Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course

 
 


It is at this “Cobb’s blog” we want to tell you a story about the first public golf course for the city of Philadelphia.


For first time visitors to this site, you’ll want to go to the bottom of this page and read the posts starting there in reverse.


The vintage photo above is of the 4th hole, and you’ll notice that in the early days Fairmount Park officers patrolled the course on horseback.


If you wish to contact the Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course, send us an e-mail.  Bookmark this site as we’ll be updating it frequently, or follow us on Twitter:  @FriendsOfCCGC


Share this site with others using the shortened URL:  http://tinyurl.com/foccgc


Note:  for the “other” Friends of Cobb’s Creek group that highlights all the good work done by park Friends groups who take care of Cobb’s Creek Park and watershed, go here.


See below for updates (I’m now presenting latest updates first!):


May 7, 2016 update:  I’ve gathered up most of the interesting early photos and aerials of the course and have further updated the recent photo album here.


May 4, 2016 update:  Both golf courses look great this season.  Here is an updated photo album of Cobb’s Creek.  And the new digs to replace the old clubhouse are in the works as this pic shows.


March 31, 2016 update:  Blog reader Jake Murray knew the person fishing for golf balls in this photo.  Jake relays the following:


I knew the man in the picture retrieving a golf ball from the water on the 3rd hole.  He was well known to the golfers and kids like myself who were retrieving golf balls for tips, usually a nickel or a dime, from the water on the 4th and 5th holes.  He was known to everyone as “Kingie”.  I first crossed paths with him in the mid 1950’s.  He wasn’t too happy about the competition!  He would enter and leave the course from the service road that led from the vehicle bridge on the 5th hole to State Road.  He always carried a large bag full of golf balls that were for sale along with his trusty bamboo pole ball retriever.  He probably had a few hundred golf balls in the bag.  A decent golf ball could fetch a quarter.  Especially if it was a Titleist.  He would set up shop at the spring on the 5th hole.  The spring was at the edge of the fairway on the south side of the creek not far from the vehicle bridge.  He would sit on the little retaining wall and clean the golf balls in the spring water.  I can’t ever remember seeing a golfer with their own ball retriever (maybe they weren’t invented yet).  Eventually I moved on to the 6th hole.  I had it all to myself.  No Kingie and no other competition.  On a good day I could make $1.00 in tips retrieving balls from the water and a little more if I sold a few balls.  


March 27, 2016 update:  Below are some photos from the defunct paper Philadelphia Record that were recently gathered from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (thanks to Friends of Cobb’s Creek GC supporter Matt Frey for his help).


Photos of Cobb’s Creek GC from the Philadelphia Record


March 16, 2016 update:  Congrats to Cobb’s Creek GC superintendent Eli Rodriguez as he was named 2015 Superintendent of the Year at BCG (Billy Casper Golf)!  See picture below.


BCG 2015 Superintendent of the Year


February 25, 2016 update:  The Friends of Cobb’s Creek GC again asks for your patience as this project moves (plods?!) along.  Keep the faith.


February 20, 2016 update:  Blog reader Jake Murray has sent along a couple of photos from October 1954 when he and his younger brother were little fellas, right near the park guard shelter by the 14th hole.  A hurricane (Hazel) had recently passed by Philly and brought down trees.


October 1954 pictures of the park guard shelter


February 10, 2016 update:  No real trace of the clubhouse now, as the link below shows.


Razing, cleanup, smoothing about done


February 5, 2016 update:  The clubhouse is now down.


The old gal is rubble


February 2, 2016 update:  Looks like the demolition of the clubhouse is in progress, a link from a picture taken today below.


Demolition of the fire-ravaged clubhouse


January 31, 2016 updated:  William H. Evans was a golf writer in Philly very instrumental in pushing for municipal golf courses in the City.  In 1919 he left the Evening Public Ledger and started writing Sunday golf columns for the The Record, basically replacing A.W. Tillinghast.  In his first article, he talks about how the best hole at Cobb’s wasn’t put into reality because of the rules on removing trees.  You can find a link to that article on the main index page I created here:


Index of William H. Evans Philadelphia Record golf articles


In multiple articles Evans indicates Cobb’s Creek GC was laid out by Hugh Wilson, George Crump, and Ab Smith.  That is quite a threesome.


January 26, 2016 update: A wonderful update on Cobb’s Creek GC being inducted in the AAGHOF is available at MyPhillyGolf as authored by Mike Cirba:


Cobb’s Creek tapped for African American Golfers Hall of Fame


January 21, 2016 update:  It is my distinct pleasure to announce that Cobb’s Creek Golf Course will be inducted into the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in a ceremony in late May of this year in Palm Beach County, Florida.  Thanks go out to many people, with Jake Murray being the driving force and Mike Cirba submitting the application.  Charlie Sifford must be smiling from above!  More details to follow.


