ROLLING GREEN GOLF CLUB
Course Architect(s): William S. Flynn/Howard C. Toomey (1925),
Ron Forse Design, Inc. (Restoration - 2008-09).
Year Opened: July 31, 1926
Location: Springfield, Pennsylvania
Slope: 136. Rating: 73.5
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 420 Yds 10 - Par 3 258 Yds
2 - Par 4 449 Yds 11 - Par 4 451 Yds
3 - Par 3 175 Yds 12 - Par 4 362 Yds
4 - Par 4 392 Yds 13 - Par 4 445 Yds
5 - Par 4 430 Yds 14 - Par 3 235 Yds
6 - Par 3 205 Yds 15 - Par 4 379 Yds
7 - Par 5 503 Yds 16 - Par 3 164 Yds
8 - Par 4 442 Yds 17 - Par 5 501 Yds
9 - Par 5 615 Yds 18 - Par 4 491 Yds
Par 36 3,631 Yds Par 34 3,286 Yds
Key Events Held: U.S. Women's Open (1976),
Francis X. Hussey Memorial (1985-present),
U.S. Women's Amateur Championship (2016).
Awards Won: #92 by GolfWeek - Best Classic Courses before 1960 (2009-10),
#18 by Golf Digest - Best in State, Pennsylvania (2007-08),
#8 by Golf Digest - Best in State, Pennsylvania (2000-01).
Web site: www.rggc.org.
HISTORY: The origin of Rolling Green Golf Club dates back to 1920, when
several golfers from nearby country clubs wanted to form a new club, strictly
for golf. No swimming pools and tennis courts, just golf.
Spearheaded by Joseph E. Haines, it took nearly four years to form a
membership and purchase enough tracts of land, 157 acres in all, to begin the
process of building a new club.
The choices to craft a new layout in the golf-rich Philadelphia region were
William Flynn and Howard Toomey.
Flynn was primarily responsible for the design, and Toomey the construction of
most of the courses - including Rolling Green - the duo created.
Flynn also assisted Hugh Wilson in the completion of the East Course at Merion
Golf Club, while some of the gems that Toomey and Flynn collaborated on or
redesigned read like a who's who of golf courses, such as; Huntingdon Valley,
Shinnecock Hills, Atlantic City Country Club and the Cascades Course at The
By the end of the summer of 1926, Rolling Green opened with a full membership
of 335. A local newspaper recounted the historic event: "The original purpose
of the club's founders was to omit all social frills that enter into the life
of a country club, and make it a shrine where the skill and ingenuity of the
lover of the game could have full play."
Joe Ryan was named the club's first greenskeeper, a position he held for over
30 years. Ryan, who retired in 1957, lived in a stone house dating back to the
mid-1700s, regarded as the fourth-oldest dwelling in the county.
Much of Rolling Green's vegetation and beauty comes from the hand of Ryan, who
was a superb greenskeeper and was elected as president of the Golf Course
Superintendents Association of America in 1938.
Fifty years after first opening its doors, Rolling Green was named host of the
1976 U.S. Women's Open Championship. JoAnne Carner defeated Sandra Palmer in a
playoff for her second Women's Open Championship.
Carner, who captured the 1971 U.S. Women's Open, also in Pennsylvania, claimed
the lead at the halfway point after her second consecutive round of 71. She
led Palmer by two shots, but the advantage was short-lived, as Palmer shot 73
to Carner's 77 in the third round. Jane Blalock, who finished third, stood
only three shots behind with one round to play, but a final score of 76 would
place her four shots off the pace.
Trailing Palmer by two heading into the final round, Carner took the lead
after parring the first 10 holes, while Palmer struggled with four bogeys on
the first five holes. Palmer drew even on the 15th and both players finished
with a birdie on 17 and a par on 18 to force a playoff. Carner shot 73
compared to Palmer's 75, as the duo finished regulation at eight-over-par.
During the playoff, Carner opened up an early advantage, however Palmer took
the lead after 12 holes. With a birdie on 17 and a par on 18, Carner would
rebound to defeat Palmer by two shots, as the pair shot rounds of 76 and 78.
Nancy Porter made only the fifth hole-in-one in Championship history, as she
aced the 16th hole during round two. It should be noted that Porter is the
only player in U.S. Women's Open history to record two holes-in-one. She also
made an ace during the 1972 championship at Winged Foot.
The course proved to be the real winner though. Despite playing just 6,066
yards, the cut came at 15-over-par and only three players broke par all week.
Connie Chillemi fired a two-under 69 in round one and Palmer and Susie
McAllister shot rounds of 70, in the first and third rounds respectively.
Wishing to put the course back on the map, so to speak, the membership sought
the services of the restoration firm of Forse Design. Spearheaded by Ron Forse
and Jim Nagle, this pair has restored some of the finest layouts in the
northeast region, such as Philadelphia CC, Bedford Springs Resort, Salem CC,
Saucon Valley CC and Newport CC.
"It's a great golf course for all the different aspects," Nagle said.
