The rarely traveled rural sections of our suburban counties are settings for much sought after elbow-room golf courses. After all, that’s where the wide open spaces are. Long, broad fairways carved by streams against a background of rolling hills and country roads are the hallmarks of the finest public golf courses in the region. Here’s a look at a few favorites. – Jay Lloyd
Can this possibly be a public course? That’s the question that pops to mind as you cruise onto the circular driveway of the stately club house where a starter takes your clubs, advises of course conditions and points out your buffed and polished electric cart. And the course lives up to the anticipation. Fairways are broad and manicured, and the southern Delaware County location offers eye catching vistas. Don’t be lulled into overconfidence, though. Some of the hazards separating tee box from fairway can be challenging. At the end of the round, there’s a first rate dining room, lounge and outdoor patio for a lunch that’s worthy of any private venue. Prices here are high by public course standards — rates are $79 from Monday through Thursday and $95 on weekends. There are deep weekday discounts for seniors and non-prime time discounts on weekends, however. Check out all the rates at: www.glenmillsgolf.com/golf-course-pa.
The distinctive silo emblazoned with the course logo tells you that this piece of countryside in rural Chester County was once fertile farmland. Now, though, it has been repurposed as a scenic public golf course that retains the rural feel. The terrain here provides interesting variety, with ponds, streams and one uphill fairway to an unseen plateau green. A water challenge on the Spring Hollow18th occasionally requires care to avoid hitting the swans and ducks that live in the line of fire. The club house features a restaurant, bar and outside patio that’s popular with locals and the perfect setting for a sunset drink. Rates here are at the upper end of moderate, with separate charges for green fees and carts. The totals run from $43 on Mondays through Thursdays and $52 on weekends, with discounts on off-peak hours and for seniors. Browse the rates at: www.springhollowgolf.com
There’s so much open space at Hickory Valley that the club holds two impressive courses. The Presidential is an open fairway 6,720 yard, par 72 course that features dog legs of varying degrees combined with water hazards. It’s a comfortable course that marries challenge and straight ahead fairways to fit an intermediate player’s comfort zone. The Ambassador course is a tighter par 71 layout that offers play from the blue tees of 6,370 yards. It’s a challenging course with rolling terrain, steams to cross and tree lined alleys that punish hooks and slices. Lunch breaks here are a hot dog and a beer in the rec room, which combines the golf shop, pro shop and snack service. Rates are comparatively reasonable at Hickory Valley. Weekday fees for Ambassador are $35 with carts. The Presidential is $44. Weekends are $45 and $59 respectively, with discounts for seniors and juniors and for off-peak hours. Find all the rates at: www.hickoryvalley.com/rates.html
Twin Ponds is distinguished by immaculate fairways, manicured greens and constant attention to conditions. What else would you expect at a family-owned public golf course? Even the extended family lives and works on the course. The vast open spaces that provide wide fairways also treat a player to spectacular countryside vistas. Play here does require a bit of caution on some of the fairways that are studded with creeks and streams. Overall, this par 70 course with 5,645 yards of hitting range from the blue tees represents a day of pure fun with a modicum of challenge. My only complaint is that it’s difficult to get an early morning tee time, the result of summer popularity as golfers try to get ahead of the midday heat. The club house is basic, but the sisters running the course provide some real home-cooked country treats for lunch breaks. Weekday basic rates are $41 including cart. Weekend tariff is $49, with discounts for seniors and off-peak hours. Find all the rates at: www.twinpondsgolf.com/rates.html.
One note: The course does not take credit or debit cards – it’s cash only. There is an ATM machine at the clubhouse.
Linfield is my home course. Located in western Montgomery County, it offers suburban highway convenience in a country setting. It’s a par 71 course that provides the challenge of reed filled hazards, two elevated greens that require accurate shots over ball gobbling gorges and a scattering of tee shots that cross or skirt waiting water. The new owner, golf pro Robert Kleckner, has thinned the tree lines, improved drainage and renewed fairways. The combined pro shop, golf shop and eatery has full bar service and daily lunch specials in a clubby environment that’s populated by regulars. Rates here are competitive at $42 with cart on weekdays, $52 on weekends. There are discounts for seniors, juniors and off-peak hours. Check all the rates at: www.linfieldnational.com/rates.
Be aware: The par 5 12th hole and the par 4 15th have been temporarily reconfigured to par 3s for reseeding. They should be fully operational by the end of August.