3600 St Davids Road,
Pennsylvania (PA) 19073,
- +1 610 356 6055
10 miles N of Wilmington
Members and their guests only
The course in play today at Aronimink Golf Club opened in 1928 and Dornoch’s most famous son, Donald Ross, originally designed it. Since then, the course has been altered many times down the years, while remaining true to Ross’s original design principles: to ensure even the best players are put to the “supreme test”.
Named after the chief of the Lenape tribe who once occupied the farmhouse that was used as the original clubhouse, the Aronimink Golf Club was established at the end of the 19th century and its members played golf at a couple of locations before upping sticks from Drexel Hill and settling on a 300-acre site at Newtown Square in 1926. The first play on the Ross-designed course took place on Memorial Day two years later.
Aronimink’s opening hole sets the tone with a long par four that plunges down into a valley then rises uphill to a well-protected green. It’s the first of many challenging two-shot holes that golfers will face during their round.
There are a number of demanding doglegs on the outward half, particularly the par four 7th, where the approach must carry a cavernous bunker protecting the front of the green and this hole is followed by perhaps the toughest one-shotter on the card, a par three that plays 237 yards downhill to a narrow putting surface.
The back nine begins with another strong par four measuring 454 yards from the back markers and its narrow fairway leads to a bunkerless green that’s protected by water to the front left of the putting surface. The 18th doglegs slightly right to a magnificent, castle-like clubhouse and this tough uphill closing hole plays to every inch of the 436 yards indicated on the card.
In 2003, Ron Prichard completed a restoration project to recapture many of the classic Ross features that had become diluted over time with greens returned to their original shape and bunkers returned to their intended size.
The course has hosted several national competitions in the modern era including the 1962 PGA Championship which Gary Player won, the 1977 US Amateur when John Fought beat Doug Fischesser 9&8 in the final match, the 1997 US Junior Amateur when Jason Allred defeated Trevor Immelman 1-UP in the final and the 2003 Senior PGA Championship, won by John Jacobs.
Following the recent discovery of old photographs from
1929, the club approved a further restoration project under the stewardship
of Gil Hanse. Bunkers have been returned to their original shapes and greens complexes
have been restored to their former Donald Ross roots. Work completed in spring 2018 ahead of the club’s hosting of the BMW Championship in September, which Keegan Bradley won after defeating Justin Rose in a play-off.
A beautiful Donald Ross course that sometimes gets overlooked due to its proximity to Merion. It has one of the greatest opening holes, with a tee shot from an elevated tee down into a valley and then up again to an elevated green. The par threes all play downhill, which I like. The 5th, although short, is particularly well bunkered. The 7th is a memorable uphill par four dogleg with a table top green that is cut into the side of a hill and is well bunkered. The 11th is a very challenging par four that seems to keep rising up the hill with an elevated green that is quite challenging. One of Ross’s best routings, with continual change in direction. Every time I play Aronimink I am more impressed. The course is very well maintained and the greens run true and are fast.
Donald Ross made a famous quote about Aronimink which is shown on the first tee on a plaque by the first hole. He said, “I intended to make this course my masterpiece, but not until today did I realize I built better than I knew.”
It is a very good golf course, a par 70 playing at just under 6600 yards from the member tees and over 7200 from the championship tees. Gil Hanse just recently completed a renovation that restored the golf course essentially to how it was built. Ross’ original design was slightly different than how it was built. However, Gil Hanse left out a few of the original features and added a few bunkers. The result of the most recent renovation is that Aronimink plays a bit easier due to much wider fairways and larger greens. Most of the additional bunkers are merely “eye candy,” and should not come into play that often. In the most recent BMW Championship featuring the top 70 players on the PGA Tour, held in September, 2018, the winning score was -20 and the low round of the tournament was a 61. Keegan Bradely won in a playoff over Justin Rose as Justin Rose performed poorly on the final hole and in the playoff.
The course is one of the best conditioned courses one will play.
