Center Square Golf Club

Center Square plays middle of the road

If letters and phone calls are any indication, golfers want to read about the newest and best courses in the area. But they also want help in finding mid-priced, mid-level tracks that they can play for a little variety.

There's a ton of them out there, many of which you've probably never heard of. Case in point: Center Square Golf Club in Montgomery County.

Center Square, on Route 73 a few miles north of Route 202, is good enough to have hosted the USGA's Women's Public Links Championship in 1980 - and the tournament will return there next June - but it has never cut a high profile among area courses.

At $23 to walk on weekend afternoons, the price is certainly reasonable. And the course is in good condition - especially the greens - for this time of year. Though the front side is decidedly ho-hum, the back side is tight and hilly enough to provide an overall challenge for most levels of golfers.

Golf Digest's "Places to Play" guide rates Center Square two stars - "good, not great, but not a rip-off either" - and offers a mixed bag of comments from golfers ranging from "good layout for a short course" to "challenging course but too wide open."

Longtime Center Square head professional John Trullinger agrees. "The front nine is fairly wide-open and flat," he said. ``The back is more challenging, tighter, more hills, more trees.''

At only 6,342 yards from the blue tees, with a slope of 116, Center Square is not going to blow anybody away. But unless you're a low-handicapper looking for a fight, it probably won't bore you, either.

There's water on only one hole (the medium-length, par-3 18th), and the longest of the three par-5s is only 531 yards from the back tees. There are two longish par-3s (No. 3, 200 yards, and No. 14, 206 yards), but both holes are fairly forgiving of a lousy tee shot.

More than anything, Center Square is characterized by its abundance of short- to medium-length par-4s, which will suit plenty of golfers just fine. What better way to pile up the pars than a tee shot and an 8-iron or pitching wedge into the green?

That's not to say the short par-4s are all a snap. No. 5, a 365-yard dogleg left, requires a substantial and well-placed tee shot for a decent go at the green. No. 2, at only 317 yards, can give you fits if you leave your tee shot in the woods to the right or left. And the 15th and 16th holes - 379 and 313 yards, respectively - are hilly and tight enough to make many golfers reach for the 3-wood off the tee.

For better golfers, the most interesting holes will be the two par-5s on the back nine. At the 521-yard 12th, large stands of trees pinch the fairway from the left and right, at about the spot where a well-hit tee shot should come to rest. From there, it's a blind second shot up and over a crest, down a long, sloping fairway, into a green with bunkers left, right and rear.

At the 531-yard 17th, it's up and over a crest, with a stand of trees on the left and trees lining the fairway down the right side. Hang it out too far to the right and you've got real problems. A nasty bunker in front of the green will make you think twice about trying to get home in 2 strokes. A wiser shot would be something high and soft.

Designed in the early '60s by Ed Ault, an architect of some note from the Washington-Baltimore area, Center Square has been owned for the last eight years by brothers Fran and Butch Pietrini, who are in the construction business.

Orginally published November 3, 1996