Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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Fairways G.C.: Compact, fun

Written by Steve Gordon on .

"We like to say we are the best kept secret in Bucks County," quipped president Joe Lightkep about his Fairways Golf and Country Club in Warrington.


Indeed there are no big billboards or signs but lots of word of mouth advertising. . You can drive down Street Road north of Easton Road and go past the access road into the club through an established housing development and not know it.


Designed by William Gordon, who did a lot of work in the area, the club opened in 1965 in a county mostly devoid of golf facilities at that time. Fairways is a privately owned course open to the public with a very loyal core of community players as it offers leagues for juniors, seniors and women.


This 18-hole layout that winds its way through the community between homes and plays to 4,503 yards with six par-3 holes and no par-5's. There are no back tees for the long hitters, but there are shorter tees.


It is, perhaps, a perfect place for new players, juniors, seniors and the ladies to play and have a nice comfortable and enjoyable round of golf at an affordable price. It isn't going to attract the more accomplished players, but the old style design offers up some challenges nonetheless where strategy is more important than booming it 300 yards off the tee.


The green sets at Fairways are well conceived and bunkered so that even with a short iron approach into the greens the sand and some water can play havoc.


Take the 341-yard first hole for example. There is fairway straight out and you can hit pretty far down it, but for the approach you can't see a retention pond that rises above the level of the fairway where a misjudged or miss hit approach could cost you.


Lighkep likes the 2nd and 8th holes as his favorites on the course. At 322 yards the second hole appears wide open with a wide expanse of rough and open area between it and the first hole it borders. The left side is OB and as open as the hole is, many a player has over compensated and found the right side rough. From there a large bunker must be carried to get to a sloping green.


The 100 plus year old clubhouse with its friendly attendants offers a casual and comfortable place for a drink and a snack. There is no pro shop with the latest clubs and equipment.


The par-3 holes range from the shortest 109-yard 3rd hole to the 168-yard 7th hole. There are no 200-yard plus killer par 3's but that isn't to say these one shot holes don't offer a challenge. There are no pitch and putt holes and you have to earn your pars and birdies.


The greens putt true but with gentle slopes and subtle breaks putts can slide one way or the other as they pass the cup. As with any putting green, judging speed is essential and these greens can surprise even the most accomplished player if care is not taken.


Each hole has its own character which is the mark of solid golf course design out of the playbook of Design 101: An Introductory to Golf Course Design. The 372-yard 5th hole has a creek crossing the fairway that is out of reach from the tee for the average player. It is, however, in play with a wayward tee shot as trees and OB bounder both sides of the hole.


By contrast, the 284-yard 6th hole features that same creek that is in play off the tee and requires a well thought out and place tee shot to approach the green set into some trees. Number six has OB left but is open with high rough on the right. A bad lie in that rough could be problematic.


On the 8th tee the player is faced with trouble on the right and a fairway that is tiered and rises 10 feet above the landing area. There is unseen water that can cause havoc with a short tee shot. Lightkep said he likes the hole because it can play tough. That lake on the 8th hole creates some scenic beauty on the back nine as it borders the 17th fairway as you make your way back to the clubhouse.


On your journey around the back nine you will come across the 11th hole which is a 291-yard par 4. A quirk of the course has a local rule dictating that only irons can be used from the tee. It is for protection of homes that are in close proximity to the hole that doglegs right around them. Another novelty of this hole is a telephone pole that can come into play.


The round finishes up with a semi-blind tee shot where you can risk hitting over the fairway bunkers on the right and cut off the dogleg of this 334-yard closer. Or you could play it safe and aim down the middle of the fairway to the top of the hill and have your ball follow the contour down the backside of the hill when you strike a solid shot.


A grandparent would be perfectly comfortable taking his grandson or granddaughter to Fairways for a round of golf and into the clubhouse for refreshment before, during or after the round and introducing the grandchild to the staff and his friends there. Likewise a parent would be comfortable dropping a teen player off and leaving him or her there to play and wait to be picked up at a prescribed time.


Motor carts are available, but Fairways is a very walkable and fun golf course.