Link Luster
In winter’s wake, get into full swing at the suburbs’ top golf courses
by Nate Oxman


With so many excellent public and private golf courses in the Philadelphia suburbs, from the easternmost edge of Bucks County to Chester County’s outer rim, an experienced golfer can choose from a new course every week and still not get his or her fill. Suburban Life spoke with some of the area’s most passionate golf enthusiasts, as well as PGA professionals and general managers from the area’s top clubs, to highlight the suburbs’ best-tended fairways and most expertly manicured greens. Read on for a closer look at enhancements made at each one of these above-par establishments—from the course to the clubhouse—in the offseason.


Click here for readers’ top public and private courses.



Aronimink Golf Club, Newtown Square

Back in January Golf World surveyed 81 PGA Tour players, asking them to anonymously rank the golf courses they play each season. Of the 52 courses, Aronimink Golf Club was voted No. 8. One pro’s assessment: “Sensational course, great conditioning, setup has been good and the crowds energetic.” The abundance of acclaim from the pros was not only focused on the revered Donald Ross design, but also its immaculate conditioning—a well-deserved salute to Aronimink superintendent John Gosselin and his staff. Accolades extend into the golf shop as well; head PGA professional Jeff Kiddie was not only recognized locally as the Philadelphia PGA Section Golf Professional of the Year—the section’s highest yearly honor—but he was also named the National PGA Merchandiser of the Year in the private-club sector. 610-356-8000,


Huntingdon Valley Country Club, Huntingdon Valley

Ian Dalzell was the first head professional at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., from its 2002 launch until last year, when he crossed the bridge and took the reins at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. Not only was Dalzell transitioning from a start-up club to one steeped in 113 years of tradition, but he also had the difficult task of succeeding the legendary Jack Connelly, a past president of the PGA of America who was at the helm at Huntingdon Valley for 35 years. As Northern Ireland native Dalzell aims to grow the game at Huntingdon Valley, he’ll also benefit from a junior program that is 165 strong—not to mention a superb William Flynn/Howard Toomey-designed 27-hole setting that’s simply an invitation to golf at its grandest. 215-657-1610,


Llanerch Country Club, Havertown

Just in time for the start of the 2012 golf season, Llanerch has cut the ribbon on its fully restored 18th-green complex. With guidance from Stephen Kay, who spearheaded the course’s complete restoration back in 2005, the construction firm of Total Turf Services in Bristol helped Llanerch restore the putting surface to its original 1920s Alex Findlay design, install drainage, renovate four greenside bunkers and resurface the adjacent cart path. Also in the works is the creation of a new championship tee at the 13th that will add 25 yards to the 346-yard par-4. To complement the classic golf course, Llanerch constructed a new pool house, complete with a full-service snack bar, as well as a tennis shop to serve the club’s seven courts. Also, in January Llanerch’s members approved a Clubhouse Improvement Program. When finished, the clubhouse will feature renovated adult and family casual-dining areas, a refurbished and expanded ballroom, spacious outdoor-dining terraces and renovated locker rooms. 610-446-2232,


Manufacturers’ Golf and Country Club, Fort Washington

Already possessing some of the most jaw-dropping vistas of any course in the suburbs courtesy of its dramatic elevation changes, Manufacturers’ Golf and Country Club has increased its aesthetics with the recent removal of more than 400 evergreens as part of an overall “golf course master plan.” One purpose was to provide panoramas of the classic William Flynn/Howard Toomey-designed golf course from the stately clubhouse perched at one of the highest points of the property and plenty of soothing views of the clubhouse throughout the round in return. In conjunction, Manufacturers’ is in the design phase of an upgrade to the clubhouse’s back terrace, aimed at allowing members to take full advantage of the new views while enjoying a truly tranquil outdoor-dining experience. In addition to golf, Manufacturers’ has improved what is already one of the top tennis facilities in the area with the hiring of director of tennis Patrick Dial, a U.S. Professional Tennis Association professional, to help keep Manufacturers’ among the most inclusive country clubs in the area. 215-886-3200,


Merion Golf Club, Ardmore

Although the U.S. Open is still more than a year away, Merion Golf Club members and their oh-so-fortunate guests can already get a glimpse of the course that elite professionals from all over the globe will joust on in June 2013, as all significant prep work to the East Course is complete.

Merion made many moves designed to place a heavy premium on accuracy, with altered fairways designed to narrow or shift targets off the tee at key holes—namely, 1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 15. Off the golf course, Merion unveiled a new learning facility and revamped practice range in 2011, where teaching professional Mark Sheftic, who was recently named the 2011 Philadelphia Section PGA Teacher of the Year, is headquartered. 610-642-5600,


Philadelphia Country Club, Gladwyne

Scott Reilly used a six-and-a-half­­-year stint as an assistant professional at one of the most prestigious private clubs in America—The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.—as a springboard to the head professional position at this nationally renowned club in our own backyard. Having started in January, he brings a breadth of teaching experience to the 122-year-old club and its flagship William Flynn/Howard Toomey-designed Spring Mill Course. 610-525-6000,


