June 28th, 2011
&widthSelf Publishing the Philadelphia Cricket Club Book.
Over a ten year period I had the unique opportunity to fly over both the St. Martin's and Flourtown campuses of the Philadelphia Cricket Club on the way back to Wings Field from aerial photo shoots in Philadelphia. In 2006 I was commissioned to complete an aerial photo shoot of the Philadelphia International Cricket Festival being held at the St. Martin's Clubhouse in Chestnut Hill. The St. Martin's grounds are a very interesting subject to photograph form the air, there is a lot going on; Tennis, Cricket, Golf, the pool, the historic clubhouse. This is when the idea of publishing an aerial photography coffee table book featuring all the unique facets of the Club and it's golf courses began to form in my mind.
Doing it right was going to take some money for aircraft rental fees, money I didn't have at the time. I was going to need a backer. I put together a proposal and presented it to a good friend of mine Gib Carpenter who was really enthusiastic about the idea and agreed to chip in the cost of the photo flights. To keep the project on budget I planned to photograph every hole on all three golf courses in one long aerial photo mission. This was stymied by my forgetting to capture aerials of the 8th hole on the Wissahickon Golf Course so I had schedule a second photo flight which turned out really well because I got to reshoot a few of the holes I wasn't happy with after the first flight.
Once the aerials of the clubhouses, each individual hole on the club's three golf courses and the wide angle aerial photos of the course layouts were edited it was time to pic an online book publisher. I'd narrowed it down to Create Space and Blurb Books and decided to go with Blurb because their layouts offered more options and the quality of the hard cover books offered a better final product. The books turned out great and arrived just in time for the Cricket Club Member Guest golf tournament. Everyone was blown away and I received tons of complements and many orders for books but for me something was missing from the books. I wanted to include more text descriptions putting the club and courses in context historically and descriptions for how to play each hole guiding the reader through a round on each golf course.
At this point it was important for me to be aware of and acknowledge what I don't know. I'm not a great golfer or course designer and I was going to need to reach out to people who were to add the elements that would tie the book together. The two people I reached out to were Michael J. Hurdzan, Ph.D., ASGCA, Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Golf Course Design, the designer of the Club's Militia Hill Golf Course and the Club's Director of Golf Jim Smith, Jr. Both Michael and Jim were enthusiastic about the project and made invaluable contributions toward making the Book something of which the three of us are very proud.
Michael submitted the following foreword to put the St. Martin's, Wissahickon and Militia Hill courses in context stylistically and historically.
FOREWORD - MILITIA HILL, written by Dr. Michael J. Hurdzan, Ph.D., ASGCA
Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Golf Course Design
The Philadelphia Cricket Club has one of the longest histories in American golf, and it is rich in tradition, events and personalities. It is a fortuitous blending of people, places and things that were brought together by the marvelous and diverse quality of golf as each of its three distinctive golf courses opened over the past 100 years. Moreover, Philly Cricket, as it is affectionately known, has earned its reputation of being first among equals, because of the spirit and passion of the members and staff for protecting and celebrating that heritage.
Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Golf Course Design was privileged to have been selected to design their Militia Hill course, but that commission wasn't just given to us. We worked hard to earn that job at Philly Cricket, for we were competing against the biggest names in our profession because everyone wanted to add their name to the club's history and lore. To place our work immediately adjacent to the famed A. W. Tillinghast course called Wissahickon was both a motivation, albeit intimidating, and a challenge. We wanted to compliment not compete with Tillinghast's work, so we spent a fair amount of time reviewing and studying that timeless golf course before we began our work for Militia Hill.
Similarly we became fascinated by the St. Martin's course in Chestnut Hill that opened in 1898, and hosted the US Open in 1907 and 1910. Designed by Willie Tucker, a young English golf professional and a protégé of Willie Dunn, Tucker also laid out several well-known golf courses of that period namely St. Andrews in Yonkers, New York and Philadelphia Country Club. His work at St. Martins has now been reduced to nine holes, but many of the architectural characteristics of the original design still remain.
