Ross Society in Philadelphia – April 2014
"I don't care about positions. I'll play first, third, left. I'll play anywhere ................ except Philadelphia." Richie Allen, former Phillies All Star
Mr. Allen did come to play and become a legend in Philadelphia. The Donald Ross Society never doubted the golf venues in city of brotherly love and enjoyed a great time this spring.
And so it was that a couple dozen members of the Society enjoyed the fruits of the labors of John Butler and the outings committee as we visited four quality Ross courses: LuLu, Frankford-Torresdale, St. Davids, and Gulph Mills.
Early arrivals were treated to a fifth Ross course on Saturday as John Foore arranged for two foursomes at Aronimink Golf Club.
Our first full field event was at LuLu Country Club on April 28th. LuLu was restored by Ron Forse a decade earlier and we had an informative after dinner presentation by member John Greenbaum about Ron’s fine work.
The main attraction, however, was the golf course, the first designed by Ross in Pennsylvania (1918), including the fourth hole, a tiny par 3 over an abandoned limestone quarry (photo below). Only 110 yards or so, over the bottom of the deep quarry, to an elevated plateau green. It is probably a par with a confident wedge game on a nice sunny day with no wind, but not so on many days. We found that Lu Lu has a strong membership and heads into its second century with a full head of steam.
The day's competition was won by Ross Society Captain Michael Fay and members Pam Allen and Brad Becken, whose best ball net score of 50 lapped the field.
The club's unusual name traces back to its founders, who were members of the local Shriners' LuLu Temple. LuLu is an anglicized Arabic word for pearl and all agreed that we played a pearl of a course.
The next day, April 29th, featured 27 holes of golf, amid chill, wind, and rain. In the morning, a smaller group played Philadelphia Cricket Club’s St. Martins 9 hole course, which, when 18 holes, hosted the 1907 (won by Donald’s younger brother Alex Ross) and 1910 U.S. Opens. We also sneaked a peak at the marvelous pitch behind the original clubhouse where cricket and tennis have been played for over a century.
That afternoon, we went to the Torresdale-Frankford Country Club, a 1922 Ross design.
The club's history dates back to 1896, when the Torresdale Golf Club began playing on a 9 hole course designed by its golf professional. When the nearby Frankford Golf Club had outgrown its 9 hole track, the two merged and hired Ross to design their new course, completed in 1921. It was a bit rainy and chilly and we missed taking any photos of the challenging course.
Braving the elements, we made the most of an underrated Ross layout. The best mudders were the team of Steve MacQuarrie, Kevin Mendik, and John Stiles, Steve with some help from Kevin was good enough to post a winning team score.
Like many golf clubs, Torresdale-Frankford has had some financial challenges. Having recently been purchased by the Union League of Philadelphia, the club sees better times ahead for its fine golf course.
If Tuesday's weather wasn't bad enough, conditions got worse on Wednesday, as several inches of rain fell. So we missed the opportunity to play the wonderful St. Davids Golf Club course. Some Ross members spent the afternoon appropriately, watching the movie “Noah’s Ark.” We did have a delicious dinner at St. Davids, with a birthday cake for long time member and event organizer Derek Dobbs.
We were honored to have the architect Ron Prichard talk about his course restoration work there and at many other Ross courses.
Our final day, May 1st, found us in warm sunshine at the Gulph Mills Golf Club, opened in 1919.
We had lunch in the charming clubhouse, during which Tom Gilbert, the head professional, talked about the history of the club and evolution of its challenging golf course. Gulph Mills drained amazingly well after Wednesday’s deluge. The course was a grand and fitting end to an enjoyable week for the Ross Society in Philadelphia.