Cedarbrook Hill Short Course

For the young and old, Short Course is a gem

If the world needs another fabulous, 7,000-yard championship layout, what it may need even more are decent courses that embrace kids and senior citizens.

That brings us to the Short Course at Cedarbrook Hill in Wyncote.

Granted, in golf parlance, the Short Course is a par-3 course. Somehow, that seems an almost pejorative term. But don't confuse the Short Course with some patchy, two-bit pitch-and-putt. With its mix of quality, challenging holes, not to mention manicured, bent-grass fairways and greens, the Short Course is a small-scale gem, plain and simple.

Recast from the remnants of an original A.W. Tillinghast design from the early 1920s, the Short Course is a fun little test. Yes, there's an 85-yard hole like you might find at a pitch-and-putt. But there are also a 240-yard beast and a slew of respectable 115-to-185-yard par 3s that will test the iron play of even single-digit handicappers.

Perhaps best of all, the Short Course is a terrific, welcoming environment for youngsters learning the game and seniors who no longer seek the wrath of a full-blown golf course.

During a round last week, I teed it up with a delightful, spry, retired couple, the Chaneys, for whom the Short Course is plenty of golf. Bill Chaney has had double hip replacements, and he and Peg Chaney had suction-cup ball removers on the ends of their putters. They got down on their knees to mark their balls on the greens. They were having a blast.

In front of us was a foursome of boys who couldn't have been older than 13. They were banging balls left and right and smiling every step of the way. Behind us were four more kids. Not a grown-up in the group.

That said, the Short Course is not simply a place to drop off your kids. It's also an ideal place to play a family round or to introduce a child to the game. So welcoming is the place that it has a separate scorecard for children that reads: "The Short Course: Where Junior Golf Rules."

Why a separate card? A 185-yard hole, such as the 12th, may be a par 3 for you, but not for a 10-year-old boy. For that youngster, 13 of the holes at the Short Course play as par 4s, and two of them as par 5s, for a total par of 71. Girls have their own par of 75.

"We believe the biggest draw is going to be from families, juniors and intermediates," said Richard Fahey of Matrix Development Corp., which took over management of the Short Course last year.

In addition, Fahey said they are seeing some play from better golfers looking to work on their iron play or short game, or simply slip in a quick round (average round: 2 hours, 15 minutes).

"Even good players don't eat the place up," said Fahey, referring to the challenge.

If the course is ideal for youngsters, so is the price. A junior season pass ($100) entitles children to $5 green fees all year long. Discounts are also available for seniors.

Designed by Tillinghast as the original Cedarbrook Country Club 18-hole layout, the Short Course was the site of some championship golf in the 1930s and '40s. Fahey says Ben Hogan won a tournament there in the '40s.

In the '60s, with Cedarbrook Country Club moving to Blue Bell, a big chunk of the course was used to build what are now the adjoining Cedarbrook Apartments. At the time, George Fazio, uncle of the famed Tom Fazio, was brought in to turn the remaining real estate into a par-3 course for residents of the apartment complex -- sort of the ultimate in then-suburban living.

Only one Tillinghast hole -- the original 10th, now the fifth at the Short Course -- remains intact, and it's arguably the best on the property. But Fazio did keep about half a dozen of Tillinghast's original green complexes.

Fazio fashioned a few easy holes without bunkers, and a few more difficult shots from elevated tees, sloping fairways and well-protected greens.

Over the years, as the residents of Cedarbrook Apartments aged, the course saw fewer and fewer rounds, reaching a low of about 3,000 two years ago. Last year, the current owner, Roseland Management of New Jersey, brought in Matrix to revitalize and manage the place.

Matrix hired a new superintendent, Mike Farina, who has done a commendable job, and threw open the doors to the public, particularly children and seniors.

The result is not another top-dollar championship course. It's a fun, wholesome, well-run, reasonably priced place to learn and enjoy the game.

Originally published July 5, 1998