Duncan Pearson's work with aerial photography is "function art" for anyone who is fascinated or studies golf course design. The clarity of the wide angle, two page photographs puts each golf hole in context with everything around it so one can sense the entire landscape and how golf features fit into it. It is said that "a picture is worth a thousand words," but I think Duncan's pictures are worth far more than that. To a golfer familiar with the golf courses his photographs will evoke and reveal the spirit and character of the golf course in a personal and unique way.
Duncan asked if I would share my thoughts on architectural comparisons of the three golf courses of Philly Cricket Club; St. Martins (1898), Wissahickon (1922) and Militia Hill (2002) from the viewpoint as both a golf course designer and historian. Philly Cricket Club is one of a rare breed that can claim to still operate each of its golf courses that opened in three different centuries.
The three golf courses occupy similar rolling terrain with relatively similar soils, two of the most determining or limiting site factors in developing a golf course. So differences in design between the three courses is more of a reflection of the golf equipment, prevailing attitude about playing strategy, as well as construction budgets and equipment available during each time period.
St. Martins was opened when the penal theory of design was promoted by golf professionals that believed all imperfect shots should be penalized. Since there was no fairway irrigation back then, the fairways could become hard and dry, and a "topped" shot could roll a long ways on the ground, perhaps even further than a "proper shot" played up in the air which was also subject to the vagaries of the wind. To counter the topped shot, designers like Tucker would place numerous or massive hazards or bunkers directly in the line of play, allowing the golfer no alternative except to either layup or attempt to carry over the hazard. These bunkers were usually dug by hand so the soil from the pit to be filled by sand was mounded up directly in front of the sand forming rather crude but effective landforms. Greens and tees during the late nineteenth century were built with nearby native soils with simple shapes such as circles or squares. They were small because few people played golf so wear and tear was minimal and usually quite flat but sloped to surface drain water. Greens might be severely sloped by today's standards from back to front because the grass on greens was mowed at ¼" high or so compared to today at 1/8" to 1/10", and this back to front slope would hold approach shots that had little backspin. The golf equipment at that time was also crude by today's standards and there was little knowledge about how to create backspin on a golf ball, so a good drive might only fly 160 - 170 yards or so.
So, Willie Tucker designed basically straight holes with small tees and greens, greens had lots of back to front slope, and he placed lots of hazards in the direct line from tee to green. These golf features were built by hand or horses, with little or no drainage or irrigation, and the grasses were lawn varieties, mostly fine fescues.
A. W. Tillinghast designed Wissahickon in the early 1920s at a time when Tucker's penal golf philosophy was being replaced by more strategic thinking of offering multiple ways to play a hole, with few forced carries. Golf equipment was still mostly wood shaft, but steel shaft clubs were becoming popular as well as technologically advanced golf balls that could fly farther and yet be made to spin to stop them. Also during this period there was combustion engine powered equipment to supplement the horses and men used in golf course construction, so more earth could be moved and shaped by Tillinghast than was possible by Tucker. Irrigation of tees, greens and fairways was also becoming in vogue, new golf specific grasses were available, and surface and subsurface drainage were used. More people were playing golf requiring larger tees and greens, and turf maintenance was becoming more sophisticated and complex. Greens became the central focus of strategy and Tillinghast was a master at defining various size target areas within putting surfaces and so his greens had more movement than Tucker's. Sand bunkers had become more numerous and larger because they were easier to build, maintain, and more natural looking than those features of St. Martins. Putting surfaces were also much faster and more uniform so putters had less loft, and putts were stroked not "banged" as in Tucker's day.
