We tee’d it up, where they tee’d it up; we walked the fairways, where they walked the fairways; and we stroked our putts, where they stroked their putts. That is where the similarity ended. The we (our host Powell, Ed, Andy and me); the they (Alec Ross and Alex Smith) were the winners of the 1907 and 1910 U.S. Opens. The Philadelphia Cricket Club consists of three courses: Wissahickon (18), Militia (18) and St. Martins (9). Before we start our round, let me take you on a history tour of the St. Martins Course.
The original nine holes opened in 1895 and the second nine was added in 1898. Two U.S. Opens were played at this course in 1907 and 1910. The course was reduced back to nine holes in 1924 but many of the holes remain today as they were played in the 1910 Open. So, it was time to set foot on this hallowed ground and see how we stack up to Alec and Alex.
Hole #1 (Hartwell) is a straight, uphill par 4 of 355 yards. Each hole is given a name – together let’s try to solve the name game. Your tee shot will need to find air (please no worm-burners) as it needs to carry Hartwell Lane, so please be aware of passing vehicles. Even though this is the number one handicap hole, the fairway is generous even for us high-handicap (Ed/Scott) players. Don’t get too complacent if you manage a good drive as the trouble starts with the approach shot. The shot can be blind (depending on your drive); the green is long, narrow, and slopes from back to front; and watch out for the big slope in the back and the bunkers guarding both sides of the front. Somehow, I was able to find the green in two and two-putt for par. Alec and Alex would have been keeping an eye on me back in 1907/1910.
Hole #2 (Long Hole) is a 257 yard par 4. The green is located off to the right and a big sweeping fade is the choice for all you long hitters. To my surprise I found the front of the putting surface but three-putted for par. Don’t be fooled by the mysterious flag that can be seen through the trees straight ahead. The correct flag is to the right. It may have been a long hole for Alec and Alex but for today’s brutes (Andy), it’s just a long par 3. Hole #3 (Valley Green) has a wide fairway and a large but undulating green. Three bunkers line the front of the green awaiting any poorly stuck shot. The putting surface slopes severely from left to right and any wayward shot to the right may find your ball in the valley off the green.
A nice little fade (Powell = draw) works well at the 289 yard fourth hole (The Ditches). The closer you get to the hole, the narrower your opening to the green. There is water to the left, but I didn’t get close enough to see if it was truly the ditches. Ed, your first hand observation? My thoughts of hanging with the two former U.S. Open champs were dashed at the first (and only) par 3 fifth hole (the Maples). I missed the green and found one of the three greenside bunkers. Today the flag was back right which was lucky for us because a front left placement has an evil drop off area. There are trees (maples?) all around but none should come into play.
I hacked my way up Hole #6 (Bellevue). Make that we, as Ed joined me on the wild journey. Andy and Powell played it like true champions. This slight dogleg right has tree trouble down the right side (yes, I know) and a few trees strategically placed along the left. The raised green has a punishing false front (yes, Ed knows), so be long, there is plenty of green back there. Isn’t Bellevue one of the more famous Mental Health Centers in the U.S.? After this hole, Ed and I may need to pay a visit.
Ah, my champion boys (Andy & Powell) came back to Ed’s and my level as all four of us missed the fairway at Hole #7 (Old Sassafrass). The longest hole on the course has trees (Sassafrass?) lining the right side and OB is very much in play. If you find the green in two, good luck on this sloped green which has many hidden breaks. Hole #8 (Hill Hole) is a straight, 326 yard scoring hole. It doesn’t have a hill that I remember, but it does have a hole in which I got back on track and sunk a par putt. My struggles the last few holes have put me well behind the leaders. Alec and Alex, you are safe!
Be careful which club you choose at Hole #9 (The Inn). This picturesque finishing hole has a great shot of the clubhouse (The Inn?), but any long shot could end up finding you visiting members in the dining room.
Rating – Ace: How could the score be anything less for a club that hosted the 1907 and 1910 U.S. Opens. Speaking of hosts, a big thank you you to member Powell and PGA Head Professional, Tony Doroba, for making us feel so welcome.
At the 1907 U.S. Open, Alec Ross posted rounds of 76-74-76-76 = 302. At the 1910 U.S. Open, Alex Smith posted rounds of 73-73-79-73 = 298 and he won with a 71 in an 18-hole playoff. Over 100 years later with today’s equipment, Andy and Powell probably could achieve those same numbers – Ed and I, not so much. If you ever have a chance to play Philadelphia Cricket Club, don’t skip this course just because it’s only nine holes. It’s part of golf history!
415 W. Willow Grove Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118; 215-247-6001; www.philacricket.com