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Golf Course Review -
Aronimink Golf Club |
By Phil Sokol - Director
of Operations (TSN)
"I intended to make this my masterpiece, but not until today did I realize
that I built better than I knew." Twenty years after designing the course,
just prior to his death in 1948, Donald Ross - who designed more than 500
courses including famed venues Pinehurst No. 2, Seminole Golf Club and Oakland
Hills - toured Aronimink Golf Club and uttered that statement. A bronze plaque
including those words sits on a boulder behind the first tee.
1 - Par 4 428 Yds
2 - Par 4 422 Yds
3 - Par 4 446 Yds
4 - Par 4 457 Yds
5 - Par 3 178 Yds
6 - Par 4 392 Yds
7 - Par 4 401 Yds
8 - Par 3 238 Yds
9 - Par 5 605 Yds
10 - Par 4 445 Yds
11 - Par 4 408 Yds
12 - Par 4 459 Yds
13 - Par 4 387 Yds
14 - Par 3 215 Yds
15 - Par 4 500 Yds
16 - Par 5 558 Yds
17 - Par 3 215 Yds
18 - Par 4 436 Yds
Par 35 3,567 Yds
Par 35 3,623 Yds
Donald Ross (1928), Ron Prichard, McDonald & Sons (2001)
Year Opened: 1928
Location: Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
Slope: 130 Rating: 74.4
Key Events Held:
PGA Championship (1962),
U.S. Amateur (1977),
U.S. Junior Amateur (1997),
PGA Senior Championship (2003),
AT&T National (2010-11).
Key Events Held:
#3 by Golf Digest - Best in State, Pennsylvania (2009-10),
#56 by Golfweek - America's Best Classic Courses (2009-10),
#76 by Golf Digest - America's 100 Great Courses (2009-10),
#91 by Golf Connoisseur - Prestigious Private Clubs (2006-07),
Organized in 1896, Aronimink was named after an Indian Chief of the Lenape
Tribe. When the club opened, entrance fees were $10, annual dues were $20 and
membership was $150, with the caddies receiving 15 cents per hour. Ross'
original design was to incorporate a parkland setting with more than 100
bunkers, slopes, valleys and doglegs in an effort to require superior shot
making. After three previous sites, Aronimink moved to its current location in
1926, as the club purchased 300 acres for $300,000.
To celebrate its Indian heritage, all of the holes on the golf course bear
native American names such as Apache, Seminole, Cherokee and Sioux.
Over the past several years, Aronimink has undergone a restoration and
renovation guided by architect Ron Prichard in an effort to restore all
bunkers to their original design, add an additional five acres of fairways (up
to 31 acres) and restore the pond in front of the 10th green. In addition,
over 1,000 trees have been removed for agronomical and aesthetic reasons.
The most celebrated event held at Aronimink was the 1962 PGA Championship won
by Gary Player. The native South African finished the event at two-under-par
(278), defeating Bob Goalby by one shot. With the win, Player became the fifth
foreign-born player to win the PGA Championship. Only two players in the
field, Player and Goalby, finished the week under par on the first course in
PGA Championship history to be played over 7,000 (7,045) yards. Jack Nicklaus
carded 69-67 the final two rounds to tie for third, while Arnold Palmer and
Sam Snead tied for 17th, each failing to break par. Player sealed the win with
pars on the final two holes.
The Ross plaque at the first tee reads, "I intended to make this my masterpiece, but not until today did I realize that I built better than I knew."|
In 1977, the United States Golf Association held its first event at Aronimink,
the U.S. Amateur Championship, won by John Fought. The current course
architect defeated heralded amateurs Marvin "Vinny" Giles III and Jay Sigel in
the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, and then crushed Doug
Fischesser, 9 & 8 in the championship match for the title.
Twenty years later, the USGA returned for the U.S. Junior Amateur, as Jason
Allred defeated 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, 1-up. Allred, who
played several years on the PGA Tour, withstood a late rally by Immelman for
the title. After falling two down to Allred after he chipped in on 15 from 30
yards away, Immelman responded with back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 to
square the match. The comeback was short-lived, as Allred two-putted for par
on the last. Current PGA Tour player and Aronimink member Sean O'Hair lost in
the semifinals to Immelman.
The PGA of America returned to Aronimink in 2003 for the Senior PGA
Championship, the oldest and most prestigious senior event. Playing at just
under 7,000 yards, John Jacobs outlasted the conditions and a stellar field to
win for the fifth time on the elder circuit. Two shots behind after three
rounds, Jacobs carded a final round of 68 after completing his third round
earlier in the day, for a two-stroke win over Bobby Wadkins in a rain- delayed
and soggy event. Fuzzy Zoeller, who tied for third, was the only player in the
field to post four rounds of par or better (69-70-70-70). Tied for the lead
with just four holes remaining, Jacobs birdied the 15th with a roller-coaster
25-footer and then two-putted for birdie on 16 for a two-shot cushion. The 58-
year-old tapped in for par at the last to become the oldest Senior PGA
Championship winner since Pete Cooper in 1976. The course played quite
difficult for the week, as the players averaged 73.580 with 237 rounds over
Aronimink Golf Club entrance.|
The PGA Tour mades its initial visit to Aronimink in 2010 for the AT&T
National. Usually played at Congressional Country Club in Washington, DC, the
tournament moved to Aronimink to accomodate course changes to Congressional
for the 2011 U.S. Open.
