And here we are again, exploring some of the finest public golf offerings in another major city in the US. This time we are delving into the best public golf courses in Philadelphia.
In the early nineteenth century, Philly was the biggest and arguably most influential city in early American life. There are so many poignant historical artifacts and places to visit.
Being so established has also meant Philadelphia has a solid infrastructure of golf courses, both private and public. I’ve already explored the best golf courses in the city. But on this occasion we’re going to dig into the best options open to the public.
The best public golf courses in Philadelphia
|1||Broad Run Golfer’s Club|
|2||RiverWinds Golf & Tennis Club|
|3||Jeffersonville Golf Club|
|4||Scotland Run Golf Club|
|5||Rock Manor Golf Course|
|6||The Bucks Club|
|7||Turtle Creek Golf Course|
|8||The Golf Course at Glen Mills|
|9||Pitman Golf Course|
|10||Golden Pheasant Golf Club|
|Value for money||Jeffersonville Golf Club|
|Groups||Pitman Golf Course|
|Clubhouse||The Bucks Club|
|Views||RiverWinds Golf & Tennis Club|
1. Broad Run Golfer’s Club
So we kick off our list of the best public golf courses in Philadelphia with the fantastic Broad Run Golfer’s Club.
Set out on a vast 372 acre plot of land, the club is approximately 45 to 50 minutes from central Philadelphia. This beautiful canvas of Pennsylvania countryside is in the heart of the Amish owned lands.
The highly celebrated designer Rees Jones was chosen to craft this magnificent course. And what a location he had to play with.
But the main feature was the topography. There are huge elevation changes right across the site which allowed for him to create some dramatic tee shots.
It’s not the longest course at 6,751 yards long, but it is the skill and craft in shots which will get you round here. Not brute force or strength.
The course was rated 4 stars out of 5 by Golf Digest and was recognised as the 2014 Pennsylvania Golf Course of the Year. Although I think we’d all agree there are better golf courses in Pennsylvania, what we can agree on is the quality of this top class public offering.
2. RiverWinds Golf & Tennis Club
Next up for a city located in Pennsylvania, is a course based over the border in New Jersey. This is the superb RiverWinds Golf & Tennis Club.
The club is located in the grasslands of the serene Woodbury Creek, right on the Delaware River. This prime position offers sensational views across the city skyline.
Being so close to the water also gives the course a very scenic feel to it. There are at least six holes which run close to the wetlands alongside the river. Whilst a number of holes flirt with lakes within the plot.
Another consistent feature is the mounding you encounter on the fairways. Although it isn’t too prevalent on the front-nine, it really kicks up a gear on the back-nine. This movement adds a degree of difficulty to what would normally be straight forward shots.
Fortunately though, the fairways are wide and forgiving. This is definitely a course to pull out the driver.
RiverWinds is immensely popular with the locals and is always one of the highest ranked public golf courses in Philadelphia.
3. Jeffersonville Golf Club
Just the other side of King of Prussia and Norristown, is the outstanding public layout of Jeffersonville Golf Club.
This is a club which oozes historical charm and is another Philadelphia golf course designed by the legendary Donald Ross.
What was previously for half a decade land used for horse racing, shifted focus in the early 1900s. After being acquired in 1919 by Anton Evans, the racing was discontinued and it was transformed instead into a fine golf course. Although the racing isn’t forgotten as the club logo is a jockey’s outfit.
The Evans family owned and operated the club right up until 1971 when it was then taken over by the West Norriton Township.
There are many traditional Ross design features in the wonderful layout whilst the small greens are fast and true. Since the millennium, there has been significant investment to renovate many of these original features.
The architect Ron Pritchard, who specializes in renovating Ross designs, was brought in around the turn of the century to modernize many aspects of the course. This included re-adding 40 or so original bunkers and rebuilding the tee boxes on many holes.
There is again continued investment some twenty years later.
I couldn’t recommend enough getting yourself to Jeffersonville Golf Club and playing a top class, traditional Donald Ross design.
4. Scotland Run Golf Club
If you’re in central Philly and you cross the Delaware River, you’re in New Jersey. So driving a good half hour south of the city, takes you deep into the state. Yet the golf course we’re heading to on this occasion is well worth the drive.
Scotland Run Golf Club is a sensational golf club. So much so I ranked it as one of the best public offerings in New Jersey. But if you’re staying in Philadelphia, Scotland Run is easily accessible.
The club is located between Williamstown and Glassboro, in what was previously a sand quarry. This unique topography created some fascinating opportunities for the course architect to integrate into the routing.
Stephen Kay and Doug Smith were engaged to bring Scotland Run to life, which it did in the year 1999.
The layout is primarily a links-style course, in large part due to the sandy soil it was built upon. But naturally, the quarry element comes into play with vast cliffs and expansive waste areas to contend with.
Add to this forced carries, huge bunkers and water hazards, this course is no push over. Being completely open also means you are at the mercy of the elements.
This really is one of the best public golf courses in Philadelphia and was recognised by Golf World as one of the Top 50 Public Courses in the country.
5. Rock Manor Golf Course
As is the case with a city which hugs various state borders, it should be unsurprising that this time we’re off to Delaware.
Just outside the city of Wilmington is Rock Manor Golf Course, a fine facility which recently benefited from a major overhaul. The layout was previously a relatively short 5,779 yards. Although this was lengthened to 6,405 yards.
