Whitford Country Club
|Whitford Country Club|
600 Whitford Hills Road
Exton, PA 19341
Architect: William Gordon
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Bill and Dave Gordon also designed and built Whitford. And in this instance they actually helped to bring the club itself into existence.
A small group of Chester County business and professional men—Castleman Chesley, Al Ostheimer, Hugh Kenworthy, Larry Polite, Park Plank, George Wright, Cappie Wright, and John Young—met in the spring of 1955 to discuss the formation of a country club in Exton, just west of the junction of Lancaster Pike (U.S. 30) and Route 100. Several of them belonged to clubs such as Phoenixville, West Chester, and Coatesville. All of them believed that Chester County would welcome a new club with a championship course. The area itself was ripe for growth.
In May, 1955, a meeting of prospective members was held in John Young’s barn, on Route 30 and adjacent to the proposed site of the new club. Some 125 people were on hand. Al Ostheimer announced that he had bought the 165-acre Colebrook farm for $500 an acre with the intention of conveying it to the new club at the same price. In fact, he would retain a small part of the peripheral acreage for residential development.
Then the Gordons spoke. They had examined the land and were enthusiastic about it. There was an attractively rolling quality to much of it, there was a stream that would lend character to several of the holes, there were some fine old trees, and the soil could be counted on to yield good turfgrass.
Castleman Chesley, soon to be named the club’s first president, was the final speaker. He made clear that in addition to golf there would be, from the outset, swimming and tennis, and that Whitford would be a country club with a varied recreational and social program for the entire family. He also pointed out that the handsome old Chester County farmhouse would be converted into a very comfortable clubhouse. He concluded by urging those present to subscribe the sum of $25. All but a handful came forth and pledged, and the Whitford Country Club was born.
A 1976 photo of Whitford’s second -- and present -- clubhouse, which was converted from an old barn in 1968
At the next meeting, a short time later, about a hundred people attended. This time the "earnest money" was not a token amount. This time the requirement was $500. Fifty-five signed up on the spot, and in the weeks to come this number would increase, though not by leaps and bounds.
Still, there was now enough money to launch the various projects, chief among which was the construction of the golf course, and to arrange the necessary long- and short-term financing. A year later, in the summer of 1956, the members had nine holes to play. And, as you might have guessed, it was on Memorial Day, 1957, that the 18-hole course, the swimming pool, and the tennis courts were officially opened. The family dues for a golf member were $300. The club suffered severe financial buffeting during its early years, and on more than one occasion members found themselves confronted by unforeseen assessments.
Over the years since, as Whitford achieved financial stability and its membership grew, the course has been revised. The sequence of holes today is rather different from what it was in the late Fifties. The course now measures 6,365 yards from the white tees (6,734 from the blues, 5,703 from the reds) against a par of 72. The layout has its quota of strong holes. Two are especially memorable. On the 568-yard 4th, the third shot, rarely as short an iron as we would like, is played from a slightly downhill lie across a swale with a stream at the bottom of it to a green perched on a knob, somewhat angled to the fairway, and defended by both sand and trees. The 388-yard 8th doglegs boldly left, then climbs steeply to a generous green, bunkered right and left, that slopes steeply from back to front and can be unmanageable if you get above the cup.
When Whitford was founded, more than 40 years ago, few Philadelphians could identify Exton. Today, with tens of thousands, well educated and upwardly mobile, having moved to this part of Chester County over the last two decades, the area is very well known. And Whitford Country Club is perhaps its principal amenity.