In 2012, the Country Club of Scranton engaged Tom Marzolf to renovate its original old Walter Travis-designed course which is now the centrepiece at this 27-hole facility despite Michael Hurdzan’s engaging 1988 nine-hole addition.
For those of you that worship Walter Travis, or the epic virtues of Golden Age masterpieces, the Country Club of Scranton is one of the most impressive golf courses that doesn’t get a fraction of the recognition that it deserves. The location is isolated, but every mile of the road-trip is worth it a million times over.
Before I comment on the golf course, allow me to mention that every person on Tom Doak’s team has visited this course in recent years, including multiple visits from Tom himself. How many clubs can say that? A funny piece of trivia is that this is not the only world class golf course in the state of Pennsylvania which has Church-Pews and a main road running through the property! Sound familiar?
The growing conditions and green-keeping strategy are best in class and it shows in every direction. Thousands upon thousands of trees have been removed across the entire property, with thousands more on the chopping block. The sweeping views across the rolling topology and of the adjacent Summit Lake have been opened up for the first time in over a century. Just two years ago, the volume of trees was suffocating the airflow and views, but now the cloth has been whipped off the table to reveal the prize.
The club is at 1,600 feet above sea level and is blessed with wonderful change in elevation. I was skeptical about the flow of the course being broken by multiple trips back and forth across the road (like Royal Melbourne East bouncing across paddocks), but the orientation of the course is as good as gold. I just wished more people would walk the golf course rather than an entourage of golf carts down every fairway.
The quality, intrigue and genius of the Travis greens are right up there with the likes of Crystal Downs. The natural contours are superbly presented and are beautiful from any viewing angle. I conclude that these precious greens are essentially a golfing museum, but you’re allowed to touch the art.
A major point of contention for me though is the mix of bunkering. The original Travis bunkers are sublime and works of art in their own right. Many of them have the razor sharp edges visible throughout the iconic Melbourne Sandbelt, which steeply rise up above the level of the putting surfaces and generally make you shake in your boots. The shaping of them is beyond incredible, and there are only two guys on the maintenance crew who are skilled/qualified to touch them every day!! I absolutely loved them.
Unfortunately, in recent years, many of the bunkers were renovated or added by the Fazio group who implemented their own style of bunkering, which simply put, are a total disaster. The superintendent told me the full story of the background as to why it happened – but you look down a fairway or at a green-site and you have a sharp Travis bunker sitting right next to a cluster of Fazio bunkers with big grassy tongues. It’s just really wrong. It’s a smorgasbord of “how could they let this happen?” It’s like Frank Sinatra being asked to perform a duet with Justin Bieber. I am not supportive when a modern-day Fazio design team removes the bones from an old classic and strips it of its original appearance. The remaining Travis bunkers are wildly more impressive and “fitting” to the brilliance of the course. The visual mix of bunkering styles on too many of the holes is a real head-scratcher. In my humble opinion, a master plan to remove all traces of Fazio bunkering and quickly implement 100% Travis bunkering all over the course is unquestionably the largest correction needed at this otherwise sensational golf course.
In summary, the club doesn’t get the praise it truly deserves, as it’s potentially a US Top 100 golf course.
An underrated course by Walter Travis. Very few trees are on this classic gem, which provides for outstanding views of the rolling hills. The greens are wild, but fascinating and a whole lot of fun.