I always wonder about the routing at Aronimink as it is my opinion and the opinion of my guests that the back nine is too straight, despite the wider tees designed to create a visual appearance of a dogleg by the placement of the tee markers on one side or the other of the tee.
Donald Ross did not incorporate water often into his designs yet when I stand on the tenth tee (which is one of the best holes on the golf course), I often wonder why he did not incorporate the pond sat lower down the hill on the left as a par 3 with the green fast against the pond. The next hole could have begun in the woods above this green and still incorporated the ridge line on the tenth fairway while utilizing the existing brilliant green. By doing this one would have had an excellent dogleg left that still favored the bold and longer player.
This routing would have created an extra hole. A solution might have been to combine the short thirteenth par 4 with the mid-length par 3 fifteenth hole to create a slight double dogleg hole and still used the current fourteenth green. Suddenly one could have had more variety in the holes on the back nine.
But we evaluate what is there and what is there is worthy of being discussed in the top 100 in the USA.
The first is one of the hardest holes on the golf course, a long par 4 that plays longer than the yardage unless you hit it 280-320 off the tee. You play from a very elevated tee to a steep slope in front of you. Make it to the flatter part and you are rewarded with a shot of 130-160 yards. Stay on the hill and you often have just over 200 yards to the flag. The green is enormous and has a huge spine running horizontally through the first third. The hole has a collection of bunkers on the right side of the fairway that should not come into play as well as deep and large bunkers left but short of the green. Another bunker is on the right. While this hole is not as difficult as a starting hole as Oakmont’s, it is a sudden shock to the system for the average length player.
The second hole is a dogleg left with a slightly tilted fairway. From the member tees, the longer hitter will fly the two collections of bunkers on the left side of the fairway. If they can carry the bunkers they are left with less than 100 yards. From the back tees, the longer player would play to the right of them which is where other players aim. The green is defended by bunkers front left and two bunkers on the right. The green has a run-off area behind it where one’s ball can end 60 feet away as well as a fall off to the right that can kick a ball almost into the trees. Finally, there is a mound that bites into the green on the right front. This is a trickier green than it looks.
The third hole is the number one index on the front nine as a mid-length par 4 with lots of room to the right side. If you go too far right you can have your approach shot blocked by some trees. But the big hitter should always aim to the right because down the left side it feels like bunkers go all the way to the left side of the green starting about 90 yards out. The front right also is well bunkered both short of the green and greenside. The green has a vertical spine running through the middle and is steeply sloped back to front. If you go over the green you could reach the trees behind it or face a tough chip back down the steep slope.
The fourth hole is a long straight par four with bunkers left and right, but the fairway is generous in width. There are fairway bunkers well short of the green on the left and a deep, large bunker on the green to the right. The green is large but once again if you go over you face a tough chip back as the green slopes back to front and has several subtle ridges in it. This is a green that is usually underestimated for its difficulty.
The fifth hole is the shortest par 3 on the golf course playing anywhere from 130-170 yards depending on the pin position. There are bunkers surrounding most of the green and once again they are deep. The green is large but has multiple ridges throughout. It is a gem of a golf hole.
The sixth hole has changed dramatically due to the removal of nearly all of the trees on the right which at one point were very dense. This is a dogleg right. There are bunkers on the right so the safe play is to the left of them. The green sits at the top of the rise and can create a blind shot into it.
There are deep bunkers on the right front of the green and a mound on the left that cuts into the front left of the green. The green is steeply tilted back to front and three putts are common here.
The seventh hole is another dogleg right with a blind tee shot requiring one to stay as far right as possible as the fairway slopes downhill and tilts to the left. But if you stay too right you can get caught up in deep grass around the mounds or even have your second shot blocked by many trees. There are two bunkers fronting the green and a long, deep bunker on the left sitting well below the green which tilts back to front and once again has a horizontal spine running through the middle right.
