Along the Little Lehigh Creek lies the private Lehigh Country Club which celebrated its centenary in 2008. The club moved to its present site in 1928 and the master router William S Flynn, who was perhaps the most respected and influential architect of the “Philadelphia School” of golf course design, designed the course.
The 206-acre site selected for the club’s new 18 holes were farms that belonged to the Kemmerer and Kline families and a syndicate of forty-two club members purchased the chosen land. Built by Flynn’s business partner Howard C. Toomey, the course was opened on Memorial Day, 1928 under the watchful eye of Paul Weiss, the former construction supervisor who became the first greens keeper on the new layout.
The routing of the fairways here has been acknowledged as nothing short of masterful with elevation changes in excess of one hundred feet negotiated during three of the four Creek crossings at the par four 4th, the par three 7th and par five 11th. Such is the severity of the topography in places, it’s doubtful if any architect would every contemplate laying out a modern course at the present location.
Flynn's courses are notable for their strong short holes and Lehigh follows that tradition with the Creek coming into play at two of them, the downhill 7th and the 184-yard 13th. There are only two par fives on the card, one on each nine, and they dogleg in opposite direction from tee to green at the 6th and the 11th holes.
Trees have been thinned out at Lehigh in recent years to allow for wider playing corridors and architect Ron Forse has been involved in a bunker restoration plan aimed at improved drainage.
The most important element for any golf course is the land the layout occupies. I have long stated that such a characteristic makes up no less than 60% of the equation when I do a course assessment. Show me a golf course on ordinary land and it's likely you will see a layout showcasing limited staying power.
Lehigh is smartly designed by William Flynn -- another of his stellar creations in the eastern portion of the Keystone State.
The golfer faces an array of land variations -- up and down and then again and then one more time. The phrase "good member's course" is quite apt for Lehigh. Just under 6,900 yards from the championship tees the course is not rigorous enough to combat the onslaught of the strong and limber players who play golf at the highest of levels. But for the 95% of players who occupy a more human connection -- the golf provided is clearly a sumptuous treat.
But, make no mistake in thinking that Lehigh is some sort of relic course from years ago. Hardly. The diversity of holes and the manner by which Flynn adroitly routed the course still has plenty of gusto. Lehigh's singular strength is the rich variety of adjustments players must make for the duration of the round. In my mind, the wherewithal for players to shape shots as called upon is the mark of course with top tier depth. Lehigh is akin to an orchestra -- to make music here you need to play a wide variety of instruments / clubs rather well.
Like other Flynn courses -- the quartet of par-3 holes very good and will not yield easily without the execution provided.
The two par-5s -- at the 6th and 11th are vastly different in their overall presentation and each presents clear scoring challenges that do not surrender simply because of a well-placed drive.
One cannot forget to mention the solid array of different putting green shapes and sizes faced which Flynn excels in consistently creating. Those who get a bit frisky with the approaches and find themselves short sided had best command recovery skills with a surgeon's touch.
Too many modern courses have gone for the easy and predictable pattern in simply adding more and more yards and never really showcasing a wider net of consummate golf skills. Lehigh is not a top ten course in Pennsylvania which is not a reflection of something amiss, but only because of the sheer depth of courses in this marvelously rich golf State.
Lehigh, for whatever strange reason, has often been undervalued by outsiders with far too much attention paid to nearby Saucon Valley. and many raters simply hanging too close to Center City and not venturing a bit northward. The Flynn effort here is clearly one any golf connoisseur had best keep on their bucket list.
M. James Ward
A truly spectacular golf routing takes the golfer 3 time up and down 150 feet of vertical change. There are two holes 12, 13 in the valley and two that cross it 4 and 7. Two holes play steeply uphill, the long par 4 8th and the short par 4 fourteenth. There is a sense of links quirkiness about several of the holes, most notably nine and ten but unfortunately, I have over 15 years experience playing this course and unfortunately it is rarely kept firm. The overall look is heavy parkland vegetation but the club must be given credit for some tree abatement in the past five years. Yet there is retention of trees near the tees of several holes which impact the turf.
Most of the green complexes are open in front with a relatively repetitive bunker placement left and right. Much of the drainage is off the green fronts since the 1928 course build date was a time in which there was neither planned irrigation nor worry about turf for run-up. This is not a prominent feature available today.
Two par fives as was typical for Flynn - the sixth is on a parcel of property across a local road from the river property while the rolling and dipping eleventh plays sharply downhill and over the river the last 200 yards. The 6th is universally acclaimed and has a links character with run up available at times but the eleventh is generally a polarising hole. For the big hitter it is an eagle opportunity.
Four par 3 holes are generally easy bogies, hard pars and vary from medium-short to rather long including the dropping shot 7th seen in one of the submitted photos. Architecturally notable holes are the collection (2, 4, 14, 15) of short Par 4 holes with tremendous variety and several challenging semi-blind longer holes.
A wonderful course to study a routing over difficult ground, it is a country club course, not geared to the serious golfer due to the soft conditions, but this only becomes apparent with familiarity. A single pass or a weekend member-guest invitation will have you wondering why this course is not more highly considered. Highly recommended.