According to the book The Life and Work of Wayne Stiles by Bob Labbance and Kevin Mendik, “Gulph Mills is located on rolling property just southwest of Philadelphia on part of the original land grant in 1684 from William Penn to Peter Yocum. Portions of that property were then sold to the Hughes family in 1697 and named the Walnut Grove Farm. The next change occurred in 1916 when a portion was sold to the newly formed Gulph Mills Golf Club.”
Donald Ross designed the club’s course and it opened for play in May of 1919 at a construction cost (excluding land acquisition) of $92,277, which was more than three times the original estimate. For some reason, all of the putting surfaces were rebuilt after only five years in operation, though Donald Ross recommended renovating four of these new greens in 1926.
Perry Maxwell changed seven holes during the 1930s before Wayne Stiles drew up a comprehensive hole-by-hole report for the club in 1940, focusing mainly on the replacement of the Ross bunkers. William Gordon became the club’s course consultant for a time then Robert Trent Jones was called in to advise on modifications to several holes in 1966.
"I've simplified the [architect] credits for this course", commented Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses , “everyone from Flynn to Bill Gordon to Robert Trent Jones tinkered with it at some point, but Gil Hanse has thankfully sorted through the hodgepodge of styles and restored the best of Ross' and Maxwell's work. There are a few holes that would rate with Philly's finest, including the short 4th across a deep valley, and the 6th and 11th with their distinctive and severe Maxwell greens – but there are also some clunkers, and the cramped and hilly site does not allow it to surpass the second tier of Flynn’s many fine courses in the area.”
Correctly accrediting architectural provenance, especially for historical courses, can be error prone. David A. contests: “William Flynn was mistakenly credited with re-doing a number of the greens, but as it turns out, merely assisted in re-grassing them in the early days of the course.”
Gulph Mills is a beautiful course outside of Philadelphia that often does not receive its fair share of praise compared to some of the other stalwart courses in the area. My guess is that is because of the exclusivity and the fact that the membership appears to prefer to stay under the radar as I’m told it does not seek to have course raters from publications access.
Gulph Mills offers a rolling landscape that is a beautiful walk throughout (albeit your calves will get a work out on the closing uphill 18th). Despite being located in the densely populated and built area of King of Prussia and Conshohocken, the course offers a reprieve from the masses as little of the outside world is visible from the majority of the course. With the relative light play, you’ll often be blessed by being only a handful of lucky souls gracing the fairways should be blessed to be
A strong set of par 3’s including a short one shooter over a beautiful quarry which is reminiscent of the beautiful quarry par 3 at Manufacturers Golf & CC about 10 miles west of Gulph Mills. The short par 4 8th hole might be my favorite short par 4 in the Philadelphia region. The greens feature some of the classic Ross characteristics with several holes featuring dramatic back to front sloped greens and well protected complexes.
I would happily make this fine course my home club and would not get tired of its timeless design.