The eighth hole is one of the holes visitors remember the most as it is a long downhill par 3 that plays to what looks like a very narrow green with bunkers on either side at the front but the one on the right eats into the green a bit. The green complex connects to the green complex for the tenth hole. It also has a sharp fall-off area on the left side of the green and a mound on the back half of the left side. Depending on the pin placement it can be very difficult to two putt, but many pin placements are easier particularly if you are below the hole.
The ninth hole is the first of only two par 5’s on the golf course. From the championship tee it is 610 yards but for the member typically plays around 540. The first shot is slightly downhill with bunkers on the right and a very nasty, deep, raised bunker on the left. There is another set of bunkers on the left side which you are tempted to aim for as the fairway tilts to the right. There is another deep bunker about 85 yards short of the green on the right. From this bunker on the right you will have a blind shot as the green is well above you. Finally, there are bunkers on the left front. The green is large but once again has subtle breaks and speed to it.
The tenth is a long par 4 from a raised tee hitting downhill for the shorter hitter but the longer hitter drives it straight over the ridge and picks up an additional 30-40 yards leaving only a wedge into the green. There is a set of bunkers on the right side near the top of the ridge so you don’t want to aim right. Just beyond these bunkers is a large tree that typically means any shot hit into the right rough will have a difficult time advancing far. If you miss the left side of the fairway you are in heavier grass and have to contemplate hitting over a small pond that starts in the center of the green and finishes on the left side. It is a hole requiring courage to cover the pond and the green has a steep fall-off to the right and back. The green has a huge vertical ridge in it and is steeply slanted throughout. One note: the pond was not an original feature of the course; it was added because this part of the golf course was always wet and balls would often plug. But the course is better for having the pond.
The eleventh hole is a short, straight par four with lots of sand on the right side of the fairway and lesser amounts on the left. There is also sand both left and right near the green which is raised. To add to the sand there are three bunkers behind the green, center and right. There is a steep falloff to the right side of the raised green and a swale cuts deep into the green, more into the right side, and will bring any ball that doesn’t clear the swale back to the bottom of the bowl. One can think they might be within 10 feet of the pin yet be 50 feet away. It is a diabolical green but hugely fun to play.
The twelfth hole is a longer straight par 4 from an elevated tee with a bunker short left and two bunkers short right. From the championship tee this becomes a slight dogleg right. There is another set of bunkers on the right side of the fairway just beyond the first set as well as a set of bunkers on the left side at a mid-way point to the green for the second shot. The green has another set of bunkers to the right side. The green has a steep fall off to the left side and has mounds and a spine in it. This is one of the more difficult greens to putt.
The thirteenth is the shortest par 4 on the golf course but with a lot of bunkers on the left side. The rough can be very penal on the right side of the fairway. This is another straight tee shot. Near the green there are bunkers front and to the left. The green has a steep falloff to the right side and behind. There are both mounds and a spine in this green and it actually has the toughest pin location on the golf course, although it is rarely used as it is borderline unfair.
The fourteenth is perhaps the most forgettable hole, a long par 3 that is underestimated for how good it is. Once again there are bunkers left and right and a hidden one behind the green which has huge slants to it. The back right of the green feels like it is its own island.
The fifteenth is the longest par four on the golf course and you hit straight to a fairway tilted right to left. There is a large bunker complex to the right for the tee shot. The green is the largest on the golf course but is well protected by bunkers left and right with the left ones being deep.
The sixteenth is the second and last par five and plays as a slight dogleg left as a set of deep and large bunkers on the left side of this fairway that tilts left to right. There are two sets of bunkers down the right side of the fairway requiring a second shot to go back to the left. Go too far left and you might find the bunker there. The green is well defended with a large bunker fronting most of the green and two bunkers on the right. It has a fall-off area behind it. The green has several mounds in it and people often do not pay enough attention to their first putt.
The seventeenth is the final par 3 on the golf course and is perhaps the second most remembered. It can play as long as 230 yards and as short as 160 yards. There is a pond that was added a long time ago. There are two large bunkers on the right side. The green slopes back to front and has two ridges on the right side. One should always try to be below the hole on this green. If you miss the green short to the left you will be in the water.
