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Mainland Golf Course

Montco course thrives off the beaten path

Mainland Golf Course, named for the town just up the Northeast Extension, is a delightful little loop that, frankly, doesn't get the attention it deserves.

At a glance
Getting there: Mainland Golf Course is in Mainland, Montgomery County. Take I-476, the old Northeast Extension, to Lansdale, Exit 31. Go to the Route 63 traffic light, turn right, and proceed to Old Forty Foot Road. There, turn left, go a half-mile to Rittenhouse Road, and turn right. The course is on the left. Phone: 215-256-9548.

Greens fees: Weekends, $47 to ride. After 12 p.m. weekends, ride for $40, walk for $30. Fridays $40 to ride, $30 to walk. Mondays, $33 to ride, $23 to walk. Weekdays, $37 to ride, $27 to walk. Every day, after 5 p.m., $23 to ride, $16 to walk. Seniors weekdays, $30 to ride, $20 to walk.

Carts: Carts are mandatory until 12 p.m. weekends and holidays.

Spikes: Nonmetal only.

Amenities: Moderately stocked pro shop, driving range, putting green, bar/restaurant, banquet facilities; outings welcome.

Rating: Short but sweet.

Information accurate as of 8/22/2002

It's a safe bet that you won't find a lot of public golf courses in the area in better condition, thanks to superintendent Mike Falcone, a steal from the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

Earlier this week, when even some of the more exclusive country clubs in the area were burned and browned by the heat and drought, Mainland was as green and soft as a politician's slush fund.

It's another safe bet that you won't find many facilities -- the course, the bar and grill, the staff -- more inviting. Of course, maybe that's just because it's far enough off the beaten path to retain a certain amount of civility.

For the average golfer, Mainland is a course to remember.

Perhaps it won't put up much of a fight for the big hitter or low handicapper -- it's only a shade more than 6,000 yards, and its slope is 117. But those rather average figures belie the charm of the Montgomery County course.

Mainland has several short but very interesting holes. It has decent doglegs (one of them quite unusual), a couple of fun par 5s, and three par-3 holes that are as good as you'll find almost anywhere.

``It's a diamond in the rough,'' said head pro Wayne Morris. ``The only drawback to the course is the shortness -- you probably won't get to hit every club in your bag. But it can still beat you up.''

That's a fair assessment. If you hit your driver 250 yards or more, you're looking at a 9-iron and lob wedges into the greens.

But if you don't mind that, or if you're a shot-knocker, or a senior or junior or woman who doesn't exactly thrive on 430-yard par 4s, Mainland could be perfect for you.

The course, originally called Twin Lakes, opened about 35 years ago as a four-hole track, then went to nine holes and finally 18. It originally was owned by a local family, according to Morris.

``They were doing OK, but I don't think they strove for much publicity,'' said Morris, who at the time worked up the road at Indian Valley Country Club. ``It was extremely average.''

Then, three years ago, Sal and Mario Lapio, whose family is in the construction business around Mainland, bought the course and began to infuse it with their money.

Morris, who had taught Sal Lapio to play the game at Indian Valley, was brought on as head pro. Falcone, an assistant superintendent at the Cricket Club, was hired to whip the course into shape.

Back then, as now, the chief weakness was its length -- it was only 5,500 yards. So they began moving back the tees where they could. They added a couple of ponds and fairway bunkers, and rebuilt one hole.

More work is planned, but Mainland already is a fun course. Like Paxon Hollow in Delaware County, it's short on yardage but long on quality.

Mainland starts you off with a straightaway, downhill par 4 that's a decent and somewhat forgiving opening hole. But very quickly, at No. 2, you're faced with one of the trickier holes on the course, a 524-yard par-5 dogleg-right. Yes, you can cut the corner to go for birdie.

The unique hole on the front side has to be the 349-yard dogleg fifth, which is very narrow and tree-lined. The tee faces one direction, the fairway goes another -- in other words, you've got to cut your tee shot right or you're in the sixth fairway. As you get closer to the green, there are a pond and bunkers.

The best hole on the front side, and probably the toughest, is easily the par-3 ninth. It's only 134 yards, but there are out-of-bounds left and OB behind the green, and there's a pond all along the right side. It's pretty from the tee, and tough to walk away from with a par.

The back side consists of ho-hummish par 4s until you hit the 12th, a 308-yard par-4 hole. From the tee, the hole looks tempting but ghoulish. Frankly, it plays shorter -- a 60-year-old in the group almost drove the green. But there are wetlands off the tee to be negotiated, plus a lake and trees up the left side.

The par-5 14th is the next truly fun hole. It's a dogleg-right, 529 yards, that no doubt yields its share of birdies and double bogeys. Even with a good tee shot, the turn is way off in the distance, and the green is tucked in the trees behind a pond and a huge bunker. Very nice.

But the best of the back nine may be the three finishing holes. The 16th is a 186-yard par 3, which means most golfers are looking at a long iron or a fairway wood. The problem is, there are trees on the right, woods on the left, a sloping fairway, and bunkers at the greens. Good luck.

The 17th is a shorter, downhill par 3, but matters are complicated by a big tree crowding the right side of the green and a bunker on the left front. Another nice hole.

The course ends with a short par-4 dogleg-left over a creek, with trees guarding the left side and a huge collection bunker up the right side. Even if you hit a well-placed tee shot, another big tree is nestled against the right side of the green, just waiting for you. A fun finishing hole.

Originally published July 27, 1997

Joe Logan INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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