easiest hole on the course, it's not
one to be taken lightly.
In contrast, the 14th is one of the most difficult on the course. Playing
uphill at 456 yards, you'll need to crack a drive to leave yourself a mid- to
long-iron. The difficulty is choosing the right approach club, as the hole
bends to the left and uphill. The putting surface is guarded by sand on both
sides and runs from back to front at a rapid pace. If your approach lands
below the hole, you'll leave yourself a chance at par, but birdie is not out
of the question.
The final four holes at Llanerch Country Club are a great collection of risk-
reward gems. The 15th is just 321 yards and doglegs to the left. Big bombers
can cut the corner and give it a go in an effort to reach the green. The
problem with that logic is that the fairway towards the putting surface is
very narrow and trapped accordingly, but if you can reach a greenside trap,
well, anything is possible. The sensible play, is a rescue club or long-iron
to the fat part of the fairway and a wedge for your approach. The green has a
couple of levels, sloping back to front, so a birdie is in the offing. Stay
away from a back-right flag.
A reachable par-five, the 16th is just 501 yards and can easily be had if you
hit the down-sloping fairway. A fairway-metal or long-iron remains to a very
receptive green, with sand on either side of the wide open putting surface. A
false-front might repel some run-up shots, but your chance of making birdie
are extremely high.
The shortest par-three on the course, the 17th is a great, uphill one-shotter
playing just 150 yards. Several finger-like bunkers guard the front and side
of the green, another slick, back-to-front putting surface. This tiny, tiered
green plays half a club longer, so choose the right stick, or you'll leave
yourself a tough two-putt, or worse, a impossible up and down. It's not often
that such a short hole is rated as the tenth most difficult on the course.
At 296 yards, the 18th is not to be taken lightly. Yes, it's short, but
accuracy, not brawn is the play. The landing area is quite wide, however, two
tall trees guard the right side of the fairway, forcing your tee shot down the
left. On the other hand, the port side features a bunker, thick rough and a
creek running the entire length of the hole, so take your mid- to long-iron
and carve one down the center. Your approach with a wedge from 100 yards,
plays uphill to the smallest green on the course fronting the majestic
clubhouse. Another handful of bunkers surround this slick, back-to-front
green, so place your approach accordingly. Despite its length, a great
FINAL WORD: When one talks about the great golf in the Philadelphia region,
Merion East comes to mind, as does Huntingdon Valley and Aronimink. Well, it's
time to add Llanerch Country Club to the list.
Over the years, many changes have been made to the course, especially over the
past several seasons, as the members decided to close the course and invest in
the renovation of their club. In a word, success.
Stephen Kay did a masterful job in restoring Llanerch's history and tradition
and bringing the course into the 21st century. Always thought of as a top-
notch design, Llanerch now has to be considered one of the finest courses in
Most will contend that Llanerch is to short by today's standards, but you must
take into account that it plays to a slope of 73.5 and a rating of 133 from
the back markers and with a par of 70 for tournament play, Llanerch is as
tough as any track in the Delaware Valley, sans Merion.
Interestingly enough, the total yardage of Llanerch is roughly the same as it
was back in 1958. During that PGA Championship, the players competed on a
course of 6,710 yards, just six yards shy of its present total.
Nestled in the heart of suburban Philadelphia, right off the "Main Line,"
Llanerch Country Club is a classic golf course that has gotten better with
age. Four sets of tees, ranging from 5,674 to 6,716 yards, so all levels of
play can enjoy the course. If there is a drawback, the practice facility is a
little small and tight, but most of us mere mortals can't reach the end of the
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention course conditioning. Llanerch is one of the
finest maintained layouts in the region. Beautifully manicured, LCC's Bent
Grass greens are impeccable and lightning fast. A word of caution, as I was
told many times, "Stay below the hole." The square-cut tee boxes are a
refreshing site and the grand clubhouse, vintage elegance.
Welcome back Llanerch Country Club, we've missed you!