“Um, private jets? I have such a hard time flying commercial. I always want to—it’s cheaper, it’s easier—but there can be 300 perfectly lovely people at the gate and one crazy person who ruins it for everyone, so flying private is great because I don’t have to worry.” ”
Philadelphia’s Union League Golf Club
One of Philadelphia’s crown jewels is sporting a new gem. Actually, an old one, since what used to be Torresdale-Frankford Country Club dates to a 1921 design by Donald Ross. Today it’s part of the Union League, the prestigious downtown club founded in 1862 whose South Broad Street home offers a classic example of Second Empire architecture. Now the city’s movers and shakers (and millennials) who are among its 3,500 members have a golf course of their own in the city, 13 miles to the northeast.
The city club’s nationally recognized manager, Jeff McFadden, was a driving force behind the acquisition of the golf facility two years ago. That’s when Torresdale-Frankford was in a state of decline in terms of both membership rolls and course presentation. Since then, the golf course has experienced a turnaround, thanks in part to course-restoration architect Stephen Kay, who oversaw a rebuild of the layout’s bunkers, greens, fairways, and tees—as well as a dramatic expansion of its practice range.
The result is a retrofitting that has brought back the ground game, fun, and variety of Ross’s design, while adapting it to modern conditions of greenkeeping. The par-70 layout has markers from 4,895 yards up to 6,609 yards and a surprising amount of roll and elevation change, so that every shot commands your attention. The place is now a joy to play.
And it’s not just the golf course that got upgraded: so did the clubhouse as well as the pool area and tennis facility. Members of the Union League and their guests who thought they were already spoiled by its amenities (including a dedicated cigar bar) now have even more reason to feel indulged.
Course: For more information about the Union League Golf Club at Torresdale, visit unionleague.org or call (215) 637-7500.
Airport: Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE), which has a 7,000-foot main runway, is right next door to the golf course.
Bradley S. Klein is the architecture editor of Golfweek. His latest book is Wide Open Fairways.