PHILADELPHIA COUNTRY CLUB
Course Architect: William S. Flynn
Year Opened: 1927
Location: Gladwyne, Pennsylvania
Slope: 142. Rating: 73.7
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 325 Yds 10 - Par 4 437 Yds
2 - Par 4 353 Yds 11 - Par 3 192 Yds
3 - Par 5 585 Yds 12 - Par 5 580 Yds
4 - Par 4 470 Yds 13 - Par 4 380 Yds
5 - Par 3 167 Yds 14 - Par 4 477 Yds
6 - Par 5 500 Yds 15 - Par 3 225 Yds
7 - Par 3 211 Yds 16 - Par 4 403 Yds
8 - Par 4 391 Yds 17 - Par 4 472 Yds
9 - Par 4 416 Yds 18 - Par 4 392 Yds
Par 36 3,418 Yds Par 35 3,558 Yds
Key Events Held: U.S. Women's Amateur (1899, 2003),
U.S. Girls' Junior (1949),
U.S. Open (1939).
Awards Won: Ranked 12th in Best of State (Pennsylvania) by Golf Digest (2003).
HISTORY: Philadelphia Country Club is the oldest club in the Philadelphia
area, forming in 1890. The club was the seventh to join the United States Golf
Association, which was founded in 1894 by five clubs. The original course was
located in nearby Bala Cynwyd and moved to its current site in 1924. The Bala
Course hosted the Women's Amateur in 1899, but it wasn't until 1939 when
hosting the U.S. Open, did the club gain national recognition. Byron Nelson
captured his only Open title that year, defeating Craig Wood and Denny Shute
in a lengthy playoff. Nelson and Wood carded 68s while Shute was eliminated
after shooting 76 on the first day of the playoff. On the second 18, Nelson,
spurred by an eagle-two on the fourth hole (present day 17th), shot 70 to
Wood's 73 for his lone U.S. Open crown in 11 appearances. A plaque currently
marks the spot where this great feat was accomplished. The '39 Championship is
also known for one of the most famous final-hole collapses in Open history.
Sam Snead, never a winner of this event, needed only to par the final hole for
the title. Snead however, thinking he needed birdie, played aggressive and
finished with a triple-bogey eight and ended up fourth. The Spring Mill course
at Philadelphia C.C. was designed by William S. Flynn with help from his
partner Howard Toomey after the club bought two adjoining properties in
The Bala Course, on a 60-acre property adjoining Fairmont Park, remained part
of the club until 1950 when the land was sold for commercial development.
Shortly thereafter, the greens were carted off by truck to neighboring Bala
Golf Club, where they have continued to serve golfers for more than 50 years.
Philadelphia C.C. has had many prominent players in its rich history, but two
stand out above the rest, Helen Sigel Wilson and Glenna Collett Vare. Wilson,
a 12-time Philadelphia Women's Amateur champion, reached the finals of the
U.S. Women's Amateur in 1941, losing to Elizabeth Hicks at The Country Club in
Brookline, Massachusetts. On two other occasions Wilson came close to the
title, losing in the semifinals to Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1946 and in '48
she lost the championship match to Grace Lenczyk at Del Monte Golf and Country
Club (Pebble Beach Golf Links). At the 1965 Women's Open, Wilson tied for
fifth after being in contention until the final round. Wilson was selected to
two Curtis Cup teams and captained the squad in 1978. The other storied female
from the club was Vare. Along with her husband, Vare was a member at Merion
and Philadelphia C.C., but she represented the latter in competitions. Vare
captured a record six U.S. Women's Amateur crowns, including three straight
from 1928-30. Despite being a lifelong amateur, Vare was elected to the LPGA
Hall of Fame in 1950 and three years later, the LPGA created the Vare Trophy.
That award is given annually to the player with the lowest scoring average on
the women's tour. Vare was also instrumental in founding of the Curtis Cup and
her namesake trophy goes to the winner of the U.S. Girls' Junior.
REVIEW: Philadelphia Country Club eases you into your round, as you begin with
a pair of relatively easy par-fours. The first is a flat, 325-yarder, bending
to the left with numerous bunkers guarding both the landing area and the
green. A long iron or fairway metal will set up a wedge for your second shot.
The putting surface is rather small and slopes away, so accuracy is key as you
attempt to make birdie. The player is then faced with an uphill, dogleg right
par-four, just 353 yards from the tips, although playing longer due to the
slope. A simple three-metal will leave another short shot to a well-guarded
green that slopes from back to front. Worst case scenario, your even-par
heading into the long par-five third. At 585 yards, the third is the longest
hole on the course, bending to the right and playing uphill from the layup
area to the green. If a successful drive has occurred, then the second shot
becomes utmost important, due to the cross bunker, some 165 yards from the
green. The aggressive player will knock it over the sand, leaving a wedge in.
