Philadelphia Country Club is one of the oldest in the country, formed by John C. Bullit in 1890. He acquired a 60-acre property on which a polo field was laid out (hence the horse head club emblem) at Bala, next to Fairmount Park and a 9-hole golf course followed two years later.
Land was purchased at Gladwyne in 1926 for the purpose of constructing an 18-hole layout and this was designed by the William S. Flynn and Howard C. Toomey company, opening in 1930 as the Spring Mill course.
To their credit, the club has only recently finished a refurbishment program which restored the course to the playing conditions intended by the architect 80 years ago.
In addition to the classic Flynn-designed 18 holes, Philadelphia asked Tom Fazio to create another nine holes, the “Centennial Nine,” when they reached their 100th year in 1990, resulting in an outstanding 27-hole golf complex that sits very nicely alongside the tennis and squash courts, swimming pool, shooting lodge and bowling alley at the club.
The US Open was held here in 1939 when Byron Nelson claimed the title and, in more recent times, the US Women’s Amateur championship took place in 2003.
Don’t let the distance on the scorecard fool you. This William Flynn design has an abundance of challenge facilitated by the immensely rolling topology. The second hole is a medium length par 4, but playing straight uphill and with a mostly blind approach shot, you quickly get a sense of how special the routing is across the land.
Eastern Pennsylvania has no shortage of William Flynn golf courses, but amazingly, they continue to offer unique holes with outstanding strategy. The closing 3-hole stretch is mighty with a downhill par 4 smothered with bunkers, a dogleg right pitched fairway on the 17th (Bryon Nelson holed a 1 iron from this fairway to win the 1939 US Open) and a par 4 18th climbing back up to the clubhouse. This course is relentless, but an inspiration of how well it has stood the test of time.