An Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay design, the course at Commonwealth National Golf Club is routed around a very tight tract of land that lies adjacent to Horsham Air Guard Station.
From time to time one will come upon courses that feature a very straightforward but certain dynamic framed by the words "either or." Commonwealth National is a tale of two different nines. The outward half fairly basic -- design outcomes one has seen countless times from other Palmer courses.
The inward half is full dosage of "either or" golf. Either you hit the target or you donate a golf ball -- or two -- or maybe even more. There's nothing wrong with "either or" golf - provided - the architect provides sufficient landing areas so players of varying ability levels can have a reasonable opportunity for success. Pine Valley is very demanding -- but proper spacing is included. Commonwealth's back nine is narrow -- as in NARROW -- in a number of instances. You leave the fairway and, as said previously, you experience "either or" golf. There's no middle ground.
Ask yourself this -- how many courses sport a 138 slope from the white tees under 6,400 yards! From the extreme back the slope reaches 150. Frankly, the golf design has been forced upon a site that provides very little "extra" in terms of available acreage. Frankly, holes as the par-4 13th thru 15th holes are simply beyond the pale because you'd best drive the ball with the dexterity of a Fred Funk or the late Calvin Peete.
There's nothing wrong with having a demanding course but there must be a clear recognition that recovery is part and parcel of the game. For those who are proficient golfers the appeal of Commonwealth may be present but a steady diet of straightjacket type golf can be suffocating. Being a private club can be a bit helpful because play can be better spaced out than say a daily fee or resort type layout. Nonetheless, the greater Philadelphia area is awash in numerous top tier layouts -- some of the finest in the USA. It's best to schedule your golf accordingly with that in mind.
M. James Ward