When I was growing up, a family wedding brought me to Philadelphia, and I played LuLu Country Club, a nice little Donald Ross course which neighbors Manufacturers’ Golf and Country Club (Mannies for short). I remember looking up and seeing Mannies prodigious clubhouse overlooking the grounds and thinking that I always wanted to play the course.
Fast forward nearly a decade later, and I finally had the opportunity to play Mannies on my recent trip to Philadelphia. I had a great lineup that included Commonwealth National and Philadelphia Cricket Club, but Manufacturers’ was where I was most excited to play. Thankfully, I wasn’t let down. It is a terrific golf course and a hidden gem in the robust Philadelphia golf scene.
Mannies was founded by a group of wealthy industrialists (hence the name), who hired the great local Philadelphia architect, William Flynn to do the design. Manufacturers’ is blessed with a tremendous piece of property, and one of Flynn’s strongest attributes as an architect was his ability to use the natural terrains he was given. Something that jumps out to the most casual observer is how the course naturally glides through the great property with Flynn using the elevation masterfully.
Over the years, Manufacturers’ fell victim to tree overgrowth and bunker deterioration, so the club contracted Forse Design to do a restoration in an attempt to uncover Flynn’s original design qualities. Work commenced in 2014, and the club was able to reopen by Memorial Day of 2015, with Mannies returning to greatness.
Hole 1 – 385 yards – par 4
Mannies starts with a bang with a downhill tee shot that is very similar to Riviera C.C. One has to think that George Thomas, a fellow member of the Philadelphia School of Architecture, drew from Flynn’s first tee shot when designing Riviera. The short par 4 is relatively wide and lets you choose what type of a shot that you would like in.
Hole 2 – 396 yards – par 4
The second hole is the first time that you encounter the Sandy Run River which winds its way around the property and through many holes. The river runs down the left side of the 2nd and later in front of the green. While a tee shot down the left side will lead to a shorter approach, favoring the right side of the fairway is wise to avoid being blocked out on your second shot on this dogleg left.
On the approach, Flynn camouflages the creek extremely well as it appears much closer to the green than it actually is. A feature I love about Manufacturers’ is the shaved runoff areas. Here’s a good look at the 2nd’s.
Hole 3 – 455 yards – par 4
A brute of a par 4, the 3rd requires two excellent shots for a birdie opportunity. An ideal drive is down the right half of the fairway to set up your mid-iron approach to this elevated and severely sloped green.
A wise approach shot to the challenging 3rd green will keep the ball below the hole and right of the pin where you will have an uphill putt. If you are short and don’t hit your pitch hard enough it will roll back down to your feet. The 3rd is one of the strongest par 4’s I have ever played.
Hole 4 – 186 yards – par 3
The first of the many challenging par 3’s at Mannies. At the 4th, you are faced with a downhill mid-iron shot to a severely sloping green from right to left. This hole has a lot of redan qualities in it. I left myself right of the hole pin high and couldn’t believe how fast the putt was. Luckily, I hit the hole.
Hole 5 – 431 yards – par 4
A beautiful par 4, the 5th features an elevated tee shot that needs to avoid the deep fairway bunkers on the right side of the fairway. A good drive will leave a short-iron to wedge approach shot to the green which is guarded by the Sandy Run River that again plays a role on the shot.
Hole 6 – 199 yards – par 3
Another difficult par 3 with a lot of redan characteristics, the 6th requires a good long-iron shot to the elevated green. While the tee shot is quite challenging, the real test comes on the green which is severely sloped from back to front.
Hole 7 – 500 yards – par 5
The first of the scorable par 5’s at Manufacturers’ is the dogleg right 7th. Again, we see the Sandy Run River play a role on the tee shot as it is just close enough to the fairway to make you think about it. With a good drive down the right center of the fairway, you’ll find yourself in a go-zone for just about everyone. Flynn challenges players to hit a precise 2nd shot in order to make birdie. The elevated green is very big and is guarded by an extremely deep bunker that makes for an extremely difficult up and down.
Hole 8 – 117 yards – par 3
The 8th is a charming and short par 3 into a quarry with their iconic halfway house in the background. The 8th’s small punchbowl green forces you to hit a precise wedge shot while controlling your spin if you plan on hitting it close to the pin.
Hole 9 – 471 yards – par 5
A beautiful short par 5 that gives you another great birdie opportunity to close out your 9. The 9th’s tee shot gives you a great view of Manufacturers’ iconic clubhouse. If you can find the fairway off the tee, you will be left with a mid-iron 2nd shot into the par 5.