Philadelphia Cricket Club, Flourtown

The membership at the Cricket Club recently voted to restore the signature A.W. Tillinghast-designed Wissahickon course and make several off-course upgrades, including the addition of a new fitness center, construction of additional squash courts and improvements to both the pool facilities and platform tennis pavilion. Executive chef Ben Burger and a new food-and-beverage team have helped refresh the club’s menus and upgrade the dining services. The restoration of the Wissahickon course, to be completed by Keith Foster, comes on the heels of the architect’s “sympathetic” restoration to the club’s historic St. Martin’s nine in Chestnut Hill, where members looking to get a truly authentic experience can tee it up with hickory shafted clubs and Gutta Percha balls. 215-247-6113,


Rolling Green Golf Club, Springfield

Nearly three years removed from a Forse Design restoration of the original William Flynn/Howard Toomey design dating to 1926, Rolling Green Golf Club continues to reap the rewards. A longtime member of Golfweek’s Top 100 classic courses (currently No. 94) in America, Rolling Green Golf Club was recently ranked No. 10 in Golf Digest’s list of the top 25 golf clubs in Pennsylvania. Practically untouched for the 83 years prior, Ron Forse and Jim Nagle worked wonders in the 2009 restoration to reposition hazards in response to the significant changes in golf equipment since the course’s original construction. A new set of tees was also installed to stretch the course to a sinister 6,917 yards that plays even longer due to ample elevation changes. 610-544-4500,


Stonewall, Elverson

Tucked away in an idyllic section of northern Chester County, Stonewall, with its signature Tom Doak-designed Old and North courses, has stood strong in its position as the top modern club in the Philadelphia suburbs since first opening in 1993. Credit must be given to Doak, who crafted a pair of golf courses, in particular the nationally recognized North course, as throwbacks to golf’s golden age of the 1920s and 1930s. In homage to the collection of historic William Flynn designs dominating this list, the Old Course offers a sensational set of short holes among many memorable walks on rolling turf adjacent to areas once occupied by George Washington’s army. The bunkers on the front nine of the 6,717-yard Old Course, which local golf author Jim Finegan once referred to as “one of the strongest and finest nines in American golf,” were just rebuilt, thereby bolstering Stonewall’s golf arsenal even further. 610-286-3030,


Whitemarsh Valley, Lafayette Hill

Thanks to a little help from Mother Nature, Whitemarsh Valley’s significant drainage improvement project is wrapped up and all 18 holes are ready for the 2012 golf season. To help expedite water drainage away from the golf course, the fairways on holes 13, 14 and 15 were raised, and the dry creek cutting across holes 11, 17, 2 and 3 was widened and a drainage pipe was installed. One side of the third fairway was raised as well to direct water off the course more quickly. All areas addressed were resodded and, to increase Whitemarsh Valley’s already soothing aesthetics, the club added a rock wall on the approach to the green at the 17th. Undoubtedly, the memberships is raring to go to return to tee it up on a 1908 George C. Thomas design. 215-233-3901,



Bella Vista Golf Course, Gilbertsville

Bella Vista Golf Club continues to stand out among the daily-fee favorites, thanks to a sweeping layout highlighted by the signature island green at the 152-yard par-3 14th. Designed by Quakertown’s Jim Blaukovitch and now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Bella Vista recently became an associate member of the Golf Association of Philadelphia. Regulars also benefit from outstanding amenities in the club’s refurbished barn that dates back to 1802. The La Massaria banquet facility includes a main level (serving up to 120 guests) with a bar and patio area overlooking the golf course and an exquisite ballroom (able to host 240 people) with an adjacent outdoor deck. The Markley Grill boasts a bistro-style menu serving golfers both before and after the round, as well as the general public for lunch and dinner. 610-705-1855,


Broad Run Golfer’s Club, West Chester

The complaint about Broad Run Golfer’s Club (nee Tattersall) used to be that sub-par course conditions were overshadowing one of the area’s most dynamic designs, with arguably the best backdrops and most dramatic elevation changes of any public course in the area. Then Sequoia Golf Management came to the rescue last year and has worked hard to return the course to its grandeur. Splayed out over 372 acres and amenities including the rustic Bordley House Grille—once the farmhouse of agriculturist/lawyer John Beale Bordley that dates back to 1702—the course also has a practice facility that includes a driving range with target greens, short-game area and putting green. 610-738-4410,


The Golf Course at Glen Mills, Glen Mills

Since opening in 1998, The Golf Course at Glen Mills has collected countless accolades nationwide. Golf Digest rated it as the seventh best in the entire country among the best “New Upscale Courses.” On the most recent rankings of the top courses you can play in Pennsylvania, Glen Mills sits at No. 2 on Golf Magazine’s list and No. 4 on Golfweek’s set. The steady stream of honors may be attributed to the dynamic design by Bobby Weed, but also to the exceptional course conditions. Since 2000, students at the adjacent Glen Mills Schools have helped to maintain the turf at the top daily-fee venue in the Philadelphia suburbs. 610-558-2142,


