I’ve played Jeffersonville Golf Club off and on over the last decade. It’s close to my office but not the easiest place to get to and from. The course was “nice” but a bit overgrown often crowded. Last spring I came back and was amazed by the improvements being made. Lots of trees were removed. Rough was replaced by short grass in the greens surrounds. Conditions were vastly improved and pace of play was quickened. Jeffersonville is restoring the 1931 Donald Ross design from a middling muni to the standard for classic golf architecture available to public play. I returned a number of times throughout the year as a result.
Located outside of Norristown, PA in a triangle of land between Main Street and Trooper and Egypt Roads, Jeffersonville is a little off the beaten path. It’s an outstanding value, with a peak walking rate of $45 and riding rate of $60 on weekends. Conditions were terrific in 2018. Jeffersonville provides the community with fun, challenging and affordable golf.
There isn’t a great deal of information about the formation and maturity of the course. Designed in the midst of the Great Depression, Donald Ross laid out the course over top of a steeplechase racetrack and horse farm, opening for play in 1931. Ross was quite prolific in Philadelphia, designing LuLu Country Club, Gulph Mills, St. Davids, Aronimink, Riverton, Torresdale-Frankford, no-longer-existing Sunnybrook and Cedarbrook, and working on many others prior to Jeffersonville. West Norriton Township purchased the property in 1972. For many municipal-owned golf courses, this would be the end of the story. To West Norriton’s credit, they undertook a long-term restoration project with the Ron Pritchard in 2000.
The course Pritchard began to restore isn’t the same as what Ross designed. A few changes were necessary to the south and northeast sections of the course. The 6th, 7th and 17th holes are not original, with changes coming in the late 60s and early 70s. The aerial photos below show the changes to the course over the years.
From a golf course design perspective, Jeffersonville is one of Ross’s lesser works. Like most of his designs, the routing is very good, taking advantage of the land movement in the property. But as the early photos show above, it was probably not constructed with the quality of his country club clients. Where the course excels is in it’s variety, offering a a mixture of straight and bending holes, some long, moderate and short. While there are a number of parallel holes, each set offers different shot requirements. For example, the 2nd is a down hill par 4 from right to left with the approach over a creek to a raised green. Coming back, the uphill 3rd is a short par 4.
I didn’t start playing the course until the early 2010s, so I can’t speak to it’s prior state, but general consensus is that there were great improvements after the early 2000s renovation. From my experience, there was a leap in the last couple years corresponding to the arrival of superintendent Rich Shilling and architect Tyler Rae. They’ve strategically removed trees, opening up air flow to improve conditions, opening playing corridors and revealing views across the course. Playing conditions last year were as good as any course I played. On a number of holes the rough has been cut down around the greens to make short grass (1st and 12th greens), allowing a wider variety of shots and lessening the penalty for slight misses. They’ve rebuilt green complexes (13th hole) and bunkers (2nd, 3rd and 17th) on a number of holes. I would argue they’ve improved upon the course to the point that it’s now much better than when originally built.
Jeffersonville doesn’t have a weak hole and there are a few holes that stand out to me. With the removal of evergreens along the left and on the far side, the opening hole is beautiful but stern test, more par 4.5 than 4. The 3rd is one of the better short par-4s in the region. Now with the trees removed from behind the green, it really messes with your depth perception. I’m also a sucker for punchbowl greens and the 16th is a terrific green complex, also improved due to a rebuilt left side of the hole. That said, there are a couple things still to improve on. The greens are challenging side with slopes built for slower green speeds. With faster green speeds today, some holes overly penalize you if you’re above the hole. The 18th green is the best example, with the ball funneling to the back left. It’s almost a guaranteed 3-putt if the pin is front right.
I’ve always had a good experience with the staff. They now offer online tee times (though not for singles). The pro shop and the grill are small and modest, but well stocked. While there’s been a renovation plan for the facilities, they’ve wisely spent on improving the golf course.
On a beautiful Saturday morning in June, we were able to play in right around four hours, showing Jeffersonville’s improvements have not only made it a better golf course, but a quicker round. I’ll be returning to Jeffersonville often in 2019. It represents the model for municipality-owned golf courses. They’ve invested in their asset and are reaping the rewards. Hopefully more municipal courses follow their lead in the coming years.