Commonwealth National Golf Club
|Commonwealth National Golf Club|
250 Babylon Road
Horsham, PA 19044
Architect: Arnold Palmer
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There is no sign of the 36 holes that once occupied this gently rolling land in Horsham, Montgomery County. Gone are the two eighteens that George Fazio laid out for Max Hankin back in the late 1960s. There are just 18 holes here today, and they are the product of the fertile minds of Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay.
The course opened for play in July 1990, with Kerry Mattern serving as Head Professional. The property has been owned and operated by Matrix Development Group, of Cranbury, N.J., since 1992. Membership interests in club affairs are represented by a board of governors.
The golf course wanders all over this 400-acre tract ("To hell and back," the high-handicapper might be heard to mutter, darkly), one testing and beautiful hole after another, no letup in the demands on our swing. Its difficulty may perhaps be suggested by a single fact: there are 46 acres of water, nearly one-third of the total course. Water, in the form of creeks or lakes or wetlands, menaces the shot on 12 of the 18 holes. And in those instances where we don’t have to fret about getting wet, there is sand and mounding, or trees and shrubs, to give pause. Very, very few shots—are there as many as five, six?—are truly tension-free.
A 1991 photo of the original Commonwealth National clubhouse
Dave Craig, who was Commonwealth’s second head professional, characterizes it as a "serious golfer’s golf course." Against a par of 71, it can play between 7,045 and 5,218 yards, with the white markers at 6,251 yards. The first two holes are perhaps misleading. They are welcoming and manageable, the opener a par 5 of some 475 yards (from the whites) where sand must be avoided on all three shots, the 2nd hole a pretty down-and-up 343 yarder with a boundary rather tight along the left side and a second shot, to a green well above us, that plays longer than it measures. En route to the 3rd tee, one is inclined to wonder why the course possesses such a fearsome reputation. But now the game begins in earnest, and the real Commonwealth shows its face, to say nothing of its teeth. The 3rd is a 521-yarder with a boundary left, a huge bunker to catch even the mildly pushed drive, a falling second shot with a forced carry over water plus water left and right, and an uphill third to a green closely guarded by sand.
On the 335-yard 4th, which doglegs left, we must traverse a stream on the drive and a pond on the approach. At the 140-yard 5th, the narrow green, set at an angle to the tee, is defended by water on the right, sand on the left. We drive over water on the 6th, a demanding dogleg-left 400-yarder, where care must be taken not to draw the tee shot a shade too much and wind up in a stream that cannot be seen. And on the 7th, some 50 yards shorter, the second shot must carry a pond on its way to a surprisingly shallow green.
Indeed, this is a serious golfer’s course. And the second nine is at least as stringent. After striving to stay dry in the face of boldly positioned water hazards on 10,11,12, and 13, we enter the world of the wetlands, where the forced carries from the tee over marshes on 14,15,17, and 18 give the game an added piquancy. Here boardwalks and bridges are the order of the day.
In 1991 and 1992 the Tylenol Kids Classic, with the course measuring just over 7,000 yards against its par of 71, was played here. In 1993 the club introduced the annual Commonwealth National Invitational, a mid-amateur/senior amateur partners tournament for the prestigious Palmer Cup. Participants have included Jay Sigel, O. Gordon Brewer, Jerry Courville and Buddy Marucci. Past winners have included Dave Brookreson and Jack McCutchan, Bob Housen, a six-time New Jersey State Amateur champion, and Saucon Valley’s Robin McCool, Pat Tallent and Peter Jacobi, Yardley CC’s Terry Sawyer and Glenn Smeraglio and Bill Linney and Bert Kosup.
Today, Commonwealth National Golf Club stands on solid ground thanks to a strong membership and a great professional staff.
Arnold Palmer said of Commonwealth National, "All I know and love about golf is in this course." The serious golfer knows that he meant it.