Association welcomes 11 new Member Clubs in 2010
Part I of II
The Golf Association of Philadelphia welcomes 11 new Member Clubs this year: Back Creek Golf Club in Middletown, Del., Bidermann Golf Club in Wilmington, Del., Golden Pheasant Golf Club in Lumberton, N.J., Limekiln Golf Club in Ambler, Pa., Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson, N.J., Middletown Country Club in Langhorne, Pa., PineCrest Country Club in Lansdale, Pa., Rancocas Golf Club in Willingboro, N.J.; Reading Country Club in Reading, Pa., The Club at Shannondell in Norristown, Pa. and Skippack Golf Club at Evansburg State Park in Skippack, Pa. These additions raise the Association’s membership to 143.
Four of the new clubs (Back Creek, Bidermann, Metedeconk National and Reading) make their triumphant return while the remaining seven (Golden Pheasant, Limekiln, Middletown, PineCrest, Rancocas, The Club at Shannondell and Skippack Golf Club at Evansburg State Park) move from associate to full-time status.
This is the first of two installments.
Back Creek Golf Club
2010 marks a new beginning for Back Creek Golf Club.
After its former ownership, Creek Course, LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2008, Back Creek GC is now under a new management regime. It bolts back onto the Association’s course after spending 2009 nestled inside the clubhouse.
Back Creek GC is a par 71 layout that measures 7,200 yards from the championship tees. During the offseason, it underwent significant renovations and upgrades.
Founding owner Allen Liddicoat hired architect David E. Horne to design Back Creek, which opened in 1997 in Middletown, Del. It features large, fast greens with multiple hole locations and a barren links-style. Trees only come into play on three holes, and ponds are a factor on six holes. The course weaves through a housing development and presents a view of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.
In 1999, Golfweek ranked Back Creek GC 98th in its list of “America’s 100 Best Modern Courses.” The club is open to the public. Aside from golf, it also offers a full restaurant and tavern, meeting facilities and a pro shop.
Back Creek GC hosted the Association’s Caddie Tournament in 2007 and Four-Man Team in 2008.
Bidermann Golf Club
Bidermann Golf Club rejoins the GAP roster this year.
“We are excited to become full members of the Golf Association of Philadelphia and its long commitment to the game of golf,” General Manager Paula Kelly said. “Our members are looking forward to enjoying the privileges of membership, including participation in Team Matches and other competitions during the year.”
Bidermann GC was originally the 9-hole private course of Henry Francis du Pont at his home estate of Winterthur. Du Pont, the club’s only member, hired architect Devereux Emmet to build him a course on his property.
In 1963, du Pont was approached by his cousin and Bidermann’s founding member, George Weymouth, who believed that there was a need for a small, intimate club devoted solely to golf. Du Pont had enough land to complete a 15-hole course, but needed more property to finish a full 18-hole course and to have a place for a locker room and dining.
So, he turned to his cousin, close friend and avid golfer Emily du Pont, who was able to provide the remaining property to complete the course and surrounding facility. Bidermann GC officially opened on July 4, 1965. In the beginning, there was only one club rule: “ball must be lifted from any flower bed and dropped no nearer hole without penalty.” This remained the only club rule because Weymouth was insistent that given the size and quality of the membership, rules were unnecessary.
Architect Dick Wilson designed the course on a 300-acre site. In the golf realm, Wilson, an understudy of the iconic Bill Flynn and Howard Toomey, was considered one of the best architects of the post-World War II era. He designed 74 golf courses, including Cog Hill G&CC’s Dubsdread Course in Lemont, Ill. and Pine Green GC in Boynton Beach, Fla., a track that Ben Hogan once called “the best I have ever seen.” Bidermann is a traditional style course, with native grasslands separating each golf hole. It was renovated and restored in 2006. That restoration continues with the course’s fairway bunkers.
In 1977, Bidermann GC merged with Vicmead Hunt Club to provide a full-service country club. In addition to an 18-hole golf course, its features include a driving range, putting green, chipping green, long range practice green, men’s and women’s locker rooms, pro shop and a farmhouse with terrace dining.
