Monday, 29 June 2015 00:15

Going, Going… to the Green!

Written by  Edwin Malet

With over 100 area courses, you’ve got plenty of choices.

Golf PhotoTake a break from binge-watching on Netflix. Disconnect from social media. It’s time to find something to do outside this summer. How about a walk through well-manicured grounds, with some stretching and upper-body exercise?

There are about 100 golf courses within 25 miles of West Chester. All waiting for you. There are famous courses, like the historic Merion Golf Club, site of the 2013 U.S. Open. And there are the local courses, many family owned and operated. And some that don’t require membership to play.

Still fun, these local courses provide a venue where an amateur—or a pro—can test a challenging landscape, experience the scenery, get some fresh air. Our recommendation: Pick one … and play.


In Atglen

Set in Atglen on rolling farmland, Moccasin Run Golf Club seems like an oasis. The course is meticulously maintained. Large granite stones mark the entrance and the holes. It’s a public course—meaning you can play by paying just greens fee—no initial investment or membership fees are required, though you can become a member.

“We try to make it like a private club, but available to the public,” says Curt King, who has owned and operated the course since 1988 with wife Grace. She offers family hospitality in the new modern, comfortable clubhouse, surrounded by a deck with expansive views of the course.

Curt clearly is a hands-on owner. He talks about acquiring the former farmland from his father and his brothers; about how his father Paul chose the architect John Thompson because Thompson fit a PGA Championship course—required in King’s mind—into about 100 acres. “Maybe we lucked out. The customers: they just love this layout.”

Placement of trees, positioning of bunkers, water hazards, changes in elevation and equipment to maintain the turf are topics dear to Curt’s heart. And in his mind, he’s constantly tinkering. He modestly credits John Thompson for the course, but in the years since, he has become its new architect.


In West Chester

Though Broad Run Golfer’s Club is close to West Chester—a short jog on Route 162—you wouldn’t know it. The course feels somewhere between rural and wilderness: an expansive 372 acres of peace where the holes appear like green serpents on the hilly landscape. The course is listed as one of the “Top 5” in southeastern Pennsylvania, according to Golf Digest; its designer Rees Jones as one of the “Top 5” course architects.

Broad Run is a public course with a variety of rates—depending on times of day, days of the week, etc. Juniors (16 and under) play for free with an adult on weekdays or after 2 p.m. on weekends. It also offers annual memberships—full, weekdays, seniors, juniors, young professionals, family memberships—as well. And non-golfers enjoy the Bordley House Grille.

General Manager Jeff Broadbelt and Golf Pro Brady Foore are responsible for Broad Run’s marketing innovations. It’s a challenging course: a “very difficult course for the average player,” according to Jeff. But they minimize the “intimidation factor” and emphasize “playability.”

Brady wants every player to leave saying, “I had a great time. Everybody was nice. They were attentive. Pace of play was good. The golf course was good. Everybody was smiling. Let’s go back again.”


In Avondale

Golf Outing - Chester County - PhotoA 115-acre public course off Route 1 in Avondale, Loch Nairn Golf Club is owned and managed by the Smedley family. In 1979, the father, H.C. Smedley, who’d built other courses in Maryland and the Caribbean, built tree-lined fairways that wander through streams, valleys and wetlands then on to beautiful undulating greens. Son Chris calls it a “shot-makers course,” emphasizing the need for accuracy.

Chris and his mother Virginia—Mrs. Smedley to the staff—want to see more people enjoy the game. New players are always welcome at the Club, which offers nine-hole rounds and afternoon golf at special rates. An expansive clubhouse featuring excellent food and drink add to the attraction.

Currently, the Club has a large men’s association on Thursday evenings, sometimes with more than 100 players. A ladies’ association plays Monday mornings and a beginning women’s group, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday evenings. Plus there’s a mixed group playing a “scramble”—when a player can play anyone’s ball. They’re also encouraging Junior golf and working on more tournaments.

Making the course more player-friendly—rebuilding sand bunkers, paving golf cart paths and trimming trees to allow golfers to recover from that errant shot—occupies Chris. Mrs. Smedley runs a charity tournament to benefit children every September. And they may even add a bring-your-dog tournament this season.


In Phoenixville

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, Phoenixville Country Club is a private golf, dining and social club, with about 330 members. Its golf course designer was Hugh Wilson, who also designed Merion’s east and west courses.

Matt Dever, its Pro, who’s been there 13 years, explains that Phoenixville has only nine relatively short holes packed into 56 acres and is ranked one of the best 9-hole courses. But, though short, the holes are deceptive. Most fairways are narrow, the greens are small, rarely flat, typically well-bunkered, and several must be approached by blind shots because of doglegs or hills. They have names like Trouble, Big Trouble and Heartbreak Hill.

Named Looks Easy, hole number 2 is the club’s signature. Only 146 yards, it crosses a deep ravine, and drops 80 feet from the tee to a sloping green. Hole 9 is also treacherous, with a tight green just beyond a water hazard. Matt explains that years ago the club had the pond dredged: they found about 4000 balls.

The feel here is slightly different than the public courses. Players know one another. Matt readily pairs them to play rounds together. Afterwards, they congregate at the clubhouse, which has a bar and four dining rooms on two levels. The lower level features a lovely view of the 9th hole… and sound of the “plunk” of another shot falling short of the green.