Opened for play in 1926, Rolling Green Golf Club came into existence when a group of members at Springhaven Country Club decided to create a club that was dedicated expressly to the playing of golf and would not feature any of the frills associated with a traditional “country club”. Design and construction of the course began in 1925 by the renowned Philadelphia firm Flynn & Toomey. By this time golf course architect William Flynn had developed quite a resume of golf courses and was widely considered to be one of the best course designers of the day. The club was an instant success and the membership roster was completely filled in less than a year after the club opened!
One of my regular golf travel partners is Fred who lives in Philadelphia and belongs to Rolling Green Golf Club. Last summer when I was in the Philly area to play some golf with Fred we had planned to make Rolling Green the final stop on the trip so I could finally see his home course. Unfortunately, on the the morning we were supposed to play a torrential rainstorm rolled in and the course was closed for lightning. So rather than playing Rolling Green that morning I hopped in my car and begrudgingly headed back to Richmond. This summer I made the same trip to Philly and again had the same plan to play Rolling Green before heading home. This time it would be the afternoon round of a 36 hole day. After a morning game and some lunch at another area course we headed over to Rolling Green with not a cloud in the sky and perfect conditions.
It was a late afternoon when we arrived so the club was buzzing with a little bit of activity from the golfers who were playing hooky from work. Since we had gotten beaten up pretty good by our morning round we decided that we would have a fun, leisurely loop around Rolling Green and opted for the white tees which are 6,353 yards and play to a par of 71. Since we were plenty loose from our morning round we basically went straight to the first tee and waited for our turn to get some balls in the air.
Hole 1 – 389 yards – Par 4
The starting hole here is fairly straight forward. Knock it down the middle and avoid the bunker on the right.
Here is a look at the first green.
Hole 2 – 411 yards – Par 4
The 2nd hole is a fairly stout par 4 that temps the long hitter to attempt to fly the bunkers on the left side of the hole. i’m not sure how much carry was necessary to clear them, but I elected to play to the right of them just to be safe.
Hole 3 – 157 yards – Par 3
This downhill par 3 is a fairly basic shot , but when the flag is on the left of the green the large bunker on the front left is going to be a problem for shots that come up short.
Hole 4 – 353 yards – Par 4
Here we have a fairly short par 4 that doesn’t really have any trouble off the tee. As long as the small grove of trees on the left are avoided players will have a shot into the green from just about anywhere.
Below is a look at the slightly uphill approach to the green and the bunker on the front left.
Hole 5 – 359 yards – Par 4
The tee shot on the 5th hole is to a blind landing area. There is a bunker on the right side of the fairway that needs to be considered when choosing a line off the tee.
In the photo below the hole location is in the front of the green which basically takes the bunker out of play. Approach shots coming in from the right side of the fairway will have to fly the bunker for most of the hole locations on this green other than the front.
Hole 6 – 178 yards – Par 3
I forgot to take a photo of the 6th hole from the tee, but it is a mid length par 3 that has a bit of a valley in front of the green. the photo below was taken from the back of the green.
Hole 7 – 493 yards – Par 5
I love a reachable par 5 and the 7th hole from the white tees fits the description. The drive plays downhill so some extra yards are available to help get into position for having a chance to reach the green in two.
Below is a look a the green site. Note the bunker on the right side of the photo. This is 30-40 yards from the front of the green and was surely placed in this position to catch wayward second shots from players who try to reach the green in two. Balls that go in this bunker will be rewarded with the extremely awkward long bunker shot.
Hole 8 – 403 yards – Par 4
Here we have another drive that plays slightly downhill. Note the hazard crossing the fairway in what appears to the the landing zone. This hazard needs to be considered when picking a line for the tee shot. The carry is a little shorter on the right side of the fairway.
Below is a look at the 9th green. Note the huge bunker on the right side of the green. Rolling Green recently underwent a renovation and the bunkers were restored to the original William Flynn design which meant that they got quite a bit larger and quite a bit deeper. I thought they really fit the scale of the course very well.
Hole 9 – 561 yards – Par 5
The front side finishes off with a stout par 5 that will play as a three shot hole for virtually all mortal golfers. A drive up the left side will likely roll down the fairway to the middle or the right side of the fairway.
Here is a look a the green and the bunkers on either side of it.
Below is a look back down the hole that shows the tilt of the fairway.
