Bobby Weed stands out to us as one of modern golf's most underrated architects. We recently played one of his best public-accessible layouts, the Golf Course at Glen Mills, just west of Philadelphia.
And since Weed also had a hand in the terrific TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, site of this week's Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, we wanted to introduce you to this fun, challenging, public-accessible Weed gem. But there's an interesting feature of this course that sets it apart from others...
The High Notes
A course with a vision. The Golf Course at Glen Mills is no ordinary public golf facility, but is part of the adjacent Glen Mills Schools, a facility aimed at the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents that dates back to 1826. The school seeks to turn its students' anti-social behavior around and make them capable and upstanding members of society, despite their pasts. One tool at their disposal: the golf course. Students in good standing are allowed to enter a program that turns the golf course into a classroom, as they learn about turf maintenance, equipment repair and other golf management principles with the help of golf course and school staff. As a result, dozens of Glen Mills Schools alumni have ultimately found jobs in the golf industry. Alumnus Sean Kearney currently serves as Assistant Superintendent at the private Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, New York.
A tale of two nines. The property the par-71 Golf Course at Glen Mills occupies is fairly varied. The front nine starts in a meadow before heading into the woods, throwing a good amount of elevation change at the player. The short par-4 eighth seems like a birdie hole on the scorecard, but the uphill pitch approach to the extremely shallow green is, yard-for-yard, one of the most nerve-wracking we've seen. Exhilaration comes two holes later, as the par-3 10th hole descends almost 100 feet from tee to a massive green set beyond wetlands. The rest of the course plays along either side of these wetlands, a creek and a pond, with the tee shots tightening up somewhat. The back, the par-35 side, plays a full 300 yards shorter than the front.
One black sheep. The aforementioned back-nine environment posed Weed a bit of a challenge, and as a result, the #1 handicap hole on the course is a relatively short par four, the 11th. The fairway is U.S. Open-narrow, wedged between lateral hazard on the left and a bushy hillside on the right. Anything other than a perfect tee shot is a likely lost ball, which can be a bit annoying, and the tiny green sheds shots in similar fashion. Don't let the presence of this hole put you off, though - the course is still splendid overall.
Light traffic. The Golf Course at Glen Mills has a policy we wish more of its peers would adopt: tee times every 12 minutes. Courses that put only seven or eight minutes in between groups are asking for trouble in the form of interminable rounds, and they often get it. Revenue pressures may sometimes dictate a more aggressive tee time arrangement approach, but if tee sheet congestion can be avoided, it should be. Another advantage to this philosophy: less traffic, especially on Glen Mills' greens, which tend to be fast, firm and fun to putt.
Classic good looks. Bobby Weed's style can sometimes be hard to pin down, but many of his courses affect a classic look. Glen Mills' greens, which vary considerably in size and shape, often sport the sorts of sectioning and contouring we love at some of Donald Ross' best. The bunkering ranges from tiny pots like the one left of the 15th green to the 80-yard snake of a hazard left of the third fairway, but not a single one of the dozens of sandy hazards seem out of place. This helps them serve both aesthetic and strategic purposes, and helps the course stand out in the memory.
Black tees (6,646 yards; Men: 71.7 Rating/141 Slope)
Blue (6,314; M: 69.4/138)
White (6,011; M: 66/4/129 W: 74.1/134)
Green (5,430; M: 63.9/124 W: 70.9/127)
Red (4,703; W: 67.3/116)
Ski Symbol Rating: Black Diamond
Green fees: $57-$98