Golfin’ in the Ghetto

On Saturday, I played my first round of golf in Philadelphia — the first in eight years of living in the city, off an on. Being the miserly golfer that I am, we got a tee time at one of the least expensive municipal courses I could find, Cobbs Creek Golf Club. The “Olde Course” (gotta love it when they add the “e” onto the word “old”) is situated in a corner of Cobbs Creek Park, the little patch of green that marks the abrupt shift between ghetto-fantastic West Philadelphia and moneybags Montgomery County.

My expectations were lower than low. Present-day Cobbs Creek Park makes Central Park, circa 1980, look like Disneyland. Plus, when my Mapquest directions sent me on an errant right-hand turn, I ended up at Cracktown, USA, not the golf clubhouse. So, when I did finally get up to the first tee, I was exceedingly shocked when the course proved to be quite beautiful. No gravel strewn fairways or burnt out greens. Remarkably, the course was perfectly manicured and marvelously designed (a first in the municipal courses Ive played). Each of the holes had a unique design, including one with a creek running right through the middle of the fairway (not ideal from a playing perspective, but interesting nonetheless) and another with a green tucked into a little glen, with a cute little iron bridge and stream as backdrop.

–Hole #3 on the Olde Course at Cobbs Creek Golf Club

It didn’t hurt that Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day, or that none of the neighborhood tuffs stole my golf clubs. All in all, it was probably one of the best courses I’ve played, and hands down the best value. After I got home I did a little Google digging and learned that the course opened in 1916 and used to be called “the poor man’s country club.” In 1928 it held the US Amateur, back when that tournament was one of the majors. But, more interestingly, it also hosted the 1947 Negro National Open, a tournament that I’d never heard of before (and which, from the lack of online info, I gather was pretty short-lived). It seems that in the ’80s and ’90s, the golf course was under-maintained, and it’s been trying to shrug off the yoke of its past reputation since it was renovated a couple years back. But for the time being, I’m perfectly content with it remaining a secret, inexpensive gem.