US golf course to be revived

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 5, 2023 10:52

A US golf course that closed down at the start of the pandemic is to be revived – and the venue will, for the first time, realise the architectural ambitions that were put together for it in the 1930s.

A golf course in Pennsylvania that was designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1931, and closed down in 2020, is to be revived. What makes the story remarkable is that the course had never fully executed Ross’s design – but it is set to now.

The nine-hole municipal Tumblebrook was under consideration to be repurposed as sports fields during the pandemic when golf enthusiasts Josh Woodward and Vaughn Halyard approached its owner, the Upper Saucon Township, about taking on its operation, and the authority has agreed to let them.

The duo have now fashioned an agreement with design expert Ron Prichard – known as ‘the father of restoration’ – to create a full architectural master plan.

“Ron will base the plan on Donald Ross’s original design of the Tumblebrook course,” says Halyard. “The golf writer Michael Bamberger played and wrote about the course in 2019, and said he didn’t see a lot of Ross there. The reason for that appears to be that Ross’s design was never properly built. Josh was able to obtain the original drawings of the course from the township’s archives, and Ron is going to use those to guide his work.”

Prichard has also enlisted the help of fellow golf architects Jeff Mingay and Christine Fraser. “Christine’s work on the early concept was invaluable, in putting on paper what only existed in our heads. We wouldn’t be where we are today without her and Jeff’s contributions,” says Woodward.

“What’s really exciting about this is that, although the course was designed by Ross and built by his key associate, his design was never fully executed. Effectively this will be the first time Ross’s finishing touches have ever been built at Tumblebrook,” says Prichard. Brad Becken, president of the Donald Ross Society – and author of the recently published book ‘The Golf Architecture of Donald Ross’ – says: “There have been more than 120 Ross restorations over the last 30 years, and most of them have been excellent. What’s really exciting about this project is that it will see the realisation of Ross’s vision for the golf course. Ross built a lot of courses in the Philadelphia area, but very few of them are open to the public. Saving Tumblebrook will be an important contribution to his legacy.”

“Included in the project are 90 acres of additional land alongside the course, and we plan to use that for a second nine-hole course, to be designed by a world-class golf course architect,” says Halyard. “The extra land will also support a range and learning facility. These are critical in support of our plans for a golf-forward community environment. We are resolved to deliver the kind of golf that should keep kids active outdoors for hours. We are in the early days of our project as our current plans are dependent on a number of factors such as zoning and other approvals.”

The team expects to lead off with the Prichard work on the Ross course concurrent with the driving range build out. Construction of the second nine-hole course will commence as the Ross course opens. “The future of public and junior golf in this part of Pennsylvania is very bright,” says Woodward.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 5, 2023 10:52
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  1. Mike April 23, 18:54

    I’m sitting here on a bench on the Saucon Valley trail overlooking the second and third holes of Tumblebrook GC and just read this article about bringing the course back to life. What an excellent idea . . . I played the course over a hundred times and miss it terribly. I can’t wait for it to t reopen . . .

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  2. Mrs M October 12, 08:35

    I agree with JCM not to spoil with length. Donald Ross designs are meant to challenge accuracy and be enjoyable for all abilities. Great opportunity for growing the game.

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  3. JCM October 5, 19:24

    Bravo. Let’s hope they don’t destroy those ambitions with length at all costs.

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