Militia Hill was designed at a time when the strategic concepts pioneered by Tillinghast and his contemporaries were being refined within the context of game improvement golf equipment that was computer designed and constructed with space age materials to make the golf ball go further, with more margin for swing error. The modern paradigm of a 21st century golf course was lots of tees set at various angles and distances, greens that varied in shapes and sizes with many subtly defined target areas that could be mowed so short to be as fast as glass. Greens were flatter than in Tilly's and Tucker's day, built to USGA recommendations, planted to grasses bred to be for putting greens only, and maintained by a crew of specialists. Earthmoving equipment was enormously powerful but the trend to more environmental golf courses tried to minimize earthmoving where possible yet create superior surface drainage.
As different as these three golf courses are physically, they were all designed and constructed to bring the golfer of that particular era the maximum enjoyment, challenge and pleasure possible. Today members of Philadelphia Cricket Club can sample and enjoy golf courses from three centuries and the then prevailing styles of design. This is why Philadelphia Cricket Club will always be one of America's most revered golf courses, and there is no better way to see, appreciate and study those differences than from Duncan Pearson's book of aerial photography.
Michael J. Hurdzan, Ph.D., ASGCA
Hurdzan/Fry Environmental Golf Course Design
Jim Smith, Jr. brought each hole on the Wissahickon and Militia Hill course alive with the following description of how a golfer should approach each hole on the course. These descriptions help the reader play his way through a round on each course as he or she pages through the book.
Philadelphia Cricket Club
➢ Black (6867 yards) Yellow (6354 yards) White (6052 yards) Red (5783 yards) Green (5563 yards)
➢ Black (73.9/142) Yellow (71.6/134) White (69.8/132) – Men
➢ White (75.4/140) Red (73.8/136) Green (72.6/134) – Women
Hole #1 (405/394/392/390/372)
A very good starting hole. The tee shot should favor the left side as a fairway bunker and trees loom on the right half of the hole. The second shot plays half a club longer; however, you don’t want to be above the pin on this green. The greens slopes back to front and is usually one of the fastest on the course.
Hole #2 (420/393/380/371/333)
Position off the tee is crucial. A creek crosses the fairway about 100 yards from the green. Approach shots from the fairway make hitting the green more realistic as the challenge of carrying the greenside bunkers and holding the green are tough on this very severe green. The center of the green will give you the best opportunity for a birdie or a good two putt. Of course, don’t let the historic clubhouse that sits about 5 yards from the corner of the green distract you!
Hole #3 (132/120/116/113/113)
A great short par 3. Depending on the hole location, this hole can be rather benign or a challenging par. Missing the green will test your short game as deep bunkers loom and surround a very undulating green.
Hole #4 (528/493/461/440/440)
A hole that likely requires three well-calculated shots; a tee shot favoring the right center of the fairway, a second shot positioned left-center of the fairway and a third shot dictated by hole location. The longer hitters may challenge this green in two but a birdie is not guaranteed given the slightly blind green and two deep bunkers protecting the front and right side of the green. The green can be hard to read, so take your time.
Hole #5 (364/341/317/278/278)
A good drive here is very important with bunkers blanketing the fairway in the landing area. The approach requires a good shot given a very deep bunker that is positioned in front of the elevated green. The green has two tiers and is one of the most difficult on the course; the bottom area will accept shots more easily than the upper area, and beware of the going long as this green is very fast from back to front.
Hole #6 (359/345/328/320/320)
The tee shot should favor the left side to avoid the fairway bunker on the right - shots from this bunker make hitting the green very difficult. Approach shots to one of the smallest greens on the course are often played to the front as the ball tends to release towards the back half of the green. Front hole locations are tough, so you can’t get in too much trouble aiming to the middle of the green.
Hole #7 (538/492/463/460/460)
The tee shot should be played toward the right center for best position. Your decision on the second shot revolves around avoiding the right fairway bunker and the greenside bunkers. A lay-up to 100 yards is the safest play, but aggressive players might be tempted to go for the green. The green slopes from right to left much more than it appears - that makes a missed shot to the right a very challenging up and down.
