20 March 2006

The Jeff

I had the distinct pleasure of playing Jeffersonville GC yesterday with fellow GolfClubAtlas mate Mike Cirba. This course is the crown jewel of the West Norriton Township, PA taxpayer (that's a muni for those taking notes ;-)) and is also a crown jewel (of many) for Philadelphia golf.

The course is your prototypical Donald Ross/JB McGovern 1931 design that, to me at least, gets better with each subsequent play. My first experience with the course was in a High School match back in 1999, right before a Ron Prichard restoration was undertaken. I returned 3 years later after I turned pro and the difference was night and day. The course as I first encountered it was a pitiable maintenance nightmare. I am not sure if this was before or just after they discovered the Ross pedigree, but I would have never even imagined the sophistication of the design then.

The main affects of the restoration were much better (and integrated) bunkering and larger, more integrated green sites. These greens are a superb test of iron play, and as we experienced yesterday can be quite the challenge when fast. The routing also offers the golfer different angles through which the wind will affect play, and with one exception, no two consecutive holes play in the same direction.

While the first nine has many highlights (the short par 4 2nd, par 5 6th and long downhill par 3 8th among them), the second nine is as fine a test of golf mettle as I've encountered in my, albiet limited, experience. The 11th and 12th holes (formerly 17 and 18) are an interesting pair. The first is a long, uphill par 4. The green dictates play of the rest of the hole and its situation is as near to a "redan" style as I've ever seen on a Ross course. The front right shoulder helps feed a low, running approach.

As was our luck, the hole played dead into the wind - placing a premium on this feature. I was able to successfully punch a 3-iron from about 185 out up the hill and feeding toward the hole location on the left side just over the greenside bunker. I should note that Mike hit a wonderful approach right at the hole that nestled abotu 10 feet away, so while this hole has some features of a redan, it's not a true one as the green does not slope away from the golfer.

17 and 18 are a great finish, and the evolution of the 17th hole is of particular interest to me. 17 is a true dogleg where angles are gained by playing out away from the green near the bunkers at the corner. Playing down 18 is an option, but no true advantage is gained as the hole is both sufficiently long with a green angled in a certain way that the small distance advantage gained is not worth the shot due to the poor angle. Interestingly, this hole may have played much straighter or even as a dead-straight on shot. I'll follow up when I do the necessary research.

Jeffersonville is a sure treat, and the price can't be beat (I'm a poet, and the realization has yet to strike me). It's a worthy trip to anyone taking a Philadelphia golf tour as an accessible, playable, and fun sampling of later Ross.

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