Lester George to create long term masterplan for historic North Hills


Lester George to create long term masterplan for historic North Hills
Sean Dudley
By Adam Lawrence

Golf architect Lester George has been engaged by historic North Hills Country Club in Philadelphia to create a long-range master plan of renovations for the club. The golf course, originally designed by J. Franklin Meehan in 1908, and later renovated by William Flynn, was built around the remnants of three abandoned iron mines.

“We want to help North Hills improve the architectural quality and maintainability of the golf course, while recognising and respecting the Philadelphia golf architects who came before us,” said George. “The campus-wide master plan, which includes the golf facilities and other revenue-generating opportunities, will address the course’s greens, bunkers, tees, grassing, drainage, vegetation, and practice facilities. Relocating and repurposing some amenities at North Hills could offer some significant enhancement to the club. We are looking at ways to offer first class amenities to North Hills’ current and future members.”

“I joined North Hills when I was just out of college,” said Bob Garis, the club’s president. “A friend of mine was a member, and he loved it. So, when I found out the club had a great deal for junior members, I joined the club without ever having seen the golf course. It was the greatest thing I ever did! I fell in love with the course the first time I played it. That was 36 years ago, and – while North Hills remains a wonderful club with a fantastic membership – we have an ageing facility, which is causing us to fall behind the clubs around us.”

“To compete in the marketplace, updated facilities are a must,” said George. “All too often, we see excellently designed golf courses that have been diluted and altered over the years by a small change here and there that sometimes adds up to a golf course that plays very little like its original design. The course at North Hills was purportedly renovated by Hugh Wilson and William Flynn, as well as some smaller renovations and changes by others over the years.”

“We have had very well-intentioned boards making suggestions for changes and additions to the golf course and other facilities. Some were hits; others were misses. Those that didn’t work so well are causing problems, and we want to restore the course to its old glory and increase our membership,” Garis added. “Our long-range planning committee, while active and dedicated, needs the guidance and vision a golf course design professional brings to the table.”

“We are very pleased with Lester; he is really listening to everyone and taking all of our requests to heart while putting together this plan for the club,” Garis continued. “We kind of fell into this process. Our vice president and course superintendent went to a USGA seminar at the DuPont Country Club, where Lester was speaking about renovating golf ranges and practice facilities. Lester said a club didn’t need to be restricted, despite having a small area, so the board decided to invite him to look at our practice facility. One thing led to another, and we are now making a master plan. Moving forward, we knew it was imperative that we have a plan in place that is assembled by professionals for future well-intended boards to use as a roadmap. If there is an opportunity to make changes, they will have the club’s long-range plan right in front of them to follow.”