Horsham Valley Golf Club

A short, solid course with homey appeal

Just as Cheers was a neighborhood tavern, Horsham Valley Golf Club in Ambler is a neighborhood golf course.

At a glance
Getting there: Horsham Valley Golf Club is at 500 Babylon Rd., Ambler. From Route 611 North, turn left onto Horsham Road. Go about two miles to the fifth light, then turn left on Babylon Rd. Course is about one-eighth mile on the right. The phone number is 215-646-4707. The Web site is www.horshamvalleygolf.com.

Greens fees: Weekends $32 to walk, $40 to ride; after 3 p.m., $22 to walk, $30 to ride. Weekdays before 3 p.m., $24 to walk; after 3 p.m., $19 to walk.

Seniors (60 and over) $16 to walk Monday through Friday; $22 to ride. Juniors Day (Monday, for ages 18 and under) and ladies day (Thursday) $19 to walk.

Carts: Walking permitted any time. Fees are $12 per rider for 18 holes; $7.50 per rider for nine holes.

Spikes: Nonmetal preferred.

Amenities: Well-stocked pro shop; range and putting green; snack bar. Leagues and outings welcome.

Rating: Fun loop for mid-level player, juniors and seniors. Great walking course.

Information accurate as of 8/16/2002

Short at only 5,115 yards from the back tees, Horsham Valley will never be mistaken for a championship layout -- not with seven par 3s, a slope of only 102, and a par of 66.

But so what?

On any given day, Horsham Valley is brimming with as many happy golfers as any swanky country club in the area. For plenty of golfers, Horsham Valley fits like a comfy old shoe.

While it won't present much challenge to low-handicappers, Horsham Valley is a reasonable test for mid-level players working on their games, it's ideal for juniors and seniors, and it's a great place to sneak in that quick, after-work round.

For the cost-conscious, Horsham Valley's best selling points may be its walk-anytime policy and greens-fee schedule -- twilight rates as low as $15.

"You don't have to hit it long, but you have to be straight," said head pro Harry Barbin, who owns Horsham Valley with his father, Harry Barbin Sr., and their business partner, David Koch. "And because we have small greens, you have to be very precise with your irons."

That's a fair assessment.

Of Horsham Valley's 10 par 4s, only one is longer than 400 yards. Most measure 300 to 365 yards, and a couple are even under 300. Hole after hole is a short, straight par 4 into a small green with one bunker or no bunkers. There's only one par 5, the 18th, and it's less than 500 yards.

There's not a truly tough hole on the course -- until you hit the middle of the back nine, where things suddenly get dicey at Horsham Valley's version of Amen Corner.

It starts at the 13th hole, the 403-yard dogleg, where most players try to lay up with a fairway wood or long iron in front of a creek. Mature trees surrounding the small green can be a challenge.

The par-4 14th hole, while slightly shorter, is complicated by a large, overgrown, weed-filled waste bunker in the center of the fairway. Only big hitters can toy with the idea of carrying this bunker.

The 15th hole, a 184-yard par 3, has by far the toughest tee shot on the course, and is the signature hole. The biggest problem is a creek that slashes across the fairway, then wraps around the right side. Trees on the left preclude a bailout area, and bunkers await a shot that's too long.

The tee shot at the 16th hole, a 283-yard dogleg left, is the only complaint you'll get here. Overhanging trees make for a chute off the tee that's so narrow, it's a wonder anybody ever hits the fairway.

The course opened in 1957 as a nine-hole course, designed by owner Doug Melville and his father, Jock Melville, who also designed what is now Twining Valley. Over the next decade, another nine holes were added. Barbin and his partners bought the course in 1980.

Since then, there has been a series of improvements. An irrigation system was added, bunkers were recast, and eight new tees have been built over the last three years.

Barbin and Horsham Valley do their parts for junior golf. It's the home course for the Hatboro-Horsham High School golf team, and Wissahickon High practices there. Money raised at Horsham Valley helped send eight youngsters to the PGA Junior Golf Camp last year. This year, thanks to auctions and fund-raisers, the club donated $6,500 in college scholarships.

Horsham Valley is not always aggravation-free. With upward of 40,000 rounds a year played there -- many by youngsters and beginners -- play can be slow, especially on weekends.

Still, for a lot of golfers, that's a small price to pay, especially if the fairways are full and mowed, the snack bar is stocked with cheap hot dogs and cold drinks, and the staff is cordial.

Orginally published August 16, 1998