Talk about Steelers-Cowboys, Celtics-Lakers or Canadiens-Red Wings, the battle between Philly Cricket and Paramount for Best Restoration was one of the most eagerly awaited match-ups in golf design/travel circles. The debate will certainly continue well into next year (and by the way, last year’s winner Rockaway Hunting Club – Gil Hanse restoration) should not be forgotten either, nor should Tom Doak’s work at North Shore Country Club). And there will be proponents on both sides, and they all will make persuasive, indeed compelling arguments.
Golf magazine recently chose Paramount, but Philly Cricket was not eligible for the publication’s award since PCC had not completed the work in time to be eligible for its award this year. (We operate on a calendar year at this publication. Golf magazine needs additional time for courses that finish the work late in the year. PCC finished in late September, too late for consideration for this year, but watch for PCC to win that award next year.) That being said, Jim Urbina’s work at Paramount is nothing short of magnificent also, and the resurgence of that club is a great “feel good” story as well. But this year’s award definitely goes to Philly Cricket, which restored the Wissahickon course to its former mid-1930s’ splendor.
Architecture expert and PCC member Powell Arms offers poignant insight into the club’s thought process in the restoration:
“The decision was made to restore the course in accordance with the Tillinghast plans and design intent. The basis for this decision is that the course is predominantly Tillinghast.”
It’s the right plan. Picking a specific architectural theme makes it easier to research what to restore and offer clear guidance as to what the finished product should look like. Keith Foster’s efforts at PCC – along with the sterling research of Tillinghast expert Philip Young – has united the golf design world and architecture cognoscenti in their praise of both the work and the club’s vision.
“It’s superb beyond belief; they truly brought back what was there in the ’30s. Though they have expanded a few holes so that the back tees can play to 7,200, this is a true restoration in every other aspect. All the original tees are still there, so you can play the mid-’30s design, the angles are there, the wonderful old hazards have been brought back, the greens are expanded back to original size, and the original routing restored,” confided a clearly impressed Young. “The church pews are back and look fantastic, the Hell’s Half Acre is absolutely gorgeous, and they even brought back a feature I call Hell’s Quarter Acre – a bunker and rough complex at No. 14 of roughs and bunkers that are deep and dense. It’s trouble you don’t want to be in!”
“Best of all, we brought back all these great architectural features to Tillinghast’s home course,” added Arms, and he’s right.
Other ardent and well-traveled golfers have been equally delighted. Here are samples from a few online reviews:
“It like night and day. What a great job, and what a phenomenal piece of property.”
“I love that they brought back the old lines of play and old strategies. Like at 16 – no more aiming it up the left side and swinging for the fences.”
“So much more fun to play, and visually stunning.”
“The membership must be drooling right now.” (Author’s note: always a good thing…)
And our personal favorite:
Thanks for that! Is it a golf course or your Christmas candied yams?
The work has so captivated the mind of the golf world, Foster’s work – really a mix of restoration and renovation in places – has already attracted the Golf Channel Morning Drive crew, who broadcast live from the course last fall.
Once the course officially reopens on May 23, it’s sure to skyrocket back to the top of the short list of Tillie’s best courses. At times enthrallingly sublime, at times staggeringly dramatic, the Old World feel of the course is a walk back through golf history. That’s the magic of PCC – paying homage to history, preserving and embracing its architectural quirks, cherishing its heritage.
Best of all, the course is in unbelievable condition despite the 100-year flood conditions of this spring and summer. The maintenance staff, led by superintendent Dan Meersman, has it running better than a Formula One race car.