Players were pleasantly surprised with the classic layout, as Justin Rose
outlasted Ryan Moore by one shot. "This golf course has a lot of those types
of characteristics where you need to play smart, you need to leave yourself
below the hole, you need to not take on a lot of shots out there. You need to
be very patient," commented Rose following his second-round 64.
"I considered this my U.S. Open," Rose said after winning for the second time
in three starts. Rose, who failed to qualify for the U.S. Open, finished the
tournament at 10-under-par, closing with an even-par 70. Jeff Overton finished
third, two shots back and was the only player in the field with four rounds in
Tiger Woods failed to break 70, shooting rounds of 73-70-70-71 and tied for
46th. Although he was originally born in the area and had never played
Aronimink, Jim Furyk had this assessment. "I'm taken aback by its difficulty.
I think it's a very tough golf course. It's tough to get the ball in the
fairways. The greens are very big, but are cut up into smaller sections. Add
to that, there's probably the thickest and the longest rough we've had for a
PGA Tour event this year." For the week, the par-70 course played to a scoring
average of 71.218.
The course starts off with a stern test, a slight dogleg left uphill par-four
with no fairway bunkers in the wide landing area on the tee shot. A mid- to
long-iron is left to a two-tiered green that slopes right to left. Pin
placement could add another club to your approach shot. Any approach above the
flag could result in a three-putt or worse, you're ball rolling off the green.
The second hole represents a birdie opportunity. Well, maybe. A sharp dogleg
left with a new tee box set back to the left, you'll need to be quite accurate
off the tee, as the fairway slopes away from the player with two fairway
bunkers guarding the corner. A short iron should remain, but the green slopes
to the front and is extremely fast. Miss long and you'll find a difficult
chipping area, making for a tough up-and-down.
A two-tiered green
slopes right to left on the first.|
Another strong par-four faces the golfer when he reaches the third tee. At 446
yards, bending to the left and bunkers guarding both sides of the fairway, the
tee shot is the most crucial aspect of the hole. A long tee ball down the
right side, will leave a medium to short iron approach to a wide and narrow
green that slopes towards the front guarded by bunkers. Missing long is not an
The fourth is ranked as the toughest hole on the course, and with good reason.
It's the fourth consecutive par four over 400 yards and another hole that
requires an accurate tee ball. Sand guards the left landing area and thick
rough flanks the right. Another mid- to long-iron remains to a slightly
downhill approach to a back to front canting and small putting surface.
Miss long on the
second and you'll find a difficult chipping area.|
The fifth is typical of Ross, as he made his three pars to play downhill while
his four's and five's generally played uphill. This par-three is guarded left,
right and center by bunkers that are very deep and features a green that is
very undulating. As you stand on the tee, your thinking birdie, but when you
hole out, you'll be happy with par.
One of only two par four's under 400 yards, the sixth plays slightly longer
than the yardage indicates, as your tee shot on the dogleg right is uphill to
a fairly wide landing area. Sand down the right side can be cleared, but you'd
better step on it. A short-iron should suffice to attack the green, however,
judging the distance might be difficult since you might not see the entire
flag stick. The putting surface is large with another back-to-front slope.
At 392 yards, the
sixth plays slightly longer than the yardage indicates.
A definite birdie chance, the seventh requires a three-metal or an iron off
the tee. This dogleg right has a grouping of mounds, no sand and several large
trees guarding the corner. However, a solid tee shot will leave just a wedge
to a green that sits downhill from the fairway. Missing this target will leave
an almost impossible up and down, as the green falls off with yawning bunkers
guarding the entrance and left. Usually played into the wind, club selection
could be dicey.
The second of the downhill par-threes, the eighth is a demanding 238 yards
from the tips. The tee shot must carry a pond 40 yards short of the green and
dissect bunkers left and right to a green that is very long and narrow with a
mound dissecting the putting surface. Chipping areas around the back of the
green can play havoc with your game. During the 2010 AT&T National, the eighth
proved to be the most difficult hole on the course with a scoring average of
The eighth is a
demanding 238 yards from the tips.|
Playing uphill towards the clubhouse, the par-five ninth is a massive hole,
the longest on the course, following an addition of a new tee box that
stretches this behemoth to 605 yards. A slight fade off the tee must avoid the
bunkers right and left. From the fairway, it certainly is possible to get home
for the biggest of hitters, but the sensible play is to layup around the 100
yard mark for a simple wedge up the hill. The green is deep, so you'll need to
be spot on for your best shot at birdie, as the birdie is calm. Miss short and
the ball might end up back at your feet.
