It's always a pleasure to be pleasantly surprised by a golf course.
That's exactly what happened with a lap around Warminster's township-owned Five Ponds Golf Club, which turned out to be a fun, well-conditioned, moderately priced layout that's a relatively recent addition to the public-course scene in this area.
It's hard to say why my expectations of Five Ponds were low, other than that it had been around for eight years and I hadn't heard of it until a casual mention by a recent golf partner.
Built on what was once farmland off Street Road in Warminster, Five Ponds is not overly difficult, but it's certainly no pushover, either. With a few ho-hum holes here and several gems there, it plays a respectable 6,760 yards from the blue tees, with a 121 slope. There's enough course to please almost any level of golfer.
``Some people love it, some hate it because they think it's too hard,'' says recreation director Karen Whitney.
Says course manager Beau McKevitt: ``It's a relatively good challenge for a daily-fee course.''
More than a few golfers in that neck of the woods must agree. Just this year, readers of the Doylestown Intelligencer/Record voted Five Ponds the best golf course in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
Designed by Hassentlug and Associates, a Pittsburgh golf-course architectural firm, Five Ponds was a family farm until eight years ago. When Warminster Township took over the property, officials there decided to build a golf course for several reasons: They wanted to provide recreation for the residents, they wanted the land to remain open space and they hoped to generate a little revenue.
The course takes its name from the five small ponds scattered across the layout. Four of those ponds are man-made; the fifth and original pond, ironically, doesn't come into play because it borders the driveway into the clubhouse.
As for the course, Five Ponds sprawls across gently rolling terrain. Some holes have plenty of open space, some have tight, tree-lined fairways.
The front nine is less interesting than the back. Indeed, standing on the first tee - a lazy, wide-open, downhill dogleg left - Five Ponds doesn't look to be much of a challenge.
But it quickly gets better. No. 3 is a tasty little 180-yard par 3 over a pond, and No. 4 is a fun par 4 over water into something of a peninsula green. The No. 1 handicap hole is the 455-yard, par-4 eighth, where all but the big hitters will come up short in regulation.
The back nine features the more interesting holes. No. 12, a 530-yard, par 5, is a very tight, tree-lined hole that's a problem for anybody who can't keep it on the straight and narrow.
The best is reserved for the four finishing holes. No. 15, a 555-yard, par 5, dogleg left, goes down a hill to a creek, then up, then left, into a green guarded by bunkers. This would be a fine hole on any golf course.
Next up is a tricky par 4, the 440-yard, uphill dogleg-right 16th that requires a tee shot to split a narrow chute of trees on the left and right. The hole's length will make you want to hit driver; the trees will make you favor a fairway wood or long iron.
If you manage that hole, you're on to the 165-yard, par-3 17th, which plays from an elevated tee over a pond. If the wind is blowing, or if the pin is tucked behind the tree on the left, take a deep breath and say a prayer before you hit.
The 18th, a slightly uphill, 350-yard, par 4, is not a guaranteed par, either, although it is the most forgiving of the finishing holes.
Five Ponds is not exotic or exclusive. But it's well-conceived and well-maintained. If that appeals to you, you may be pleasantly surprised, too.
Orginally published October 13, 1996