Aronimink GC’s R. Jay Sigel began his record Open Championship run at Bidermann GC in 1975. Sigel carded a remarkable 7-under-par 137 and won the tournament by an astonishing 12 strokes. He fired nine birdies and an eagle on the day. A professional didn’t even break par on the scorecard.
Golden Pheasant Golf Club
Golden Pheasant Golf Club, located in Lumberton, N.J., swoops into full-member status this year.
“My thoughts can be described in two words: opportunity and exposure,” Paul Capri, the club’s general manager and superintendent, said. “The opportunity is for the members of the Golden Pheasant Golf Association to compete against other GAP member courses, whether that is at home or away. The exposure is to have players from other member courses to discover and experience what the Golden Pheasant Golf Club has to offer and that it is a truly relaxed and enjoyable golf experience.”
Golden Pheasant GC’s first nine holes opened in 1962 and an additional nine were unveiled the following year. The course sits in a predominantly agricultural area of Burlington County. The majority of Golden Pheasant’s property is located in Lumberton Township, but a small portion is in Medford Township.
Creeks can be found at Golden Pheasant GC. The Rancocas Creek borders the course’s west side, and “Little Creek” cuts right through it.
“These creek basins have carved out the terrain here, allowing for some elevation change that makes the golden pheasant unique to South Jersey,” Capri said.
Eleven holes feature elevation changes that create a variety of lies. Capri considers No. 8 — an elevated, 180-yard par 3 — to be Golden Pheasant’s signature hole. It presents a tee to green elevation change of approximately 40 ft. Water comes into play directly off the front of the tee then borders the left side off the green. There is also a small pond to the right of the green.
Renovations have occurred throughout Golden Pheasant GC’s history. The first three holes underwent alterations in the late 1960s/early 70s. The current clubhouse was built in 1972. Golden Pheasant changed its final nine holes in the early 1990s to alleviate congestion between Nos. 13, 14 and 16. In the process, the 13th green and 16th were relocated.
“These changes make for a much more interesting back nine,” Capri said.
In 2001, the Cave family purchased Golden Pheasant GC from its founding owners, Carmen Capri, Harry DeRidder and Charles Lepre. Since then, more renovations have taken place. They include full renovations of the men’s and women’s locker rooms, reconstruction of the No. 9 and No. 18 tees, renovation of the retaining wall on the No. 12 tee, and the addition of bunkers to the golf course.
And further changes rest ahead, according to Capri. Golden Pheasant, under Stephen Kay’s consultation, is looking to add nine holes as well as a new clubhouse on an adjacent property, Capri said. Club officials aren’t certain when the project will be completed.
“Although we continue to work with the state of New Jersey and have invested a sizeable amount of money on the permitting process, progress has been very slow,” Capri said.
Finally, Capri is also “assessing the feasibility of adding a 10-stall driving range” this year. In addition to the course itself, Golden Pheasant offers furnished locker rooms, pro shop, small practice area and a restaurant with a banquet facility. The club is semi-private with available memberships. James Bergen is the head professional.
Golden Pheasant organizes friendly competitions among its membership from April to September, according to Capri. It will conduct its 40th Annual Member/Guest in June. The club aims to cultivate an inviting environment for golf lovers and newcomers alike.
“By far the best attribute of the Golden Pheasant Golf Club is the friendly attitude of its clientele and its staff alike,” Capri said. “This is not a course where you come to the pro shop and you are made to feel like you are bothering the staff by showing up. We strive to make everyone feel welcome, whether it is the first or the 50th you have played the golf club.”
Limekiln Golf Club
As a full member club this year, Limekiln Golf Club intends to participate in the Association’s most distinguished competition.
“We’ve entered two teams in the GAP Team Matches this year,” General Manager Robin Roberts said. “Our Associate Member program has over 300 members. These members receive a discount every time they play, a handicap, and starting this season, full membership with the Golf Association of Philadelphia.”
Formerly known as Oak Park, Limekiln GC was purchased in 1966 by a group of 20 business owners, which included famous Philadelphia Phillies Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons. Alex Duncan, a former head professional at Philadelphia Cricket Club, designed Oak Park’s 18-hole course in late 1930s. It was completely rebuilt and renamed soon after the new ownership took over. New greens, tees, fairways and an irrigation system were installed.
