Makefield Highlands Golf Club

New Bucks County course worth taxpayers

Originally published July 18, 2004.

A year or two from now, it probably won't matter that Makefield Highlands Golf Club could have benefited from another month or three of sunshine, rain and TLC from the superintendent before they threw open the doors.

Oh, well, such are the economics of the golf course industry these days, even when a comfortably suburban township in Bucks County is footing the bill. Or maybe it is precisely because tax dollars are involved that Makefield Highlands is already up and running. Bottom line is that the fine citizens of Lower Makefield now have a fine daily-fee golf course. Not a great golf course. We're not talking Pine Valley or Pine Hill here.

On the other hand, we're also not talking about breaking the bank to play there. At Makefield Highlands , township residents make out like bandits, paying as little as $34 to walk a loop on a weekday. Even for non-residents, the top rate on the weekend or holidays, with a cart, is $69. These days, given the economy and of the state of the golf industry, staying under $70 is a no-brainer.

At a glance
Getting there: Makefield Highlands Golf Club is at 1418 Woodside Rd., Yardley. From Philadelphia, take I-95 north to Exit 51 toward New Hope. Turn left onto Taylorsville Road and go two-tenths of a mile and turn left onto Woodside Road for a half- mile.

The phone number is 215-321-7000. The web site is

Green fees: Fridays, weekends and holidays, $69 with cart for non-residents of Lower Makefield Township; $59 for residents. Monday through Thursday, $58 with cart for non-residents; $48 for residents. Senior, junior, twilight and nine-hole rates available.

Carts: Walking permitted anytime Monday through Thursday and after noon on Fridays, weekends and holidays. (Cart fees are $15 per play, $9 for nine holes).

Amenities: The clubhouse is new, clean, comfortable and unpretentious. There is a moderately stocked pro shop, driving range and practice range.

Rating: It is a promising, mid-priced municipal course in an area that needs a good daily-fee facility.

* Accurate in July 2004

A few years ago, when course construction was booming in the counties surrounding Philadelphia, I would have described Makefield Highlands as an American-style links course. Somewhere along the line, I realized that a more apt description was an American farm course.

Like Wyncote, Olde Homestead, Honeybrook and Turtle Creek, Makefield Highlands was rich, rolling farmland until not so long ago. Whether it was a family or a municipal government behind the transformation, the result is often a golf course that seems to fit naturally in places and feel forced in others. Makefield Highlands, at 7,058 yards from the back tees, par 72, with a respectable course rating of 73.9 and slope of 134, is no different.

Standing on the high ground at the first tee - No. 1 is a 463-yard, straight-away corridor - Makefield Highlands appears to be pretty much wide open, with only fescue and mounding to separate the fairways. It has that now-familiar, modern-day, up-and-back feel to it.

But on the back nine, which is more varied and more interesting, Makefield Highlands has more twists and turns, more trees and more holes that make you think.

"We let the character of the site dictate the course," said Chicago-based architect Rick Jacobson, a former top associate under Jack Nicklaus who also designed Bear Trap Dunes in Delaware.

Already, the hole getting the most talk is the par-5 seventh, 642 yards from the tips, that tumbles downhill, around a small lake, then uphill. It's a big hole, to be sure, reachable in 2 by John Daly and Paul Bunyan. As far as I am concerned, the seventh is your prerequisite beast hole.

For the demands of shot-making, give me the back-nine stretch of 13 through 16, where you encounter a funky, drivable, dogleg par 4; a long, intimidating and picturesque par 3; a banked-turn dogleg over water; and a well-guarded but reachable par 5.

The only hole that left me shaking my head was the 18th, a 445-yard slight dogleg left.

From an elevated tee, it plays downhill to an environmentally protected area. For me, from the blue tees, trying to fly the hazard (300 yards) was out of the question. But I also didn't like having to lay-up short with a 3-wood on the last hole.

Like most brand new courses, Makefield Highlands needs to make other small fixes that could dramatically speed up play. On each tee, how about a sign with a likeness of the hole, especially for the holes with blind tee shots? How about more signage in general, plus easily visible yardage markers?

It also wouldn't hurt for the starter to remind players to fix their ball marks - I must have fixed three or four on every green.

A year or two from now, assuming the course matures nicely and the township runs it properly, Makefield Highlands won't be the most talked-about golf course in the area. But it should be humming along, full of promise, happy golfers and relieved taxpayers.