Lehigh Country Club
by Mark Fine
Lehigh CC was designed by Master Golf Architect William Flynn back in 1927 and is one of the most beautiful and natural parkland courses in the world. Situated along the Little Lehigh (stream) in the rolling hills of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, the course follows a routing that is pure Flynn genius. Eminently walkable, Lehigh features some very dramatic topography and changes of elevation of 105 feet from the lowest point on the golf course to the highest. The design has a collection of some of the best greensites Flynn ever conceived. With three sets of tees ranging from 5500 to 6600 yards and playing to a par 70, Lehigh offers plenty of challenge and enjoyment to all levels of golfers.
There is not an indifferent hole on the course and each one presents its own unique challenges. As we all know, Flynn believed the ground game was integral to a great golf course and Lehigh is no exception. All but three of the greens are often best attacked using the contours of the approaches.
The set of four par threes is second to none ranging in length from 177 yards to 226 yards from the back tees. Each is different and all are difficult but great fun to play. Lehigh’s two par fives are two of the best holes on the course. Both offer risk reward options and tempt the bold golfer to reach the green in two. The 11th is the more dramatic of the two with an 80 foot drop from an elevated fairway to the tiny green below tucked just beyond the Lehigh stream. The par fours offer great variety in shot options and design. The shortish ones in particular, are all a thrill to play and loaded with character.
Huge specimen trees frame holes and fairways but rarely interfere with well-struck golf shots. It’s hard to find a much better walk anywhere! Sling your clubs over your shoulder or take a caddy and Lehigh is as good as parkland golf gets.
Hole by Hole Description
#1 â€œ 419 yard par 4 – Wonderful starting hole with generous driving area and open green accessible by the run up shot. Subtle green contours provide an excellent prelude of what is in store for the rest of the round. There are few if any flat putts at Lehigh. Most greens are relatively benign looking but often leave golfers shaking their heads after a series of three putts.
#2 â€œ 350 yard par 4 – Could be the best of the short par fours on the course. Feeling good, take out the driver and fly it over the hogback in the center of the fairway to the upper tier of the landing area. Otherwise, hit a long iron or fairway wood leaving a delicate uphill shot to a semi-blind well defended green. This is one of the best short par fours I have ever seen!
#3 â€œ 226 yard par 3 – Outstanding long par three with a heavily contoured green sweeping from left to right. Pin location is everything here. The bunkers flanking the left and right sides of the green have dramatically different levels of difficulty depending on the location of the pin. Proper physical and mental execution is a necessity to walking away with a respectable score.
#4 â€œ 343 yard par 4 – One of the most fun and picturesque holes at Lehigh or anywhere else! The carry over the Little Lehigh stream from the elevated tee is easier than it appears but still terrifying for most golfers. Your short iron second shot over the deepest greenside bunker on the course must be struck precisely to set up a birdie opportunity. Anything long or above the hole leaves a very scary downhill chip or putt. The genius of Flynn’s routing should be starting to become very apparent.
#5 â€œ 397 yard par 4 – Left to right tee shot avoiding the lone fairway bunker on the right corner of the dogleg, sets up a mid-iron shot into this deceptively simple but very dangerous green complex. The bunkerless left side looks benign but just chipping and holding the green from there, particularly to a front pin location, is a real challenge. A good 15 feet of false front green surface adds to the difficulty factor. Typical of Flynn’s design strategy, his hazards aren’t always the obvious ones.
#6 â€œ 533 yard par 5 – First of two excellent par fives. This one is a dog leg left to right that skirts tall pine trees down the right hand side tempting golfers to carry more than they should. A long tee shot over the center of the three guiding cross-bunkers 150 yards out is best leaving the golfer in the 230-260 range. Two framing bunkers pinch down the lay-up area about 120 yards from the green and the ridge they’re built into blocks a view of the green if not carried. This rewards a good tee shot. A narrow entrance to a run away green affords the golfer the chance to bounce the ball in on their second or third shot. Greenside bunkers left and right leave a difficult recovery depending on the pin location. You are always thinking birdie but often walk away empty handed.
#7 â€œ 221 yard par 3 â€œ ‘Wow’ is the most commonly used term by golfers seeing this hole for the first time. This ‘drop shot’ par three offers another stunning view of the Little Lehigh and the surrounding countryside. Playing in the 190 range due to the 90 foot drop to the green across the stream, the ball hangs for what seems like an eternity before finding the safety of the 8000 square foot putting surface. Another of the truly fun but treacherous shots you will encounter during the round.
#8 â€œ 381 yard par 4 â€œ Strong par four playing uphill over a crest to a blind landing area. Fairway cants right to left helping launch a draw forward or holds a fade into the hillside. The second shot plays a club or more longer than the yardage up the slope to a beautiful green set on a diagonal to the fairway and protected by a cavernous bunker to the left. Just a swale guards the right hand side. This is another of Flynn’s superb greens that is loaded with options determined by the location of the pin.
