- Springfield, Pennsyvania
- William Flynn (1926)
- 104th best classic course in the US (Golfweek)
By now, my love affair with William Flynn’s catalog is well documented in my reviews of Shinnecock, Merion and The Country Club. I love the decisions he makes and some of his principals he routes golf courses on, so when the opportunity arose to play Rolling Green on the way home from our Pinehurst trip, we took it.
Rolling Green lies in the suburbs outside Philadelphia, where most of William Flynn’s courses are. This gives Rolling Green quite a lot of competition considering his prolific presence in Philly. Needless to say, we were excited to check out another Flynn.
The opening hole at Rolling Green is a mid size par 4 at 419 yards. The tee shot works downhill.
Back up the slope, the approach plays to a devilish green. There is so much slope that you could easily putt off the front of the green in the middle of summer. Thankfully, we played in February—no need to be scared of that!
The 2nd is one of the all-time best holes I’ve seen, and utilizes some wonderful Flynn strategic principals. 450 yards, this is a dogleg left. A three-bunker complex on the inside corner aren’t in play, while another one on the left is.
This green complex is so good that it determines the angles needed in. On a typical dogleg left with bunkering on the inside corner, you’d assume keeping it left is the best play. This, however, is the opposite. Keeping the ball down the left off the tee gives the player an angle over a bunker with a kicker slope over. Essentially, the green runs away from the player.
From the right, a massive false front awaits, but a clear, open view hitting into the slope. This strategy changes to a back right pin, giving the 2nd at Rolling Green exceptional flexibility.
From the base of the clubhouse yet again (like the 1st), the 3rd is a par 3 downhill. At 175 yards, it’s manageable.
This is another superb green complex that moves so hard to the left. The way the land and the green fall, it’s almost a redan template, which Flynn used at Shinnecock and The Country Club (of the courses I’ve seen). Anything missing on the right side is death, even in February conditions. Imagine in the summer!
The 4th plays down and back up, with no fairway bunkers to deal with. 394 yards, it’s a good birdie opportunity early in the round.
From the bottom of the hill, it’s fairly uphill. Depending on the pin, keeping the ball left or right is a good call. Flynn liked to build difficult pin locations in “wings” of his greens behind bunkers. This green has a couple good ones left & right.
The 5th is a very sneaky good hole. To a blind landing area, I feel like this 426 yard par 4 plays harder than you’d think.
Cresting over the hill, you’re greeted with an excellent view of the green complex perfectly cut into the hill. The entire hole slopes to the right, with a front left miss potentially still finding the green. Flynn’s nickname is “the nature faker,” and no doubt he did a good job here.
The 6th is a very strong par 3 at 207 yards. Many call this Flynn’s most difficult test in Philadelphia, and the 6th kicks off a difficult middle portion of the golf course.
The entire green slopes to the right. You’d suspect the bunkers short right are a pretty bad spot. The opposite is true. If you have to miss, I suggest short right in the bunkers!
Starting with the 7th, Flynn makes an interesting routing decision. Instead of cutting holes into banks like Stanley Thompson did at Capilano, Flynn’s routing thrusts up & down the 180 or so feet of elevation change. This creates quite a few difficult holes, but easy ones as well that play so downhill like the 7th, which is a reachable par 5 at 515 yards.
The fairway is the lowest point on property, with a creek running across it. Don’t worry: the creek isn’t in play.
The approach shot is a fun one, with the hole kicking balls hard left. Anything short right will almost certainly find the middle of the green. Don’t miss high!
A closer look at the hard slope to the left:
And another view from behind. You really get a sense of the scale at Rolling Green with this photo!
The 8th surely is one of the hardest holes I’ve played. 444 yards, it plays hard uphill. A creek runs up the right before crossing the hole to the left. Not shockingly, it’s perfectly placed. It’s about a 280 carry over the creek, while anything short needs to be kept short of 270 (from the tips). For a long hole playing uphill, it’s a tough decision to gamble or not! Keeping it left allows for a bit more room, but not much.
A look at the stream, which perfectly meanders along through the hole.
Like I said earlier, the hole plays uphill, but the tee shot is fairly flat. The green, however, is cut into the hill. The approach plays severely uphill, with anything back potentially rolling back some 70 yards. Greeeeasy.
Continuing to play uphill, the 617 yard par 5, 9th is an absolute monster. With the entire hole sloping hard to the right, the drive must be placed up the left to stay in the fairway. Good luck!
