Returned to tip-top conditioning by new ownership and management, Broad Run Golfer's Club offers serene rural scenes and a convention-busting Rees Jones design only 45 minutes from Philadelphia's Center City.
WEST CHESTER, Pa. - The green looks so small when you're up this high.
It's 102 feet down, which doesn't sound like much until you're actually staring down from the 17th tee at Broad Run Golfer's Club. The guys putting out in the group ahead look like ants. The red shed nearby could have been lifted out of a Lego set.
It's a blast to let one fly on No. 17, the exclamation point to a 10-hole stretch on which Rees Jones fires par 3s at you machine-gun style, one after the other, each more dramatic than the one before.
Huge bushy trees and bigger hills define the course. Some of Jones' elevated tees make you feel like you're staring the clouds straight in the eye.
"I think this place has dropped my blood pressure about 200 points," golfer Jay Ericsson said.
But don't get too relaxed: Broad Run can also swallow up your entire supply of golf balls and then some.
There are swamps into which balls sink, tall, dense, fescue-like grass into which they disappear, drops where "wild" can equal "long gone."
Take No. 17. Swing a club too long - very easy to do on an elevator downhill 160-yarder - and you're liable to end up on the side of a hill covered with wild grass thicker than the stuff at Oakmont.
If you haven't played many Rees Jones designs, you'll probably be surprised by how this often-overshadowed celebrity architect makes holes that look this pretty play so daunting.
No. 15 is another prime example, an uphill, 549-yard par 5 with a blind tee shot that should have golfers cursing from here to Center City. But the visual is so nice it's hard for even the grumpiest hacker to gripe, playing to a plateau green with trees and blue sky riding shotgun.
The greens provide other pleasures - they're some of the fastest and truest-rolling I've played in a long time. You'll hit more long putts than usual here.
Opened in 2000 as Tattersall Golf Club, the re-branded Broad Run had a checkered first few years, dogged by complaints of poor course conditions. New ownership and management (by EAGL Golf) seem to have changed that.
Golfers who've been around from the beginning say the course is in the best shape it's ever been. These days you walk off talking about the ingenuity of the design, the beauty of the surroundings and the surfeit of memorable holes.
"It's a course that doesn't become boring after you've played it a few times," local Don Barr said.
Broad Run is not an easy course to find. You're likely to get turned around at least once in downtown West Chester before you find the winding two-lane road that takes you out into near-farm country. It's worth the aggravation.
Rees Jones' 6,826-yard design defies conventions. After an opening short par 5, there are six straight par 4s, then the showy par 3s start. The fairways are pretty wide open, especially on the back nine, and Jones doesn't overdo it with bunkers either. You have a chance to really go for shots.
There are some houses, but they're so huge and old-school that they almost add to the scene (except on No. 13, a cool downhill par 3 over a swamp where the houses creep in a little too close). The mostly college-aged staff goes out of its way to accommodate even late-arriving golfers.
Heck, you'll probably even remember the driving range here. You take your practice swings straight up a steep hill, creating a unique scene.
That's Broad Run. The surprises keep coming all day.
For post-round dining it's best to hightail it back to Philadelphia, which has emerged as one of the best restaurant cities in America. You'll know why if you go to a splurge spot like Striped Bass or Morimoto's.
And in the fierce debate over who has the best cheesesteaks in America's cheesesteak capital, our vote goes to Pat's over Geno's.
Philadelphia is full of nice high-end hotels; one of the best and most often overlooked is the Sofitel on 17th Street right near the heart of Walnut's shopping and Rittenhouse Sqaure's nightlife. Sofitel's standard rooms are large and the beds area ultra-plush.
The Broad Run name is so new that at this writing the club's web address was still www.tattersallgolfclub.com.
August 28, 2007