Rees Jones returning to enhance southeast Pennsylvania course

Rees Jones returning to enhance southeast Pennsylvania course

Jones and associate Bryce Swanson will work closely with superintendent Alan FitzGerald at LedgeRock Golf Club.

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March 26, 2019

LedgeRock Golf Club outside Reading, Pa., will be undergoing its first major course renovation since the feted Rees Jones design opened for play in 2006. 
 
During 2019, Jones and his team will concentrate on two holes at LedgeRock — the downhill, par-3 10th and the uphill, par-4 17th — with plans to adjust other holes going forward. Ground has already been broken this spring on 10; it should open by Memorial Day Weekend. The plan for 17 calls for construction to be completed in late 2019. Alan FitzGerald, the only course superintendent LedgeRock has ever had, will oversee the effort using in-house construction crews. 
 
The changes will be substantial: the 10th will be equipped with an array of new tee locations, allowing this single hole to play from as many as six new angles and elevations. At the somewhat notorious 17th, Jones will soften the club’s most difficult hole. 
 
“Every golf course needs to be reevaluated from time to time,” Jones said. “At 17, we are taking out the cross bunker to make the hole more playable for every caliber player. On hole number 10, we are building more tee locations to create more shot variety on a daily basis.” 
 
Jones’ design associate Bryce Swanson will direct the renovation measures on site. He explained that tree clearing on 10 got underway in 2018. 
 
“These new tee positions make sense agronomically — more sun, more air movement, spreading the wear and tear around more tees — but they will also create some really cool, new angles of attack,” Swanson said. “The club deserves credit for taking the initiative here. They’ve demonstrated a real sophisticated vision for LedgeRock. What they did with that teaching facility, for example, was way ahead of its time — clubs just weren’t doing that sort of thing 10 years ago. We relish the opportunity to complete that vision with the renovation of these two holes.”
 
LedgeRock Golf Club opened in 2006, 15 minutes southwest of Reading, on 212 acres of terrain marked by striking elevation changes and riven by half a dozen roaring brooks. In an era when golf courses and private clubs are closing down in droves, LedgeRock has thrived by doubling down on golf itself.
 
“We have no tennis courts or swimming pools here,” said general manager Gerry Heller, who arrived in 2017 from Philmont CC in Huntingdon Valley, outside Philadelphia. “It’s a very lively, social place, but our members are here for their golf. They’re devoted to it. I’ve worked at elite clubs all over the country, but I’ve never seen a learning center double as such a social hub.”
 
Designed in a carriage-house style by the architects at Blackney Hayes, the LedgeRock Learning Center was among the first to offer state-of-the-art swing analysis and indoor hitting bays that deploy FlightScope, Boditrak and K-Vest technologies. There’s a dedicated instruction studio, an indoor putting and chipping green, and an array of fitting systems for clubs. 
 
The complex, which also serves the club’s oversized outdoor range/practice facility, is centered around a great room with adjoining patio and fire pit. With its own food & beverage capability, plus commanding views of the 13th and 14th holes, the learning center has proved a popular venue for corporate meetings. “But we’ve got to be careful about that — the members just love to gather there,” Heller said.
 
Golf courses nationwide are indeed closing in record numbers — a net loss of some 150 each year since 2008, according to the National Golf Foundation. Private clubs have been particularly hard hit; hundreds have closed outright, but hundreds more have been obliged to go public. Berks County alone has seen a dozen golf properties shuttered over the last decade.
 
Market forces would appear stacked against the success of LedgeRock, but Heller believes that ultimately they have contributed to it.
 
“Two quite prominent private clubs in Harrisburg also closed their doors recently and a number of those players have come to play their golf here,” Heller said. “I could cite a dozen similar examples. It’s terrible to see all these closures, but it has helped us evolve and grow as a club, strategically. Today we do view ourselves as a regional private club with members from outside what a typical private club would consider its ‘market.’”
 
“The club has adjusted to what is a new, broader market,” new golf professional Zach Halvonik added, “one that really extends past Harrisburg, north of Reading, south to Lancaster and all the way into the western Main Line suburbs. That’s why we maintain the Kohl House,” a four-bedroom guest cottage where members can stay the night. “The market determines a lot of what we do here, including renovating these two holes, to make the golf course that much better and attractive to prospective members.”