By now the
rags-to-respectability success story that is Jeffersonville Golf Club
should be well known to many golfers in the region.
Opened in 1931, during the
Great Depression, Jeffersonville operated for four decades as a family-owned
daily-fee course in West Norriton Township, Montgomery County. Acquired by the township in
the early 1970s, the course spent the next 30 years as a scruffy,
undistinguished, utterly forgettable muni, where guys in tank tops could plunk
down $25 or so and hack it around with a set of mismatched clubs.
Surprisingly, there had been
talk for years around Jeffersonville that the course actually had been designed by Donald J. Ross,
a Scotsman who is perhaps the most revered of all golf course architects.
Best known for such
masterpieces as Seminole in Florida and Pinehurst No. 2, the U.S. Open venue in North Carolina, Ross is
credited with between 350-400 courses over his long, prolific career, including
several local gems such as Aronimink GC, Torresdale-Frankford CC, Chester Valley CC, Gulph Mills CC and Riverton CC. No one ever truly looked into whether Ross truly designed Jeffersonville
It was then that township
old-timer named Bob Deemer wrote a letter to Rick Troncelliti, then West Norriton Township president. Deemer had seen all the publicity over Ross when
Pinehurst No. 2 hosted the 1999 Open, won by the late Payne Stewart, and we wondered why the
township didn’t promote Jeffersonville as also being designed by Ross.
In his letter, Deemer
said he knew fact that Jeffersonville was a Ross course because he had lived in a house
adjacent to the course and he could remember a sign on the property: "Jeffersonville
Golf Club, A Pay As You Play Facility, Designed by Donald Ross."
set about determining once and for all whether Jeffersonville was indeed a Ross. When proof was in hand, Troncelliti persuaded
his fellow commissioners to spend $2 million renovating and upgrading the course
so they could promote it as one of the few Ross courses in the area – and just
about the only one open to the public.
Almost 10 years later,
judging by a recent round at Jeffersonville, the project remains a success and a good idea. The day I was there, the course was
busy and it was in the best condition I’ve ever seen it. Fairways and greens were actually
green, which is a stark and pleasant departure from it the days when it looked
like the golf course equivalent of a stray dog.
That all said, in its heart
of hearts, Jeffersonville
GC remains an everyman muni. It might be long on pedigree but it’s short on
pretense. Reclaimed and redone Ross or
not, it does not aspire to be Aronimink or Pinehurst #2. The rates still top out at $51 for a weekend round, with cart, by
a non-resident of the township; some weekday rates are less than half that.
Not much has changed at Jeffersonville
since the last time I played it, maybe a couple of years ago. The pro shop is basic, simply stocked,
and the snack bar is a no-frills affair that serves a cold beer and a hotdog.
A well-traveled first-timer
might be unimpressed midway through the round. With its short, relatively simple layout --- Jeffersonville,
measures only 6,443
yards from the tips -- it’s not going to blow anybody away, especially if
they are accustomed to top-dollar daily fee courses or acquainted with some of Ross’ other
On the other hand, if they
had seen it before the renovation, they’d likely agree the course has come
quite a way.
The renovation was done by
Ron Prichard, a local architect who specializes in restoring classic courses,
courses. Aided by old photos of
the course, plus a few flourishes of his own, Prichard breathed health and vitality
Beginning at No. 1, he
added a bit more bite to the dogleg opener, rebuilding the bunkers in the elbow
of the dogleg, raising the walls in the process. From there on, Prichard made noticeable, significant changes
to almost every hole, such as reshaping, deepening or repositioning
bunkers. He rerouted two holes and
built new greens on several holes.
For my money, even after the
renovation, the front nine at Jeffersonville is weaker of the two nines. The real action comes after you make
the turn. Many people, me
included, think the best hole on the course is probably the 13th,
slight dogleg left, that plays down to a creek, then a mid-iron shot up to an
elevated, swayback green flanked by bunkers and swathed in towering trees. Very nice golf hole.
Easily, the best stretch of
holes is the final four, beginning par 3 15th, a 215-yard uphill beast that ranks among
the stouter par 3s in the area. Next up is a 390-yard slight dogleg right with a
green you won’t soon forget.
The 452-yard 17th is a dogleg
right with a cut-the-corner tee shot, followed by a finishing hole that is a 545-yard
5, complicated by a lake and a green that takes no prisoners.
As I mentioned in an earlier
blog, one of the best things about the round that day at Jeffersonville is that we played behind
a threesome of youngsters – boys maybe 11 or 12, all decked out in golf
attire, lugging their bags, enjoying the day. Never once did they hold us up.
I kept watching from afar
and not once did they do anything other than conduct themselves properly. Somebody is to be commended for teaching
those boys the game and its etiquette, and Jeffersonville is to be credited for being a
place where they can learn to love the game.