Thank you to Mr. Fortin for giving us the opportunity to play this gem. This was my experience:
Monday, September 12th, 2016. Two carts await us as we drive into the club. The course is closed down for maintenance to prepare for a tournament being held the next day. My friend Brandon and I were set up with a one-o’clock tee time along with two other players from the US Mid Am. You can see both of those players, Kevin and Jordan, in the picture above if you look closely.
We met Kevin and Jordan on the putting green, introduced ourselves, and rolled a few rocks to get familiar with the greens. As you can plainly see in the photo above, they were absolutely pure. Manicured to perfection. Rolling ten and a half effortlessly. The putting green pins were made of wood, which is a nice touch. A golfer may even roll his eyes when I say the flags were made of a nice material, but they were actually the most quality flags I’ve ever felt, cut from a material similar to board shorts that stretch when pulled.
A few putts later, we all met with Bruce, the superintendent, who gave us the lay of the land and a little background on the course. It’s a Gil Hanse design, a golf course architect who has been coming increasingly more popular recently, especially after his success in designing the Olympic Course in Rio. Hanse is from Malvern, PA, a town only 30 minutes or so from French Creek.
We played a team Nassau match. This is looking onto the second green. You can barely see my ball on the front of the green, left of the pin. A huge false front that runs down to a swale guards the green.
This is looking towards the green on your way to the long, par 3 third. Stretches over 200 yards, with a bunch of brush to cover. A brute.
Myself teeing off somewhere on the front-nine. Hole Seven I believe. As you can see, this is a nice vantage point above the local area, which includes some houses, farms, and rolling hills. The lone tree was kind of cool. The sky was an absolute clear blue the whole day. Temperature was nice and warm – couldn’t ask for better conditions, weather or course.
See what I mean about the lack of clouds? Stunning. An old barn-turned-maintenance shack is the largest building in the frame. The pin on an elevated ninth green is visible against the large hill backing the green. Atop the hill are the tees for number one, as well as number ten, a par three stretching down towards the right, past the maintenance barn.
A better look at the beautiful maintenance barn with fleur-de-lis French Creek logo and tenth tee. By this time in the round, I was hungry. Naturally right? It’s the turn. Bruce, the super, left the ThaddyShack unlocked for us to grab some snacks and drinks. That’s the snack bar, pictured below. If you want to know why it’s called the ThaddyShack, you’ll have to go there and play.
The back nine was just as beautiful, well-groomed, and picturesque as the front. There were gorgeous homes tucked into the trees, as you can see below. This one looks over the very expansive thirteenth green, which stretches even farther out of frame to the left. The blind approach shot makes it tough to gauge where you end up on the putting surface. I had a nice chance at birdie. I missed. But still, forced Kevin to make a good par from up above the green in the rough near where I’m standing taking the photo. He did with a great up-and-down.
This house and shed below overlooks the narrow chute of the fourteenth tee box. The late afternoon lighting was perfect, showing off the beautiful barn-style homes of the area. Looking closely, you can see some chopped wood in the shed. I could absolutely live there.
French Creek is a great course and fun to play mostly because it is a wonderful design. Not only does it please the eye, but it punishes and rewards the player in the right way. The fifteenth hole is a great example of this. A short, drivable par 4 at around 275 yards. The elevated green perched above a huge drop-off on the left, and filters down to an elevated fairway collection area on the right. If you choose to play an iron off the tee for safety, that’s pretty simple, although you have a blind approach onto the elevated green. If you go for it with a three-wood or driver, no option to miss left. You have a chance to bring it in from the right and hit the green, or you can bail out slightly right into the collection area. Too far right with a long club, and you might find some tangled rough. It rewards a wonderful shot, and punishes the wrong play, but also gives the player slight room for error. It’s not impossible to make eagle, but you have to hit a great shot. It’s not easy to make birdie, but there’s a good chance. And you still have to be smart to make par.
Course integration is something that Hanse is spectacular at, especially when learning about what he went through to build the Olympic Course in Rio. French Creek is no different. The course blends into it’s natural surroundings with ease, rolling with the hills, and accenting the farm land. Steps built into elevations like this one aside the sixteenth green are a nice touch.
French Creek is a beautiful club that is home to a wonderful course that is a joy to play. It would be a pleasure to be able to play there again. I am below, standing over the eighteenth green with putter and towel in hand, and smile on face.
A bientôt French Creek.