Course Architect: Edward F. Shearon III
Year Opened: 2005
Location: Pottstown, Pennsylvania
Slope: 130. Rating: 71.0
Par: 71
Yardage: 6,740
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 5 526 Yds    10 - Par 5 634 Yds
                      2 - Par 4 361 Yds    11 - Par 4 416 Yds
                      3 - Par 3 209 Yds    12 - Par 4 395 Yds
                      4 - Par 4 399 Yds    13 - Par 4 429 Yds
                      5 - Par 4 440 Yds    14 - Par 3 137 Yds
                      6 - Par 3 160 Yds    15 - Par 4 394 Yds
                      7 - Par 5 523 Yds    16 - Par 4 391 Yds
                      8 - Par 4 319 Yds    17 - Par 3 242 Yds
                      9 - Par 4 397 Yds    18 - Par 4 368 Yds
                      Par 36  3,334 Yds     Par 35  3,406 Yds

Awards Won: Rated #9 Best State-by-State rankings (PA) by Golfweek (2007),
            No. 8 Public Course in Pennsylvania by Golf Week (2006),
            Best New Public Course nomination by Golf Digest (2006).

Websites: www.ravensclawgolfclub.com

HISTORY: The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region is golf rich. Merion Golf Club,
Philadelphia  Country Club, Rolling Green Golf Club, Philadelphia Cricket Club
and Huntingdon Valley Country Club to name a few.

However,  in general,  the masses  are always  looking for  a few  good public
courses  to tackle and at a reasonable price. Look no further, as Raven's Claw
Golf Club is just a stones throw from the city of Brotherly Love.

Local  architect Ed Shearon,  who grew up in the area, was awarded the task of
carving  out a  course  suitable for  all players.  Shearon,  who has  crafted
several  courses  in the region,  has also  done some wonderful renovation and
redesign  work on  numerous Philadelphia  classics, such  as Merion  (East and
West), Whitemarsh Valley and Manufacturers.

The  property,  which covers 550 acres  for a residential community and a golf
course,  is  complete with  elevation changes, rolling  fields, tall stands of
trees, marshes, ravines and creek beds. "It has beautiful bluffs and plateaus,
indigenous  woodland areas  with  120-150  foot high  trees  and  a couple  of
isolated  wetland  areas that  we were  able to  incorporate into the design,"
commented  Shearon. "We  just had  to  fit the  golf course  into the  natural
features.  We  didn't move  a lot  of soil, we  just placed  it in the natural

The  golf course, which sits on 186 acres, actually benefited from the housing
project,  from  roads and bridges,  to sewers  and other elements totaling $18
million  dollars, which would have been a tremendous out of pocket cost to the
golf  course. In  return, the homeowner is quite happy with the natural beauty
of  the property,  enhancing his  land value,  and the  golfer is  not charged
exorbitant prices.

The  putting surfaces  feature many distinct quadrants, averaging around 6,000
square  feet with  each green boasting a championship pin position. The course
also  features 72  sand traps,  each with  a specific  purpose. The  course is
certainly  not  a back-breaker  at under 6,800  yards, as Shearon incorporated
many design philosophies of the Philly gems into this design. "The old classic
Philadelphia  golf  courses had  real balance  to them. We  did the exact same
thing  with  this golf  course. If  I wanted to  stretch it  to 7,000 yards, I
probably  could, but  then I would have  had to change a lot of the topography
and not utilize all the classic features."

Why  the name  Raven's  Claw?  It should  be  noted  that before  construction
started,  Shearon was walking  the site and noticed a raven land on the branch
of a dead tree, providing a spectacular view into the setting sun.

COURSE ANALYSIS: The course opens with a reachable, dogleg right par five just
526  yards in  length. The  real  challenge is  avoiding the  trio of  fairway
bunkers  down  the left and  the mounding and driving  range on the right. The
hole  tightens as you close towards the green, that's protected on the left by
a  pair  of bunkers and  one on the  right. The putting  surface is one of the
smallest  on the course  at just 28 paces in length, but with a wedge in hand,
birdie is certainly a possibility. By the way, the stone relic around the 100-
yard  marker on the  right, part of the history of the property, dates back to
before  the  Civil War. According  to the scorecard,  it does allow for relief
without penalty if swing or line of flight is interfered with.

