Glen Mills is situated a 45-minuute drive southwest of Philadelphia and the 18-hole layout is part of a privately-funded educational establishment for around a thousand troubled teenage boys from all over the country. Opened for play in 2001, the course might be described as an “outdoor vocational classroom” where students can learn about a whole range of golf-related topics, such as agronomy, landscape management, or even maintenance mechanics.
Designed by Florida-based architect Bobby Weed, the course was constructed with almost a hundred and seventy sand hazards (many of them revetted pot bunkers) so shot placement and course management are all important around here. “Most people can’t go to Scotland,” said Weed, “but at least the golfers in and around Philadelphia will now have the feeling of a St Andrews-style bunker.”
Par fives are well defended with hazards on the corner of doglegs, there are a couple of driveable short par fours at the 8th and 12th holes, and the five par three holes are of varying lengths, played uphill, downhill and across water. “Open fields, forested uplands, streams and wetlands provide great diversity for the routing,” says the architect, who also advises golfers to “keep their ego in check to achieve the optimum score.”
It really surprises me that Glen Mills is only 40th in the state rankings. I played with 2 gentlemen who both agreed this is the best public golf course in the Philadelphia area. It's easy to see why they would think that! There's a nice combination of short, medium-length, and long holes here. #7 is a great long Par 3, #14 is a great short Par 3. #8 is a great short Par 4, #18 is a great Long Par 4, etc. There are some fantastic green complexes here and some excellent bunkering as well. The aforementioned 14th hole I thought represented both of those features. Good usage of water hazards as well. The thumbnail attached with the course showcases the 11th, which utilizes a creek along the entire left side. Adds a lot of visual appeal, and challenge as well. A narrow fairway in between that creek and some very thick rough on the right makes that hole stand out too. Overall, it's a course that has some great holes out in the open, but some beauties tucked amongst some dense trees as well. Would love to play it again.