Toll agrees to buy part of Philmont golf club

Temple's Brandon Matthews watches his putt as it is about to drop into the seventh hole at Philmont Country Club during the Big Five Golf Invitational in 2012. (Curt Hudson / For The Inquirer)

Toll Bros., the Montgomery County-based builder that specializes in fancy townhome developments and suburban McMansions, has agreed to buy 52 acres of the century-old Philmont Country Club, located a few minutes from Toll's offices. The club is in Huntingdon Valley, near Northeast Philadelphia.

Toll's Nancy Cohen confirmed there is a deal but declined to talk about Toll's possible plans for the site, noting the sale is not final. A source familiar with the talks told me the club hopes to raise as much as $12 million, enough for a fancy new clubhouse; that the land to be sold is mostly toward Pine Road near the indoor tennis courts; and the plan would leave Philmont with 27 holes for golf. Philmont officials, who had previously approached the township about possibly locating senior housing on part of the club's South course, didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Philmont was started by the leaders of Philadelphia's Gimbel and Lit department-store chains and other members of the Jewish community, at a time when non-Protestants were seldom accepted into some of the area's leading clubs. Links dating from that more-segregated era are among the many country clubs that have felt financial pressure in recent years; last year two historically Jewish clubs, Woodcrest in Cherry Hill and Brandywine in Wilmington, were sold to developers, though both remain open for golf, for now. Similarly the historically Catholic Frankford-Torresdale golf club is in partnership talks with Philadelphia's Union League, while the Italian-American Cavaliers club, near Newark, Del., recently sold half its ground to builders. 

(Another factor is continued suburbanization of the region's remaining golfers: Players tell me some of the oldtime Philmont families have migrated further out from the city to the Talamore Country Club, just as children of Torresdale-Frankford members may be more apt to tee off at the Huntingdon Valley Country Club course, or Overbrook.)

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