Aronimink embodies many of the principles that guided Donald Ross’ approach to golf course design, which was rooted in the linksland golf of his native Scotland. To Ross it was important that the lay of the land have an effect on the ball being played - adding an element of chance to the game and enhancing the golfer’s sense of excitement and anticipation. He incorporated hazards to present challenges and risks, and to protect par he was particularly clever around the greens with his bunkering and designs for the greens, which offered numerous challenging pin positions.
In 2003, Ron Prichard, a noted golf architect from the Philadelphia area and the foremost authority on Donald Ross’ design philosophy, completed a restoration project at Aronimink that recaptured classic Ross features that had been diminished and/or lost over time. Panoramic views were restored by eliminating overplanting. Based on Ross’ original drawings for the course, greens were restored to their original shapes and sizes, and his unique bunkering style was reestablished.
Length was added to neutralize the effect technology has had on golf and brought Ross’ unique design features back into play in quite an effective fashion.
With the restoration, Donald Ross’ Aronimink plays as he intended it to. As he said in 1948, two decades after the course opened, “I intended to make this my masterpiece, but not until today did I realize built better than I knew.”
Ross’s design rewards well executed shots and strategy for golfers at all skill levels. Framed by hardwoods and evergreens, the course is a test of long-hole and short-hole skills, as well as the execution of sound course management.
With 75 bunkers and numerous slopes, valleys and doglegs, the course tests a player’s patience and endurance. Ross meant Aronimink to be a “supreme test” for the best golfers. From the championship tees Aronimink’s course is 7,237 yards long and plays to a par of 70.
Aronimink’s opening hole is one of the most memorable in golf. The intimidating first hole plunges down into a valley, then rises steeply, playing long and uphill to a well-guarded undulating green.
On the front nine there are a number of challenging doglegs, particularly the par four #7. Although not a long hole, the approach must carry a yawning bunker guarding the front of a green with several difficult pin locations. Then there is #8, perhaps the hardest par three on the course, playing 237 yards downhill to a narrow green bisected by a large mound.
The turn for home at Aronimink begins with #10, a 454-yard par four that is considered by many the most demanding on the course. The narrow fairway is guarded by a bunker on the right and deep rough on the left. A successful approach shot must avoid the water hazard protecting the front left of the sharply terraced green.
In 2003 John Jacobs birdied the last two holes to win the Senior PGA Championship. The 17th is a 187-yard par three. An errant tee shot often finds the lake guarding the green. The finishing hole is a 436-yard uphill par four, requires a precise tee shot and the approach shot is to a winding and sloped green with a numerous challenging pin locations.
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