January 20, 2016 update:  Going through my files I found a very early photo of the clubhouse.


Early clubhouse photo


January 15, 2016 update2:  Joe Logan penned a short piece on Cobb’s Creek GC 1st day open since the clubhouse fire.


Cobbs Creek GC is open for play


January 15, 2016 update:  I’m told the golf course has reopened today, with temporary headquarters in the building at the City Line range.  Karakung is not yet open.


January 10, 2016 update:  Devoted blog reader Jake Murray has checked in from sunny Florida.  His friend Dick Jamison was a long-time caddy at Cobb’s.  The two recently chatted about the clubhouse and here is what Jake wrote:


My friend Dick Jamison was in high school and a long time caddy at Cobb’s in 1955.  He caddied for UGA Professional Howard Wheeler in the 1955 Daily News Open Monday qualifier.  The qualifier was held at Iron Rock Golf Club in Pennsauken, NJ.  Wheeler finished low enough to qualify.  He made the 36 hole cut and finished the tournament.  Prior to the start of the tournament PGA Professional Doug Higgins asked Dick if he was interested in caddying for him.  Dick turned him down.  He wanted to be a spectator and have the opportunity to see all the players.  Doug Higgins shot a 274, one stroke behind Doug Ford and Ted Kroll.  Doug Ford won in a playoff.


We talked about the Cobb’s Creek clubhouse and the 1955 Daily News Open.  The long vacant women’s locker room on the second floor was used by the pros during the tournament.  The lockers in the men’s locker room were rented to Cobb’s regulars and not available.   I was only 7 years old but was at Cobb’s every weekend with my father.  He had a part-time job delivering ice to all the concession stands in Fairmount Park.  On weekends he delivered ice to the Cobb’s snack bar.  The snack bar was small with only a few tables and was located in the northeast corner of the building.  During the Daily News Open he made multiple deliveries.  He also delivered to the park guard shelter next to the 14th green.  It was converted into a concession stand for the tournaments.


The dining room in the clubhouse had been closed for years.  The only time we could remember it being opened was during the Daily News Opens.  I recall being in the clubhouse dining room during the 1955 tournament in the early afternoon.  I can still remember how fancy and elegant it looked, full of small tables and chairs.  All the tables had white tablecloths and were all fully set.  The room was empty except for me, my father and another man who was in charge, probably the caterer.  Dick told me that he remembers players being in the dining room after the tournament.


January 6, 2016 update:  By now you’ve likely heard that on late Monday night a fire broke out at the clubhouse at Cobb’s Creek and the unit was gutted.  Below I’m aggregating articles/videos about it.


Historic Cobb’s Creek clubhouse gutted, encased in ice


YouTube video of the fire


Dreadful:  Cobb’s Creek Clubhouse Destroyed By Fire


Fire destroys golf clubhouse down the road from Merion


January 3, 2016 update:  Yesterday was a brisk day but good enough for a round of golf at Cobb’s.  Below is a link to a picture of the 18th hole with the clubhouse in the background.  Edit:  it could be the last photo ever taken of the clubhouse before the unfortunate fire on January 4th.


View of the 18th hole and clubhouse


December 24, 2015 update:  Another article mentioning Cobb’s Creek play in December by John Kopp of the PhillyVoice.


Philadelphia golfers taking advantage of mild winter temperatures


December 20, 2015 update:  Warm December weather has led to more play at Cobb’s, as CBS3 documented earlier in the month (see below).


Unusually Warm Temperatures Keep Area Golfers On The Course


December 18, 2015 update:  FofCCGC supporter Ari F passed along this 1931 scorecard (see below) from Cobb’s Creek.  No truth to the rumor that the D golfer on the card was a young Paul C. 


1931 scorecard for Cobb’s Creek


November 16, 2015 update:  Last Saturday (Nov 14) Cobb’s Creek regular Charles Sifford was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame.  His son Charles, Jr. was there to accept on his behalf.  The entire ceremony is here:


2015 PGA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony


November 13, 2015 update:  More good news for Mayor Kenney (and the FoCCGC!) as Michael DiBerardinis becomes his managing director as this note states will happen soon.


November 4, 2015 update:  Congratulations to Jim Kenney for being elected the 99th mayor of the city of Philadelphia!  Good news for the Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course.


November 1, 2015 update:  Saying of the day:  No news is good news.


Those interested in this project, please keep the faith.  Grin.


