I remember almost 20 years ago, when I moved to Philadelphia, trying to find a golf course to call my own. I lived in Center City at the time and didn't know the town, so I played Cobbs Creek a number of times. I tried Walnut Lane, FDR, and a couple of other places long forgotten. I'd grown up playing at a small-town country club, and none of them had quite the feel I wanted.
|At a glance|
| Getting there: Ramblewood Country Club is located at 200 Country Club Parkway in Mount Laurel. The phone number is 856-235-2118.
Greens fees: Weekends, $64 with cart, $47 to walk; after 2 p.m., $43 to walk or ride. Weekdays, $51 with cart, $35 to walk; after 4 p.m., $20 to walk or ride. Winter rates are about ten dollars less. Seniors, $30 walk or ride before 8:30 a.m. during the week, $51 after 8:30 a.m.
Carts: Cart mandatory on weekends until 1 p.m. in-season; walking permitted in winter.
Spikes: Non-metal only.
Amenities: Pro shop; putting and chipping green; restaurant, snack bar and banquet facilities, swimming pools, locker room, tennis courts. No driving range. Outings welcome.
Rating: Busy but well-run course that should appeal to most every level of golfer. Comfortable, unpretentious feel.
Information accurate as of 8/26/2002
It wasn't perfect, but it was close enough. For the next year, until I moved, most every weekend found a couple of buddies and me making the trek to Mount Laurel and Ramblewood. Granted, it was often too crowded, but Ramblewood had a better than decent course and something of a small-town country club feel to it. And, not least important, I could afford it.
Last week, I discovered not much had changed. Ramblewood Country Club is pretty much as I left it - 27 holes of basic but solid golf, nothing fancy, but well-run, comfortable, and accommodating to golfers of all levels, ages and genders.
"We like to call it user-friendly," said general manager John Goodwin, whose grandfather and father developed the course and semiprivate club in the early 1960s. "You can go to tougher courses and beat your brains out, or you can come here and have a fair shot at shooting a good score."
Not a bad assessment.
Not many holes at Ramblewood give you reason to stand on the tee and admire the handiwork of the designer, the late Edmund Ault. But there aren't any that give you reason to cuss his name, either.
Ramblewood offers straightforward golf. True, a few holes stand out - a couple of par 3s, a couple of par 4s, and a couple of par 5s come to mind - but for the most part, you find mid-length, tree-lined par 4s with greens flanked by bunkers and just enough teeth to satisfy good golfers without demoralizing high handicappers.
With three nines, you can mix and match the courses at Ramblewood, although oftentimes the choice is not yours but the starter's. That's too bad, because the three nines are not created equal. I happen to prefer the Blue course, which is a little tighter and less forgiving. But if keeping tee shots in the fairway is not your strength, you're definitely better off on the Red and White courses.
"The White and the Red are very wide," Goodwin said. "You have room for error, and you can still recover." A couple of holes on the Blue are wooded corridors.
Ault, a designer from Washington, D.C., who left a legacy of courses from Maryland to Pennsylvania, tackled the Red and White courses first, a few years after the Goodwins bought an old dairy farm from another South Jersey family, the Joneses. Ault added the Blue course, which is built on more wooded adjacent property, in 1971.
Although a few holes play from slightly elevated tees, the topography of Ramblewood is basically flat. That, of course, makes it a welcoming layout for juniors, seniors and women. Except for weekend mornings, you can walk, which is also appealing to many players.
Depending on the tees and the courses you play, a round at Ramblewood can range from a slope of 123 to 130, which are respectable numbers. Unless you play the back tees, Ault rarely confronts you with a long forced carry, nor does he tuck his greens behind nasty bunkers. Almost always, he gives you space to roll the ball onto the green. The greens tend to be medium-sized, rarely with tiers, and almost always pitched from back to front.
None of this is to say that Ramblewood can't jump up and bite you. I happened to play my round last week with a certain nameless editor. Wide as the fairways were, he visited the rough. He also rinsed a few balls at two of the watery par 3s.
Discretion, and the prospect of some horrid assignment, prevents me from divulging his score. But it was a beautiful day, and he had a heck of a time. Reports from the office had him working on his take-away next to his desk for days afterward.
Orginally published in 1998