The finishing hole plays about 480 yards from the back tee and 410 yards from the front tee. There are large bunkers on the right that members easily carry from the member tees. There are numerous bunkers left and right near the front of the green which has a big mound on the front left side and two spines running through it as well as some mounds leading to flat areas.
The strength of Aronimink is the green complexes, particularly the greens themselves. On a good day with the putter, you can shoot a low score here. On a bad day here, you can play well over your index. The concept for this golf course was “hard par/easy bogey” and I think that still holds true even after all of the bunkers were added. It is a visually pretty golf course with many of the trees being removed over the past ten years that has taken the course back nearly to how it was built. The longer views over the many fairways from the fourteenth green, twelfth tee, and fifteenth tee are splendid as are the views playing up nine and eighteen in front of the beautiful clubhouse.
It is a golf course one would never tire of playing and one that will improve your short game because that is how you score here. It takes good advantage of the rises and falls in the terrain of the golf course. Indeed, I have been told the highest point of elevation in the county is on the seventh hole where the mounds are on the right. The shots into the greens are all varied – some uphill, some downhill, some level.
Aronimink is a really good golf course, made better by the recent restoration by Gil Hanse. I've played the course twice prior to the restoration and twice since -- and it's definitely a stronger course now. In my opinion, the par 4 11th should now be their signature hole -- it's been greatly improved with smart bunkering, while still maintaining the severe green. I do get a bit bored playing the back 9 -- as it tends to be out and back, out and back golf. It's probably not going to "Wow" you with views or it's cosmetics -- but it's bones are solid, it has a new and refreshed look, and the history will keep me coming back every time.
The main storyline on Aronimink relates to a "before" and "after" situation involving architect Gil Hanse. The former course was a good one but needed a bit of long overdue pruning and an upgrading of the putting surfaces which Ross was masterful in creating. Hanse reclaimed nearly 30,000 square feet of green surface area and the additional amount has truly bolstered the layout with pin positions that can be tucked into the tiniest of areas. There's also the addition of 100+ bunkers -- many located in prime areas and reflecting recent gains made in ball and club technology.
The corridors at Aronimink are now free of the clutter -- the expanse of the property is there for the eye to see in its entirety. One of the main strengths at Aronimink is the land the course occupies. It is rolling -- without being excessive -- and provides sufficient movement so that working the ball to the correct side is often called upon.
The scale of the property allows for constant variety in the routing. One could likely fit three Merion East courses on the entire site at Aronimink.
The course commences with a solid opener. The elevated tee shows the par-4 hole of nearly 435 yards in its entirety as you plunge downhill then back uphill to the green. The putting surface is typical of what you find at Aronimink -- plenty of internal movements that mandate quality approaches time after time.
Aronimink opens with a four par-4 holes -- each totally different than the other -- and each going in different directions. They are not brutally hard per se but they don't yield birdies without proper execution. The short 5th is quite good -- the green sliding in different directions. The 6th and 7th are fairly benign -- both dogleg rights -- the former goes uphill and the latter downhill.
When you step on the tee box at the par-3 8th you encounter a hole on par with the qualities of the par-3 17th at Merion East. Generally the 245-yard hole plays into the prevailing wind and although the green is located 60 feet below the tee -- most players will need to hit a long iron of some sort to get to the hole. The green is narrow and runs on a spectacular diagonal from lower left to back right. There are closely mown areas around the green so the approach must be played with utter dexterity. The only way to get close is to hit a first rate shot.
The concluding hole on the front -- the long par-5 9th is well done. The tee shot must avoid a lurking fairway bunker on the left. The second shot for top players requires a clear decision. The hole climbs noticeably for the last 300 or so yards and there is a menacing fairway bunker that is perfectly placed to trap second shots that stray off line just a tad. The green is elevated and a quality birdie try can only happen with a deft pitch shot.