Here’s the severity of the ground contours. Google Earth Pro is telling me there’s a 20 foot difference from the left side of the fairway to the right. Crazy!
The layup is a bit of a sleeper. A bunker left is the main defence, but the goal is to just get it up there as much as possible to have the shortest club in.
The green has a fairly aggressive false front, and the entire green moves hard to the front. Being above the hole can be pretty difficult.
To kick off the back nine, the 258 (!!!) yard par 3, 10th is a beast. Three bunkers left and one right guard this green. While the third shows redan characteristics, this is for sure a redan template. Thankfully, it’s a beast and any help you can get to get it on in regulation is big.
You can see the kicker slope below, which would absolutely help balls get on the green in conditions in almost any other month than February!
And a view of the green, which slopes hard to the right and slightly to the back until about two thirds into the green complex.
If you thought it was getting easier, it’s not. The 11th is a 450 yard par 4. Thankfully, the tee shot is way downhill.
To give yourself the best angle and the flattest lie, challenging the bunker is ideal. The approach plays back uphill to a well-guarded green.
The 13th is a wonderful short par 4, and much needed. From the 8th to the 11th, it’s a very difficult stretch of golf. The 361 yard 12th gives a nice breather.
Three bunkers on the inside while one on the outside corner. Because of how short the hole is, you’re likely to have a shorter club. A tee shot on the inside corner plays directly into the slope, while from the left lets you “ride” the slope and feed balls towards pins. Depending on your game, it gives you options. For me, I’d rather kick balls and funnel them towards flags, so I’d lean more towards playing it to the outside.
No doubt, this is an excellent short 4 with a multitude of options.
Now that the breather is over, we’re back to the tough as nails holes. The 13th is a 442 yard par 4. A wonderful example of showing restraint, this is a great hole with only one bunker needed beside the green. The goal on the tee shot is to blast one into the fairway as far as you can.
From there, the green is cut behind a huge gully. As originally said, one bunker on the left side of the green awaits.
Continuing on, the 14th is a very strange par 3. 235 yards, it plays straight uphill, with three bunkers staggered on the right side. It plays roughly 50 feet uphill, which if my conversion is right the actual yardage would be closer to 265 (using the 15 feet uphill = 1 club = 10 yards conversion). That’s a strong par 3.
This hole for sure plays longer than 10, which seems impossible! This is certainly a bold choice of routing.
Rolling Green then moves into a shorter, easier stretch after the difficult 8-14. The 15th is a 384 yard par 4 playing downhill. Trees on the inside corner make this a big, swinging dogleg requiring a draw.
After finding the fairway, the approach shot plays uphill. To a green that’s well-guarded, it’s a challenging approach while not being stern like the last stretch. A nice change in pace.
I’m a big fan of the par 3, 16th. In fact, I think it’s my favorite par 3 on the course (although I do love 10 quite a bit). 170 yards, the 16th plays downhill a bit to a well-guarded green.
The 17th starts a stretch of back-to-back par 5’s to finish from the member tees. 501 yards, this is a huge dogleg to the left.
The second & third shots play slightly uphill, but this provides a wonderful birdie opportunity near the end of the round.
To finish the round, the 18th is a 493 yard par 4 from the tips, and a par 5 for the members. A big, swooping dogleg right par four around a bunker complex, this is a stern finisher.
The entire green complex slopes towards the player, being receptive for a long iron or even wood.
For those who play the 18th as a three shot hole, the third is an uphill wedge shot.
Rolling Green is a great golf course, and features some really bold choices routing wise from William Flynn. It’s a difficult property, but I feel like Flynn got the most out of it. Is there some weird choices? Sure. A 258 yard & a 235 yard uphill par 3 are challenging and quite bold, while back to back 5’s to finish for members is also an interesting choice. I think it’s part of the charm of Rolling Green: it stands apart from the rest of the Flynn’s I’ve seen.
I wonder how hard this golf course would be for higher handicappers. As a scratch, it’s a manageable test, but I wonder how hard the 8th-10th and 13th-14th would be. No doubt, this is a stern golf course, but fun regardless. I played in February and loved it, so I’ll have to get back for a summer game sometime soon!
With Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb ready to restore this William Flynn gem, I can only see this golf course getting better. It’s underrated at 104th classic. In fact, I think it’s likely top 150 in the US any period. I enjoyed my round here, and left excited to come back. That’s the end goal anyway, isn’t it?