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The History of Bala Golf Club

Philadelphia's finest private club since 1900


Founded in 1900, Bala Golf Club has a long and storied history. The roots of the Bala Golf Club reach back to the spring of 1893 when two men - George Reach and Charles Hickman - watched a well-dressed foursome play the links along a City Avenue golf course. Getting the idea to start their own club, the two men joined with a group of prominent Philadelphians and purchased a plot of farmland just inside the city limits on Belmont Avenue - a location that was easily accessible by trolley or train. They decided to build their course on the site, roughly half way between the original homes of Philadelphia Country Club and Overbrook Country Club.


Over the years many of the original golf clubs that lined City Avenue at one time succumbed to the pressure of the burgeoning city and relocated their entire Club to a more suburban locale. Prestigious Philadelphia Country Club was originally located on the site of the old Adam's Mark Hotel. In fact, when they moved to their new home in Gladwyne in 1939, Bala Golf Club "inherited" many of their greens and they are still being used today by our Members.


That site, laid out by Willie Tucker, provided the club members with a 9 hole, 2,747 yard layout with a par of 35 1/2. Although the original course was higly regarded, the pressure to go to an 18 hole course convinced the membership to act, and, in 1923, William S. Flynn, a noted golf course designer (among them, Rolling Green, Huntington Valley, Cherry Hills in Denver, The Country Club in Brookline, Seaview, Shinnecock Hills, and Lancaster CC), was brought in to renovate the course. Flynn's challenge was to build nine additional holes, fold them into the Tyler design, and fit it all into the existing acreage. He succeeded admirably.

Hosting of the 1952 US Women's Open (won by Louise Suggs) and the grooming of renowned amateur champion, Jay Sigel, are among Bala's most notable contributions to the game.


suggs-bala.jpg The Women's Open was the 7th edition of the event. The only other Women's Opens held in the Philadelphia area were at Atlantic City CC (1948, 1965, and 1975), Moselem Springs (1968), and Rolling Green (1976). The results are described as follows on the USGA website:


Miss Suggs won her second Championship with a record-breaking 70-69-70-75—284 at the Bala Golf Club, Philadelphia. As far as is known, her score was the lowest ever made by a woman over 72 holes in a major competition. The Misses Marlene Bauer and Betty Jameson tied for second at 291. In the second round, Miss Marilyn Smith made a single-round record of 67, and Miss Bauer matched this in the third round.


The purse was $7,500. The course measured only 5,460 yards, and par was 69.