PEACH BOTTOM, Pa. -- Another dairy farm bites the dust, and up comes another quality, upscale, public place to play golf.
|At a glance|
| Getting there: Pilgrim's Oak Golf Course is at 1107 Pilgrim's Pathway, Peach Bottom, Pa. 17563. At the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Pa. Route 272 in Nottingham, Chester County, take Route 272 north for about 12 miles, going past the merge with U.S. Route 222, to Pilgrim's Pathway. Turn left on Pilgrim's Pathway. The course is one-half mile on the right. Phone is 717-548-3011.
Greens fees: Weekends and holidays, $57 with cart, after 2 p.m. $33 to walk, $45 to ride; after 4 p.m. $20 to walk, $32 ride. Weekdays $33 to walk, $45 to ride; after 2 p.m. $23 walk, $35 ride; after 4 p.m. $15 to walk, $25 to ride. Seniors weekdays $23 to walk, $33 to ride. Juniors weekdays $20 to walk, $32 to ride. Ladies day (Wednesday), $20 to walk, $32 to ride.
Carts: Walking permitted anytime.
Spikes: No metal spikes.
Amenities: Well-stocked pro shop, driving range, putting and chipping green, snack bar with light fare, outing pavilion for 250, outings welcome.
Rating: Fine course, a cross between Hartefeld National and Wyncote.
Information accurate as of 8/22/2002
Few oaks and no pilgrims were in evidence on a recent day, but if you like links-style courses, there's little else to quibble about.
``Every hole out here, you get a different look,'' said Pilgrim's Oak's director of golf, Jeff Bell. ``You'll hit every club in your bag, and I think it's playable for everyone from scratch to 36 handicap.''
Except for four or five pretty ordinary holes -- mostly on the front side -- Pilgrim's Oak is a pleasant, challenging, well-conditioned course that should have a decent shot at joining Hartefeld and Wyncote as one of the region's handful of courses rated four stars by Golf Digest's Places to Play.
The front side is the sort of wide-open, links-style layout you find at Wyncote; the back nine, though still the same rolling topography, is tighter and more tree-lined, like Hartefeld. Of the seven holes with water, four have ponds or small lakes that can be a problem.
The more prevailing characteristics are the openness on the front, which won't brutalize a wayward driver unless you reach the wild, knee-high fescue; the considerable mounding throughout; a general paucity of greenside bunkers; and the greens themselves -- small greens, in some cases roughly the size of a bathroom throw rug.
``Since he made the greens so small, he didn't want to penalize you for missing them,'' Bell said of course designer Michael Hurdzan, whose work includes the new Sand Barrens in Cape May County with partner Dana Fry, as well as Jericho National, now being built in Bucks County.
Hurdzan may not penalize golfers with many bunkers, but on a couple of holes -- the long par-3 eighth and the par-5 15th come to mind -- the tiny greens themselves struck me as penalty enough.
Thanks to five sets of tees, Pilgrim's Oak can play as long or as short as you like, from low of 5,064 yards from the front tees to 7,043 from the tips. No matter which set of tees suits your game, it's going to play tough -- from the front tees, the slope is 129; from the back tees, it's 138.
Easily the best stretch of holes is the 11th through the 14th. The 11th -- Bell's favorite -- is a downhill, dogleg, 363-yard par 4 into an angled fairway, then up to an elevated green. Actually, it's prettier than it is tough.
The 12th is the most picturesque and among the toughest holes on the course -- a 196-yard par 3 that's all carry over water and wetlands. The green looks to be carved out of the side of a hill. Short, left or long here is a good-bye ball; bogey, maybe even double bogey, should be a good score. Come to think of it, how often do you see a par 3 as the No. 6 handicap hole on a course?
The 13th, one of the few tree-lined holes, is a narrow, leisurely dogleg with mounds up the right side and a view of farmland and silos in the distance that can't help but remind you this is not Philadelphia.
The finishing hole is also quite nice -- a 495-yard par 5 from an elevated tee, with water on the left and more to the right front of the green. Go for this green in 2 and you're flirting with trouble.
The bottom line on Pilgrim's Oak: Every time I came across a stretch of two or three ho-hum holes, Hurdzan came back with a treat. If you don't mind the drive -- two to three hours from Center City, depending -- it's definitely worth a try.
Originally published June 29, 1997