Union League Golf Club hole 17
Union League Golf Club hole 17

Philadelphia’s Union League Golf Club

A classic downtown club acquires equally classic fairways.

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.