THE GOLF COURSE AT GLEN MILLS – Glen Mills, PA
B+ – Playability & Challenge
B+ – Quality of Course
B+ – Memorability
A – Service Levels
A – Pro Shop
A- – 19th Hole Experience
B+ – OVERALL EXPERIENCE
(Written by Jim Allen) … Can you really tell the difference between a TOP 100 course and a high-end local course? Absolutely! A good example would be the Golf Course at Glen Mills, an 18-hole track located about 30-miles west of Philadelphia in rural Pennsylvania. What some courses lack in scenery, they make up with a good story – or vise-versa. Glen Mills has both things going for it.
This 6636-yard course opened in 2001 and was designed by Bobby Weed. Prior to this golfing outing, I had never heard of Mr. Weed, but I left with the epiphany that this man should be designing more courses. This layout is beautifully cut through rolling terrain and features several memorable holes.
Probably one of the most unique characteristics of the course is a huge castle-style building that can be seen off in the horizon on several holes. I assumed it was a backwoods university or maybe an old government building. I was later informed that it is the Glen Mills School, a reform school for troubled youth – the same troubled youth that maintain this golf course. In fact, it is the nation’s oldest residential school for court-referred young men. The school district uses the course as a vocational training facility for inner-city kids who zigged when they should have zagged.
Needless to say, the course is in immaculate condition, because the course workers obviously take pride in what they do. The fairways were striped like Fenway Park, and there wasn’t a single footprint in any of their 170 bunkers. Once again, all of this work, including mowing is performed by students from the reform school. In return, the course provides funding for the school’s student programs. To put that in perspective, the Glen Mills Golf Course generates between $200,000 and $300,000 a year in profits, all of which goes to the schools scholarship programs.
The course is a blast to play as it winds it way through several elevation changes, a dense forest and an abandoned rock quarry. It’s also a thinking mans course because some of the holes are extremely tight and water comes into play on a few others. And let us not forget about the greens which feature more undulations than a Beyonce video. I will personally guarantee that you will not get bored after playing a few holes at Glenn Mills, because this course has a lot of personality. Other alleged course designers should take note.
By the way, have you heard the saying that it’s the smallest things in life that make the biggest difference? Well in this case it would have been the strategically located coolers that were filled with iced towels. Considering that our foursome of Jack Kimel, Jack Frucht, Mark Suzda and I were playing this venue in 90-degree heat, it was the finishing touch that just made it an enjoyable event. A little like doing your laundry and discovering a Ben Franklin in the pocket – a welcome surprise.
Golf Digest rates the Golf Course at Glen Mills at number 85 on their exclusive list. Woman’s Golf rates it 47th on their top 50 courses woman can play. I can see how a woman might do well on this course, because long hitters can get in lots of trouble attempting to negotiate obstacles and environmentally protected areas. After playing this course, my recommendation is for you to become good friends with your three and five wood. They will become your biggest allies at Glen Mills.
At $60, this course is a gem and a great value. I could throw out the old worn out two thumbs up adage — but that would be too cheesy. Let’s just say that the Golf Course at Glen Mills has a great story to tell. Where else can you find an absolutely awesome course that also does something good for the local community (besides take their money)?