Philadelphia is rightly considered a golf mecca thanks to its renowned private courses. However, for those of us without blue blood or unlimited bank accounts, there is one area daily-fee gem that has earned accolades from even the stodgiest classic-course fans - The Golf Course at Glen Mills.
The Bobby Weed-designed layout, which opened in 1998, is routed over open, rolling parkland, through thick clusters of hardwoods and alongside two winding brooks 40 minutes west of downtown Philly. You'll discover plenty of elevation changes and wonderful, fun holes over the picturesque, rugged terrain.
The course has a unique relationship with the adjacent Glen Mills Schools, the nation's oldest existing residential facility for troubled youths. The students gain hands-on training at the course in golf operations and turf management. Net proceeds from the course's operation go toward student programming and activities. Upon completion of their curriculum, students are qualified to work within the golf industry, which now employs more than 60 Glen Mills students nationwide.
The par-71 layout's five tee-box options, from 6,646 to 4,703 yards, make it playable for everyone. However, while the longest yardage might prompt big boppers to drool, the course rating/slope from the tips is an exacting 71.7/141. Accuracy and strategy, not length, are paramount. The brilliant fall foliage accompanying my afternoon round complemented the soothing palette of sod-wall bunkers, native rough, streams, wetlands and a pond.
Weed's design shows great variety throughout, but I found all five par 3s particularly exhilarating. Especially memorable are the back-nine trio, commencing with the severely downhill, 207-yard 10th, which features a spectacular tee-box view of Glen Mills School, and plays to a large, rectangular-shaped putting surface with wetlands front and right. The uphill, 161-yard 14th, nicknamed "Redan" for its long, narrow green that runs front right to back left, features a dangerous sharp slope and wetlands hugging its left side. I hit my tee shot fat, or so I angrily believed, only to see it stunningly finish six inches from the hole. Every tee on the 156-yard 16th demands an all-carry tee shot over a right-side, tee-to-green pond to a long, narrow, kidney-shaped green.
It really wouldn't have mattered if I had chunked my 14th-hole tee shot, or hadn't somehow played the five par-3 holes in a combined one-under par. The truth is, a round at Glen Mills is a delightful experience, especially since you're also helping Glen Mills Schools' students fulfill their dreams.
The Golf Course at Glen Mills, Glen Mills, PA Phone: 610-558-2142 Website: www.glenmillsgolf.com
Rates: $35-$50 all day golf (until Spring 2013)