Loch Nairn Golf Club of Avondale: A civil taste of history and golf

By Jay Mankus, Contributor

AVONDALE, Pa. - In an age of crunching numbers to make a profit at any cost, Loch Nairn Golf Club of Avondale, Pennsylvania is a refreshing change from modern upscale golf facilities. This affordable public golf facility, more than a quarter of a century old, is providing customers with elegant country clubhouse facilities and a golf course that is being updated over time.

While many new upscale golf facilities are forced to open their courses in make-shift clubhouses such as mobile or redesigned homes to start making money, Loch Nairn Golf Club has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in clubhouse facilities to meet rising demands. Loch Nairn's dining facilities is now comparable to nearby Hartefeld National, one of the premier upscale golf facilities in south eastern Pennsylvania.

As customers enter the parking lot off of McCue Road, Loch Nairn's new and historic buildings hide golfers from this course. If you don't read the signs carefully, you might miss the pro shop and locker rooms, the farthest building on your left.

Across from the pro shop is a narrow path that separates the locker rooms from the new, Tavern and Greathouse Restaurant. The tavern is an English pub with a revolutionary and civil war motif decorated throughout the walls and ceiling. Outside, there is a patio area which can be covered, depending upon the weather.

Don't miss a chance to try Loch Nairn's Irish Coffee. This local concoction features steeping hot coffee, Jamison Irish Whiskey and Bailey's Irish, and cream topped with freshly whipped cream, served in a tulip glass rimmed with lime and raw sugar.

Meanwhile, the Greathouse Restaurant consists of a modern design with a colonial Williamsburg feel. The south side of this elegant dining room features a scenic view of the ninth green and first tee. Sunday brunch is one of the more popular meals at this fine dining facility, served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday. Other favorites include soups, salads and fresh seafood entrees.

Since mature trees along the entrance of the parking lot partially hide these two buildings, golfers' first glimpse of Loch Nairn is often the historic Farmhouse Restaurant. Wedding receptions, corporate parties and non golfers regularly dine here for lunch and dinner. The Farmhouse Restaurant is highlighted by the grille, veranda banquet facilities, award winning crab cakes, gift shop and the 17th century ruins that stand behind this structure.

From the first fairway, these ruins stand tall on a hillside between the first and second holes. This building once served as a wait house before the civil war. As slaves crossed over the Mason-Dixon line to escape slavery from the south, they were forced to wait and see if their masters would reclaim them. After a certain time, they could become free or be forced to return with their owners.

Later on, this same building became part of the underground railroad. Due to this building's strategic location just north of the Mason-Dixon line, this structure played a crucial role in the secret resistance movement to free slaves.

This building magnifies how Loch Nairn Golf Club's location is surrounded by America's rich history. A few minutes to the east off of US Highway 1 is the Brandywine Battlefield State Historic Site. This historic landmark, along with Valley Forge National Park, 30 minutes north, details the activities of George Washington's troops during the Revolutionary War.

One thing Loch Nairn Golf Club does not have is a practice facility. Beside a newly designed putting green between the 1st and 10th tees, golfers are forced to rely on the Hit-n-Go Practice Facility or Golf School for warming up. Conveniently located just south of US Hwy. 1 on Route 41 South, golfers who like to tinker with their swing before or after a round are in luck. Hit-n-Go is a 3 mile drive, less than 5 minutes from Loch Nairn Golf Club.

From US Hwy. 1, Loch Nairn Golf Club is situated between the Toughkenamon and Route 41 exits. Depending upon which direction you are coming from, golfers should exit on Route 41 coming from the west or Toughkenamon from the east. From these exits, head north and follow the blue signs which will lead you to McCue Road.

As you take the path from the parking lot to the first tee, one thing is obvious, this is no Hartefeld National nor is it a highly regarded upscale golf course. Loch Nairn Golf Club provides the ambiance of upscale dining, but caters to golfers who are unable to spend $85 to $100 weekly for a round of golf.

Besides their affordable prices, Loch Nairn's ideal location in proximity to US 1 and its history as one of the first public golf courses in Chester county, Pennsylvania continues to draw thousands of golfers every season.