The  first of eight par fours under 400 yards, the second is a definite birdie
hole. The landing area is quite generous if you decide to lay back with a long
iron  or fairway  metal. Three fairway bunkers will keep you honest and beware
of  the pond and waste area left, which will come into play if you're off your
game.  The  green, just 24  yards in  length, falls off  hard on the left. Any
balls  off line will leave a difficult, uphill pitch to a fairly slick putting

One  of the many signature holes at Raven's Claw, the third is one of two 200-
yard  plus  par threes.  Playing over  the corner of  the pond, this beautiful
one-shotter requires pinpoint accuracy, as sand right and deep and mounding in
the  rear can  provide for plenty of  headaches. Any shot missing to the right
will  filter down into a chipping area, sitting well below the hole. One final
thought, beware of the back-left pin, which can be one of the hardest shots on
the course.

Just  a  yard under 400,  the fourth is a  challenging, dogleg right par four.
Large  mounding down  the right  side blocks  the view  of the  green, not  to
mention  the two  bunkers that reside in  the side of the hill. The aggressive
play  down the right  will leave just a short iron to the largest green on the
course  at  50 yards in depth.  Sand left of the back-to-front putting surface
can make for a difficult up and down.

Playing  uphill from  tee to green, the  dogleg left, par four fifth is one of
the  most difficult holes  on the course. At 440 yards from the black buttons,
this  is the longest par four at Raven's Claw. The pressure to hit the fairway
is  of the utmost importance, as thick rough left and sand right can make this
a  certain bogey hole. The putting surface slopes from right to left and could
be  quite  difficult to read. Make  par here and  you've picked up one on your
playing  partners. Take  a  look back  and  you'll  get a  great  view of  the
surrounding area and of course, the Limerick power plant towers.

The  sixth is a fairly, straightforward par three, requiring just a short iron
to  a green guarded on either side by sand. The two-tiered putting surface can
be  extremely difficult,  especially with a back-left pin. Stay below the hole
for your best shot a two.

From  an elevated tee, the seventh plays as a downhill, dogleg right par five,
reachable  in two, but be careful. The generous landing area does possess some
intrigue  when  missed, as a large  fairway bunker and out-of-bounds left make
for a stressful tee ball. The right side is the best course of action, setting
up your best shot at the green, however trees and wetlands can come into play.
Two bunkers down the left side towards the green are great aiming points for a
layup, which will leave just a short pitch to the fairly long putting surface.
Missing  this green long and left is a certain bogey. There's a reason this is
the No. 1 handicap hole on the course.

In  contrast, the eighth hole is as easy as it gets, but there's a catch. Your
drive  must clear a ravine to reach the wide landing area. A driver will leave
next  to nothing for your second, while a long iron or fairway metal sets up a
100-yard  wedge. The putting surface angles to the right and is long and wide,
so be precise with your approach or a three-putt is possible.

The  closing hole  on the outward nine  is one of my favorites. From the tips,
the  dogleg right  ninth forces the player  to produce a big tee ball from the
elevated  markers.  Trees guard the right  side, while two bunkers on the left
provide  an excellent  frame to  the  hole. The  fairway sits  well below  the
putting  surface, so  make sure  you take  an extra  club or  two to  get home
safely. The green is crowned in the front and guarded by two deep pot bunkers.
Any shot just reaching the surface, will roll down into thick, gnarly rough or
worse...sand. The promised land is long and narrow and rolls hard from back to

The  back nine  continues the  stellar  layout with  the longest  hole on  the
course,  a  monster par  five stretching 634  yards. The rolling three-shotter
plays  uphill from the tee, then downhill towards the landing area and finally
climbing  once again to reach the green. The putting surface slopes from right
to  left and is guarded on the left by sand and a rugged, downhill escarpment.
You'll  need  three precise  shots to  negotiate this beast  and at all costs,
avoid going left.

The  11th is aptly  nicknamed the "Alps." One of the most sensational holes on
the  course,  this mid-length par four  requires two forced carries. First up,
you'll  need  a three  metal off  the tee  to reach  the fairway, carrying the
grassy  ravine and  avoiding the  trees right.  Enormous mounding  left should
steer  off-line shots  back towards the landing area. From the fairway, a mid-
iron  should suffice to  carry the second abyss and reach the longest green on
the  course, a whopping 45 paces deep. The putting surface is very undulating,
as  it  rises towards the  back, making club  selection very crucial. A bunker
right,  surrounding trees  and  well-positioned mounding  provide a  beautiful

Another  hole that requires  a forced carry is the par-four 12th. One of eight
par  fours under  400 yards, the dogleg  right No. 12 features an elevated tee
that  overlooks  the fairly wide  landing area.  Beware however, as a menacing
bunker  lies  center-cut in the fairway.  After a successful tee ball, a short
iron  should  remain to a two-tiered  putting surface that slopes from back to
front. One word of caution, do not miss long, as there is very little room for

Bending back to the left, the dogleg 13th reaches 429 yards from the tips. The
landing  area is  guarded on the left  corner by bunkers that must be avoided.
The  green is  very receptive  to your  approach and  devoid of  sand. A  big,
sweeping draw off the tee will set up a short iron, so take advantage when you
can, as the holes coming home have not let up.

