Sunnybrook - Pennsylvania - USA

Sunnybrook Golf Club,
398 Stenton Avenue,
Plymouth Meeting,
Pennsylvania (PA) 19462,

  • +1 610 828 9617

  • Billy Garbacz

  • William Gordon, David Gordon

  • Luke Emrich

Founded in 1914 by six defectors from the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Sunnybrook Golf Club had a Donald Ross-designed course in play within twelve months of its formation.

Unfortunately, a highway dissected parts of the Ross course, so the club was forced to move to its present location at the old William Disston farm in the mid-1950s. Fortunately, the members commissioned the father and son team of William and David Gordon to fashion a new spacious, open layout.

Today's green complexes are impressively bunkered following a 2007 in-house greens and bunker renovation and recently the course was described “as beautifully simple in its architecture, very tough, but also very playable” by Mr. Top 100, the intrepid Rudo.

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Description: ​Founded in 1914 by six defectors from the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Sunnybrook Golf Club had a Donald Ross-designed course in play within twelve months of its formation. Unfortunately, a highway dissected the old course, so the club was forced to move... Rating: 5 out of 10 Reviews: 1
Mark White

If one cannot join one of the “bigger name” private clubs in the greater Philadelphia area (there are approximately 20), then Sunnybrook would be a good option. I consider it to be a third tier club in the area. It many other larger urban areas, it would likely be in the top ten.

This course has a common characteristic with most of the better courses in the Philadelphia area as it is built on land that has a change in elevation. This is not a flat course. In this case the course starts and ends each nine on higher ground with a gradual fall in elevation to the lower ground. There is a good mixture of long and shorter holes across each of the pars. There are a handful of holes influenced by scattered trees, water, or a ravine on the lower ground. The routing has the majority of the holes vertical to the fall of the land – one typically goes up or down.

The bunkering is consistent although a bit predictable. There are no irregular shaped bunkers here nor overly large bunkers. Mr. Gordon did not favor bunkers at the rear of a green, a feature I thought was missing at Sunnybrook, particularly on the shorter holes.

The greens are interesting although not overly complicated. The course could do with more interesting green contours as well having more of them elevated.

There is also no real movement within the fairways; one will almost always get a “flat” lie. More interesting mounding or small hills would increase one’s interest in playing this course. This type of land movement within the fairways is found on many on the better courses in the greater Philadelphia area.

I do think this is one of William and David Gordon’s better designs. William Gordon worked under Flynn and Toomey for 18 years before joining Donald Ross for several years. Mr. Gordon started doing his own designs in 1956. His most well-known designs are Saucon Valley Grace and Weyhill as well as the Stanwich Club.

I played Sunnybrook in an outing where we could play our own ball. However, this meant we played the course too short. The course is significantly strengthened from the member tees and the back tees. The back tees are at 7027 yards while the member tees are 6528. The course can play difficult as the black tees are rated 74.8/144 while the blue tees are 72.6/139.

The first is a short par 4 with a slight dogleg right and a few trees. The fairway tilts to the left as this is a horizontal hole to the fall of the land. The bunkering is predictable with a bunker on either side of the fairway and one each on the front sides of the green. The bunkers at the green result in a narrow front third to the green. The green’s surface is well conceived with a different tilt going from the front to the back. There is also not significant contouring surrounding the greens.

Next is a medium length downhill, nearly straight par 4 but bending a bit to the right. There are no fairway bunkers but trees come into play as you near the green. I like the look of the hole, the way the hole opens up as you turn and spy the green between but behind those trees on lower ground. There is a substantial depression in the ground beginning about 60 yards short of the green that can result in a near blind shot to a rear pin location. Flanking large bunkers are on either side of a green tilted towards the front. It is a difficult hole but an exciting one.

The first par 5 comes next and you start by teeing off over a ravine but it should be easily carried. It is more of a visual threat. This is a short par 5 although playing uphill and going left. Flanking fairway bunkers are in play off the tee although longer hitters will carry them. A final fairway bunker is on the right about 30 yards short of the green. The green complex is a good one as it is angled to the left with a deep fronting bunker that hides the view of the left side. Another bunker is on the right front.

