Golden Oaks remains popular in Keystone State
FLEETWOOD, Pa. -- Some land looks like it was made for golf. Such is the rolling terrain of Berks County near Reading, Pa., home to Golden Oaks Golf Club, one of the top public venues in that area.
"It's got the kind of rolling hills that create a great spot for a golf course," said architect Jim Blaukovitch, the prolific Pennsylvania course designer who laid out Golden Oaks. "It's a good location and the perfect terrain for a golf course."
When it opened in 1993 it was the lone upscale golf experience in the region and despite the competition which as cropped up in the intervening years, Golden Oaks Golf Club continues to be one of the most popular plays in the area. The semi-private club has about 200 members.
The 2004 season was the first under the ownership of a group of local businessmen and club members who bought the course from American Golf. "It's been a fabulous thing for the course," said General Manager Jason Szilli. "Obviously with corporate ownership, you are one of many, but with the new owners Golden Oaks is the No. 1 priority."
A popular step taken by the new owners was cutting the green fee. Weekday rates with a cart went from $49 to $39, while top weekend rates are only $65.
"We needed to reconnect with the local golfers," says Szilli. "They were paying less at other local courses and we wanted them to come back to Golden Oaks."
Golden Oaks Golf Club, like other Blaukovitch designs in the Keystone State, is very playable. The middle tees play 6,057 yards and are rated a very reasonable 69.4. If you want to bite off more, the back tees stretch you out to 7,106 and up the rating to 74.4.
"The low handicapper will have to play well to score at that yardage," Szilli said. "But we also have large greens that are very puttable, so mid and high handicappers can come out and enjoy themselves as well."
Water comes into play on only four holes, but it's used to great effect on each. The third hole is a shortish par 4, which calls for an approach over the corner of a small lake to a narrow green. The fourth and ninth holes are both par 3s that require you to carry ponds off the tee.
The 18th is a great finisher with a long narrow lake, which runs three quarters of hole, down the left side to the front of the green. It's possible to hit any of your three shots in the water and there is a grove of trees running down the right side if you're protecting against a pull. Hit a power fade off the tee and you can get home in two for a possible two-putt birdie to finish. Miss hit any shot and you can wind up with a much less appealing end to your round.
A converted barn serves as the clubhouse and pro shop at Golden Oaks Golf Club. The upscale facilities provide accommodations for banquets or wedding parties of up to 250 people. There is also the Oak Leaf Grill which is open seven days a week throughout the year.
The course has a driving range with grass tees and a learning center. At this writing, Golden Oaks was searching for a new golf professional.
Golden Oaks Golf Club is well above average, clearly one of the best public access courses in Berks County. You might not plan your vacation around it, but if you are in the area for business or just passing through, the course offers solid golf at very reasonable rates. Golfers who spend up to an hour driving there from suburban Philadelphia or the Lehigh Valley region consider it worth the trip. It's clearly one of the best public venues in Berks County.
Places to stay
The Hillcrest Motor Inn (610) 944-8696 is just down the street and around the corner if you're looking for no-frills accommodations. If you need more amenities, the Inn at Reading (innatreading.com) is less than a half-hour away.
Places to eat
The Oak Leaf Grill provides a full menu right at the clubhouse. Its reputation is on the upswing withthe return of a popular former head chef, who's returning the eatery to previous high standards. Just down the street from the course is the Pricetown Hotel, which would not be described as "upscale." They offer the always popular, clams-on-the-half shell and other casual selections. The Publick House Dining Room at the Inn at Reading has an extensive menu and is a good bet for fine dining.
Off the course
The nearby town of Reading is where most of the action is. That's where the AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Reading Phillies play ball. Reading also has a reputation as a shopping mecca because of its numerous outlet stores. If you're looking for some subterranean fun, visit Crystal Cave in Kutztown.
During prohibition, Reading was considered one of the most lawless towns in Pennsylvania. Miners would come out of the state's coal region to partake in Reading's notorious gin joints and brothels.
August 31, 2004