Host to the United Hospitals Senior Golf Championship on the Champions Tour between 1985-1987 (and subsequently under different sponsorship until 1997), Chester Valley Golf Club has flown quietly under the golfing radar since Don January (1967 PGA Championship victor) claimed the inaugural 1985 title here.
“Chester Valley was for many years the subject of debate as to whether its original 1930 course was built by Donald Ross (the odds on favorite) or Perry Maxwell,” wrote Daniel Wexler in The American Private Golf Club Guide, “a question rendered largely moot when late-1960s road construction led to George Fazio building 16 new holes, retaining only the 3rd and 4th from those early days.
The present layout represents fairly typical Fazio work, with smaller greens requiring accurate iron play, but also yielding birdie putts of reasonable distance. Aside from the creek-guarded 192-yard 7th, Chester Valley’s best stretch comes in the first half of the back nine where the 357-yard 11th (which twists between trees and over a creek), the 435-yard 12th, and the 441-yard 13th will test even the best of players. A solid track, but it’s doubtful that Fazio’s version is better than Ross’s/Maxwell’s was.”
The club itself states that holes 2, 3, 4 and the green at No. 9 are originals. Regardless, most of the classic design disappeared due to the building of Route 202, but a 2009 renovation by Jim Nagle of Forse Design, Inc, undoubtedly breathed new life into Fazio's old layout.
My initial visit to Chester Valley came when the PGA Champions Tour played an event there from 1985 to 1997. The course's original pedigree is tied to the renowned architect Perry Maxwell and opened in May of 1930 although the club touts its creation going back to 1923.
The terrain for golf is mouth watering -- it's constantly in motion. Not overly excessive where walking is not feasible but it never takes the foot off the gas. You have to be especially aware of targets when playing Chester Valley because being out of position from the fairway will clearly impact one's approaches throughout the round.
Among the standout holes is the par-4 6th -- you head downhill then play back uphill to a well defended and contoured green. Very natural in its presentation -- but very stringent on what's expected. You almost get a mirror image of the same hole concept at the 13th -- once again -- the requirements are anything but pedestrian.
The quartet of par-3 holes are quality mixture -- my favorite being the uphill 5th with its bewitching green that was brand new in 2009. The par-3 10th is also quite finicky in the type of golf shots it will accept.
The thing about Chester Valley is that if the club were located somewhere else besides the golf rich metro Philadelphia area it would likely generate more awareness. In my view, I don't see the course being good enough to merit inclusion with the upper echelon of layouts that inhabit this area, however, Chester Valley clearly deserves attention and is anything but a golf footnote for the overall golf storyline for the area.
George Fazio beefed up the design and the updating by Jim Nagle with Forse Design brought into focus plenty of design elements that needed a bit of dusting off to really showcase what the course provides. Well worthwhile to play if the opportunity and invitation are forthcoming.
M. James Ward