The roots of the Bala Golf Club (which is in Philadelphia and not Bala Cynwyd) 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 (across the street from where Channels 6 and 10 are today). 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 built their course on the site, roughly half way between the original homes of Philadelphia Country Club and Overbrook Country Club.
The trolley, by the way, went to the old Woodside Park, which later became the home of WDAS Radio on Edgely Road, just off Belmont.
The Bala Golf Club was established over a hundred years ago in 1901. The club's original course layout (1893) was attributed to Willie Dunn and redesigned by Willie Tucker.
The original course was 2,647 yards with a par of 35 and a half. Those of those holes had a par of four and a half each. Although the original course was higly regarded, the pressure to go to an 18 hole course convinced the membership to expand, and, in 1923, William S. Flynn, a noted designer, 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.
The course is considered to be quite short with no par 4's reaching 400 yards and only one par 5. The course has an unusual par of only 68. It has an estimated 15,000 round played annually.
This course was built on a rolling terrain and has some small challenging greens with numerous deep bunkers. There's water hazards at 6 holes. The PGA Sectional tournaments are held annually at Bala, the site of the 1952 US Women's Open.
Bala Golf Club
The entrance is on Belmont Avenue a few blocks below City Line Avenue (near Channels 6 and 10 and the radio stations in Bala Cynwyd). That's the 15th fairway you see as you drive by the long, beautiful road up to the main building where our events are held. There's plenty of free parking on the top lot and valet parking at the bottom lot.
When you enter the club, Ingliss House is on the right and you come to the 14th hole. The busy, noisy city has turned into a quiet, peaceful golf haven.
On your left, you can see a house through the trees. This is "The Rabbit," a private club dating from 1861. The members periodically gather to prepare and eat a meal and enjoy each other's company. They moved to the current location in 1871. The house was built in 1742. The Bala Golf Club was built around the other buildings.By this time as you curve into the top parking lot, you're surrounded by golf and the city is a memory. The 12th hole is on your right and the 11th green is in front of you. Occasionally, you do see signs of the city, but mostly is just beautiful greens and nature.
They share the land in various ways. The Kearsley Retirement Home is surrounded by the course (4th through 7th holes), but outside of the occasional snap hook from the 5th tee, the residents are undisturbed. Bala also has it's wildlife - their latest addition is a family of foxes living under the 9th tee. They also have an unusual breed of black squirrel, apparently introduced by a member long ago. You'll see them nowhere else in the entire United States.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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