2019 Golf News and Notables
Here’s what’s happening both on and off the course in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Improving Their Game
While most local golfers hibernate from the sport during the winter, many golf clubs use the down time to upgrade, renovate and innovate.
Bala Golf Club in Philadelphia is undergoing the most significant offseason work it’s had in decades. Under the supervision of superintendent Jay Parisien, the club is executing an extensive tree-management plan that will see 60 taken down and many others trimmed back for safety, improved turf health and playability. Other improvements includes tee leveling, bunker rebuilding, fan installations and green surround work.
Kings Creek Country Club in Rehoboth Beach, Del., is in the midst of a major renovation program that started last year with the creation of a significantly expanded practice area adjacent to clubhouse holes 1 and 6. The next stage calls for replacement of bunkers throughout the course.
Gladwyne's Philadelphia Country Club will unveil a new resort-style pool for 2019. They also plan to make improvements to the Centennial golf course and create a driving range and a short-game area for the 2020 season.
In West Chester, Concord Country Club is all in like Flynn. Under the direction of Jim Nagle of Forse Design, the course is undergoing a four-hole facelift, incorporating design styles of original architect William Flynn. Work is underway to construct a new 14th hole, with plans for a new 15th hole and modifications to the 16th and 18th starting in 2020. “Flynn took his inspiration from the seventh hole at Pine Valley, says course superintendent Greg D’Antonio. “Our planned implementation of a great hazard or hell’s-half-acre-style bunker on the 16th is just one of many highlights in store.”
Concord also has a newly rebuilt pool and tennis facility and is in the initial stages of a clubhouse improvement plan.
Kudos and Awards
Congratulations to Fritz Schranck for winning the Delaware Press Association nonfiction award for his book, Hole by Hole: Golf Stories from Delaware’s Cape Region and Beyond. The longtime Cape Gazette golf columnist has compiled some of his best work and insights from the past two decades.
Looks like another great season ahead for the Golf Association of Philadelphia and its major events. Venues include Rolling Green Golf Club (36th Mid-Amateur Championship), Stonewall Old/North Course (119th BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship), Huntingdon Valley Country Club (115th Open Championship) and Applebrook Golf Club (117th H. Patterson Cup). We’re especially looking forward to the Philly Amateur at Stonewall June 10-13. “Stonewall will continue a great tradition of top amateur golf when we host the championship this summer,” says head pro Ryan Lagergren.
Heritage Shores Golf Club in Bridgeville, Del., is making room for some new hardware on its trophy shelf after being named the “No. 1 Golf Course in Delaware” by Golf Advisor for 2018. If you want to see what all the hype is about, check out their “Play Like a Member” offer.
Plymouth Meeting's Green Valley Country Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary. William Flynn designed the wonderful layout there back in 1919.
Change of Place, Change of Face
Dover native Will Scarborough takes over the new head professional duties at The Peninsula Golf Club in Millsboro, Del., a role he formerly had at Heritage Shores a few miles up the road in Bridgeville.
Related: 2019 Mid-Atlantic Golf Course Guide
The Inside Track
At Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, members have been enjoying their first offseason with the new Golf Performance Center, a three-bay facility with indoor/outdoor capabilities, state-of-the-art simulators and custom fitting technologies. After working on their game, Applebrook members and guests can check out the new bistro-style dining area, with its new bar.
Meanwhile, head pro Dave McNabb is getting ready to play in the 2019 Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., May 23-26. McNabb played his first PGA major at the same course in 2013. He tells us he’s looking forward to the “shorter, more friendly senior layout.”
If you want to play Pebble Beach or Merion and not have to leave Wilmington, check out the new golf simulator at Rock Manor. You can also take an indoor lesson with PGA professional Mike Cole and find out the other metrics of your swing. Book your time on the simulator online or by calling (302) 295-1400. Rates are $45 an hour.
The best happy hour in West Chester, on a bad-weather day is at Radley Run Country Club, where the new Trackman simulator was installed in January. “Our members and guests have really enjoyed playing indoor golf during the cold days of winter, and the ‘closest to the pin’ contests during happy hour get booked,” says head pro John Kellogg. “Once the weather breaks and we get onto the driving range, we can take the Trackman outside for lessons, club fittings and practice, too.”
Gaining Ground, Losing Ground
Frank Horton, managing partner of Back Creek Golf Cub, shared exciting news about the new golf course coming to Middletown, Del. The Links at St. Anne’s is tentatively slated to debut this June. The course, an original design by Jim Furyk and Alan Liddicoat, is slated to open with 12 holes completed, the rest following by late summer. The clubhouse is already constructed, and a new pool house will be ready for summer.
The property had been in bankruptcy twice prior. It was acquired last year by Buddy Reed, one of the founding partners of Fieldstone Golf Club and the driving force behind the revival of Back Creek Golf Club. The Scottish-links-style, par-71 course will feature eight different water holes. The final design team also includes Joseph Lee, superintendent for Back Creek Golf Club, and Matt Richter, owner and operator of MDR Golf. The current Back Creek Golf Club team will oversee the day-to-day management of the facility.
It’s always sad to lose more green golf space, but it continues to be a growing trend in the industry. Centre Square Golf Course in Norristown, is closed for development, while Ambler’s Limekiln Golf Club is likely to close after the 2019 season to make way for real estate. The Upper Dublin Golf Club in Upper Dublin, is also looking at closure at the end of this season, as the Montgomery County Commissioners recently voted not to renew the course’s lease.
New Name, Same Great Game
Two courses you may not yet know by name, but you still remember by reputation, have been renamed after new owners purchased both clubs a few years back. Blue Bell’s Bluestone Country Club (formerly Meadowlands Country Club) has had a nice transformation under new ownership. “With a marvelous multimillion-dollar renovation to our Country House, as well as a recent upgrade to our Golfer’s Grille, our club has never been better,” says head pro Chris Gardner.
Similarly, The 1912 Club (previously Plymouth Country Club) is thriving under a new name and ownership after being purchased by a group led by golf professional Brian Quinn. The new name reflects the year when the Plymouth Meeting club was originally formed.
GM Jeff Robinson and his team at Deerfield Golf Club in Newark, Del., have been busy in the offseason. When you tee it up this spring, you’ll notice lots of tree and drainage work, improved tee pathways, a new fleet of golf carts, a new food menu and a new Player’s Passport savings card.
The most colorful update is the creation of a butterfly habitat on holes 5 and 10. Deerfield recently partnered with the Audubon International and Environmental Defense Fund to launch Monarchs in the Rough, a program to assist golf courses in creating habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators in out-of-play areas.
Get The Kids Involved
Certainly one of the most scenic courses you’ll ever play, Baywood Greens in Long Neck, Del., also has many junior programs to make it more appealing to young golfers, including their divisional-winning PGA Junior League team and weekly children’s clinics. In their newest program, Operation 36 Academy, participating juniors have the opportunity to play every day of the week. To learn more, call (302) 947-9300.
(Non) Member Benefits
Thinking about a private club membership but don't want to make the up-front financial commitment? Lookaway Golf Club in Buckingham is offering prospective new members a test drive with their new Member Preview Program, featuring full golf and dining privileges during a no-obligation period. A limited number of spots are available.