Orginally published May 5, 2002
Ever since the doors were flung open a month or so ago, the radio airwaves have been full of commercials touting one of the area's newest courses - Bella Vista Golf Course, off Route 422 in Montgomery County.
I took the bait, played a round, and saw plenty to like. I was not blown away. I did not come away thinking that Pine Hill and Hartefeld National and the other high-end daily-fee facilities were going to have a battle on their hands.
Then again, that was never the goal of Bella Vista. It is what it set out to be: a mid-price, mid-difficulty, mid-quality course that probably will be a welcome and popular addition to the local golf scene, but not a star.
"We don't want to be high-end daily fee," director of golf Gary Yaglenski, who splits his time between Bella Vista and sister course Mainland, said last week. "We are going for the mid-range daily-fee golfer."
|At a glance|
| Getting there: Bella Vista Golf Course is at 2901 Fagleysville Rd., Gilbertsville.
Take I-76 toward King of Prussia. Take Route 202 south, and then the first exit to Route 422 west. Take Route 422 west to the Sanatoga exit. Follow the signs to Sanatoga. Turn left at the first light onto High Street.
Turn right at the light onto Pleasant View Road, which becomes Sanatoga Road. Travel three miles to a stop sign, and straight across becomes Fagleysville Road.
The phone number is 610-705-1855. The web site is www.bellavistagc.com.
Green fees: Weekends and holidays: $50 to ride or walk; twilight, $39 to ride, $25 to walk. Weekdays: $39 to ride, $25 to walk; twilight, $30 to ride, $18 to walk. Also, nine-hole and senior rates are available.
Carts: Walking permitted any time, but cart fees are included weekends and holidays during peak hours. 90-degree rule.
Amenities: The clubhouse is a restored 1802 farmhouse with casual dining, and a snack bar and terrace overlooking the 18th green. There is a moderately stocked pro shop and small locker room. Outings are welcome.
Rating: Stern test for all but single-digit handicappers. Affordable course, comfortable, casual atmosphere, good condition. Solid addition, but not a star. Worth a try.
* Accurate May 2002
That is probably a smart strategy. You can't throw a beer can out a car window these days without hitting a country-club-for-a-day facility that is sweating out the economy and maybe even dropping its greens fees.
For the foreseeable future, the safest place for a daily-fee course to be these days is in the middle - good but not necessarily great, clean and friendly but not posh and snooty, $50 but not $150.
Hello, Bella Vista .
To design the course, developer Sal Lapio turned to Allentown architect Jim Blaukovitch, who has already given area golfers several courses known for their reasonable bang for a reasonable buck: Island Green, Olde Homestead, Honeybrook and Whitetail.
At Bella Vista, he took the rolling farmland and carved out a fairly course (6,409 yards from the back tees) that plays longer than you might expect and tougher (71.0 rating, 136 slope), all the while leaving plenty of room for the 250 home sites Lapio plans.
Like most courses where the construction budget is a constant consideration, Blaukovitch took advantage where the land allowed to come up with holes that have a natural, fluid feel; a few others, however, seem forced or uninspired.
Case in point: Two of Bella Vista's weaker holes - the forgettable par-3 14th and the par-4 15th - will be completely altered by the beginning of next season, after Bella Vista has acquired adjacent property that is the site of a township water-treatment plant. The 14th will become a 145-yard par 3 with an island green, and the 15th fairway will be rerouted.
Even as it is, however, many golfers will find plenty to enjoy at Bella Vista. Even from the tips, the par 4s are quite manageable for midlevel golfers, with just enough bite to make them interesting.
One hole that is already emerging as a favorite among first-timers is the 8th, a downhill dogleg right, with a blind tee shot and a pond beyond the fairway on the left. For most better players, the second shot is no more than a wedge into a green that is nestled next to the pond. The 8th struck me as a bit unfair and tricked up, and I did not care much for it.
I much preferred the 4th, a flatter, lazy 439-yard dogleg left, and the beast of the bunch, the 443-yard 9th, with its uphill fairway and green. When the wind is in your face, the 9th is almost unreachable in 2 shots.
Two par 3s also warrant a mention. The 12th is both picturesque and demanding, playing 191 yards from an elevated tee over water and wild grasses into a green framed by trouble on all sides. The 18th, though a par 3, will probably be the setting for many a disastrous finish. It plays downhill, through a fairly tight chute of trees, into a smallish green hard by a pond on the left. Make par here and you have earned a refreshing drink.
For a course as young as Bella Vista is, superintendent Michael Falcone already has it in excellent shape; all that remains to do is grow in the rough, which will take several months.
As for complaints, the course is woefully short of easily visible yardage markers that could help speed up play. Carts are also restricted to the 90-degree rule. Both may have contributed to a recent weekday round that dragged on for almost five hours.