After spending the holiday weekend doing some sightseeing in South Central Pennsylvania, I could have picked a more convenient area to golf on Tuesday. I backtracked a bit to stay in York on Monday night but I really wanted to check out some of the local courses! Pennsylvania is one of my favorite states for golf because the courses are cheap, always in nice condition, and I love playing on bentgrass!
My morning round was at Royal Manchester and I picked it for two reasons. First, it is a links style course and I like the look of those type courses, especially in areas that are tree covered! Second, my research indicated that Royal Manchester seems to be the best public course near York.
You won’t find Royal Manchester on the list of best public courses in the state, but that’s not because it is a slouch! Royal Manchester is part of the Raspberry Golf Trail, which is a collection of 18 courses in the Mid-Atlantic managed by the same company. I’ve played a third of the courses over the years and never have been disappointed with the maintenance at any of them! The Raspberry Golf Trail’s website is laid out well and I’d encourage you to book a time at any of their courses based on my experiences.
I’ll jump right into the review here and say the maintenance at Royal Manchester was phenomenal! Astounding, incredible, or perfect are all other words that come to my mind. In a typical year, I’ll probably play 50 different courses that encompass all levels of conditions. I’m not joking when I say that Royal Manchester will be one of the top two or three courses that I’ll play all year when it comes to the maintenance. Depending on exactly where I end up playing, it could vie for that top spot! And I only paid $40!
Not a blade of grass was out of place anywhere and everything looked as good as it seems in the pictures. I kind of felt bad driving on the fairways and setting a pin down on the green to putt! The fairways and tees were full, cut short, and looked like carpet. Royal Manchester had the look of a top course with multiple cuts of grass. The greens were bordered by two different apron cuts before getting to the rough and then there was a first cut of rough off of the fairways. The rough was thick and all I could do was hack it out.
The greens were smooth, quick, and on the firm side (like the rest of the course) so I had to factor in a hop on the first bounce. The condition of the greens were unbelievable considering that the course lost the greens last year due to some bad chemicals. There are a couple articles online that you can find, but the maintenance crew has done an A+ job restoring them. I’d love to play every round on a course that is maintained as nice as this one!
I loved the layout just as much as the conditions too! Royal Manchester is a links style course with wide fairways and large greens. Fescue covered mounds separate the holes so that play from the other holes isn’t much of a bother. The course is newer, built in 2010, and sometimes these newer “links” courses can disappoint because they require every shot be hit in the air. But, that’s not the case with Royal Manchester. It is true to its links name in the fact that there aren’t any trees in play and that there are some openings to bounce approaches up onto the green. The necks aren’t always wide so your best bet is still going to be flying the ball in with some spin, but I didn’t feel like I needed to hit it sky high even with firmer conditions. There are only two holes where you will “have” to carry it onto the green and those are the 9th and 18th holes, which have water short of the green.
I played the Black tees which play 73.7/127/6962. The biggest difficulty is probably going to be all the mid-length par 4’s and getting the angles right the first couple times around here. The fairways are wide, but they aren’t the easiest to hit because they have some slope. Combine that with the fairway bunkers and minor elevation change and it was tough to get a clean look at the greens after getting off the tee. I didn’t hit many good drives, but after the few that I did I found myself wishing that I had aimed at a different spot in the fairway! The greens didn’t have an overwhelming amount of break, typically they had a level or two and some slopes that could feed shots towards a pin location. You might end up with a couple short birdie putts! Timothy Freeland designed the course and I’ve never heard of him before. Based on what I saw here, I’m excited to go play Old Hickory (another of his designs) which is in Northern Virginia.
The only real knock against Royal Manchester that I can see is that the scenery isn’t great. Royal Manchester is in an industrial area on the edge of the Susquehanna River. The river cannot be seen from the course, but the nearby Brunner Island Power Plant (coal-fired) can be seen from almost every spot on the course. Personally, I liked the view of the power plant as it isn’t something that you often see from a golf course! However, there was some noise from the site and transmission lines ran threw the course. On the other side of the course is a police station and some homes. If you like trivia, then you’ll want to look upstream when you stand on the 2nd or 16th tee boxes. I’m not an infrastructure nerd, but I saw another power plant to the north. Come to find out, that is Three Mile Island Power Plant which was the site of a partial nuclear meltdown in 1979!
Besides my poor driving, I had a great morning at Royal Manchester! The fog burned off right as I stepped on the 1st tee and I plodded my way around in 3 hours. I’d love to be able to play more golf during the week! I liked the open look of the course and that it allowed a chance to recover. Wyncote is a public course closer to Philadelphia that gets a lot of love from the golf magazines. I played there last year and liked it a lot, but I liked the design of Royal Manchester more. If Royal Manchester was on a more scenic piece of property then I think you’d see it among the top public courses in Pennsylvania! Make sure to check this place out!
#1 (393 yard par 4):
#2 (178 yard par 3):
#3 (590 yard par 5):
#4 (410 yard par 4):
#5 (431 yard par 4):
#6 (164 yard par 3):
#7 (380 yard par 4):
#8 (416 yard par 4):
#9 (495 yard par 5):
#10 (394 yard par 4):
#11 (182 yard par 3):
#12 (572 yard par 5):
#13 (350 yard par 4):
#14 (423 yard par 4):
#15 (196 yard par 3):
#16 (518 yard par 5):
#17 (437 yard par 4):
#18 (433 yard par 4):