Springfield Country Club

Springfield short on challenges, long on promise

Springfield Country Club, the municipal loop in the Delaware County township, isn't long, particularly tough or all that fancy.
But if an award is ever given for golf courses trying to improve, Springfield could easily walk away with a ribbon.

For the past two years (and for two more years to come) Springfield has been teeming with bulldozers and grounds crews recasting the course from a short but sweet 5,546-yard hill-and-dale into a longer, lusher and, ultimately, tougher test of golf.

By project's end, Springfield will measure 6,000 yards, and par will be increased from 69 to 70. In addition, virtually every green will be moved and rebuilt, several holes will be lengthened or redirected, the weakest par 3 is likely to be replaced by a signature-hole par 3, and, if the township commissioners approve, there will be a new clubhouse.

Eventually, the sequence of several holes also will be changed and the front and back nines will be flip-flopped.

Got all that?

Don't even try. Just remember that a very pleasant little track should be even better.

``We're accomplishing it little by little,'' said Springfield director Bob Giannini. ``We want to end up with a longer, more interesting course.''

Springfield Township has operated the course since 1956 and owned it since 1964. But the transformation didn't begin until a couple of years ago when then-superintendent David Myers, who died this past winter, informed the township that there was no way to improve the condition of the old, badly designed greens without completely rebuilding them. Township officials said go ahead.

Once that project was under way, everybody involved wondered, why stop there? Why not tackle the course's other shortcomings as well? Why not tackle the biggest shortcoming of all, the fact that the course was simply too short for better golfers?

Because of space limitations, there was only so much lengthening and rerouting they could do. But they have tried to make the most of the acreage they do have, adding about 500 yards and a few twists and turns.

``Where we can't challenge big hitters with length, we're trying to challenge them with a dogleg or something else,'' Giannini said.

Specifically, the weakest par 3 at Springfield (the 18th) will be closed to make room for a new, picturesque par 3 (No. 5) that will play 220 yards from the back tees and demand a shot over a sizable ravine and creek.

From there, the old No. 5 becomes the new No. 6, along with a makeover from a short, ordinary par 4 into a 500-yard par 5 back over that same ravine, sans the creek.

Other changes also are in the works, but they're far too complicated to go into here, except for the possibility of a new clubhouse that would sit on what is now the 18th.

``We're doing feasibility studies,'' said Giannini. ``The commissioners will probably decide something by the fall.''

Even as it is, Springfield, with its hills and mix of holes, is a fun round of golf. Much like neighboring Paxon Hallow, what it lacks in length, it makes up for with variety.

Perhaps the two best holes on the course are the ninth and 10th, 371 and 410 yards, respectively. The ninth, a mild dogleg, plays from an elevated tee into a gently sloping fairway with trees up the right side. Aside from being the No. 4 handicap hole, it's also one of the prettier holes on the course.

There's no rest for the weary, however. After a soda and a hotdog at the halfway house, you face No. 10, the No. 3 handicap hole and the only par 4 on the course that will likely find better golfers with a long iron in their hands for their second shots. That assumes they've hit a good enough tee shot for their approach shot to be able to carry over a ravine that fronts the elevated green. Tough hole for any golfer.

Other than a long, hard-to-hit par 3 (No. 7) and a too-short par 5 (No. 15, 431 yards), Springfield's personality is mostly made up of short but testy little dogleg par 4s. Big hitters are looking at a lot of driver-9-irons, but short hitters will find those holes much more challenging.

Overall, the course plays about average in terms of difficulty -- 114 slope from the back tees, 108 from the whites. Those figures will likely go up.

Like most municipal courses, Springfield is busy -- about 48,000 rounds a year -- and doesn't have the feel of an exclusive country club, but it does have a bit more upscale ambience than many municipal courses.

Originally published Sept. 7, 1997