Hartefeld National, the private golf club in Avondale, Pa., marks its 20th anniversary this year. And with new management and major improvements over the last few years, the focus is as much on the club’s bright future as it is a celebration of its past.
Back in 2012, Hartefeld was acquired by Texas-based ClubCorp, a golf and property company that owns and operates more than 200 clubs, business centers and sports facilities throughout the U.S. and abroad. Nationally, some of its signature courses include Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, and Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Some local venues include Cherry Valley Country Club in Skillman, N.J., and the Pyramid Club eatery/business property in Center City Philadelphia.
In three years, Hartefeld has undergone close to $2 million in course and clubhouse improvements. The most prominent transformation has been the conversion of tees and fairways from rye to bent grass, as well as repairing all 56 bunkers. According to Frank LaVacca, Hartefeld’s head golf pro, the bent-grass switchover has been beneficial in many ways. “Rye is a cooler season grass—it needs a lot more water and it’s not the best for our hot, humid summers,” he says. “The new bent grass is less dependent on the weather, less of a maintenance issue for us and is more attractive to golfers from a playability standpoint.”
Attracting top players and competitive tournaments is still a major focus at Hartefeld. In the past the course hosted high-end, pro events such as the Senior PGA Tour’s Bell Atlantic Classic and the Jim Furyk-hosted Exelon Invitational. Hartefeld’s transformation and new administration are attracting a variety of professional events, including the 2014 Patterson Cup qualifier, a Golf Assoc-iation of Philadelphia Winter Series event, an International Junior Golf Tour event, and the Connelly Cup Head-Pro Championship.
“One of our main goals has been to get the course back to the platform it deserves, both for our members and playing professionals,” says LaVacca. “Whenever new management comes into play there is some apprehension, but the atmosphere and camaraderie here is quite high since we came in and said, ‘Here is what we are going to do to make things better,’ and we have accomplished that.” Hartefeld has other improvements planned in the near future, mostly in the facilities areas, and hopes to have course designer Tom Fazio back for a 20th-anniversary celebration later in 2015.
The first thing you notice about Hartefeld is the stunning Brandywine Valley scenery and elevation changes. This Tom Fazio gem is the ultimate in his signature risk/reward golf—but it’s not punishing for the mid- to high-handicapper. From the championship tees, the course is 6,969 yards, and plays to a 74.5 rating and a 142 slope. But from the white/middle tees, the Hartefeld course measures only 5,936 yards and carries a 68.3 rating and a 133 slope.
“What I tell new players of the course is that they will not lose a lot of golf balls, but they will putt a lot and have their short game tested,” says LaVacca. The signature sixth hole could be one where you lose a ball or two. It’s a 153-yard, par-3 hole over the only water on the course. The uphill shot is one of the most photogenic of the layout, with the clubhouse perched above the green. Even if a tee shot is on in regulation, the undulating putting surface ensures there is no guarantee of birdie or par.
Two of the best holes on the course lie on the front nine: the 392-yard fourth hole and the shorter, risk-reward fifth hole that is a par 5. The fifth is tricky because at 486 yards, it tempts you to go for the green in two, but is well defended by a phalanx of bunkers up the left side. You will be visually stimulated on every hole, with the large-scale feel, unique hole setups, and the eye-popping newly renovated sand bunkers and natural high grasses providing the perfect contrast to all the fairways.
“Usually golfers are intimidated by holes that are tight, but here the vastness can be pretty overwhelming to the player—just enjoy it and take it all in,” says LaVacca. “There are plenty of ways to play every hole, and over 105 acres of fairways alone.” After your round, continue to enjoy the breathtaking views from a newly expanded deck and patio while sipping a pint and dining on fresh fish, crab cakes and certified Angus beef from the Grille & Pub at Hartefeld National.