Honeybrook Golf Club, Honey Brook

Honeybrook Golf Club is buttressing a breathtaking golf course with instruction programs. A variety of fun junior programs will make their debut at the club in 2012, including camps, for both beginners and juniors looking to take their games to the next level, nine-hole Friday afternoon leagues, family fun nights and much more. Honeybrook also incorporates a PGA Family Course into its layout. Designed for juniors and beginners, the PGA Family Course features three sets of markers ranging from 2,391 to 4,961 yards. The club also offers options aplenty for men, including the Thirsty Thursday Night Men’s League, and the ladies’ calendar is jam-packed with enticing options such as a free clinic and nine- and 18-hole leagues. 610-273-0207,


Inniscrone Golf Club, Avondale

The Gil Hanse-designed Inniscrone Golf Club received wide acclaim upon its debut in 1999, but the course changed management multiple times until 2009, when London Grove Township swooped in and reinvigorated Inniscrone as one of the best, and most affordable, daily-fee venues in the suburbs. As a municipal course, it currently ranks No. 47 in the entire country, according to Golfweek. Malvern resident Hanse has been in world golf news recently, first for winning the bid to design the golf course for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and also for his hiring by Donald Trump to renovate the TPC Blue Monster at Doral. Inniscrone remains his only local course open to the public. In the offseason, the township hired Heathland Hospitality Group, based in Erdenheim, to manage the golf course. In turn, the group brought in two talented PGA professionals—head professional Andy Watters and director of instruction Eric McNamee—to help Inniscrone forge ahead. They’ll have plenty of help with new general manager and superintendent Tom Bolko, who spent 20 years at Coatesville Country Club. 484-720-8442,


Jeffersonville Golf Club, Jeffersonville

Local golfers have gobbled up the benefits of restoration guru Ron Prichard’s reclamation work at Jeffersonville, a Donald Ross design dating to 1931. Lansdale-based Prichard repositioned bunkers to modernize the golf course, added new bunkers and bunkers from the original design that were later removed, scaled down green complexes, rebuilt tees and did some rerouting. The work, combined with private club-quality course conditions courtesy of superintendent Ron Shilling, helps Jeffersonville surpass 40,000 rounds each year. The ability to market the course as a daily-fee Donald Ross design has contributed mightily to Jeffersonville’s recent resurgence as well. In a continued effort to best showcase this municipally owned masterpiece, West Norriton Township recently repaved the parking lot and entranceway. Future off-course work may be in the works, but for now the golf course will continue to be the focal point. 610-539-0422,


Lederach Golf Club, Harleysville
At Lederach Golf Club, veteran PGA teaching professional Rick Flesher and LPGA teaching professional Diane Rama offer some of the best golf instruction available at a public facility in the suburbs. Rama, also an accomplished player who won the 2004 Philadelphia PGA Women’s Open, will offer Get Golf Ready programs to help ladies just learning the game develop the skills and confidence needed on the golf course. She will also run junior programs and lessons for players of all ability levels. Flesher, a fine player himself who competed in the 1989 U.S. Open, is also booking individual and group lessons and clinics throughout the season. This municipal course continues to please patrons with a Reading-based Kelly Blake Moran design that has matured into one of the region’s best and most challenging public courses. 215-513-3034,


Makefield Highlands Golf Club, Yardley

Course designer Rick Jacobson serves up a links-style course circa 2004 dominated by rolling fairways, fescue grasses, undulating greens and beastly bunker complexes, some of which were renovated in the off-season. The course’s men’s and women’s leagues are full to the brim, the latter boasting more than 100 members, thus leading to the opening of a new 18-hole women’s league on Tuesday afternoons. Head PGA professional and general manager Bob Doria, director of instruction Ed Gibson and first assistant professional Bruce Fleming lead a gifted team of instructors, under the guidance of Spirit Golf Management, who have also helped achieved tremendous success in the club’s Get Golf Ready programs powered by the PGA and designed to get beginners ready to take their games onto the golf course after five short lessons. 215-321-7000,


Raven’s Claw Golf Club, Pottstown
For the seventh straight year Raven’s Claw Golf Club ranks among Golfweek’s top 10 golf courses in Pennsylvania—listed at No. 10 on this year’s list. Although one of the area’s finest daily-fee facilities, Raven’s Claw also features a variety of affordable membership options, including a fantastic unlimited twilight membership. Visitors to Raven’s Claw in 2012 will see excellent course conditions courtesy of new irrigation work, new golf carts, and a simplified restaurant menu within The Grill at Raven’s Claw Golf Club designed to ensure all items are made to perfection. 610-495-4710,


Wyncote Golf Club, Oxford

To accommodate the influx of women golfers at Wyncote Golf Club over the last five years, president and general manager Jim Pepple hired highly regarded Cathy Cook Russell to take over as teaching professional for the 2012 season. Cook Russell, sister of PGA Tour/Champions Tour player John Cook, is a former Ohio Amateur and Nevada Amateur state champion who specializes in working with juniors and ladies. Taking advantage of an open, inland Scottish-style golf course penned by Brian Ault, superintendant Mark McGreevy, who also spent time interning at Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland after graduating from Penn State University’s Turfgrass Science program, continues to incorporate innovative maintenance programs into the care of Wyncote. 610-932-8900,