Hole #8 (186/164/150/134/134)
Club selection depends on hole location and wind. Players need enough club to carry the creek in front of the green. An accurate tee shot is a must as missing this green will challenge your shortgame skills, particularly if you are long or left. The green is among the most severe green on the course, sharply sloping from back to front with two ridges – if the greens a quick, two putts from anywhere is an accomplishment.
Hole #9 (462/420/413/413/395)
A great finishing hole for the front 9, one recognized by Golf Magazine as a Top-500 Hole in America. The hole runs along a railroad trestle (out of bounds) and forces a solid tee shot to avoid the left fairway bunker. The second shot plays long uphill to a two tiered green. A par here is a good score to finish your first nine holes.
Hole #10 (157/144/133/133/124)
The tee shot requires a great deal of focus. A parking lot and out of bounds run down the left side; the clubhouse behind the green impacts your depth perception; and bunkers fully surround the green. A ball in the middle of the green will provide a very good opportunity for a one putt as this green is one of the flattest on the course.
Hole #11 (424/390/385/335/335)
The hole may seem rather simple; however, the right fairway bunker and trestle are home to a lot of tee shots. Most second shots come up short to the semi-blind green, so take an extra club when attacking. The approach shot should favor the left side of the green to leave the flattest putt, but a missed shot to the left will be a tough up-and-down.
Hole #12 (532/492/483/421/421)
Longer hitters will challenge reaching the green in two, but most players will need three shots to get home. The fairway slopes left to right for a majority of the hole and fairway bunkers exist in the landing area of both your tee shot and second shot. Short-siding yourself will result in one of the toughest up and downs on the course. While a birdie is ideal, par is still a very good score.
Hole #13 (428/392/359/359/298)
Don’t be fooled and attempt to carry the bunker on the corner of this slight dogleg. The best play is to place your tee shot straight away. A ball in the fairway will give you a great opportunity for a good score. The green has a false front and appears flat, but the right side really drops-off.
Hole #14 (425/350/342/307/307)
Another good time to hit one of your best tee shots of the day. The second shot plays slightly shorter than the yardage, but don’t be fooled by the elevation change. Ball placement on this green is very important as the green is very severe, making every putt a tough one. Par is a very good score despite the length of the hole.
Hole #15 (207/189/177/177/177)
Take par and run! Out of bounds runs down the entire right side, resulting in a majority of the tee shots coming up short or in the left greenside bunkers. The green slopes right to left and back to front. Short is the best way to attack the hole and gives you the best opportunity of making par.
Hole #16 (406/391/341/341/341)
The tee shot should favor the right side to avoid the fairway bunker and some of the deepest rough on the course on the left. The second shot plays a little longer than its yardage, but shots can be bounced in as the approach to the green is open. A drive in the fairway gives you a great opportunity to make a birdie heading into the final two holes.
Hole #17 (411/387/379/370/308)
This is one of the hardest tee shots on the course. The hole doglegs left, but the contour of the land slopes to the right. A ball that finds the left fairway bunker is almost a lost shot on the hole. The second shot requires extreme accuracy as a very severe greens lurks. Short is never bad at 17 and leaves a rather simple pitch up the false front.
Hole #18 (483/457/433/421/407)
The tee shot should favor the right side. A pulled tee shot might end up in fairway bunkers and result in a pitch out. The second shot might be the best view on the golf course with the clubhouse in the background. A creek crosses the fairway, causing you to really think about your second shot. Crafty veterans tend to play their approach short left, allowing their ball to run up onto the green. The green slopes severely from left to right and back to front. This is one of the best finishing holes in all of golf!
Philadelphia Cricket Club Militia Hill Golf Course.
➢ Champ (7380 yards) Black (7080 yards) Silver (6636 yards) Yellow (6147 yards)
Red (5836 yards) Green (5427 yards)
➢ Champ (75.5/137) Black (74.3/135) Silver (71.9/131) Yellow (70.3/124) – Men
➢ Yellow (76.6/140) Red (75.0/136) Green (72.9/127) – Women
Militia Hill Clubhouse & Practice Green
Hole #1 (426/416/384/352/309/309)
Starting on an elevated tee box, the drive should favor the left side. Long hitters have to worry about the right fairway bunker. The second shot plays to a relatively flat green surrounded by bunkers and offers a nice way to ease into your round.