The key here is to not shortside yourself around the green, due to sand and
trees. The putting surface is extremely quick, making par a good score. One of
the finest stretches of holes on the course begins at the fourth and ending at
the seventh. The par-four fourth, usually into the wind, bends to the right
and requires a long tee shot, favoring the right side of the fairway. Large
bunkers guard the right, making your tee shot even more difficult. Your next
shot is no bargain either, as you are faced with a long iron to a tough green
that slopes away and to the right, guarded by sand. Make no mistake here, or
bogey and worse could be in store. One of the most picturesque holes on the
course, the fifth is a downhill par-three, with water fronting and protecting
the right part of the green and sand protecting the bailout area left.
Although just a short iron is needed, you'll need to be right on the money. By
the way, the putting surface is probably the quickest on the course, sloping
from back to front.
The sixth is a reachable par-five, as long as you split the fairway and avoid
the water on the right with a big strike. Bending to the right, your second
shot will be uphill to a narrow, two-tiered green, with plenty of sand, left
and back. Miss short and your ball will fall back off the green and roll down
the fairway. Laying up is no bargain either, as you must negotiate a creek and
trees on both sides of the small landing area. The final one shotter on the
outward nine is outstanding, with deep bunkers guarding the left side of the
green. The putting surface is quite long and slopes from back to front.
Whatever you do, don't miss right. The eighth plays uphill and bends slightly
to the left. Sand once again guards the corner of the fairway, but a solid tee
shot will leave a short iron. This is a good chance to get back on the birdie
train, despite the two-tiered green, that slopes from back to front. The nine
closes with a strong par-four that requires a slight draw over a pair of large
bunkers. From there, a medium to short iron is needed to reach the narrow,
relatively flat putting surface. Missing left or right will spell bogey,
especially if the pin is back-right.
The back nine starts with a solid par-four. From an elevated tee, the players
tees off to a fairway that rises to the green. Miss left and your in serious
trouble, due to fescue grass that flanks the entire side of the fairway. The
landing area slopes to the right, leaving an awkward, uphill second shot. The
green slopes from back to front and is well guarded by plenty of sand. Another
outstanding par-three, the 11th is downhill to a fairly long green. Short and
left is sand, the largest and deepest on the course, so once again, picking
the right club will be of the utmost importance. The only par-five on the back
side is the 12th, at 580 yards. The tee shot must avoid the sand on the left,
so as to leave the player with a simple layup shot. Just a wedge for your
third, however the green is very tricky and slopes away from the player.
Birdie is not as easy as you think. The 13th is a straightaway, short, uphill
par-four. Your second shot will play longer than you think, so take an extra
club and avoid the deep bunkers left and right of this elevated green. Brawn
and beauty explains the 14th. The longest par-four on the course, the 14th
plays from an elevated tee, sloping downhill and left. A draw is needed off
the tee, setting up a mid iron to a green that slopes from left to right. Two
huge bunkers guard both sides of the putting surface. Hitting the green is no
guarantee that you'll make par.
The longest par-three on the course, the 15th plays uphill and requires a
fairway wood off the tee. All shots will feed to the right, but don't
shortside yourself, as two deep bunkers protect that side of the green. The
Spring Mill Course finishes with three beautiful and outstanding par-fours.
The 16th features a blind tee shot to a fairway that slopes straight down
toward the green. Despite a good tee ball, the player is left with a downhill
lie to the smallest putting surface on the course. Although downhill, this
hole does not play short, so trust your yardage, as sand all around the green
will gobble up any wayward shot. The best of the three holes is the signature
17th. Stretching 472 yards from the tips and doglegging severely to the right,
the second to last hole, requires accuracy and length off the tee. Missing the
fairway right will prove costly due to trees and fescue, but cutting the
corner is a must, as the fairway will slope from left to right. A mid to long
iron is needed to reach the long putting surface. Although sand guards the
left of the green, it sure beats the alternative...sand and an uphill pitch
from the right. Making par will feel like a three. The closing hole is another
dogleg to the right and plays uphill all the way to the green. Under 400 yards
in length, the 18th plays a full club longer. A good tee shot dissecting the
fairway bunkers, will leave a mid to short iron to a severely sloping, back to
front and right to left green. Leave your approach below the hole to give
yourself a shot at birdie.
As with most top courses, the key is to drive straight and putt well. That
certainly is the case at Philadelphia Country Club. The fairways are very
accessible, however miss the short stuff and you will be penalized severely.
The rough is extremely thick and difficult while the putting surfaces are
slick and quick, leaving no doubt, that they are the key defense of the
course. The Spring Mill Course is a true test, with undulating fairways and
small, well-guarded greens. Sure there are plenty of birdie holes, but you
certainly will not have your way with this course. What makes this course so
special. Let me count the ways. Style and layout of holes, conditioning and
most importantly...history. Quality, not quantity makes Philadelphia C.C. a
must play, that is, if you can get on.