A hundred and twenty nine golfers were listed as members at the inaugural AGM of Lancaster Country Club in 1901 and they played back then on some rented fields that were fashioned into a rudimentary 9-hole layout. In fact, so basic was the course, original scorecards display hole names but no yardages or par figures for each hole.
By 1920, the club had moved to its present location, employing William Flynn to lay out a new 18-hole course. Flynn, who would later redesign the magnificent Shinnecock Hills course in 1937, had been the green keeper at Merion Cricket Club (as the golf club was known then) and his ten months at Lancaster would hold him in good stead for future designs that are compared favourably nowadays with the likes of Colt and MacKenzie courses.
In the modern era, Lancaster Country Club now has three 9-hole circuits (each with a par of 35) plus a 6-hole “Sunset Six” short course, designed by William and David Gordon in 1959.
The original Meadowcreek and Dogwood nines (known as the Old or Flynn course) combine to form the foremost 18-hole combination here at Lancaster Country Club. However, all three loops having been constructed on rolling terrain with a river flowing through the middle of the landscape, allowing water to come into play at no fewer than fifteen of the holes on the property. The third 9-hole circuit, called Highlands, is a standalone course.
Lancaster CC is awesome. Not any weak holes and the greens are firm and fast, great use of elevation changes. The approaches, however, were very soft on the day we played and were not conducive to running a shot onto the green. Holes 1-7 are mostly shorter and you need to take advantage of them if you can, as the course becomes very difficult once you get to hole 8.
I have had the opportunity to play the original William Flynn designed course, now known as Meadowcreek/Dogwood several times as well as the Highlands course. The Highlands course is a standalone nine hole course which is a nice addition to the country club as it has several holes keeping very much in character with the main course and is a par 35 3075-3329 course depending on the tees.
As for the main course, it is a gem rolling up and down the hills for most of the golf course as it feeds away from the high ground which is where the clubhouse is, down towards the stream that runs through several of the holes. The course offers quite a difficult test as a par 70 from the back tees at 6840 yards and Blue tees at 6339 yards. The hills make the course play longer than the yardage.
There are quite a lot of doglegs where the dogleg runs opposite to the slope of the land. Nearly all of the greens are very tilted and due to excellent greens keeping, are very quick. You never want to be above the pin location and sometimes not even on the same side as the pin.
There are still quite a few trees on the property and has a hilly course, it can be a difficult walk if you are carrying your own bag.
The best hole by far is the long downhill 10th hole, a dogleg right with a terrific green. It is 481 yards from the back tee and 446 from the member tee. This hole could be the best hole on many top rated courses.
The worst hole is the 13th, a short par five of 517 yards or 489 yards to a green that is hidden around the corner of a very large number of trees.
There are many good par 4's on the golf course but there are also a few weak holes which are mainly in the beginning those being holes 3 thru 5.
The first par five, the 7th, on the golf course is one of only two flat holes on the course and offers a pond in front of the green otherwise this would be a bland golf hole. With the pond it becomes pretty good only because the pond is set against the front of the green with no relief for being short. A long hitter will find this hole to be way too easy. The only other flat hole besides the par five 7th is the par 3 17th hole.
Which leads me to the two critiques I would offer regarding the course. The first is that there are many holes playing downhill, then uphill to the green complex. These holes are 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 18. 8 and 12 are par 3's - one all uphill and one all downhill.
The greens on nearly all of the holes are tilted quite severely back to front and sometimes sideways as well.
So in summary one gets the feeling that many of the holes are the same despite the variation in the shape of the dogleg because you tee off downhill and hit uphill to the green with a similar titled green on each hole. The greens do vary in depth.
The green side bunkers are well placed and of the right depth but the course suffers a bit from a lack of fairway bunkers on some holes. There are fairway bunkers but there are not enough of them.
Lancaster Meadowcreek/Dogwood is very much a golf course worth playing and deserves its lofty reputation and ranking. It is a course that should be played multiple times to understand those greens and it is one that should be played with a knowledgeable caddie or a member to help you read them. The members here have something special.
William Flynn left us with many wonderful masterpieces in the state of Pennsylvania, and due praise needs to be given with the layout at Lancaster Country Club. Once a regular resident on the USA Top 100 ranking list, its lofty recognition is certainly justified.
This course has a number of distinct characteristics which struck me while analyzing the property. Firstly, Flynn created fabulous angles off the tee. You’ll then have to contend with the camber of the land through the dogleg. Many holes have the fabulous design of the land pitching from right to left, but the hole moves from left to right. Exciting stuff! There is an absolute premium on accuracy off the tee, and it really gets you thinking about the line you take and your overall strategy of how to get on the green in regulation. This course is blessed with fabulous, sometimes thrilling, changes in elevation as the 18 holes roll across the wonderful topology.
There are a few straight holes, but each of them presents dramatic changes in elevation which adds to the challenge of club selection. Just because you can see the green off the tee doesn’t mean you can take a breather. No matter whether you’re playing downhill, uphill or into a swooping dogleg, the architecture is a feast for your eyes. I can only imagine Flynn’s satisfaction when he completed the project.
With the pitch of the land being so demanding in many places, this lends itself to green complexes that often run back to front or right to left with sometimes brutal false-fronts. The championship caliber of the course keeps you on your toes from the moment you put the peg in the ground. The routing of the main course has gone through a few revisions over the decades due to land-swap deals and the development of housing. Many changes were welcome and even added improvements; however the current par 5 13th hole is the weakest hole on the course architecturally. When standing in the middle of the fairway, you’re faced with an uphill shot into a wall of trees, and have no perspective on where the green is or where you’re supposed to hit the ball. In the coming years, I expect the club to take down overhanging or unnecessary trees as the focus shifts to opening corridors and removing undesirable clutter on the rolling property.
With the exception of the 16th hole, the bunkering doesn’t offer much in terms of inspiration, but I anticipate bunkers being moved or added based on how far the ball is travelling to ensure they don’t become obsolete. I quickly concluded that the membership is blessed with a course which doesn’t get enough praise. It’s of no surprise that the venue was selected for the 2015 US Women’s Open, and I offer full support for future tournaments to be played at this Keystone State gem. Any champion at Lancaster CC earned their money! While the Philadelphia area is highly populated with top-class private clubs, the extra effort to get out to Lancaster is time well spent.