Over the years, Roberts and Simmons became Limekiln’s majority owners. Simmons managed the course following his retirement from baseball in 1967. Twenty years later, Limekiln acquired additional acreage and added nine holes to the course layout. It currently boasts three nine-hole courses: Red, White and Blue.
Limekiln’s three layouts are “all a little different from each other,” says Roberts’ son Robin, the club’s general manager. The Red course features shorter, tighter par fours and two relatively short par threes. The White and Blue courses are a combination of Limekiln’s original back nine and the nine new holes added in 1987.
“We use to say it was more like a links course because it was carved out of cornfields, and was very flat,” Roberts said. “But, the trees planted in 1987 have grown up, and White/Blue combination is the toughest of the three layouts.”
Limekiln GC is a daily-fee facility. It also features a pro shop, men’s and women’s locker rooms and a bar and grill.
Metedeconk National Golf Club
In 2009, Metedeconk National Golf Club played the role of a redshirt senior in GAP University.
One year later, it sheds that label by returning as a full member club.
“Metedeconk is thrilled to be back as part of such a long standing association,” Head Pro John Rutecki said. “As we all know, the GAP is extremely highly regarded within all areas of golf in America, and so for this reason, it is a great benefit for the Club and our members. We have a few members who love to play in the open competitions, which are organized by the GAP, and they will be thrilled to know that we have re-joined for the foreseeable future. For the club to be a member of both the MGA (Metropolitan Golf Association) and the GAP puts us in a unique situation that we are very proud of.”
Metedeconk National GC opened in 1987. Esteemed architects Roger Rulewich and Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed the Jackson, N.J. track on nearly 800-acres in the upper region of the New Jersey Pinelands. Both felt inspired by the varied topography of the preserve. In fact, Metedeconk National was one of Jones’ last designs.
“With the amount of time he personally spent on site, we feel this was proven to be one of his greatest designs,” Rutecki said. “His favorite hole was the short, par 4 seventh. A player must choose either the risky route or play a more conservative tee shot to the widest part of the landing area. The conservative route creates a blind second shot, while a longer tee shot to the left of a yawning fairway bunker opens up the second shot, and provides a spectacular downhill view of the putting surface. Regardless of tee shot positioning, the approach is very demanding, as the green is protected by bunkers short and long, and a pond off the left edge.”
Rutecki considers Metedeconk National’s 27-holes to be its most unique aspect.
“Each hole has been cut from the Pinelands, each sitting individually, with its own personality and look,” he said. “All holes gel perfectly together, creating one of the best golfing experiences in the northeast. The final hole on each nine are arguably the best finishing holes around, requiring precision off the tee and an accurate second shot. Many matches are decided on these closing holes.”
Water serves as a playing hazard on seven holes. Wildlife, such as deer, foxes, muskrats and hawks, can be spotted while out on the course. Metedeconk National carries four sets of tees ranging from 5,200 to 7,200 yards.
“The club prides itself on the pure golf that is found through all three nines,” Rutecki said. “The layout and flow from hole to hole is seamless, and with three different course rotations, one can play every day and find new challenges each time they step onto the course.”
Aside from its 27-hole facility, Metedeconk National GC also boasts a 40-acre practice area that contains almost two acres of teeing ground, multiple target greens, a 10,000 square-foot putting green, and short game area that includes target greens accepting shots of up to 150 yards.
Robert Lamb Hart, a New York firm, designed Metedeconk National’s clubhouse, which opened in 1996. It features lock rooms for men and women, golf shop, three dining areas and an enclosed porch. The club also offers 2 eight-bedroom cottages available to members and their guests. Membership stands at approximately 300.
Metedeconk National GC has hosted the Metropolitan Open, the New Jersey Open and various state and NJPGA sectional events. It will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2012.
“The Club prides itself on understated elegance,” Rutecki said. “This is reflected in the course conditioning, which year over year rivals any course in the country. Metedeconk National has already established itself as one of the premiere golf clubs in the northeast.”