One of the more demanding holes on the course starts the back nine, a par four
of 445 yards. The narrow fairway is guarded on the right side by sand, while
the left side is no picnic with thick rough. Missing the fairway might force a
lay-up, as the green is guarded on the left side by a pond. Making par after
missing this green will be tough, as the slope and speed of the putting
surface requires an adept touch. The closely mown chipping areas right and
deep can been game altering. Expect a front-left pin on the final day of a
The par-five ninth
plays uphill towards the clubhouse.|
The 11th features the most difficult putting surface on the course. The hole
plays straight uphill from tee to green, with bunkers down the right side of
the generous fairway. You must add at least one club or even two for your
approach, as the putting surface sits well above the fairway. The green
features many slopes and undulations and is quite demanding. Above the hole
and you'll have no shot at getting it close. Stroke your putt too hard and
you'll roll back down the fairway.
The monster par four's keep on coming when you reach the 12th, a 450-yard
brute. Four bunkers strategically placed down the fairway will force a layup
if your tee shot finds the sand. The green is slightly elevated with sand
right and a sharp fall-off left. The putting surface is slick, but easier than
At 11, the golfer
is faced with an uphill second shot to a green that slopes hard back to front.
A rare birdie hole on the back nine, the 13th, requires a long-iron or hybrid
off the tee to a tight landing area guarded left by bunkers and right by trees
and rough. A short-iron should remain to a well-guarded green that can yield
plenty of birdies, but miss left and long and double-bogey is in the picture.
With sand flanking both sides of the green, you'll need to be spot on at the
par-three 14th. Not only that, the hole plays 215 yards from the tips, so a
long-iron or more will be required to get home. A back-right pin is a bear, so
play towards the center, two-putt and move on, if you can.
Four bunkers are
strategically placed down the fairway on the 12th.|
The addition of a new tee box, made the 15th hole the longest par-four on the
course at 500 yards, hence the No. 2 handicap rating. A yawning bunker right
figures prominently in your play off the tee, not to mention the right-to-left
sloping fairway. Even with a good tee shot, the player is left with a long-
iron to a large green that slopes from back to front. Play towards the right
side, as everything feeds towards the center.
Honestly, the final true birdie hole on the course is the par-five 16th. A
bunker guards the corner of the slight dogleg on the left side and can be
carried. However, most tee shots tend to find their way towards the right side
or even in the rough due to the slope of the landing area. Bunkers dot the
right side of the layup zone, which should leave a simple wedge to a long, but
narrow green. Miss the putting surface and you'll end up in a chipping area or
The slightly downhill, par-three 17th plays difficult, due to a lake guarding
the green and when the tournament's on the line, watch out. A mishit tee shot
with a left pin placement might cause an errant shot to slide down the steep
bank and into the water. Miss right and a huge tree and sand will provide for
a difficult up and down. To top it off, the putting surface is undulating and
slick. That should be enough to give you plenty of "agita."
A lake guards the
green on the par-three 17th.|
The home hole is as good as it gets, playing 436 yards and uphill from tee to
green. The premium here is on your tee shot, that must avoid the bunker right.
From the fairway, the hole bends slightly to the right and will require an
extra club to reach the green. This terraced putting surface possesses many
difficult hole locations with menacing bunkers guarding the surface. Sitting
in front of the clubhouse, the 18th green is one of the finest settings in
One of the true outstanding courses in America, Aronimink is Ross' true
genius. Ross designed greens to protect par with plateaus, mounds and terraces
running at diagonals and making the easier recovery sides the most difficult.
Aronimink features putting surfaces that roll off on the edges, making par a
great score. The size of the greens are an important part of the course as
well, with an average size of 6,300 square feet. In comparison, the greens at
Pebble Beach are just 3,500 square feet. His Scottish style is evident in the
bunkering that requires precise shot ability. No wonder this course has been
ranked as one of "America's 100 greatest golf courses" by many publications.
The 18th requires a mid-to-long iron second shot to reach a
large green that sits in front of the clubhouse.|
The bunker renovation work done over the past decade has brought out the true
character of the course. The layout is solid and challenging enough, although
several par fours play similarly. What I believe makes the course, are the
four wonderful par threes, culminating with the exciting 17th.
In addition, the conditioning of the golf course and the very knowledgeable
caddies promote the spirit and true essence of Aronimink Golf Club.
Although quite hilly, Aronimink is a wonderful course to walk, testing not
only your skill, but your will. The climb coming up 18 is truly a great
A remarkable golf course that has improved drastically over the years,
accommodating the changes in golf technology, while still keeping its classic
roots. Well done, Mr. Ross!