Middletown Country Club

This course falls short of being sweet

If you look up Middletown Country Club in Golf Digest's 4,200 Best Places to Play, the municipal course in the Bucks County suburb of the same name doesn't exactly get a ringing endorsement.

At a glance
Getting There: Middletown Country Club is at 420 N. Bellevue Ave., Langhorne. Take Interstate 95 north to the Route 1 Langhorne exit. Take Route 1 to Bellevue Avenue. Turn right on Bellevue and follow it for 1.5 miles. Course is on left. Phone: 215-757-6953.

Greens Fees: Weekends, $40 to walk, $49 to ride; Weekdays (Mon.-Thu.), $28 to walk, $44 to ride. After 3 p.m. every day, $15 to walk, $24 to ride. Seniors and juniors get a discount during the week of $5-$10. Middletown Township residents get a $2 discount weekdays and weekends.

Carts: Walking is permitted anytime. Carts not allowed out after 6 p.m.

Spikes: Nonmetal only.

Amenities: Well-stocked pro shop, snack bar, halfway house, putting green, banquet facility. Outings welcome.

Rating: Basic golf, but it could be, and might be, more.

Information accurate as of 8/22/2002

One star, as in ``basic golf.''

It doesn't fare much better in the player comments: ``poor condition,'' ``too short,'' ``some real weak holes'' and ``very strange layout.''

Granted, Middletown will never show up on the short list of potential U.S. Open sites -- a Knights of Columbus outing is more likely -- but it's not all that bad.

Yes, it's short -- only 5,862 yards from the back tees. Par is only 68; the slope from the white tees is only 109. Last week, thanks to no rain and a faulty irrigation system, the fairways were as hard as cart paths. And, yes, you do come across two or three very funky holes. (The 89-yard downhill sixth comes to mind. You stand on the tee wondering whether to hit it or throw it.)

Still, the course does have enough moments and enough redeeming holes to make it a viable loop, especially for golfers not looking for the ultimate test.

``When we're in good shape and the word gets out, we get play from all over,'' pro Don Beardsley said last week. ``In the spring and summer, we had lots of definition from fairway to rough, but it's a shame to see what Mother Nature can do.''

For my money, that's the biggest problem at Middletown -- conditioning.

Being too short is not the worst thing in the world.

But it's less forgivable when you have to search for grass on the tee, or hit a tee shot that lands in the middle of the fairway, then bounds sideways until it hangs up in the rough under a tree.

For Middletown regulars, then, it should come as good news that the township, which has owned the course since 1986, is considering installing a new sprinkler system.

The course has a bit of an interesting past. The name of the designer was not readly available, but it was owned during the 1950s by George Fazio, a former PGA tour pro and course architect from Norristown. For a time, Gary Player even played out of Middletown CC.

The course was later sold to another local family, the Ciminos, before Middletown Township bought it. It's managed by GolfCorp.

Generally speaking, Middletown is hilly, with only one par 5 and plenty of very short par 4s.

The best of the holes come on the backside, starting with No. 10, a 216-yard par 3 that requires a needle-thread tee shot through trees onto a tough, elevated green.

The next hole, although a bit quirky, has its share of charm. It's a very short par 4 (239 yards from the whites) that's driveable for some players, assuming they don't top it into the creek or lose it into the trees left and right.

At the 13th, a 410-yard dogleg, you can take the high road left for a mid-iron approach shot downhill and over a pond onto a big, inviting green. Or you can cut the corner and hope you clear the rough and reach the flats in front of the pond for a wedge onto the green.

The 14th -- 174 yards, with an elevated tee and large, elevated green -- is perhaps the best par 3 on the course. But the toughest and most interesting hole is easily the 16th, a 448-yard dogleg, where the second shot is over water onto a very small, elevated green tucked back in the trees. Nice hole.

Orginally published Sept. 14, 1997