Loch Nairn's layout has some great assets. Burn-like creeks run along 14 of the 18 holes. Ten ponds help this course live up to a name like Loch. Meanwhile, rolling hills and century old trees add character to a land already rich in history.

The Smedley family, also owners of the Wetlands Golf Club in Aberdeen, Maryland, have turned what was once a small 9 hole country golf course into a challenging 18 hole upscale golf facility. Formerly known as Red Fox, Loch Nairn Golf Club is a work in progress, adding and changing portions of the course as players demand longer and tougher golf courses.

Currently, the first hole is being lengthen by over 50 yards. What was once a driveable 300 yard par 4 for big hitters will now feature a dual fairway. The lower fairway is the original fairway. The upper fairway, when complete, will include a portion of the current green. A steep rise and fairway bunker will separate these fairways.

A large tree behind the existing green will force players to hit around this obstacle or face a possible rejection. When this new hole is complete by late fall or early spring, the view from this upper fairway will magnify the impressive ruins to the right of the fairway.

In addition, the back tees on the 325 yard, par 4 2nd hole will be moved behind the new first green to create a straight hole with water down both sides of the rough.

Despite being a mere 6,315 yards, par 70 from the tips, Loch Nairn has two holes on each nine that will test any player's skill. On the front, the 588 yard par 5 4th ends at the base of a dense forest, while the 455 yard par 4 8th tee shoots out of the thick trees thast stand nearly five stories tall.

Besides pine trees that line the 4th hole, this fairway slopes right to left creating a hook lie for your second shot. However, a 3 club and two tiered green is the heart and the soul of this difficult par 5.

The 8th hole, though ranked third hardest at Loch Nairn is probably the most difficult hole on the course. If you elect to hit from the white tees, straight drives on this dogleg to the left will run through the fairway. However, if want to be a macho man, golfers who hit from the tips will have a hard time avoiding the overhanging lumber coming out of a chute of trees on this tee. Fortunately, a large green awaits your second, third and forth shots, unless you are a pro.

On the back nine, you can argue that they are four difficult holes, but I found the 390 yard, par 4 12th and the 220 yard, par 3 15th to be the two most intimidating.

Twelve is a partially blind tee shot uphill to a fairway that bends sharply to the right. If you can stay out of trouble on your tee shot, players face a short to mid iron shot to an elevated green surrounded by water on three sides. Though you can make an argument for the island green on the 170 yard, par 3 10th, the cattails surrounding the pond below the 12th green is, in my mind opinion, the most aesthetically pleasing site on this course.

Besides being frightening to a double digit handicapper, the par 3 15th is the only original hole remaining from Red Fox. I guess that since it has become the signature hole at Loch Nairn, no change was necessary. However, since the average golfer cannot carry a tee shot 180 yards or so over water, a new tee has been designed on a peninsula of this pond to make this hole fair for average golfers.

As for the overall condition of the course, the bentgrass greens rolled well, except for two portions of greens effected by the recent drought. The fairways were in decent shape and the tees were okay, although on some tee areas I could not find a level lie.

My only real concern about Loch Nairn's playing conditions is the unruly tree limbs that hang above the cart paths. If you are not paying attention, you might catch a limb or branch in the eye. However, I am confident that as fall comes, these overhanging limbs will be trimmed to prevent any injuries. Obviously, this is a drawback to having so many trees on one golf course. If you love history, enjoy the outdoors and are looking for an affordable place to play golf on your vacation, then Loch Nairn's Golf Club and dining facilities is the perfect place for your family.

Whenever you are in the greater Philadelphia area for business, don't miss the chance to visit the world renown Longwood Gardens, 5 miles south on US 1 or take a tour of the Brandywine River wineries!

Jay Mankus, Contributor

A former golf standout at Concord High School in Wilmington, Del., Jay Mankus graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Recreation & Parks Administration. Before graduating, Jay spent time as an intern at a golf club in the east suburbs of Cleveland specializing in golf course maintenance and design.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Loch Nairn

    Fran Steffler wrote on: Jun 20, 2013

    A good, comprehensive review, thanks. I learned alot more reading your review than I did visiting the courses website.


  • Review Dating

    Rob Bryant wrote on: Aug 10, 2012

    Just wanted to say it would be nice if reviews were dated as to give us a better estimate of course when reviewed.