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Dave played Phila Cricket (Wissahickon) on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Philadelphia Cricket Club (Wissahickon)

Who says an old dog needs new tricks?

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#1 - A view from the clubhouse porch of the tee shot at the first
#2 - A very rare look at a green
#3 - This was a tough little par 3. Miss the green and you're in trouble.
#4 - Tee shot at the first par 5
#6 - A look at the green on this dogleg par 4
#7 - The fairways out here aren't the widest, as displayed on this par 5
#7 - The not-quite-greenside bunker on the par 5 can be a little deceptive on your approach shot
#8 - This par 3 had a very severe green that pitched back to front
#9 - This long par 4 was the toughest of the front nine. The bunkers are set at an awkward angle that really calls for a fade.
#11 - This is where the course starts
#11 - There is a cool little ridge that runs through the fairway here
#12 - The view from over the hill on the first par 5 on the back
#13 - This slight dogleg right forces a carry over a fairway bunker for the best look at the green.
#14 - This downhill par 4 plays shorter than the number on the card.
#15 - This long par 3 almost has a Redan type feel to it.
#16 - My favorite hole on the course and one that definitely screams Tillinghast.
#17 - This is the smallest green on the course, and is pretty undulating to boot.
#18 - This is about where you'll be hitting your approach shot from...
#18 - A great drop in elevation on the final hole for a dramatic finish.

...Philadelphia what?

I'll be honest.  I had never heard of it.  I knew nothing about it.  If my dad hadn't bid on a round of golf at a charity event, I would probably still know little to nothing about it.  I would call it a hidden gem if it wasn't for the fact that it's the oldest club in the country...

Philadelphia Cricket Club is the only club in the country that has opened a golf course in three different centuries.  The St. Martin's Course was built in 1895 as a nine hole course, and was replaced by an 18-hole layout two years later.  The Wissahickon Course was opened for play in 1922.  More recently, Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry were commissioned to build the Militia Hill Course which opened for play in 2002. 

Established by a group of alumni from University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Cricket Club was originally intended solely for - you guessed it - cricket play.  Established in 1854, more than 40 years passed before a golf course was added to the premises.  Once added, the St. Martin's Course quickly earned a couple of US Opens (1907, 1910).  Just over ten years later, the acquisition of new land in nearby Flourtown led to the commission of club member A.W. Tillinghast and the construction of the Wissahickon Course. 

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the Wissahickon.  The course starts off a little slow, with the only standout hole on the front being the par 4 second (one could make a case for the par 4 ninth as well).  The best holes on the course are undoubtedly the inward seven.  I enjoyed the first eleven holes, but wasn't really all that impressed with them. 

What I was impressed with were the greens.  They were the best I've played all year.  They were perfect.  They rolled true, they were interesting, they looked great, and they were healthy - simply blowing Bethpage Black's greens from the previous day (and the same designer) out of the water. 

After a very nice, slightly uphill, slightly dogleg left opening hole, one is met with the very interesting second.  One would not find the second hole very interesting by looking at a scorecard or a yardage guide.  At 420 yards, the hole is dissected by a stream, cutting the downhill fairway off at 293 yards from the back tee.  A fairly run of the mill tee shot with an iron or fairway metal will leave you with an uphill approach.  That approach will be to a nicely undulating green that is guarded by a pair of bunkers. 

...and a clubhouse.

One of the more interesting approach shots I've ever seen can make you think less about hitting it in the bunker and more about how much you'll be charged if you break a window.  The northernmost corner of the Wissahickon clubhouse comes within a few yards of the putting surface at the second hole.  I'm not sure if the green or the clubhouse came first, but it is definitely a rare case to have a structure so close to the green. 

Once you finish the par 4 eleventh, your journey to the best land on the course begins.  While the property on which the first eleven holes sit moved well and had some very interesting points (fifth green, ninth tee), the section of land that is home to the final seven holes is considerably more dramatic.  Your tee shot on the par 5 12th is blind.  Once you come over the hill, you can see some of the landscape that makes up holes 13 - 16.  13 plays slightly uphill and 14 slightly down.  15 is a long, very tough par 3 that hugs a property line very hard on the right side.  You definitely want to favor the left side of this narrow green, considering that there is OB about a yard right of the green. 

Tillinghast's flare for the dramatic really comes out on the 16th.  The downhill tee shot to an uphill approach to a well-protected, sloping green definitely gives you a taste of the grandeur that Tillinghast could create when he was given a dramatic piece of land.  He follows up the difficult 16th with another par 4 that will make you grit your teeth.  A testy tee shot forces a carry over the left fairway bunker in order to have a manageable approach shot.  Once in the fairway, the golfer is yet again tested with very tight landing area on an undulating green pinched by two bunkers. 

Both of these two-shotters pale in comparison to the final hole, however.  At a staunch 483 yards, the 18th will knock you right on your ass.  The hole plays downhill (making the 483 slightly more manageable), and calls for your tee ball to be placed on the left side of the fairway.  With the clubhouse in the background, the downhill approach shot is as picturesque as it is difficult.  A front left pin placement would be docile, but a back right (like the day we played) can pose significant discomfort.  Protected by a bunker and a tree on the right, the final green favors a left to right ball. 

Philadelphia Cricket Club is not a world class facility.  It isn't going to knock your socks off.  It isn't a Bethpage Black or an East Lake or an Erin Hills.  For these exact reasons, I loved it.  I would be a member at PCC in a heartbeat.  I can't wait to go back, to be honest.  I know that there is a whole host of excellent courses in the Philadelphia area, and I look forward to playing as many of them as I can.  In the future, though, each time I visit the city of brotherly love, I'll make an effort to stop by Philadelphia Cricket Club and enjoy the amazing atmosphere at the oldest club in the country.


Special thanks to KC for a great day; we really enjoyed ourselves.  You've got a great place out there.

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