Inniscrone Golf Club

This view from behind the one-shot 11th typifies Inniscrone's rugged character.

So what does Philadelphia offer? Rolling land requiring thoughtful routing, artistic bunkering, and fascinating Philadelphia is the United States’ answer to Melbourne and London, boasting more than its share of top-notch golf while at the same time having its own brand of architecture. While each city has its dominant architect (Melbourne – Alister MacKenzie; London – Harry Colt; Philadelphia – William Flynn), the land melds together the work of different designers. The Sand Belt of Melbourne has the recurring theme of some of the world’s best bunkering; London has its heathland golf replete with pines, heather, and old-fashioned bunkering. greens. While the William Flynn gems of Huntingdon Valley, Philadelphia Country Club, and Rolling Green possess these attributes in spades, so do the non-Flynn courses such as Aronimink. However, no significant course was built in the Philadelphia area from World War II until the early 1990s. The better land was already occupied by golf courses, and the real estate prices were, appropriately, those of a major eastern metropolis. Those wishing to build something new were forced to look west and/or south for more reasonable farmland. As a result, the character of the new courses could not help but be different. First, there was Stonewall, some 40 miles west and north of the city, built in the early 1990s. Here, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse inherited Tom Fazio’s routing over an awkward piece of land with environmental concerns. Thanks to some of the best greens built in the past 60 years, the course is a success. One wonders if the architects were paying homage to the traditional Philly work as, like Huntingdon Valley, almost every green has a clear high side to which the player does not want to miss the green.

The approach to the 4th, with everything feeding to the back-left part of the green.

Several years later, Gil Hanse, now teaming with former Merion professional Bill Kittleman, had another similar opportunity, this one some 40 miles south and west of Philadelphia. As at Stonewall, the site was far from ideal, with some severe elevation changes, a public road almost bisecting the property, and, again, some environmental restrictions. How, then, could Hanse build a course that would appeal to the traditionalists of Philadelphia (as well as nearby Wilmington, Delaware), from where the club would draw its members? First, Hanse got the details right – from the varied greens to the traditional bunkers full of character (the latter being largely the work of Kittleman). Second, he gave the members a bold course; no one walks up to a hole at Inniscrone and sighs ‘Great. Hole #43B from the design drawer. Yawn.’ Third, he simply designed and built one arresting hole after another. As seen below, no other course featured on this site has so many holes singled out. The difficulty with writing this piece was deciding which holes to leave out, rather than which to include. Simply put, 16 holes (excluding only the 7th and 10th) could have been featured below.

Neither the bunkers nor their rakes should be taken lightly at Inniscrone.

Holes to Note

2nd hole, 360 yards: A hole whose simple strategy seems so foreign these days. From the tee, a gentle upslope crests less than 200 yards away, allowing the player to see only the beginnings of a formidable bunker down the right and a split-rail fence down the left. The first round or two he plays here, the player will likely play toward the bunker, feeling more comfortable in a hazard he can see than playing toward the unknown down the left. However, as the player plays the hole more often, he quickly comes to realize there is plenty of room to the left, past the fence, to hold the missed tee shot. So now he will favor the left side the next several times he plays the hole, until it sinks in that the left side offers a most undesirable angle of approach, with the large bunker guarding the left of the green and the green’s left-to-right slope. Even though the approach is just a pitch, the slope of the green is enough to ensure that a player in the left rough can hope for nothing better than the finishing on the right edge of the green. So now, with his next round, he is back to square one, challenging the wonderful bunker complex down the right. What an ideal hole for one’s home course. 3rd hole, 315 yards: The most visually appealing hole on the course, the 3rd again requires much thought from the tee, although this time everything is in full view. The fairway bunker on the left forces the player to decide whether to play short, right or past of the bunker. The hole location can affect the play, as the farther right the player drives, the more he is looking down the length of the green which, to the amazement of many, actually runs away from the player.

The strategic tee shot on the short 3rd.

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