A.W. Tillinghast crafted the Flourtown golf course at The Philadelphia Cricket Club in 1922. In the new millennium, the layout was renamed Wissahickon, after the creek which borders the property.
In 2013, architect Keith Foster lovingly restored the Wissahickon course to a standard that Tillinghast would approve of.
“There were no real blue prints at all,” Foster said. “I think that was really the challenge, truthfully. It was Tillinghast’s home course and he laid out in theory a skeleton routing, with the belief back then to lay it out and as the golf course matured to go ahead and introduce features that he would want to put in over time. The problem, of course, was that none of the features were ever documented.
What I basically had was the routing that he had and then I had the green pads that he had placed, but in terms of tee positions, they were all out of kilter and none of the bunkers existed where they were placed or where he would have placed them.”
The PGA of America awarded Philadelphia Cricket Club the honour of hosting the 2015 PGA Professional National Championship on both the Wissahickon and Militia Hill courses. Take a bow please Mr Foster.
Writing in The Confidential Guide to Golf
Courses Tom Doak commented as follows: “'The Tillie in Philly' was sometimes
elevated in local rankings because the Flynn courses tend to split the vote,
but a recent restoration by Keith Foster has the locals drooling. Perhaps I was
too embarrassed to notice its finer qualities after playing my approach to the
par-4 2nd off the roof of the locker room."
I have been very fortunate to have played a number of very good courses in the Philadelphia area over the years but Philadelphia Cricket Club has always been high on my list. After some rooting around to find a sponsor to propose us we finally managed to book a time. The Head Professional was delight to deal with and this welcome was consistent throughout our day.
One of the first things you see as you walk through the clubhouse is the first tee which is situated on the putting green this is both nerve racking as it is unusual! The course appears quite open when standing on the tees (apparently circa 1300 trees were removed during renovations) with wide fairways framed by playable rough on both sides. The greens and surrounds were in fantastic order as were the run off areas. The bunkering is excellent in both positioning and presentation, they were also very consistent to play from. The topography of the course is very well utilised with a number of uphill and downhill holes of varying lengths plus a couple of awkward side hill approach shots which keeps the players focus. The par three holes are excellent ranging in yardage from 115 - 217 yards.
Philly Cricket is blessed with a number of really good holes. Hole number two which plays downhill over a brook to a raised green is a belter….if you slice your approach there is a good chance you’ll hit the proshop! Three is nice little par 3 playing just over 100 yards with rough style bunkers framing the green. Hole Seven, a par 5 with an elevated tee has a mini Hells Half Acre at around 280 yards which makes the player think before pulling out the driver. The green is protected by front bunkers although there is a sliver of short grass on the front right portion to run your ball up onto the putting surface. As you enter the back nine the only slight blemish is hole twelve which is a decent hole that is unfortunately framed by a new housing development…this though is only a minor issue. The finish is very strong with a long par 3 that requires a well struck accurate tee shot followed by two cracking par 4s. The finishing hole is one of the best I have played. The tee shot requires a slight draw which if negotiated successfully leaves the player a mid too long iron to a green situated below them. The brook which runs through the course will catch any miss hit shots whilst the green with its many ledges and plateaus will only accept the very best of approach shots. In my opinion a very good course for me is one that you get to hit every club in the bag and one that you have to move your ball both ways….Philly Cricket ticked both those boxes.
I have been fortunate to have played about 30% of The US Top 100 and I personally feel it should be considered.
The analysis of the course by the previous reviewer is spot on with the several observations made. Credit has to go the club for the wise choice in bringing on board architect Keith Foster to bring back to life the many aspects Tillinghast originally provided. Anyone venturing to play the Wissahickon Course had best be ready right from the outset with two consecutive long par-4's that yield nothing save for high level execution play.
The inward half of holes only ups the ante in terms of the demands players face. The ending quartet of holes caps the round in grand fashion. The long par-3 15th is a Redan-like hole and it's very good in flushing out the quality approach from an ordinary effort. The last three holes are all strong par-4's -- giving no quarter or respite. The ending hole is on par with another stellar Tillinghast notable closer with the likes of the 18th at Winged Foot / West. Miss the fairway at the 18th and getting over a stream that cuts across the hole near to the green is no automatic situation. For many the closing hole at Merion's famed East Course may get more recognition because of the stature earned when hosting various IUSGA Championships, however, the 18th at Wissahickon can easily claim the silver medal in the greater Philadelphia area.
The City of Brotherly love metro area is stacked with quality layouts -- all on the private side. Only the immediate New York City area surpasses it for overall depth of courses in America.
Overall, it amazes me how the Wissahickon layout is not included among the top 100 courses in America. I'd have the course comfortably in the top three in the Center City area because of how the blending of old and new elements were done with the utmost care and attention. Merion / East and Aronimink get plenty of attention but those coming to the Philadelphia vicinity should plan to wiggle some sort of invitation to play the Wissahickon Course. When you think your game is at the "A" level -- you'll find out if that's the case after playing 18 here.
by M. James Ward
A few greens were moved during the renovation, with the 2nd and 10th greens being the perfect example. The 2nd green was no less than 5 yards from the wall of the clubhouse, so they lazered the green (capturing it’s exact contours) and moved it 15 yards further away from the house. Right behind the 2nd green is the 10th green, which was also lazered and moved 30 yards away from the car park. It was unbelievable to think that an entire green was moved (and perfectly replicated) without a trace of evidence that it was touched since Tillinghast packed his bags and left. I much preferred the back nine primarily due to the routing becoming more imaginative and you started to consider angles off the tee. When we reached the back end of the property, highlights for me included to approach shot to the 14th hole displaying no less than nine bunkers sitting in front of the turtle back green. This was followed by the 240 yard 15th ‘redan’ hole which emphasized the dramatic changes resulting from the renovation. Along the right-side of the 15th hole, hundreds of trees were removed exposing huge mounds never seen before. The most exciting factor of the Wissachickon course is the location of the first tee and the 18th green. The first tee is on the putting green within arm’s reach of members enjoying their lunch on the patio, which is right next to the 18th green that sits 10 yards adjacent. The sound of knives and forks scraping off lunch plates only fuels the nerves of a golfer trying to impress the observant onlookers.
The ashes of A.W Tillinghast were scattered in the Wissahickon Creek in 1942.