Radnor Valley Country Club
The Delaware Valley has some of the finest golf landscapes in the world, thanks to course architects, greenskeepers, grounds crews and, of course, Mother Nature. Here’s a sampling of eye-catching holes that may so amuse you with their appearance, they rob you of a par.
As treacherous as it is beautiful, this classic par 3 plays 156 yards from the back elevated tees. It requires a well-positioned tee shot on the multi-tiered green to have a good chance at birdie or par. That striking pond in front of the hole won’t look as charming if your poorly struck tee shot meets an aqueous conclusion.
Mainland Golf Course, Harleysville, Pa.
Playing 181 yards from the tips, this hole is the second of back-to-back par 3s as you finish out your round. The elevation drop adds to the drama, with a green that’s guarded by sand-trap bookends. Sure, the creek in front and the large oak tree make for a picturesque tee shot, but even if you hit the green, the severe slope might hurt you.
Union League Golf Club at Torresdale, Philadelphia
You’ll be so struck by the majestic clubhouse in the background and the downhill approach shot that you may not even realize this 505-yard par 4 is ready to eat your lunch. A wiser player would hit a solid drive to the top of the hill, lay-up to the ample landing area, then take a chance with a wedge close for a par.
Broad Run feels like it would be as challenging as a black-diamond ski slope, with plenty of elevation to make you work for par. Rees Jones’ designs always leave you thinking, and on this hole, you have to hit a good drive—but not too good, or you’ll end up in the nature area. A par here means you managed two really good shots to get to the green. Just don’t get distracted by the sweeping vistas of Hole 16’s fairway running up the mountain.
Bobby Weed’s design has some interesting twists, turns, risk-reward and natural beauty on every tee box. Hole 4 is a 571-yard par-5 double dogleg that drops significantly from tee to green. The countryside will inspire you to carry an abyss of hazards and bunkering in two. Once on the green, scan the surrounding landscape—of course, it’ll be prettier if you’re putting for a four, but five is a beautiful thing, too.
If you play Hole 14 when the wildflowers are in bloom, you’re in for a visual treat. But while you’re stopping to smell the roses, a treacherous cape design awaits, with serpentine rock barrens guarding the entire right side. Bite off more than you can chew, and a penalty stroke looms. But find some safe ground left in the fairway, and a mid-iron shot home just might be good enough. Whatever your score, after you hole out, look back and take in the splendor.
Baywood Greens, Long Neck, Del.
This southern Delaware track may be one of the prettiest courses in the country. The manicured fairways, sculpted mounds, bridges, walkways, flowers and natural vegetation are downright eye-popping. Here, we’ll pick the 18th hole as the most scenic, but throw a dart at any on the scorecard, and you can bet it’s a real looker.
White Manor Country Club, Malvern, Pa.
White Manor’s par-3 Hole 8 bedazzles from the tee, but we’ll see if you’re still enchanted as you walk to the green. Though it’s only 165 yards, the water surrounding the front and left of the green makes for a love-hate relationship. Throw in the bunkers right and the trouble long, and you have all the challenge you can handle. Don’t hate it because it’s beautiful.
This 582-yard, par-5 monster is nothing but trees, bunkers and fairways. It’s a lovely sight the whole way, but don’t be mesmerized. This hole demands accuracy and hitting straight rather than long. Think fairway woods off the tee, due to a hidden little creek on the right. Your second shot needs to be placed short of the fairway bunker to set up a third shot into an elevated green that’s only about eight or nine yards wide and 28 yards deep. Par here will have you sitting pretty.
Holes 17 and 18
Here’s a memory-making pair. The tandem of 17 and 18 together make for two of the prettiest little finishing holes you will play anywhere. The elevated tee shot from hole 17 drops dangerously to a postage stamp green, while the “twisty-turny” par 5, 18th hole deserves every bit of its one handicap.
Lookaway Golf Club, Buckingham, Pa.
This former dairy farm has no shortage of charm, from stone outbuildings, lakes and streams to a restored farmhouse-turned-clubhouse. Rees Jones sculpted a treasure here, and the Mill Creek Bridge is not only a path through a dense hardwood forest, but also a portal to three of the greatest finishing holes in the area. Hole 18 will blind you with its beauty, but thankfully, you won’t have to look at the score after playing this slippery, uphill double-carry finisher.
Jack Nicklaus picked an ideal spot for his first Delaware golf course, with sweeping views of the Assawoman Bay and the Ocean City, Md., skyline in the distance. Hole 10 plays 429 yards from the tips, but the high- to mid-handicapper will find the wide fairway a pleasure. Most of the trouble comes from the well-placed bunkers and the ever-present breezes. Begin your back nine with a makeable birdie here and you’ll be off to an excellent start.
Turtle Creek Golf Course, Limerick, Pa.
This 538-yard par 5 features woodlands on the right and a lake defining the left. Don’t get distracted by the pretty picture—you’ll have to decide whether or not to go for it in two. The green is well defended by water and rough mounds, so make sure you get it right.
Holes 4, 9 and 18
Deerfield is a public golf course with the feel of a private club. The convergence of Holes 9 and 18, with Hole 4 splitting them, is a perfect example of what you’ll get here—ample fairways, challenging slopes and trees framing most every hole. With forest views of White Clay Creek State Park, the backdrop is always tranquil, but some difficult holes will make you sweat.