Teed Up
Teed Up With extensive renovations on the horizon and the prestigious 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur coming in August, it’s an “exciting time” for Rolling Green Golf Club
by Theodora Malison

The days of sunshine and warmer temperatures have returned. In other words, Springfield’s Rolling Green Golf Club is in its glory.

Although this storied William S. Flynn-designed course has already become a destination among locally based golf enthusiasts, Rolling Green will soon be thrust into the national spotlight, when it hosts the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. The prestigious event, which will take place from August 1 to 7, marks the second United States Golf Association championship hosted by Rolling Green, the first having been the U.S. Women’s Open in 1976.

Rolling Green is one of the Greater Philadelphia area’s many notable golf courses designed by Flynn, a golf-course architect of legendary acclaim. The course, which opened for play in 1926, has stood the test of time; although Rolling Green has undergone significant renovations over the years, with more on the horizon, each of the course’s original 18 holes has endured. The course boasts a balanced blend of holes—some challenging, others enjoyably playable—which enables Rolling Green to cater to a wide range of abilities, from casual players to seasoned professionals.

“Considering the number of courses Flynn has designed, you’ll never be bored playing any of them,” says Jim Nagle, design associate at Forse Designs Inc., a Hopwood-based golf course design firm and the architect of Rolling Green’s recent course renovations. “Rolling Green is considered to be one of the top Flynn-designed golf courses. Much like other top-tier courses, it’s a bit tricky in some spots and in other areas allows someone to score well.

“The first hole can be pretty demanding,” he continues. “The 7th hole can play rather difficult with a fall-away green and the need to play the ball short. Holes 3, 6, 10, 14 and 16 are all excellent par-3’s. The course also has a great finishing hole, which allows for opportunities for golfers to take a risk and either gain a reward or risk the possibility of failure. For this upcoming tournament in particular, I think it’s a great way to end the game.”

“Holes 8 through 10 are probably the most difficult,” adds Matt Dupre, co-chair of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. “After those, players get a mild breather until they reach holes 13 through 15.”

Restorations and Renovations
From the very beginning, Rolling Green’s ultimate goal—which Flynn unquestionably succeeded in accomplishing—was to provide a course designed “for golfers.” Beyond all else, the club wanted to establish a distinctive environment focused purely on satisfying its golfers’ love of the game.

“The club formed as a spinoff of some members from The Springhaven Club who just wanted to play golf without all of the other amenities,” says Dick McElroy, president of Rolling Green Golf Club. “We’re really just all about golf. Luckily, we had one of the best designers of all time to design a phenomenal course layout.”

The U.S. Women’s Amateur, which is played on an annual basis, is the premier golf tournament within the United States for female amateur golfers. Hosting this iconic event—the third-oldest USGA championship—holds significance for the club and its faithful longtime members.

“This will be the 116th playing of the U.S. Women’s Amateur and, from the USGA perspective, it’s one of the oldest they conduct,” Dupre notes. “From the club’s perspective, however, we’re looking forward to hosting the tournament and introducing Rolling Green to the rest of the country. The U.S. Women’s Amateur is always played on very good golf courses and generally has a field consisting of the top women amateur golfers from around the world. As of late, a lot of the women who play in this championship have gone on to have LPGA careers.”

“Hosting this event is a great opportunity because, unfortunately, not a lot of people know about the course, and it’s one that deserves recognition,” adds Nagle. “The membership is going to take a lot of pride seeing the course and the event televised. The members take tremendous pride in their club.”

Even apart from the upcoming tournament, current members have much to be proud of and look forward to in the coming months, as Rolling Green undergoes a multimillion-dollar clubhouse expansion and course renovation. Although Rolling Green is known for its pristine course conditions, McElroy and Nagle both suggest the upcoming improvements—both to the course and its original clubhouse—are necessary in order to maintain an experience on par with the region’s other elite courses.

“The renovations implemented to the course are classic restorations,” says Nagle. “We rebuilt all of the bunkers, and between the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015, nearly every green on the course was expanded. The greens had some drainage issues, so we went in and modified the internal slopes in the greens to improve them and relieve the drainage issues. A number of the greens were also leveled in some areas.”

Clubhouse renovations include expansions and upgrades to the kitchen and dining areas, refurbishing bar facilities and enlarging the outdoor porch into a terrace large enough to host small gatherings and corporate events. In addition, McElroy says Rolling Green is in the middle of a three-year program designed to ensure the playability of its greens.

“It’s important that the greens remain healthy, consistent, fast and firm,” he says. “None of these conditions could occur unless the greens are healthy. Weather in the Philadelphia area during the summer months of July and August can pose difficult challenges for golfers. We’re investing in the future so the club will continue to be an inviting place for families and guests, and continue to draw in new members as well.”

A Secret No Longer
With the U.S. Women’s Amateur championship just months away—the event, coincidentally, will occur on the 90th anniversary of the first round of golf played at Rolling Green—nearby residents are encouraged to attend the event.  Admission will be free, compliments of Rolling Green. Whether they come to support the noteworthy players with roots in Philadelphia’s surrounding suburbs or simply to enjoy some spectacular golf, attendees are in for a treat.

“Players to look out for are defending champion Hannah O’Sullivan, runner-up Sierra Brooks and, of course, local girls Brynn Walker and Jackie Rogowicz,” Dupre notes. “There will be a strong international contingent, too, but with some of the local girls that have a chance to qualify, I believe we’ll see larger crowds around them.”

The event will give well-deserved exposure to a course that some golfers might consider one of the area’s best-kept secrets. It will also shine a spotlight on something McElroy has known for a long time.

“We have an exceptionally great golf course,” he says. “We think our course is every bit as good as others, but we’re finally getting to showcase what we have. We’d love to get the recognition from those who know about golf and what good golf courses are made of. It’s an exciting time for us.”

Rolling Green Golf Club
280 N. State Road
Springfield, PA 19064

Photograph courtesy of USGA