For every golfer who is looking for the newest, plushest, most difficult course in the area, there's another on the lookout for a track that offers decent, basic golf - inexpensive, convenient, and not so tough that six balls will be lost by the fourth hole.
|At a glance|
| Getting there: Valley Forge Golf Club is located at 401 North Gulph Road, King of Prussia, just off the PA Turnpike, across from King of Prussia Mall. Phone 610-337-1776.
Green fees: Weekends, $30 to walk, $40 to ride; after 3 p.m., $18 to walk, $25 to ride. Weekdays, $20 to walk, $33 to ride; after 3 p.m., $15 to walk, $23 to ride.
Carts: Carts are $13 per person. Walking is permitted any time. Caddies are not available.
Amenities: Fully-stocked pro shop, snack bar, driving range, putting and chipping green.
Rating: Price is right, golf is basic.
Information accurate as of 8/26/2002
At $23 to walk on weekends and $19 on weekdays, the cost should not make anybody flinch when reaching for wallet or purse.
That said, at Valley Forge, a staple for area golfers since 1928, don't expect to find a fancy clubhouse, a comfortable bar and grill, a well-stocked pro shop or a driving range. There's none of the above, except for a pro shop, which is spare at best. As for food, there's a halfway house that serves sodas, hot dogs and crackers.
You have to work hard to lose a ball at Valley Forge. There are few bunkers, no marshes, no dense woods, no deep rough, and not a drop of water on the course, except for the drinking fountains. The fairways on this short, wide-open course tend to be generous and forgiving. The greens are also small and, except on a few holes, flat.
None of which bothered one chatty newcomer to the game, a Valley Forge semi-regular who was looking to get paired up on the first tee Friday.
``I know a lot of guys that wouldn't play this course,'' he said. ``But I played Merion the other day, and I like this course. I say, if you like golf, you play anywhere and everywhere.''
Valley Forge is not to be confused with Merion - not by the longest of shots. Golf Digest's Places to Play gives Valley Forge a one-star rating, meaning ``basic golf,'' and lists such player comments as ``good beginner's course,'' ``nothing special,'' ``acceptable,'' ``old style'' and ``being so close to Philly, it's always crowded.''
That may be, but assistant professional Frank Wright believes the course is just the ticket for more than a few players.
``It's enjoyable to the average golfer because there's not a lot of trouble, and a challenge to all golfers because of the small greens,'' he said.
Small as they are, the greens may be Valley Forge's strongest feature. Last week, they were in excellent condition - thick, true and freshly cut.
The back nine of the layout - the architect's name is long forgotten - turns hilly and is more interesting than the up-and-back front side.
The 12th hole, a 476-yard par-5, is over hill and dale to an elevated green that kicks anything to the left down an embankment. Regulars regard the par-4, 412-yard 14th hole as the toughest on the course. The fairway, which runs along a busy street, slopes right to left, flanked by a few trees that can make things interesting.
The 15th, 161 yards with its elevated tee and green, is the most interesting par 3 on the course. That's quickly followed by the most scenic hole on the course, the par-5, 458-yard No. 17, with an elevated tee and a lazy, dogleg-right fairway.
Little surprise, as Wright confirms, that golfers who slip out of nearby office buildings for a quick nine definitely favor the back side.
Valley Forge, owned by the Hankins family, is not the course to challenge low-handicappers. It measures only 5,960 from the white tees, with a course rating of 68.9 and a slope of 107, less than the national average of 113. (Despite what the scorecard says, there are no blue tees, only white and red).
But for mid- and high-handicappers, or for golfers on a budget, Valley Forge may be worth a try. It's convenient, it's forgiving, and it's in quite decent condition.
Originally published Oct. 6, 1996