The first three holes on the inward half work so well. The 10th starts from an elevated tee. The fairway is sloped slightly from right-to-left and there is a good amount of drop-off once you get past the 285-yard mark. Strong players can opt to hit driver and take the risk in getting to the base of the hill -- leaving no more than a simple pitch. Those who block their shots to the right will find a formidable tree that blocks the side very well. The green is one of Aronimink's best, there is a saddle area that feeds off to elevated sides, both right and left. The pin when placed in the corners demands a keenly played approach.
The 11th that follows moves in a completely different direction and features a well-protected drive zone that likely will not impact the players in the BMW event. The key is the putting green. Here Hanse excelled in restoring the green. Heaven help any player not sufficiently getting the ball far enough into the target. The false front can easily suck back the ball and leave one gasping for air to make par. The Ross genius comes from using what the land provided and Hanse made sure to re-energize a hole that Ross himself would admire.
The long par-4 12th moves in another direction. From an elevated tee you hit into a valley floor before encountering a slightly uphill approach. The green also has its share of vexing movements and birdies can be had when tee shots find the fairway.
The major weakness of Aronimink comes with the par-4 13th and par-3 14th. The former is a just a lackluster hole. If there is anything missing at Aronimink it's having an upper echelon short par-4. The 14th is a good hole but something a bit more elastic in terms of length would have worked much better.
The closing stretch at Aronimink is quite good. The long par-4 15th is the strongest of the two-shot holes. The fairway bends slightly left and has protection on the right from a bunker that sticks out just enough to catch the feint of heart tee shots. Even those capable in carrying the bunker have to be ever mindful of the way a ball can easily finish left because of the tilt of the land. The approach is generally played with a long to mid iron and the green is one of the more sedate ones found at the course but there is a range of subtle breaks to confound the player.
The 16th is a fairly ordinary par-5. Top players competing at the BMW can reach the green in two blows under most conditions. The green does have movements and is slightly above the fairway. The par-3 17th at nearly 230 yards is simply grand stuff. The green is absolutely devilish -- movement is both subtle and more savage. Water does lurk on the left side but it's really more of a show than a reality for the top players. Long par-3 holes can often be simply dull with little real imagination. Both the 8th and 17th at Aronimink are vintage Ross efforts with Hanse brilliantly doing an updating -- not a forced effort seeking to impose his style.
The closing hole at Aronimink has been changed a good bit via Hanse. The back tee was extended to 460+ yards and slightly lowered. The hole previously was loaded with endless trees -- that situation has been smartly rectified. The hole climbs uphill and the there is a pesky fairway bunker on the right that requires a strong poke of 310+ yards to carry. There’s a stately solitary tree on the same side and it truly adds to the beauty of the hole. Deep rough awaits a pulled shot to the left and the green, like others at Aronimink, is elevated. The design of the green is good but not as challenging as a number of others.
Hats off to the superintendent his team because the turf conditions at the course are superb. Hanse made sure there's sufficient width so using driver on nearly all the holes is something most players will likely opt to use.
Regrettably, Aronimink doesn't get the fanfare of other Ross courses such as Pinehurst #2 and Seminole. Others such as Inverness -- which was wonderfully renovated recently and now work is being carried out by Hanse at that fantastic layout in Michigan -- Oakland Hills / South. Aronimink has made it a point to be among the locations for key events -- starting with Gary Player's win at the 1962 PGA and with the club looking to serve as host to that same event in '27.
In the final analysis, Ross provided a quality routing -- always changing and never routine. And the greens he created are certainly among his very best. The greater Philadelphia area has a number of stellar courses but Aronimink remains only in the shadow of Merion / East in its neighborhood. That certainly says plenty given the range and depth of courses located in this private club haven.
by M. James Ward
I had played over 50 rounds here before they redesigned the course for the PGA. Unfortunately the PGA cut down some great old trees so the course is much more open now, but still a bear to tame with its long straight par 4s, and long par 3s. It was always in great shape and if you think it plays easy by todays standards the greenskeeper will grow the rough to 5 inches and double cut the greens to roll at a 13, then good luck because that is how the course was designed to play...hard and fast. Even Tiger couldn't break par here at his own tournament. Bring your hybrid or your favorite long iron because you will need them if you play the back tees.