The fun starts at the green which has two tiers and a ton of slope. I hit my tee shot left and was forced to chip out to wedge distance. I hit what I thought was a perfect shot only to have it spin off the green, leaving a challenging up and down for par.
Hole 10 – 425 yards – par 4
The back 9 starts with a strong dogleg right par 4. Long hitters can cut the corner, leaving a wedge approach, but a shot too far right will stay in the rough and leave a tough approach angle and lie to control the ball.
The approach is guarded by the Sandy Run River which runs in front of the green, not allowing a shot to run up onto the green and putting a premium on finding the fairway.
Hole 11 – 201 yards – par 3
Another challenging uphill par 3 that requires a good long-iron shot in order to make a birdie or par. I love how Flynn was able to frame the hole with the beautiful cross bunkers in front of the green. The 11th is a very similar hole to the 6th, with the green sloping from back to front.
Hole 12 – 525 yards – par 5
A dogleg right par 5 offers another good birdie opportunity after a good tee shot which cuts the corner over the right fairway bunkers.
While a short par 5, again Flynn tests players with their approach to a small green that’s protected by deep bunkers on the right and left sides which make for a tough up and down.
Hole 13 – 233 yards – par 3
After the birdie opportunity on the 12th, Flynn challenges you with an extremely difficult par 3. The 13th plays close to 250 yards when the flag is back and requires a great shot just to hit the green. Guarding the green are bunkers on the right and left sides, but there is enough room for you to run a shot up the front of the green.
Hole 14 – 432 yards – par 4
One of my favorite holes at Mannies is the great par 4 14th. A good tee shot will favor the left side of the fairway to leave an ideal approach to the well-guarded green. A great aspect of this hole is the rolling fairway which leaves you with uneven lies, making the approach even more difficult.
The green moves from left to right and is protected by a big greenside bunker that guards the right side of the green. The bunker makes you decide how aggressive you want to play when the pin is on the right side of the green.
Hole 15 – 540 yards – par 5
The longest par 5 at Manufacturers’ plays slightly uphill but is still reachable for a longer player. An ideal tee shot will favor the right side of the fairway and from there, you have to decide whether to go for the green or lay back to a wedge.
The small green has a runoff area on the left side and cross bunkering on the right that makes running a shot up difficult.
Hole 16 – 430 yards – par 4
The signature hole of Mannies back 9 is the 16th, a tough par 4. Long hitters have to be wary of the quarry that cuts into the right side of the fairway about 310 yards from the tee.
A good tee shot will setup a mid-iron approach over the quarry to a green that is protected on the left side by a bunker.
Hole 17 – 370 yards – par 4
A short par 4 that gives you options off the tee. The options are to control a shot on this tight tee shot with a long iron or try and rip a driver past the trees and leave a flip wedge into an extremely challenging green.
The 17th is a great short par 4 because of the difficult approach shot that Flynn creates with the downhill lie, heavily sloped green and treacherous bunker that guards the front left of the green.
Hole 18 – 426/538 yards – par 4/5
The closing 18th at Manufacturers’ features two greens, one below the hill that the clubhouse sits on and one at the top of the hill. Depending on which green is played, the hole can be a par 4 or a par 5. I played the hole to the bottom green, making it a tough dogleg left par 4. The tee shot is semi-blind and challenging, especially if you are trying to finish off a good round. The line is the right center of the fairway in order to avoid a pesky tree that comes into play on the left side.
From there, you are left with a mid-iron approach to the tough green which has a big false front, rejecting any shots that are a little short.
A unique aspect to Mannies is the hill that the clubhouse sits on. It is so steep that it requires players to take a train up the hill. Definitely one of the most unique post-round experiences I’ve had.
I thoroughly enjoyed Manufacturers’. It is a spectacular course that often gets lost in the discussion of best courses in Philadelphia. While it doesn’t have the championship pedigree of many of the area courses, it has a distinct playability and enjoyment level that have found at very few courses. One of Flynn’s strongest design traits was his ability to create variety in his courses, rarely having consecutive holes that require the same types of shots. Mannies is a shining example of this as each hole is extremely unique from the previous, and if it is similar to another, such as the par 3 6th and 11th, there is considerable time in between them.
Mannies allows for good scores, but will equally punish poor shots. In order to shoot a good score, you need to have your whole bag working as it tests all of your clubs by requiring precision off the tee to take advantage of its scorable par 5’s, a great long iron game to tackle the challenging long par 3’s and a strong short game and putting to avoid losing shots on and around the extremely challenging greens.