Granted, still not the longest compared to some monstrous courses with their 7,000+ yardages. But as I stress to my wife, length isn’t everything. There are so many other redeeming features at Rock Manor.
One of those is just the general playability. This course is fun! There is a great mixture of wide open fairways to rip the driver. Followed by a challenging blind tee shot, for example. There is real variety and the conditioning, for the number of rounds it receives, is impressive.
There is very little water, with a lake coming into play on only two holes. But the greens are rapid and this is where your round could be made or lost.
6. The Bucks Club
A 45 minute drive north from central Philadelphia, out towards Jamison, is the Bucks Club.
It’s not often you come across an elegant golf club without it being to some degree private. But here at The Bucks Club you have a superb club, with facilities, a vast clubhouse and 18-hole championship golf course all completely open to the public.
The clubhouse is so impressive and large, it is a popular event for weddings. All the more so with the well-manicured grounds providing the perfect backdrop for photographs!
As for the golf course, it’s more than just a pleasant affair. This is a fine and challenging layout which has been around since 1961, designed by Bill Gordon and David Gordon.
Traditional parkland in style, the routing meanders round a verdant plot with tricky doglegs, strategic bunkering and small, well-protected greens.
The front-nine opens play up gently whilst things really come to life on the back nine. On some holes it seems like you’re playing a different course and the challenge steps up a gear. For example, the already tricky greens seem to get even more demanding.
The Bucks Club is a fun and engaging layout and well worth the visit.
7. Turtle Creek Golf Course
Turtle Creek Golf Course more than earns its position on this list as it is consistently rated as one of the best public golf courses around Philadelphia. This is across any number of golf ranking websites.
Located in Limerick, it’s a good 45 minute drive from central Philadelphia. But for a quality round of golf, I recommend the drive.
Compared to many courses around Greater Philadelphia, Turtle Creek is a more recent addition having opened in 1997. It was designed by Ed Biedel who across his career has been involved in over 240 different projects. This includes across the US but also in places such as Bermuda and Puerto Rico.
At Turtle Creek, the course and its facilities are routed across 200 acres of former farmland. This is not a heavily tree-lined course. Quite the opposite. The vast majority of the plot is open and exposed. There are just a handful of holes which pull you into a wooded portion.
Generally, the well maintained fairways are wide and forgiving. This is 100% somewhere to pull out the big dog and let rip. Greens are large and also in great condition.
It is no wonder this was one of just a couple of courses in the area to be awarded four and a half stars from Golf Digest.
8. The Golf Course at Glen Mills
Another course which is consistently rated as one of the best public golf courses in Philadelphia, is the fantastic Golf Course at Glen Mills.
The club is located just outside of the historic village of Thornton, which was in the day a rest stop between York and Philadelphia. In 2007 Thornton was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The golf course here was designed by Bobby Weed and opened for play in 2000. Renowned for being a top public facility, it is also home to a worthy residential youth program for troubled youths.
Weed had a wonderful canvas to work with, the site being both densely wooded and hilly. This translated superbly into his design.
The first four holes are wide and open, easing you into the round. But as things go on, it gets progressively harder and more challenging. Wetlands, snaking streams, tight fairways and plenty of bunkers all combine to make this a challenging but great fun layout.
9. Pitman Golf Course
Over the state border in Sewell, New Jersey, is the fine Pitman Golf Course.
The club has been here for around a century, having opened for play in 1927. It was originally a nine-hole course, designed by the Scottish and American golf pioneer Alexander Findlay.
After moving to America in 1887, Findlay helped to spread the game of golf.
Starting with a rudimentary course in Nebraska, he then went on to trailblaze the path for other golf courses across a handful of other states. His most famous achievement was The Breakers at Palm Beach with the first layout opening in 1897.
Here at Pitman, the course has evolved somewhat but still kept much of its original charm. Within the 185 acres of land, the layout was enlarged to 18 holes in 1931, now measuring 6,480 yards.
One of the most redeeming and enjoyable aspects of Pitman, is how playable it is. Yes the greens are small, but generally you’ll recover from your poor shots and all going well, post a decent score.
It is also great value for money with twilight rates starting around $25. This is a ‘hometown’ classic with a massive beer garden to enjoy post round.
10. Golden Pheasant Golf Club
And last on the list of best public golf courses in Philadelphia, is yet another great fun layout, Golden Pheasant Golf Club.
Just over a half hours drive from central Philly, is one of Burlington County’s best public golf offerings. So much so, it was voted their #1 in 2013.
Suffice to say, there are some pretty decent golf courses in this area and many people might argue this ‘award’. But what you can’t argue is how much fun it is to come and play here.
This is unpretentious stuff. A friendly welcome. Great value golf rates. And a round which you’ll complete in less than 4 hours.
From the back tees, this par 72 measures just shy of 6,300 yards. The traditional parkland course meanders through a picturesque setting with a number of subtle elevation changes.
The front nine is for me the weakest, with some of the holes being a bit repetitive and running side by side. But on the back nine, things definitely start to get a lot more interesting. There is more water in play and the surrounding landscape gets more wooded.
All in all, this is a fine public track. If Burlington County was looking for the friendliest and most fun golf course, then maybe the award was well deserved.
What is the best public golf course in Philadelphia?
The best public golf course in Philadelphia is Broad Run Golfer’s Club. Located in Marshallton, in the heart of the Pennsylvania countryside, it was designed by the celebrated golf course designer Rees Jones.