Story and photos by Jason Bruno
In 1926, famed course architect Donald Ross was commissioned to design Aronimink Golf Club
in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square. Although Ross is known more for Pinehurst No.2,
Seminole and Oak Hill, he always considered Aronimink among his best works. In 1948 Ross returned
to the club and proclaimed " I intended to make this my masterpiece, but not until today did I realize
that I built better than I knew". The club hosted the 1962 PGA Championship, as well as the 1977
U.S Amateur and the PGA Tour's AT&T National in 2010 & 2011.
It's no secret that I've become a huge fan of golf in the Philadelphia area. I adore Merion and the
Ace Club, and have had Aronimink on my wish list for quite some time . . . no tour of Philly golf would
be complete without a spin around this Donald Ross classic.
On the Sunday before the U.S Open at Merion, I arrived for a mid-morning tee time at Aronimink -
courtesy of an invite by Head Professional Jeff Kiddie who was kind enough to have Caddie Master
Tom Foley pair me up with Philadelphia Golf legend and longtime Aronimink member Jay Sigel, Greens
Chairman Doctor Jim McGlynn and Assistant Professional Pat Clark.
Back in the Top 100 on Golf Magazine's latest rankings (#82), Aronimink is primed for a major
championship (my best guess is a future PGA Championship). In 2003, course designer and noted
Donald Ross authority - Ron Prichard restored Aronimink by recapturing features that had been lost
over time - the greens were brought back to their original shapes and sizes, as well as the exquisite
bunkering, which is another Ross staple.
The downhill tee shot on the 428 yard - par 4 first is called "Apache"
The approach on the first is uphill to a surface that has some moderate undulations. I missed the
green left (the first chip from rye/bluegrass rough is an adventure) and was fortunate to get it up
Aronimink is for the most part, vintage Ross-nothing gimicky . . . the 422 yard second is a good
example. Ross warms you into the round at Aronimink, as you get close to the turn the layout grabs
every bit of your attention and challenges your shotmaking. The routing on this gorgeous property
The third is called "Navajo", which is the #1 handicap hole at 446 yards. Hit center of this green
and take your 4, anything that lands beyond the center will feed off the back on this green.
The photo above (of the 3rd green) shows the reclaimed Ross trademark green complexes . . . complete
with fall offs at the edges - essentially making them smaller in square footage than their actual size.
The 457 yard fourth is called "Seminole"
The 178 yard par 3 - fifth is called "Mohawk".
The green complex on the fifth is another Ross masterpiece, even a medium length par 3 can present
serious challenges. Although Ross learned the game in Scotland, he knew how to design target golf as
well as anybody.
The dogleg right sixth called "Comanche" played 381 yards, Jay Sigel and I hit identical tee shots
over the right fairway bunker, leaving just a wedge in.
As is typical of most Ross designs, "long is wrong" - the sixth green is no different.
The seventh (shown above) through eleventh at Aronimink are among Donald Ross' best stretch
of designs anywhere.
The severly downhill 238 yard par -3 eighth is called "Sitting Bull"
A closer look shows the severity of the green complex and it's surrounds, notice that the eighth
and tenth share part of the same surface.
The gorgeous uphill 605 yard ninth, note the left to right tilt to the fairway . . . both Jay & Pat made
great birdies here.
The downhill tenth
Another look at the tenth, shows the the fairway bunker that guards the right side . . . also take
note of the pond that guards the front left portion of the most undulated green at Aronimink.
This view of the tenth shows the challenge you face if you block your tee shot into the right fairway
bunker or rough. Par is not realistic if you miss this fairway here on the tenth, the green and its
surrounds are far too penal.
Past Champion of all things Amateur, former Walker Cup Captain and multiple winner on the Champions
Tour, Jay Sigel guided me around Aronimink. In the photo above, Jay chips onto the tenth green.
The Eleventh hole plays longer than the 388 yards from the middle tees, note the tucked pin
View from the rough on the eleventh, Pat was over here in the deep fescue . . . it was actually
playable, but certainly not the position to attack this elevated and severely sloped green.
The twelfth is a brute from the back tees at 459 yards, short left is the miss here.
13th at Aronimink is called "Blackfoot", a great short par 4 that requires precision.
The Fourteenth called "Iroquois" is another magnificent Ross design that plays 215 yards from the
back tees, and as Jay Sigel explained "it's especially tough when the pin is tucked on that back right
corner as it was for the AT&T in 2010 & 2011".
The Fifteenth is the longest par 4 at Aronimink at 500 yards, any shot moving right to left is likely
to end up in the left rough. This photo doesn't do justice to the amount of slope on this fairway.
The par 5 - Sixteenth is 512 yards from the middle tees, a very get-able hole (Jay and I both made
The par-3 Seventeenth is another of the great one shotters at Aronimink, notice the new Maintenance
compound in the background . . . John Gosselin, the Superintendent and his staff do an amazing job to
keep Aronimink in tournament shape everyday for its members & guests.
Eighteenth tee - stay left center here, there isn't much recovery from the miss right.
The Approach back home on the 436 yard uphill finisher
Aronimink is one of those classic American courses that fits in with the best this country has to offer,
and certainly ranks among the supreme Ross works that I've been fortunate enough to experience -
(My short list of fave Ross designs: Aronimink, Pine Needles, Seminole, Pinehurst No.2, Siwanoy).
Special thanks to Head Professional Jeff Kiddie and his staff for hosting us.