"Difficulty, challenge, strategy, putting, driving, approach shots to the
green. It encompasses the whole game. That's the great thing about Rolling
Green and many of William Flynn's creations."
The membership was totally committed to the restoration and nearly $1 million
later, the course re-opened with new teeing grounds, restored bunkers and
reshaped holes, without interrupting the integrity of the Flynn design.
The restoration worked, as Rolling Green was awarded the 2016 U.S. Women's
"The USGA is very happy to bring another national championship to Rolling
Green," said Thomas J. O'Toole Jr., USGA vice president and Championship
Committee chairman. "The course has already proven to be a formidable test, and
it will undoubtedly present yet another stern challenge when it hosts the
world's finest female amateur players."
HOLE-BY-HOLE ANALYSIS: The opening hole at Rolling Green is a straightforward
par four of 420 yards, one of seven that surpass the 400-yard mark. Playing
slightly downhill, trees occupy both sides of the fairway with sand to the
right of the landing area. With the fairway canting off to the right, an error
to this side will result in tree jail. A medium to short iron will remain to a
fairly large putting surface, that slopes wickedly from back to front. A pair
of deep green-side bunkers guard the promise land to the left, making for a
difficult up and down. Play towards the center of the green and rely on your
Number two is a wonderful, dogleg left par four, the second longest on the
course. From an elevated tee, you'll need to draw the ball around a trio of
traps that guard the corner. Play to far out to the right and you'll end up in
deep rough. A possible long iron might remain to a well-guarded, sloped green.
A back-left pin will bring one of the two traps into play. The putting surface
runs from left to right and back to front, so any play short, will spin back
off the green. A classic par four.
The first par three on the course is one of the most deceiving at Rolling
Green. Playing downhill at 175 yards, the key of the third is knowing the
putting surface. Two deep traps guard the left and one right, but it's the
green that presents the difficulty, as looks are deceiving. When standing on
the green, it feels that it rolls from back to front, but the members will
tell you that the putting surface runs towards the rear. Trust me, it does.
At 392 yards, most would feel that the fourth hole gives the player somewhat
of a break in his round, but don't be fooled. Tall trees down the right side,
force a fade off the tee, however, with OB, tall oaks and a stream left, doubt
certainly creeps into your mind. Not to mention one of the tightest fairways
on the course, so good luck. Although a successful tee ball will leave a short
iron, your second shot is played directly uphill, so you'll need to add a club
or two. By the way, the green is the fastest on the course, running hard from
back to front. If you miss the putting surface, you might be better off in the
bunker than chipping to get it close. Watch out for a back-left pin. That's a
The fifth is another 400-plus par four, that plays uphill towards the landing
area and slightly downhill to the green. Little trouble off the tee, as long
as you clear the right, fairway bunker. A medium iron, with a slight fade,
should suffice in an attempt to attack the pin. Two fronting bunkers are not
to be messed with. The green has subtle undulations, but it can be had.
Although rated as the 15th easiest hole on the course, the sixth is anything
but easy. Reaching 205 yards from the black markers, this par three requires a
long iron to an elevated green the slopes from back to front. Three deep
traps, that sit well below the putting surface, guard the long, narrow green.
To say that pinpoint accuracy is required, would be an understatement.
The first par five on the course, the seventh is a definite round maker. At
just 503 yards and playing downhill, you'll have an iron to the green, as long
as you hit the fairway. With trees guarding both sides of the landing area and
a creek left and in the center of the fairway, I suggest three-metal off the
tee. Your second shot is slightly uphill to a very accessible green. Play
towards the right side, as the slope of the hole bends towards the putting
surface. The green is long and rolls from front to back, so land short of the
green and let the course do the work. A definite birdie chance.
The closing two holes on the front nine are as good as it gets in the
Number eight is a robust 442-yard par four that requires length, accuracy and
a little bit of luck. Your tee shot must be precise, as a creek wraps around
the right side of the fairway and cuts across the landing area at the 250-yard
mark. Play short of the creek on the left side, and you're left with a longer
approach. You'll need to add two clubs to your second shot, as the green sits
well above the fairway. Any shot short of the putting surface, will roll down
the fairway, 50-75 yards away. To make matters worse, the green slopes hard
from back to front and when the pins up, well, good luck.
The last hole on the outward nine is also the longest on the course at a
whopping 615 yards. Not only that, it's uphill all the way home. You'll need
to crack a drive and favor the left side, as the fairway cants to the right,
shoving most shots out of the fairway. I'd find it hard to believe that anyone
could get home in two, but you'll still need a three-metal with your second.
Right side with your layup is best, avoiding the sand on the left.The climb
continues with your short iron to a fairly benign putting surface, but, beware
of the sand right and left, especially with a back-left pin. This is the
number one handicapped hole on the course with good reason.
The difficulty continues with the par-three 10th. Mainly because it plays like
a par four at 258 yards. Slightly uphill, if you could sling a draw from right
to left, you'll gain a little bit of an advantage, as the slope of the fairway
kicks towards the green. Sand left is deep and difficult, while the trap on
the right is no bargain either. A par here can go along way on the card.
