Downingtown, Pennsylvania, resident Keith Arbuckle remembers the time in 2005 when he considered joining many of his fellow Tattersall Golf Club members and leave the club he had come to love.
“They had lost a bunch of greens to disease, and ownership had limited the money that should have been going into maintenance,” Arbuckle recalls. “There were staff cuts, the fairways were full of divots, bunkers were washed out, and there were bald spots and weeds throughout. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, the club was about a one.”
But Arbuckle hung on, mainly because the West Chester track was so close to his home. When Pegasus Golf purchased the course in 2006, Arbuckle’s patience paid off.
“Immediately I could see the new owners had an improvement plan,” he says. “The first thing they did was attack the weeds and reseed the rough, along with reseeding around all the greenside bunkers. They also began an aggressive irrigation program.”
Though Arbuckle says the course is still not up to the level it was when it first opened in 2000, he maintains it is back to a solid seven out of 10 on that scale of his.
Completing a break with its former owners, Pegasus also changed the name of the course in April 2007. The former Tattersall is now Broad Run Golfer’s Club.
Though the makeover certainly improved the grooming of Broad Run, the track’s original Rees Jones design, spread over almost 400 acres of rolling topography, remains very much in place. From ridges that provide broad vistas of Chester County’s hills (the driving range is built on the side of one such ridge) to steeply plunging ravines, Broad Run is one of the most visually stunning and challenging courses tri-state golfers will find in the area.
Take, for example, the view from the 15th green, which offers a panoramic lookout over the surrounding farm country at Chester County’s highest point. Six holes of Broad Run can be seen. Or how about the “little” par-3 17th, which features a 102-foot drop-off to an exceptionally large green. (The average size of the greens at Broad Run are 5,500 square feet.) With the bucolic setting of the 18th green, set against the backdrop of an old red barn, you have a veritable chamber of commerce postcard collection of what golf in Southeastern Pennsylvania should look like.
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So take time to look around as you traverse this richly textured layout, but don’t get too carried away with the imagery. There’s plenty of golf to play here, and to play well will require all your wits and skill.
Broad Run’s first hole, a shortish 456-yard par 5 (all yardages referenced here are from the middle tees) offers a smorgasbord of the challenges you’ll face throughout your round. Your tee shot negotiates an open bisected fairway that gradually descends to a waste area that traverses the fairway at about the 150-yard marker. Big hitters may be tempted to go for the green in two, but the prudent shot is across the waste area to an ascending fairway that ends at a plateau green well-guarded by bunkers and a steep sloping drop that defends the center of the green and all the way down the left side. A two-putt par will feel like a genuine accomplishment.
The first hole introduces many of the topographical and shotmaking elements that will unfold.
The 299-yard par-4 fourth, the first visually stimulating hole, also introduces you to Broad Run’s pair of sub-300-yard par 4s, which are not as easy as the yardage might indicate. The fourth requires a strong tee shot that crosses a steep ravine that is not in play to a sharply rising, rumpled fairway that, from the tee box, looks like the side of a hill.
The cipher on your approach to another plateau green is to correctly gauge the distance, given the steep incline you’re hitting to. The approach plays as much as 20 yards farther than the yardage indicates, and your tendency the first time is to come up exasperatingly short. Get used to it. The abrupt elevation changes at Broad Run will wreak havoc with your distance judgment all day.
The par-4 fifth is another sub-300 yarder that demands an accurate tee shot down a twisting ribbon of a fairway that is framed by steep mounding on both the left and right. Deep-faced bunkers on the left force your approach to the right, leaving a long two-putt try on another of Broad Run’s expansive green surfaces.
The medium-range par-4 sixth requires a well-placed tee shot past the sharp dogleg left. Be careful not to drive through the fairway. Your approach is steeply down across a ravine that will play shorter than what you faced back on the fourth, making for another adjustment to distance calculation.
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The back nine starts with a short par 3, whose layout demonstrates how Jones worked with the land given him rather than reshape it to suit his purposes. You drive past the 10th green to the tee box ahead, then circle back after you tee off. The green makes for more of a distance-controlled shot than one that demands accuracy.
The par-5 12th is one of the few wide open looks you’ll get at Broad Run, so take advantage and swing away to a doglegged fairway that slopes up to the green. The upslope makes the hole play a lot longer than the yardage (473) might indicate.
Holes 14 through 16 all play uphill, then you arrive at the arresting 17th, with that 100-plus foot drop-off. If you believe the yardage markers and hit to that distance, you’ll be rewarded with a chance at birdie if you’re spot on, or, if you’re not, a long, difficult two putt on this very large green surface.
The 18th is a real beauty, both from the visual and shotmaking perspective. It’s also the longest hole on the course, one where water is in play down the right from your second shot. The image of the red barn in the backdrop, coupled with a nice birdie putt or tap-in par, is an experience that should leave you clamoring for a return trip.
Broad Run’s clubhouse is a beauty. Renovated from the 1702 farmhouse of the historic John Peale Bordley farm, it is listed as a historical landmark by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Broad Run has come a long way from its origins as an 18th-century farm, but maybe even further now from its sad decline in 2005 to something far more comparable to its opening glory, when Rees Jones carved a near masterpiece. Upscale but surprisingly affordable public golf is alive and well again in West Chester.