Wyncote Golf Club

A course with a difference

In politics, there are Democrats and there are Republicans. In golf, there are those who will travel to England and Scotland just to play links-style courses and there are those who can't stay far enough away from them.

Do you know which kind of golfer you are?

Before you plunk down money for that plane ticket abroad, you might want to find out. It's possible with a trip to southern Chester County, to a three-year-old, upscale daily-fee course called Wyncote Golf Club.

``We are a very different kind of golf course,'' said Wyncote's general manager, Bruce Einstein. ``But we wanted to be different. We wanted to offer golfers a different option to the traditional East Coast course.''

Different it is.

Fashioned from what was once rolling farmland and environmentally protected marshland, the topography at Wyncote (``windy cottage'') has dictated a sprawling, wide-open layout, where holes weave up and down, back and forth, and where you can wave to other golfers four fairways away. Certainly no trees obscure your view.

``Four trees on the front side, four on the back,'' the starter joked recently on the first tee. He must have counted the tall bushes.

Of course, just because you won't find your ball stymied behind a tree doesn't mean Wyncote is easy - not by a long shot. Playing a whopping 7,012 yards from the back tees, Wyncote sports a 73.8 course rating and a 128 slope, making it well above average in difficulty. From the red tees, Wyncote plays a much more manageable 5,454 yards.

The course has already won two significant awards in its short existence: In 1993, Golf Digest named it the third-best new public course in the country. Last year, the magazine deemed it the best public course in Pennsylvania.

Because of the lack of trees, the wind can whip across the 180-acre layout as if it were a Kansas wheat field, leaving you flapping like that mean old woman pedaling her bicycle up the road in The Wizard of Oz.

It also means you can find yourself hitting two clubs more, two clubs less, or, if it's a crosswind, aiming at the wrong green. If you have ever watched a British Open on television, you know what we're talking about.

The topography, combined with the raw elements of Mother Nature, also affects course conditions. The bent-grass fairways and greens tend to be dry and hard to hold.

Just like in the British Open, hitting short and rolling the ball onto the green is often the best option, which is why designer Brian Ault built very few traps directly in front of the greens. It's also why the sprinkler heads offer three distance measurements: front, center and back of the green.

Technically, Einstein points out, Wyncote is not a links course, it's a heathland course. Links courses are oceanside; heathland courses, a common design early in the century, are inland.

Either way, there are several memorable holes. Nos. 1 and 10, side-by-side, mirror-image par 5s separated by wild grass and a pond fronting the sprawling double green, were originally considered the ``signature'' holes.

But Einstein says Wyncote regulars also particularly enjoy two other holes, Nos. 3 and 4.

No. 3, at 356 yards from the back tees, is a dogleg left that runs alongside marshland that cuts across in front of the green. A small pond also protects the green, which is elevated. No. 4, at 401 yards from the back tees, is straight, with marshland to the left, a road to the right, and a two-tiered fairway. Both are very tough holes.

If you have never played a links or heathland course, Wyncote might be worth a look just for a change of pace. Chances are you will either love it or hate it.

A few other things you need to know about Wyncote: It's a bit pricey at $65 on weekends. For riders, it's cart paths only. If you choose to walk, be forewarned it's a hike from some greens to the next tee. It's also in a dry township, although Einstein says complicated local laws make ``wet'' outings and gatherings permissible.

Originally published July 28, 1996