Despite it's 451-yard length, the par-four 11th is not as difficult at first
blush. Playing downhill from the tee, the fairway is protected by just one
bunker down the left side with plenty of bailout space to the left, albeit
rough. Your approach shot will be played back uphill to the green which angles
to the right. Sand left and a deep-faced bunker to the right provide plenty of
support to the course to protect par. Miss long and right and you'll find
yourself down a deep embankment. The putting surface is slick and falls from
left to right, so play accordingly.
One of the many signature holes at Rolling Green is the visually stunning, yet
simple 12th. At 362 yards, it's the shortest par four. From an elevated tee
box, everything is right in front of you. A dogleg to the right, with a pair
of traps down the right and one left, you'll need to decide on driver or the
more sensible play, a fairway metal, since the landing area is generous. Just
a short iron will remain to an uphill putting surface. The green is long and
narrow with several bunkers guarding the entrance. A word of caution, avoid
the trap that lurks, short and right, it's a doozy.
The bank nine continues to heat up at the 13th, with the second hardest
hole on the course. A really difficult par four, it starts off with a semi-
blind tee shot to a fairway that tilts to the right. Your second shot is the
real kicker, as it must clear a valley of almost 200 yards to reach the raised
green. The putting surface breaks hard from left to right and any shot short
or right will make for an almost impossible up and down. Truly one of the gems
at Rolling Green.
If you thought the 10th was demanding, the par three 14th is rated as the
sixth most difficult on the course. At 235 yards from the tips, this par three
is all carry over a ravine and uphill to the green. A deep embankment lurks to
the right, along with a deep trap. Another bunker on the left will keep you
honest. The putting surface is long and slopes from left to right. Not easy to
make par when you're teeing off with metal instead of iron.
The dogleg left, par-four 15th concludes a rugged three-hole stretch that
includes three of the sixth-hardest holes on the course. The difficulty here
is two-fold. First the tee shot. From a chute of trees, the tall timber flanks
both sides of the fairway, as it plays downhill towards the landing area. Now
its uphill to the two-tiered putting surface. Make sure you take enough club,
otherwise, your approach will come back to your feet. The green is long and
guarded by a half-a-dozen traps.
The fifth and final par three on the course is also the shortest at 164 yards.
A gem in the shadow of tall trees, this slightly uphill one-shotter features
three framing traps in the rear and a pair fronting the green. The putting
surface is quite long and rolls from left to right. A word of caution, do not
miss right, as your approach will fall off hard towards a creek, that lays not
so innocently below the surface.
Number 17 is certainly a birdie hole, reaching just 501 yards from the tips
and playing as a par five. The key to success is the tee shot, which must find
the fairway on this dogleg left. A wrap-around tee ball must avoid the tall
trees and sand down the left, thus setting up a real good chance of getting
home in two. Take advantage of the opening in front of the green for your best
shot at three. The putting surface is slightly raised so plan accordingly if
you laid up. The green rises from front to back, so be below the hole to gain
The closing hole can play as a par five at 529 yards, but as a four from the
back tees, well, you'll need to be quite precise just to make par. Downhill
from the tee, trees guard the entire right side through the green, not to
mention a trio of traps at the corner of the right dogleg. Here's where you'll
need your best, as it's now straight uphill to the green, with trees
encroaching on the fairway from both sides. The putting surface slopes from
back to front, with little undulation.
FINAL WORD: Golf in the Delaware Valley always starts with Pine Valley and
Merion and with good reason, as both are justifiably ranked in the top-10 in
the United States. Aronimink, Huntingdon Valley and Philly Country Club are
next in line on many lists, but, Rolling Green Golf Club must not and should
not be overlooked.
A perennial favorite for years, Rolling Green had drifted from the limelight,
as new courses began to open and other venues received facelifts.
Enter the firm of Forse Design and their restoration of a time-honored
Regionally located in western Pennsylvania, Ron Forse and his partner Jim
Nagle have revived the layout and brought it into the 21st century and beyond.
Through successful research of historical photos, Forse and company were able
to restore the bunkers throughout the course to their original specifications
and reshape several holes without deviating from the Flynn design. The bottom
line...money well spent.
The rolling fairways have a mind of their own and the greens, well, if putting
is not your forte, good luck. The putting surfaces, which were virtually
untouched, are true, slick, undulating and sometimes nasty...in a good way.
With the addition of several new tee boxes, Rolling Green now stretches to
6,917 yards and can play to a par of 70. A perfect fit, if you ask me, for a
possible USGA event in the future, something club president Peter Voudouris
has been pushing. "The USGA has come out to visit us," said Voudouris. With
the success of the recent Walker Cup at Merion in 2009, who knows?
Challenge, beauty and history, Rolling Green is as a diverse and venerable
a layout as the previously-mentioned gems, and has been brought back to the
forefront of American golf architecture.