Hole 10 – 210 yards – Par 3
The back side starts off with a tricky uphill par 3 that is likely to be a long iron or hybrid for most players. With bunkers on either side of the green it is best to hit a straight tee shot if it is not going to be long enough.
Hole 11 – 426 yards – Par 4
I really liked the 11th hole. It’s hard not to like hitting a drive downhill from an elevated tee box. It makes me feel like a big hitter just for a short moment. The bunker on the left is in play on the drive.
Here is a look at the approach shot into the green. Bunkers on the left and right make short the ideal miss.
Below is a view back down the hole from the back of the green.
Hole 12 – 340 yards – Par 4
The 12th hole is a short little par 4 that sets up well for drives down the left side of the fairway. A good drive here will leave a very short wedge into the elevated green.
Here is a view of the approach shot into the green. Note the bunkers in the back. This green played very fast from the left to right side. Approach shots that go long and end up in those bunkers are likely to be difficult to keep on the green.
Hole 13 – 395 yards – Par 4
The tee box for the 13th hole has an interesting feature next to it. The photo below is the house where the greenkeeper for the club used to live. Many clubs back in the early days of golf provided a home on the property for the greenkeeper to live. It reminded me of the book Brassies, Mashies and Bootleg Scotch which was written by a man who’s father was a the green keeper at National Golf Links in Southampton, NY and spent his childhood with the golf course as his play ground. What a great way to grow up. Sadly this is rarely a practice anymore. I’m not sure what this house is used for today, but it was originally for the green keeper.
The 13th hole bends a little bit to the right and the landing zone for the drive is blind. The ideal line is to hit the drive down the left side of the fairway to the best angle into the green.
Below is a look at the green from the top of the hill where the fairway runs out.
Hole 14 – 195 yards – Par 3
Here we have a healthy par 3 that plays a little uphill and requires a bit more club than the 195 yards that the scorecard indicates. It’s best not to hit a slice here as balls that go right make for a really difficult up and down.
Hole 15 – 359 yards – Par 4
The 15th hole is another shortish par 4 and players who can hit a draw will be wise to use that skill here.
Here is a look at the approach shot. It plays uphill and a little extra club was necessary to get it to the green.
Hole 16 – 150 yards – Par 3
I really liked this cute little par 3. Hitting the putting surface is essential here as just about all misses will end up on the beach with a difficult up and down.
Hole 17 – 460 yards – Par 5
A distinct feature of Rolling Green is that the course ends with two consecutive par 5s. While this is certainly no unheard of, it is fairly uncommon. The only other course I can think of off the top of my head that has an ending like this is Baltusrol’s Lower Course. The 17th hole is a very short par 5 that is going to be reachable in two for a great many players. The hole doglegs to the left and again a draw is the ideal shot shape. The bunker on the left and right are both in play from the tee.
Below is a look at the 17th green which has a wide open front that will be fairly accepting of shots that roll onto the green.
Hole 18 – 514 yards – Par 5
The final hole is another par 5 that is going to be reachable in two for a fair number of players. The drive is played down hill and the bunkers on the right side of the fairway are in play. The safer line is to play just over the left edge of the group of bunkers.
Below is a look at the 18th green. Again it is open in the front so balls that come up short in the air but have enough momentum to bounce up the hill might have a chance of reaching the putting surface. The green has a fairly significant back to front tilt and getting above the hole can make for a fast putt back down to the hole.
I love the idea of ending a match with two short par 5s. Players coming into these last two holes down to their opponents know that there are two legitimate birdie opportunities in the last two holes. That said, they are also two legitimate bogey opportunities and I can vouch for that because I bogeyed both of them!
I really liked Rolling Green. I’d been wanting to play there for several years and despite the fact that Fred and I have played a significant amount of golf together it was rarely in Philadelphia and when it was we always played other courses. I’m really glad that I finally got the chance to check it out.
I have to admit that as I walked around Rolling Green I was a little envious. I play at a William Flynn designed course in Virginia, but over the last 20 years it has had a bit of work done to it that isn’t necessarily fitting with the Flynn design principles. While I did notice a number of similarities between the two courses, seeing what appears to be a largely uncompromised William Flynn design made me a little sad about some of the things that were done at my course. Oh well, maybe one day we’ll get a restoration instead of a renovation!
After we finished playing we went into the grill for a food and a couple of beers. The club has a great vibe and this is just the type of place that any golfer would love to be a member of. A fun course and a laid back club culture makes for exactly what I love about golf. What a gem of a place!!!