Hole #2 (412/412/380/335/335/297)
Driver might not be the club selection for the long hitters as a creek lurks and the end of the fairway slopes towards it. The second shot plays uphill and much longer than yardage. While short isn’t a problem, the majority of players don’t hit enough club. The green gives you an indication what is in store - very undulating green with multiple levels and pin positions.
Hole #3 (553/496/480/448/448/410)
A drive in the fairway is essential for players to set up a great chance at birdie. Water lurks left of the fairway and can be reached from the tee, while a well-positioned bunker will also get your attention. The second shot for most will be a layup to around 125 yards, but some may attack the green with their second shot. A spine in the middle of the green makes is essential to place your ball on the correct portion to secure birdie.
Hole #4 (402/402/380/347/312/312)
Position off the tee is critical. A hazard runs down the right side and bunkers straight away favor accuracy vs. distance. The second shot plays slightly uphill to a green sloping right to left and slightly blind. A ball in the middle of the green is best suited for a solid effort at birdie or par.
Hole #5 (196/172/157/148/120/120)
The first of four challenging par 3’s. Club selection is very important – the uphill tee shot plays one club longer. The green has a false front and a drop-off to the right. Middle of the green won’t hurt you.
Hole #6 (604/576/552/530/530/482)
This is the longest hole on the course and you will need to hit three good shots here. The tee shots ideally should be left center to the fat part of the fairway. An uphill second shot to a blind landing area requires precision. The third shot is very difficult with a bunker protecting the front of a green that has a great deal of slope and character. Less than full shots are hard to stop or get close.
Hole #7 (462/443/410/381/381/332)
Just rip one down the middle here. The left fairway bunkers are no good. The second plays at least half a club longer, or more, depending on the hole locations. A big, elevated green is receptive to caroming balls from the front right of the green. The green has a great deal of slope right to left and is very fast back to front.
Hole #8 (411/411/379/345/345/315)
Yet another precise tee shot is required. Favor the left side of the fairway, staying away from the right fairway bunker. The second shot is rather benign to a kidney shaped green and if struck well, will give you a great shot at birdie.
Hole #9 (247/223/205/197/168/168)
This is perhaps the toughest par 3 on the course. Generally playing into the prevailing wind, a very solid shot is needed. Crafty veterans will play the ball short as the green is relatively flat and flanked by bunkers on both sides, along with a hazard to the right and behind. Walk away with a par and you pick up a shot on the field.
Hole #10 (429/404/380/368/301/301)
Favor the left side of the fairway - a missed tee shot in the right fairway bunker is big trouble. An uphill second plays longer than the yardage. The left side of the green is the place to miss. You can putt the ball of the front of the green, so pay attention to your speed if putting that way.
Hole #11 (168/168/138/122/122/105)
This is the shortest par 3 on the course, but not the easiest. Club selection depends on the wind - it normally plays into you. The green has a ridge in the middle which makes is very hard to get the ball close to the hole. Not hard to three putt this green given its size and subtle breaks.
Hole #12 (398/379/365/357/318/287)
Club selection depends on how aggressive you want to be. Long hitters may try to drive the ball deep on this downhill hole, but a tricky green makes a short pitch tough. The conservative play is to place your tee shot in a position to leave a full second shot. The green runs away from you more than it looks. Front hole locations are much easier to attack than back locations.
Hole #13 (484/451/429/356/356/356)
The longest par 4 on the course – it plays slightly uphill and feels like forever. Two good shots are required to make a par. Use the fairway bunker as a good aiming point; only the long hitters have a chance of rolling their ball into it. The second shot can be bounced on to a huge green. Check to see where the hole location is because the green is 42 yards deep.