Aronimink, which was named after the Indian chief of the Lenape tribe, hosted the 1962 PGA Championship and the 1977 U.S. Amateur. The course plays to par 70 for men and par 74 for women; the distance issue was solved by adding par 5s for women. Larry Berle.
On the approach to Aronimink, driving through the leafy suburb of Newtown Square, you are quickly made aware that this is no normal suburb, it is here and also along the “main line”(which is interestingly enough where Merion is located) that the elite of Philadelphia have made their homes.
The prestige and heritage of this club is evident from every angle. This is a club for the privileged. encompassing an elaborate swimming pool, trap shooting, tennis, fitness centre and within the clubhouse exists one of the best and most comprehensive dining experiences I have ever encountered with exceptional service. The clubhouse sits atop a hill, the course laid out below with the 1st and 10th tee-shots dropping dramatically downhill and the approaches to 9 and 18 rising dramatically uphill. The above is extremely impressive and I would be lying if I said it didn’t; add to the overall experience, however my interest is in the quality of the golf course and my only worry was that it would turn out to be a let down.
Having played Plainfield which is another one of Ross’s east coast courses only a couple of weeks prior to my day at Aronimink I was very keen to compare and contrast. At Plainfield Ross created an exemplary routing with one of the finest blend and balanced collection of holes I have witnessed. The pro’s at the AT&T national had been universal in their praise for Aronimink but again I was sceptical as it was a tournament being hosted by Tiger Woods and few if any would ever speak their mind at the Tiger’s tournament. Once I stepped onto the first tee, my fears in that sense were allayed but quickly shifted to a fear of not finding the fairway, for in front of me stood one of the best starting holes I have played (Portstewart and Pine Valley, rival it). The hole is inviting and yet also littered with trouble. A tree lined strip of green fairway that slides downhill and then rises sharply up to the green creating almost a soft “U-shaped” hole. Reaching the second I was already in heaven and I had only played one hole!
The advice I had been given was to stay below the hole as most of the greens slope viciously from back to front. The course encourages you to open up, the shoulders and let go, it presents the same visual Ross style aspects as at Plainfield (after the tree removal) but offers the player a wider target from the tee. As I write this review I attempt to think of standout holes but in reality they all have their merits, not in the same way as at Pine Valley or even Bethpage Black where a case could be made that many of the holes are the best examples of their kind, but insofar that no hole exists where I could honesty call it “weak”. 7 through 10 is a tremendous stretch, the 8th being one of the most demanding par 3’s I have seen and ten an typical Ross par 4 presenting a stiff challenge from the tee, the fairway and the green.
It is obvious Ross tried to impress his Scottish heritage both at Plainfield and here at Aronimink, with the open nature of the course and the option he gives you with regard to club selection around the greens. At clubs where the whole “country club” experience exists, I am of the opinion that the golf suffers, as it is treated just as another sport whereas in reality it should be the centrepiece of the whole establishment. That being at Aronimink they seem to have upheld the strong golf culture within the club, from the caddies right down to the practice facilities it is evident that golf is still very much the premier endeavour here.
Naturally I was always going to compare Aronimink to Plainfield and in hindsight the two are extremely similar, however I feel Plainfield just shades it on the basis that it tests a wider variety of shots from the tee. At Aronimink the driver is never literally taken out of the player’s hands, he is rarely asked to think twice about his club selection, it could be used in theory from every tee(barring the par 3’s) if the player wished to do so, whereas at Plainfield there is more variety and the setup puts more doubt in the players mind. They are both fine tracks and in light of the coverage it has received from the AT&T I would not be one bit surprised if Aronimink made a steady rise up the rankings. Nick