Toftrees, Pennsylvania is a convenient check-in for fans of Penn State University, the state’s largest educational institution, during football weekends. On every other weekend, visitors can get in a round of golf at the city’s self-titled resort.
Although the town takes its name from a hamlet on England’s coast, the course designed by Ed Ault is American through-and-through. Those playing from the tips will need to be both long and accurate, as the course stretches to past 7,100 yards and most of those fairways are lined by trees. Then again, the approaches might be the more difficult shots here. Most of the greens are well-defended by bunkers and many are long and thin, again requiring accuracy (and the correct club) to provide an opportunity for birdie.
No. 9 is the signature hole; a mid-length par four, players must make the decision whether to pull driver and carry the water that runs up the left, or lay up to the right, which will create a much more difficult approach shot.
Although there are few similarities to be found with olde-world golf, the club advertises the fog that comes off the lake in the morning, creating a sense of wandering the moors.
The interesting thing about golf in the Keystone State is how much of a discrepancy there is between the elite roster of private clubs and those open to the public. No State exceeds that gap wider than Pennsy with the lone exception of neighboring New York.
Finding engaging public golf in Pennsylvania is no small feat although there has been some progress on this front in recent years but the main frame of golf is still overwhelmingly on the private side.
Toftrees is a resort located in the heart of Pennsy -- State College to be precise and the home location for Penn State University. The resort is well-prepared to handle the needs of its guests.
The golf design is a thorough test from the handiwork of Ed Ault. The land has movement and the lack of adjoining clutter allows the golf experience to be enjoyed. The architecture is from 1968 and it showcases a style that was in vogue then -- large flanking bunkers protecting big greens. The key to success rests on being able to drive the ball well. A number of the fairways are protected by towering trees and failure to pay them a good deal of respect can mean a steady diet of playing ricochet rabbit off them.
You will see that clearly with such stout holes as the par-4 1st and 5th holes. On the inward half you get that noteworthy challenge at the long par-5 14th and the fine closing hole -- a par-4 of 438 yards.
The issue with the design is that the details are fairly straightforward to the point of being rather pedestrian. By no means does that mean the test of golf is rudimentary. The need for solid play is called upon but the juice of design is nailing down the subtle elements -- bringing to life a robust mixture of high-end inclusions that spark the emotions and cause a sense of unremitting rapture.
On that front, Toftees has a few such moments but the layout would really benefit from a detailed makeover that could shape the layout in intersecting with a real 21st century connection where the embracing of classic architecture is brought front and center. For the architectural intelligentsia a round at Toftrees will be enjoyable but hardly memorable.
M. James Ward