Hole #14 (535/535/508/485/438/438)
A good par 5 that plays longer than the yardage. The best approach is to play this hole with three well calculated shots; a tee shot favoring the left center of the fairway; a second shot positioned short of the creek; and an uphill third shot dictated by hole location. Long is wrong and leaves a tough up and down.
Hole #15 (232/199/172/164/141/141)
A challenging par 3 to start the final four holes. While left is the bailout area, your short game will be tested getting your pitch close to the hole. The green slopes left to right and back to front, while a huge bunker protects the right side. A hole location in the back half of the green plays longer but easier.
Hole #16 (398/398/369/345/345/290)
You can play this hole many ways, but a long drive and short pitch can sometimes be more difficult than an average drive with a longer approach. This is another green that is hard to get your ball close to the hole.
Hole #17 (591/563/537/487/487/450)
Bombs away! A downhill tee shot with a wide landing area allows you to swing freely. Second shots should be positioned to avoid the fairway bunkers – the further left you are, the more the green opens up. The green is slightly elevated, so make sure you take enough club with your approach shot. Likely your last chance at birdie
Hole #18 (432/432/411/380/380/314)
A very difficult hole to finish your round. The tee shot needs to be down the right side to avoid the water hazard on the left. The second shot plays at least one club longer to an elevated green over a creek. The approach is to a blind green, so getting it close is tough and any miss leaves a very difficult up and down.
Militia Hill- Holes 3-9 and 1, 2 & the Back Nine.
Militia Hill Golf Course Layout Wide Angle from the Air.
St. Martin’s course description
True to Tucker’s Penal Era design Hartwell Lane with catch any “topped” shots off the tees. Aim straight away uphill. The approach to the green is flanked on either side by bunkers. The green slopes back to front with precipitous drops on both sides and the back. Your best bet is to bounce or roll it onto the green, you don’t want to go off the back.
Two fairway bunkers will catch any “topped” shots off the tees. The fairway slopes left to right so aim your drive to the left side. If you are able to keep your drive to the left side of the fairway you will have an easier approach to the green because bunkers surround all but the from left. The green plays level.
This is a blind tee shot so use the middle radio tower visible on the horizon as your target. Long hitters may reach the row of traps about 35 yards in front of the green. The front of the green slopes from back to front while the rear of the green is relatively level. If your approach shot goes to the right or over the green you may have to play a blind chip shot to get on the green.
The temptation from these elevated tee boxes is to swing away but be careful! Miss to the right and your in the woods out of bounds. Miss to the left and your in the Gulley. The approach to the green is flanked by shallow bunkers. This green plays level but is softer than the preceding three greens due to being shaded by tall trees.
Range is critical. You will need to carry the gulley to the green which is terraced into the hillside but if you go over you will face difficult downhill chip. The three traps are relatively shallow but the bunker to the back left offers a challenging downhill out . The green plays level if you’re tee shot is on you’ve got a good shot at birdie.
This heavily shaded tee box aims you directly out of bounds into the woods on the right side so make a conscious effort to aim your tee shot left. There are no bunkers surrounding this green but steep slopes in front of and on both sides of this elevated green make this blind approach shot challenging. The green slopes increasingly from back to front.
Cherokee Street cuts in front of the Men’s tees, which is a reminder that your back on a Willie Tucker designed hole and no “topped” shots off the tees will be tolerated. The bunkers on either side of the fairway should not be a factor. The green slopes from back to front and will play more right to left than it looks.
This hole is level and straight so swing away! If your drive ends up under the trees on the left though you’ll probably need to punch out. This green’s back to front slope is more pronounced at the rear of the green so if the pin placement is in the front of the green it will play basically level.
Please refrain from trying to hit your drive over the Clubhouse! You may want to go for the green but be careful because deep bunkers flank the front of the green. The green has a ridge running right to left through the middle so if the pin is in the front you may have a tough downhill put.