I just want to preface this with the fact that this is pretty much the golf course where I learned to play the game. That was 10 years ago and the course was in great condition.
I just played here this past Friday and I have to say course was in poor condition. There were weeds growing out of the bunkers, the greens were terribly inconsistent, the grass in general was long and had a lot dirt spots. ( I have included pictures).
We played after 3pm on a Friday, so the cost was only $20. Even with that price I was still dissapointed. They have recently increased their prices to 41 dollars on weekends. With that increase I hope they bring the course back to the great conditions of years past.
I will only come back to the course if I'm trying to squeeze in a couple of holes after work or if they somehow upgrade the conditions.
I should start by saying that I'm far from a golfing snob. I have always played public courses and love their eccentricities. Hell, for three years I was a happy member of a municipal course where players were known to get robbed on the 14th hole (until the local police posted an officer there from time to time). So, when i read the negative reviews on various sites, I figured they were from players more familiar with country club conditions.
Boy, was I mistaken. This is the most poorly maintained course I've ever played. Sweet gentle Jesus, It's almost unreal. There's neither rough nor fairway...just crabgrass with patches of dirt. The bunkers are mostly nonexistent (as the aforementioned crabgrass has taken over most of them). Some of the greens are more than 50% dirt. I often had to tee the ball to avoid patches of rock. A few of the wooden bridges were literally missing pieces. I could go on, but you get the idea. Granted, it's August as I write this and all well-played courses are showing signs of wear. But Walnut Lane's problems go well beyond some patches of burned-out grass.
As another reviewer stated, it's a real shame. You can see how beautiful a course this once was (hence the second star)...thoughtfully winding it's way through the Wissahickon Valley. It's a classic shotmaker's layout...not long or particularly hard, but consistently interesting. But it would take a sizable investment to reverse the neglect that's destroying it. Very, very sad.
I figured this would be the perfect place to bring my buddy - who is just learning how to play. He can get the club on the ball, knows how to putt so the next step is to actually get out there, right? Over to Walnut lane, a course I've played many times with tempered expectations - though I seem to have a worse time each time out. Getting to play 18 holes of golf here for $20 is definitely getting what you pay for.
Needless to say, he wasn't that impressed with the place and I am becoming less and less so as each day passes. I wont even get into the fact that the greens are wildly inconsistent from front 9 to back, the lack of a crosswalk between the 7th and 8th holes and that the fairways, and that you have to play winter rules 100% of the time. A good shot down the fairway is rewarded for hitting a clump of grass and craggedly bouncing every which way. The bunkers have weeds growing in them and nobody bothers to rake them.
to my surprise, last Friday, I saw a ranger out and though he was going to speed up the couple of 4-somes in front of me since it was REEEALLY SLOW. I ended up skipping a few holes and the culprit was a 3-some full of teenagers, one of them barefoot playing bumper cars with the carts and doing donuts in the fairway. All the ranger seemed to care about was hawking for golf balls.
Having a decent, friendly course doesn't really require much at all - a clubhouse that gives out green repair tools, puts sand in the carts for repairing the fairways and has their rangers actually patrol the course for slow play should be easy and just about free.
Its great having this place so close to home. Reasonably maintained and priced.
I will be back soon.
Walnut Lane is my absolute favorite public golf course within the city limits. It is carved out of the edge of the Wissahickon Valley, and can sometimes stun you with devastatingly gorgeous views. Many people like flat, open courses (probably because they lose less balls there). I say play straight and if you lose a few along the way, chalk it up as the price to pay for playing as in the woods as you can get and not be playing frisbee golf.
As others have noted, the course itself is not particularly hard or long (though if you go cartless, the hills will make the walk more than challenging enough). As a city course, it's also not maintained or groomed to the standard of private clubs, but there's something to be said for the element of wildness to the place and they actually do a darn good job of keeping it up with no budget and few staff. That said, it's the perfect place to hone your game and the "nice walk" actually is a nice walk even though it includes wonderful natural terrain challenges like hills and valleys and doglegs and creeks! If golf is more of a leisure sport than internal competition for you and your friends, Walnut Lane is easy enough and shaded enough that you can take your time and have a few beers while you play-- just let the serious, old men who frequent the course play through and you'll be fine :)
Prices are steep for a public course, but these days the city's so broke we're lucky they haven't sold it off yet (and they tried last year-- pretty darn hard, too). One of the only things that bothers me is that the Weekend Season Pass does not include Fridays, but if you come in on a Friday they charge you weekend prices. That sucks-- I know they need to make money, but you shouldn't be able to have it both ways... Despite this one flaw, I LOVE Walnut Lane and always will... I think you'll like it, too...
Weekday : $24 ; after 1pm $19 ; after 3pm $19
Weekend: $30 ; after 1pm $25 ; after 3pm $20
Championship: 4,509 59.9/91
Regulation: 4,271 59.9/91
Forward: 4,069 59.9/91
Hazards: 14 Bunkers, Grass Bunkers, 1 Creek & a variety of Trees