Steve Shaffer 
Why I Play Where I Play: The Vagabond Golfer

By Steve Shaffer
Published May 26, 2010

After I resigned my membership at a private club about five years ago, I became something of a  "vagabond" golfer.  I no longer had a home course where I had regular group of golfing friends and a place to hang out while looking for a game, if my friends weren’t available. So I joined a group of "traveling" golfers, under the auspices of the South Jersey Weekday Business Golf Association.


As you can see by their current schedule, it took a lot of travel to play most of their courses, and few of them were convenient to my home in Eastern Montgomery County.  I lasted two years with this group before the travel knocked me out.


As I discovered, there are other similar groups in the area -- the Mid Atlantic Golf Tour for one -- but I soon developed my own personal rota of convenient courses I could play on a regular basis with some friends:


Limekiln GC in Ambler, Center Square GC in Norristown, Five Ponds GC in Warminster and Jeffersonville GC in West Norriton Township. I chose these courses because they are convenient and reasonably priced. Limekiln is a fairly basic and flat 27-hole complex, but it's less than 10 minutes from my house. My wife and I played there on a  regular basis on Sunday mornings with another couple, until they moved.


Center Square is also convenient, only about 20 minutes away. The course is usually in good condition and it has some elevation changes, particularly on the back nine. I had a hole-in-one there last year.


Five Ponds is also nearby. The condition of the greens there compare favorably with many of the private clubs in the area.


Jeffersonville is my personal favorite among my rota of courses. The course has vastly improved as a result of a recent renovation several years ago. It also presents more of a challenge than the other courses and it is more interesting thanks to the variety of holes.   I have taken some of my friends from my former club to Jeffersonville and they were impressed.  I also happen to like their hot dogs.


Even as a vagabond, I have continued to receive invitations from many of my friends to play at their private clubs: Philmont CC, Hidden Creek GC , Stonewall GC, French Creek GC, Lookaway GC, Blue Bell CC and my former club, Commonwealth National GC.


Over time, I also have expanded my rota  to courses that require up to an hour’s travel.  That brought in several other enjoyable layouts: Hickory Valley GC, Bella Vista GC, Lederach GC, the GC at Glen Mills, Inniscrone GC, Reading CC and Berkleigh CC in Pennsylvania and Riverwinds GC, Heron Glen GC in New Jersey and Deerfield CC in Delaware.


As a resident social member of Talamore CC in Ambler, I also am entitled to six rounds of prime-season golf through my Homeowner’s Association; all I pay is the cart fee.


At the Jersey shore, my favorite course is Twisted Dune GC.


Besides my carefully chosen rota and guest appearances at friends’ clubs, I find time to play in various charity events. Through these events, I’ve managed to play a number of the choice clubs in the area, including now-defunct Ashbourne CC, Rolling Green GC and Whitemarsh Valley CC.


Last year, my wife and I visited The Poconos for a few days. Naturally, we played Shawnee, Tamiment and Great Bear.


This year, through my social membership at Talamore, I am participating in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Member Days program, which gets me onto various private clubs. Recently, I played Huntingdon Valley CC and I will be playing St. David's GC, Woodcrest CC and Ledge Rock GC.


I am a semi-retired lawyer, and my extended winter vacations have taken me to two golf Meccas, Florida and Arizona, where I immerse myself in the total golf experience. This past winter, which was a good one to escape from Philadelphia, my wife and I rented a house from January through March in a gated golf community in Arizona.  That gave us access to 45 holes of good, affordable, but not great, golf.


All in all, I enjoy being a "vagabond" golfer. I enjoy seeking out and experiencing "new" courses. But there are some drawbacks.  Play can get very slow on the weekend at public courses.  And I’m not able to get together with my old golfing friends as much as I would like; often I just show up at a public course and join with strangers.  Sometimes that turns out to be good; sometimes not.


Another drawback is that, for most part, I don’t play as well when I’m playing a course for the first time or if I play there only sporadically.


That’s one advantage of membership in a private club.  As you become familiar with your home course, you can manage your game much better.


Steve Shaffer is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and Temple University School of Law. When he’s not playing golf, he works in a local golf store and volunteers for the Golf Association of Philadelphia.


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2 Comments   |   0 Pending   |   Add a Comment  
Gwedem[6/22/2010 10:31:35 AM]
Great article. A suggestion might be to provide your review of the courses you’ve played.
Dan Herrmann[6/6/2010 5:38:08 AM]
Why I play where I play: It’s all about the golf course architecture. We’re lucky enough to play a Hanse-designed golf course anytime we’d like. I know most all the members and we have a great time out there. We also have wonderful clubhouse architecture. I played at another club in a chairity outing this week. The course was "only OK", and actually had some horrible holes. Its clubhouse was new and in the "McMansion" (gaudy) style. But they do have a swimming pool and fitness center, so their membership is full. I don’t get it - excellent GCA goes looking for members and cruddy GCA with a gaudy clubhouse is full. Shows what sells, doesn’t it? (Give me excellent GCA anytime - you can have the other stuff... Reminded me of Don McLean’s "Castles in the Air")
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