Philadelphia Cricket Club
(Militia Hill Course)
Plymouth Meeting, PA
How can I describe our reaction to being selected to add a second 18 to the Philadelphia Cricket Club? Thrilled, intimidated, concerned, challenged, fortunate and vindicated all come to mind. After all, our work would be adjacent to one of A.W. Tillinghast’s masterpieces of golf course architecture. Comparisons between the master’s work and ours will be inevitable. This is a world-famous club, with a history and tradition dating back to when golf was first established in America. This is a club where Tillinghast was a member, along with George C. Thomas Jr. (before he designed Riviera and Los Angeles Country Club). To become part of that legacy is good for our egos and our reputation.
Plus, the executive committee, board, members and staff of Philadelphia Cricket were highly professional, extremely patient, very understanding and some of the nicest people we have ever worked with. They treated us as old friends instead of hired help. The club president and golf committee were always involved, understood the problems and helped us find solutions.
And there were problems. We have collectively completed hundreds of projects in 35 states and around the world, but nowhere were the environmental regulators more ridiculous than on this project. For instance, the municipal engineer reviewed the plans and instructed us to exhaust our drainage pipes in an intermittent stream that flows through the property. But the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said we must exhaust the pipes 30 feet away from the creek into a grassy swale. It didn’t make any difference to us which method we had to use. But each regulator wanted it their way. The local agency said to follow their guidelines or they'd shut the project down. Naturally, the state guys said if we didn't terminate the pipes according to their plan, then they'd shut us down. The two wouldn’t or couldn’t agree.
That's just one example of a dozen situations that were equally ludicrous. Thank goodness the golf committee members understood the absurdity of the process and were patient while things got sorted out. Before the project was completed, we had to obtain 42 separate permits. I personally saw this as a situation where small-time agency employees simply jumped at the chance to rake big time country club members over the coals for no real reason. There were no proven, or even theoretical benefits to the environment from their demands. It was simply a case where a group of employees used well-intended environmental protection laws as a means to obstruct open space development.
Enough complaining. I am pleased to say that the final result, the Militia Hill Course, is a beautiful test of golf, one worthy of comparison to Tillinghast's Flourtown course. Our design goal was to distinguish the new eighteen in a way that would complement the old course, but not clash with it. We used more tee boxes than found on the old course, but we kept the same square-edged shape as the old. Our greens are about the same size but their shapes are a little more articulated. Fairways are generally of the same nature, although ours might be a bit wider and perhaps better defined. As for our bunkers, we chose to use a more free-form Tillinghast style reminiscent of his San Francisco Golf Club, as opposed to the more oval bunkers he used at the Cricket Club.