Founded as an eating club by a group of textile managers in 1887 and named the Manufacturers' Club of Philadelphia, the club moved from the city centre to its current location at Ridgewood Farm in 1925 to play on a newly fashioned William Flynn golf course. When the impressive clubhouse overlooking Sandy Run Creek was completed in 1933, the club changed its name to the present Manufacturers’ Golf and Country Club.
Of course, excellent dining is still on offer at the club, along with tennis and swimming. The hillside site extends to some 250 acres of the historical suburb of Fort Washington, where General George Washington thwarted a British attack on the colonists in 1777.
“It’s scary to think a course this good doesn’t always make lists of Philadelphia’s top 10”. Wrote Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses – Volume 3 – The Americas (summer destinations). “(It would be there with room to spare on my own list).”
“Like most of its neighbours, it lies in a valley with some steep holes along the top edges and a creek in play on several holes along the bottom. The five par-3 holes offer great variety, from the strong uphill 199-yard 6th to the 117-yard 8th guarded by its own small quarry.”
For whatever reason the design at William Flynn at Manufacturers often gets little attention from those outside the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) area. The layout is smartly routed -- you are forced to adjust constantly and the nature of the holes is quite inventive with a series of holes higher positioned than others.
You also have the continuous involvement of Sandy Run -- a pesky creek that Flynn used skillfully throughout the round.
The course starts in a benign fashion as you descend from a high tee area near to the clubhouse. Things pick up at the 2nd and you get your first meeting with Sandy Run as one's approach on the short par-4 needs to be made with great care to avoid the creek and be near enough to the hole to provide for a good birdie opportunity.
At the long par-4 3rd the intensity meter jumps up considerably. Playing back uphill requires additional clubs for the approach and it pays to avoid missing left as the steepness from that side of the green is most pronounced.
The 4th marks the first of five par-3 holes and, as is typical of a Flynn layout, the short holes are anything but automatic. Once again, you have a tilted target and any shot above the hole will face a daunting challenge to walk away with a par. The 5th works you back into the valley and another encounter with Sandy Run on the approach.
The par-3 6th is a stellar hole -- uphill and quite finicky on what type of shots will be accepted. The par-5 7th is likely the weakest of holes on the outbound side. If a major event were to be played the par would likely be reduced to a lengthy par-4.
The short par-3 8th is a charming hole. Played to a target located within a former quarry -- the naturalness of the hole is quite stunning. Be ever mindful not to get too cute with your efforts when the pin is cut to the far edges of the green. Flynn has that rare architectural gift to know how to constantly change the rhythm of the round -- not allowing players to get overly comfortable.
The ending par-5 9th for the front side is an opportunity to grab a stroke back before making the turn.
The par-4 10th moves to the right on the tee shot and you face another challenging approach over Sandy Run to a green well defended on the left side by solitary greenside bunker.
The par-3 11th is uphill and has a series of greenside bunkers to be avoided at all costs. Gauging club selection is no small task on this solid hole.
The remaining holes are a quality mixture and I do believe Manufacturers fares best for elite level players when played as a par-70. The ending hole is played with two different greens and two different par designations. I'd like it to see it played as par-4 from a yardage in the range of 450-475 yards. I believe having just one par-5 on each side would work best given how technology has clearly impacted golf. My five rating is based on such a configuration.
Manufacturers is not good enough to be in the top four in the immediate Philadelphia area because the top tier layouts are THAT good. But, make no mistake about it, the sum total of what you find at Manufacturers is quite rigorous in rewarding those who can "manufacture" all the key shots when called upon. No pun intended!
Any visit to the area should have this on one's bucket list.
M. James Ward
I played Manufacturers the day after I played Rolling Green last September. It’s another solid Flynn design which I’m going to rate higher than Rolling Green because the conditioning at Manufacturers was immaculate compared to RG. Manufacturers is a good test from the back tees and the valley was cleverly used in the routing with exciting elevated tees and raised greens. It’s a very good course and in my opinion better than both Weyhill and Grace courses at Saucon Valley which are both ranked higher on this site. Loved the short par four 8th in the quarry.