One  of the prettiest  holes on the course, also happens to be the shortest at
Raven's  Claw,  the 137-yard,  par-three 14th. With  tall trees standing watch
overlooking  the  putting surface  and two  snakeye bunkers  in the rear, this
downhill  one-shotter is a perfect example of why a par three does not need to
be  225 yards long. A short iron should negotiate the length, however, a back-
left pin to this very long, angled green can add 15-20 yards to your shot.

Although  not the longest  of par fours, the 15th is certainly one of the most
difficult  driving  holes on the  course. Trees and  out of bounds right, more
trees  and thick rough left and a miniscule fairway playing uphill from tee to
green  can put  fear in the eyes of  the beholder. If you can, play out to the
right to set up the best approach to the tightest green on the course, just 23
paces  deep. Bunkers  short and left see plenty of action, especially when the
flag is tucked.

A  bit of a reprieve when you reach the 16th, a par four that's just 391 yards
long.  The fairway is quite forgiving, particularly down the right. Some might
choose  a three-metal off  the tee, however a big drive can leave just a short
iron  in,  but it  will bring  in the  two, left  fairway bunkers. The putting
surface is set down from the fairway, with a menacing trap on the right-front.
The  green is just 30 paces deep and very undulating with a ridge running from
front to back. A pin in the right quadrant of the surface can prove to be very

If  you thought 16  was a pushover, you'll find that the 17th will be just the
opposite.  At 242 yards from the elevated tips, this splendid par three is one
of  the longest in  the state! For the big hitters, three-metal or hybrid, for
the rest of us, grab the big stick and avoid the out of bounds down the entire
right  side. The slope  of the land down the left is the side to come in from,
as  misfortune  will be minimized. The  putting surface is long and undulating
with  a U-shaped  bunker covering  the front-right.  A par  here will  be like
birdie anywhere else on the course. It's called "Calamity" for a reason.

The final chapter at Raven's Claw is a moderately-lengthened, but tight dogleg
right  par four. Out  of bounds and homes flank the left and a hazard down the
right,  so fairway metal or long iron should be the play from the tee. Bunkers
down  the left should add to the incentive for a lesser club from the start. A
short  iron  should remain to a  well-guarded and three-tiered green. When the
flag is back, add two clubs to your approach. A classic finishing hole.

FINAL  WORD: What makes  a golf course playable and appealing? What do we look
for when reviewing a course?

First  of all,  I look  for how  many types  of golfers  can play  the course.
Raven's  Claw is  a track that's attractive  to any and all players. With five
sets  of tees  ranging from 4,800 to 6,700 yards, Raven's Claw fits everyone's
eye.  Now you might  be saying, well, it's only 6,740 yards from the tips, how
can  this  layout test  the  best?  Let me  tell  you,  the yardage  is  quite
deceiving,  as many  holes play uphill, have forced carries and, don't forget,
the  par  is only 71. During  a recent top  amateur event, only one player was
able to break par.

The  wide selection  of holes, from the miniscule 137-yard 14th to the massive
10th  and the challenging fifth, the balance of holes at Raven's Claw is quite

"Variety to me is the key to a successful golf course," mentioned Shearon.

Next  up is  conditioning. Granted, Raven's Claw  is just a few years old, but
the  course is  in wonderful  shape. In  fact, the  course is  now one  of the
official homes of the Montgomery County Amateur Championship and the accolades
have already started piling in, as Raven's Claw was voted as one of the top-10
public courses in the state of Pennsylvania by Golfweek.

Amenities.  How about a well appointed clubhouse overlooking the closing hole,
complete with a full-service restaurant and a well-stocked pro shop.

Best  of all, you  don't need to break into your children's piggy bank to come
out  and play. Winter fees start at $25 and reach a high of $65 in the summer.
Not bad for the golf-rich area of Philadelphia.

The  housing development  that winds throughout the golf course is set back as
to  not hinder play,  but it is in plain view. The residential community is on
the  left  side of  the course,  overlooking the venue  and as Shearon stated,
"most  golfer's tend to slice to the right." The practice facility is adequate
off  to  the right  of the first  hole and can  come into  play if you do miss

Raven's  Claw Golf Club  has become a local favorite in a very short period of
time  and  with good reason -  affordable golf, friendly staff and a wonderful
and  challenging layout. Look  for RCGC to continue to turn heads in the years
to come. I look forward to my return trip.