The fourth is a short par 4 playing downhill and straight. Once again the biggest threat off the tee is to be behind a tree which are in enough number to be an issue. A smaller fairway bunker is on either side although the right side is so far up it should be out of play for any shot. The green is set off to the right with two of the largest bunkers on either side. The ravine is close behind the hole. I liked the false-front like grade to the front of the green.

The fifth is the first par 3 of mid-length distance playing over the ravine with the green sitting close to it. It again has flanking bunkers. It is one of the few holes that has more interesting shaping just off the green. I wondered if this hole would have been better if combined with four to make a par 5.

The sixth is a short dogleg right par 4 with five bunkers. The first bunker is on the outer turn along with trees. Two other bunkers are 25 yards from the green for the longer hitters to consider. The green has a front bunker and a right side bunker. The green tilts to the left opposite the dogleg which works well on this hole.

Seven is a mid-length par 5 going back up the hill and again over the ravine. Scattered trees seem to define this hole particularly as one nears the green. The green is angled to the right with flanking bunkers again creating a narrow opening. It is an okay hole but one that could be made more interesting.

Eight is a mid-length par 3 going downhill. A small stream moves down the left. The green has bunkers on the right. This might be the best par 3 on the course given the way the stream snakes its way towards the green with the land sloping towards it. There is also a false front to this green. Those missing left of the stream have a good chance at recovery for par. While none in the same league as the ninth at Merion East, this is a par 3 that requires one to be thoughtful and execute a solid shot.

Nine climbs back uphill to the clubhouse going to the right. It is another short par 4. The bunkering is all at the green. The biggest danger is going long over the green and have to chip back to a green running away from you.

Ten goes back downhill and trees are very much a factor on this mid-length par 5. They pinch the fairway about 200 yards from the green. The stream runs across the fairway about 90 yards short of the green followed by a center-line bunker. The smaller green sits off to the left and has a long bunker on its right side and several spines. It is a par 5 where one must be thoughtful to the green.

The eleventh is a mid-length par 4 going uphill. After an early grouping of trees on either side, the hole is wide open. The green is on a slight plateau and has a middle ridge. Again, I thought there should be more to this hole.

Twelve is another short par 4 playing horizontal to the hill. Trees are perhaps the thickest on this hole so hitting the fairway is paramount. There fairway tilts strongly to the right so there is a premium to go left off the tee. A wide and large bunker wraps around the front of the green. The green has a strong slant to the right. Despite being short, this hole is not a pushover.

We are still horizontal to the hill playing to the corner of the property for this mid-length par 4. After the suffocating nature of the trees on the previous hole, this is one of the wider fairways on the course. There are flanking fairway bunkers but the bunker to the right of the green is the bigger danger due to its size and depth.

Perhaps my favorite hole on the course is the fourteenth which plays downhill and tilts to the left. It has flanking bunkers at the turn but the real treat to this hole is the green complex with large bunkers on either side but with a substantial false front and short grass area. One could run a ball onto the green. The green slants to the left.

Fifteen is mid-length par 3 going uphill with flanking bunkers. The green tilts from back to front but with a lot of internal movement. Three bunkers surround the green including a front bunker.

The final par 5 comes next playing straight. Much like the third, the scattered trees come into play as you near the green creating a narrow channel. The green again has three bunkers much like the preceding hole. Go long and like the ninth you will face a chip with the green running away from you.

The final par 3 is a longer one and plays longer as it is uphill. You can see the par 3 eighth behind it. The hole offers flanking bunkers and a more irregular shaped green than found on most holes. Go too far right or long and you will find the stream/pond.

The finale is a shorter par 4 playing straight uphill. Once again the bunkering is predictable with flanking fairway bunkers and similar at the green. I think this hole is a bit of a let-down.

Sunnybrook is a fine golf course and one will be delighted to play it. As mentioned, if you stretch the greater Philadelphia area to Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton and Lancaster/York areas, there will be twenty clubs that are better. But it is well worth playing.

May 08, 2022
5 / 10
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