#9 â€œ 415 yard par 4 â€œ One of most interesting straight away par fours you will play anywhere. Perfectly positioned bunkers make the golfer carefully consider club selection off the tee and into the green. Often playing into the prevailing wind, this hole is all you want to finish off your front nine. Assuming your tee shot avoids the gaping bunker protecting the left side of the landing area, your approach shot to a green with a subtle looking but very severe right to left slope must be precise. The bunker guarding the right side of the green is a real hazard!
#10 â€œ 427 yard par 4 â€œ If you thought the front side was inspiring, wait till you see the back. Wonderful dogleg left par four that favors a slight draw off the tee to hold the left to right sloping fairway. A fairly large bunker in the center of the fairway 60 yards short of the fall away green is the hole’s main defense and must be carefully negotiated. Land the ball just over this bunker to keep from running off the back of the green. Creative shot making is clearly the call here. An excellent starting hole for the back nine.
#11 â€œ 501 yard par 5 â€œ The second of the two par fives and my favorite hole on the course. This is 500+ yards of pure fun. Rub of the green plays heavily as a perfectly struck tee shot can still leave the golfer with a hanging side hill lie in the 210 â€œ240 yard go no go zone. The second shot is do or die from 80 feet above the Little Lehigh if the golfer elects to go for the green on the other side in two. The small 2200 square foot green is protected not only by the stream in front, but also by numerous grass hollows on all sides. It is not an automatic up and down just because you cleared the creek with your second shot. However, laying up leaves a testing pitch shot of 70 to 110 yards with no guarantee of a par or birdie. Hitting this green from the top of the hill is one of the greatest thrills you can experience playing Lehigh and that temptation entices many golfers to go for it! It doesn’t get much better than this.
#12 â€œ 410 yard par 4 â€œ Flynn moved very little dirt in building this golf course and on number twelve he added little if any to that total. This has to be one of the most natural golf holes in the world. Playing along the base of the valley, the hole flows perfectly along the stream from tee to green. A soft right to left tee shot leaves a short to medium iron into the green. Strategically, one is rewarded with a more open approach the more the tee shot hugs the creek. Remember to take a moment standing on the tee and enjoy the surroundings, as this is one of the prettiest and most peaceful spots on the golf course. Every architect should see this hole.
#13 â€œ 198 yard par 3 â€œ Arguably the toughest of the four par threes but also possibly the prettiest. Playing back along and across the Little Lehigh, this is the last of the five holes where Flynn so ingeniously makes use of the stream. The green is guarded by grass hollows and the stream on the left and a deep bunker on the right. It offers the golfer one of the most dangerous yet most beautiful tee shots on the course. A subtle ridge divides the green adding to the strategy and complexity of this hole. Like on most of Lehigh’s greens, there is no guarantee of a two putt.
#14 â€œ 370 yard par 4 â€œ The most severe fairway on the course stares back at you off the tee. An uphill tee shot must carom or carry to the top of the crest of the hill or risk running back off the fairway and into the first cut of rough on the right. The golfer would then be left with a 120-140 yard blind second to what many feel is the best greensite on the course. Those carrying the hill are left with only 80-110 yards to this punchbowl green. This is a very exciting shot and requires lots of creativity when playing it. The design of the green lends itself to all sorts of shot options. It even sports an elevated front pin location that is pinched on both sides by the flanking bunkers and falls off front into the fairway and back down to the punchbowl.
#15 â€œ 369 yard par 4 â€œ Another of the great set of short par fours. Two ominous bunkers on the right challenge the golfer to cut the left to right dogleg leaving a short iron approach to the narrowest green on the course which opens from the left. Laying back and to the left is the safer play but the second shot is one of the toughest 150-yard shots around. An excellent little hole full of strategy and much tougher than the yardage on the card. Par is a very good score.
#16 â€œ 177 yard par 3 â€œ Last of the par threes this one playing slightly downhill to a shallow and heavily bunkered green. One of the few holes that must be attacked in the air. Hit it high and soft, take your two putt and move on. This hole can be as tough as it is pretty and the next two holes will require all your attention.
#17 â€œ 416 yard par 4 â€œ The first of two strong finishing par fours. A solid drive is necessary to a wildly undulating fairway that drops 30 feet from the tee before rising again to the green. The green is set in the hillside and though it often can be reached on the ground, anything coming up short will generally roll 15 to 20 yards back off the green and down the fairway. Miss it long and you’ll be left with one of the most testing downhill pitch shots on the course. Hope you have your A game by this time.
#18 â€œ 443 yard par 4 â€œ Demanding final hole that may have been played as a short par five back in the 20’s and 30’s. Playing back to the clubhouse, a long accurate drive will catch the saddle in the fairway and pick up an extra 20 or 30 yards of roll. The long second shot is played to a large green whose surface can not be seen from the landing area. The pin and framing bunkers are visible but the bunker short and left of the green adds to the deception. Open in front, a run up shot is the preferred method of attack. A great finish to one of Flynn’s best and most underrated designs.
One never tires of playing golf at Lehigh!