By Tom Cunneff
How fitting that Philadelphia, the “cradle of the nation,” will welcome back the national championship after a 33-year hiatus. While much has changed in the “City of Brotherly Love” since David Graham recorded his final round 67 to win the 1981 U.S. Open at Merion, Philadelphia’s cherished landmarks and historic attractions have never gone out of style. The city’s Main Line clubs (like Merion) are decidedly private, but a handful of top-notch venues built in the past 15 years on the city’s outskirts now welcome visiting players. Couple good golf with venerable attractions, excellent hotels, and authentic Philly cheese steaks (plus other culinary delights), and the nation’s fifth-largest city presents itself as a post-Rocky destination worth exploring.
Golf Course at Glen Mills. Attached to Glen Mills School, an educational institution for troubled teenage boys, this exceptional daily-fee course serves as an outdoor classroom for youngsters interested in landscape maintenance, golf course management, and other disciplines. Always in top condition, this brawny Bobby Weed-designed course has dramatic rock outcrops, sharp elevation changes, and 170 bunkers, many of them stacked-sod pits. Bring your A-game.
Broad Run Golfer’s Club. West of the city is Chester County, where expansive horse farms stretch for miles across the rolling hills. Broad Run, a big, burly course laid out by Rees Jones on a former colonial farm, features a good mix of holes routed across valley floors, heavily wooded areas, and up and over steep ridges. Formerly known as Tattersall, Broad Run’s clubhouse is a restored 1702 stone farmstead.
Jeffersonville Golf Club. Located in West Norriton Township, “the Jeff,” a muni designed by Donald Ross in 1931, was treated to an extensive makeover in 2002 that resulted in a virtually new 6,443-yard, par-70 course that fully captures Ross’s trademark look. With a sub-$30 weekday green fee, this walker-friendly test, marked by inverted saucer greens and grass-faced bunkers, is Philly’s best deal.
Independence National Historical Park. Even if you’re not an ardent fan of history, it’s hard not to get excited by the “most historic square mile in America.” Start at Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public on July 8, 1776. The city’s best-known symbol, the Liberty Bell, was rung for the first time that day to commemorate the occasion. Other park highlights: Christ’s Church, where 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence worshipped; Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupied residential street in America, dating to 1702; and the first U.S. Mint, opened in 1792.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. At the south end of Fairmont Park off Benjamin Franklin Parkway, this magnificent museum, its exterior patterned after ancient Greek temples, has 200 galleries that house nearly 250,000 works. The collections include paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp, and many more. Other highlights include early American furniture, Amish and Shaker crafts, Asian art, Renaissance and Baroque works, and medieval galleries with complete structures such as a Romanesque cloister and a Gothic chapel.
Where to Stay
Four Seasons. This impressive granite hotel on Logan Square, its guest rooms furnished in Federal style, gets the details right: toile-patterned draperies, mahogany furniture, water-color paintings. Enjoy afternoon tea or a pre-supper cocktail in the Lounge, followed by dinner in the hotel’s Fountain Restaurant, which serves exquisite Continental-French cuisine (with service to match) and is ranked among the city’s best dining rooms.
Rittenhouse Hotel. This deluxe 98-room hotel, known for its distinctive sawtooth façade and Belgian cobblestone courtyard, overlooks the city’s most elegant park. The plush guest rooms, accented by marble baths, are done up in a blue-and-gold motif. Mary Cassatt Tea Room offers signature cocktails in an English-style garden with a gazebo, while Smith & Wollensky serves some of the best steaks in town.
Latham Hotel. A small, elegant, European-style hotel, the Latham, built in 1907, was constructed on the original site of William Bucknell’s home and is recognized by the National Register of Historic places. Located in the heart of the city’s business district, the Latham is one block from Rittenhouse Square and offers a complimentary chauffeured car service to guests.
Amada. Brilliantly reinterpreted Spanish tapas are a staple at this exceptional Old City restaurant headed by executive chef Jose Garces. Expect earthy Mediterranean flavors and creative versions of centuries-old recipes, including garlic shrimp and lobster paella. The seasonal sangrias are superb.
Morimoto. Dazzling sushi is on display at this popular Washington Square West restaurant run by Stephen Starr and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. In addition to sushi, a fascinating array of cooked dishes is featured, all of it served in a dreamy, luminescent space.
Pat’s King of Steaks. No Philadelphia dining experience is complete without sampling an authentic cheese steak. Head to the source, Pat’s in south Philly, where Pat and Harry Olivieri are credited with inventing the sandwich by serving frizzled beef, onions, and cheese on hoagie rolls in 1930. Open 24 hours. Cash only.