September 18, 2015 update:  A very interesting find presented to me by an archivist of the Fairmount Park is what appears to be an earlier plan for Cobb’s Creek that ended up on the cutting room floor.  I’ve not had time to fully digest it, nor has my collaborator Mike Cirba, but I thought I would put it up on the blog.


Early Cobb’s Creek GC plan


September 15, 2015 update:  The archivist at Fairmount Park has sent me an undated picture of a plan for Cobb’s Creek, which almost certainly has to be from the early 50’s when the course hosted the 1955 and 1956 Daily News Open tournaments.  Note the 16th hole playing as a par 3 and the 18th finishing on the current 15th green at Karakung.  You can view it here.


August 14, 2015 update2:  Yesterday at Cobb’s I had the pleasure of meeting Zakki Blatt and his mother Stephanie.  Many of you will remember the piece The Golf Channel did on him back in 2013.  He loves Cobb’s Creek!  Here is a Golf Digest story on Zakki and his love for golf:


I’m a Walking, Golfing Miracle


August 14, 2015 update:  Todd Quinones of CBS3 did a story on the project yesterday.  Watch it here:


Efforts Underway To Restore Philadelphia Golf Course


July 21, 2015 update:  Before Joe Dey went to the USGA as their Executive Director (1934-1969) then later was the first commissioner of the PGA tour (1969-1974), he was living in Philadelphia and serving as a sportswriter for a variety of publications.  In August of 1928 just before the US Public Links tourney at Cobb’s Creek, Philadelphia Golfer magazine featured many articles on the upcoming event.  And Joe Dey wrote a splendid piece on the beginnings of Cobb’s Creek.  Read it here:


Cobb’s Creek Roused City


June 23, 2015 update:  Yesterday I visited Cobb’s for the first time since late May.  I was simply astounded by the transformation in progress at the Karakung course.  The new superintendent, Eli “Papo” Rodriguez, is very experienced (previously at 5 Ponds, and also at some high-end clubs like Shinnecock) and hard working (if there was 8 days in a week, he’d work the 8th day too!) and doing wonders.  He has the irrigation system on Karakung working and most fairways and tees are green and grassy.  With a little help from some chemical applications, weeds are being eradicated.  Give him and his crew of 12 until I say next year at this time and you might not recognize Karakung, also known as The Abster-piece after the course architect Ab Smith.  See the photos from yesterday of Karakung below:


Karakung Being Reborn!


June 2, 2015 update:  J.E. Souders penned another article on Cobb’s Creek GC for Golfer’s Tee Times.  You can read it here:


“A Selfless Mission” to Bring Back a Top Municipal Course to Philadelphia


May 14, 2015 update:  Yesterday another piece by Matt Ginella of The Golf Channel featuring Cobb’s Creek aired during Morning Drive.  Here is a link to watch it:


Cheesesteaks, pizza, and golf:  Ginella’s Philly trip


April 22, 2015 update:  In 1929 the Evening Bulletin reprinted a New York Daily News article extolling the virtues of Cobb’s Creek and bemoaning anything as good in New York.  Read it here:


Cobb’s Creek Links Is Model Course


April 3, 2015 update:  The schedule of events for the Cobb’s Creek Publinks Golf Club have been announced:


2015 schedule for The Crickers


March 8, 2015 update:  Beginning tomorrow (March 9) Cobb’s will have a new superintendent, a very affable and enthusiastic fellow named Eli Rodriguez.  Eli joins Cobb’s after a long stint as superintendent at 5 Ponds.  Welcome, Eli!  [Note:  a tip-of-the-cap to previous superintendent Rich Sweeney for a fine job.]


February 23, 2015 update:  We think you might be interested in seeing a masterplan for the creek restoration, as prepared back in 2012 by Land Studies (note, the hole numbers represent the sequencing of the “championship course”):


Cobb’s Creek Floodplain Masterplan, April 2012


February 19, 2015 update:  Sad news to report as long time local golfer and great guy Mark Graham has passed away after a long bout with cancer.  Below is the e-mail I received from Pat Sullivan:


The PPGA lost a great friend and competitor last week.  As many of you know, Mark Graham has been battling cancer for quite a few years now, and although Mark put up a tremendous fight, the disease finally claimed his life.  Mark was a fixture in the PPGA for the last 25+ years.  Among Mark's many accomplishments in golf, he won the Publinks Championship in both 1994 and 1995.


There will be a celebration of Mark's life Saturday, February 21 from 12:00-3:00 at The Valley Top Ballroom at the Great American Pub in Conshohocken.  I have attached a flyer with complete details.


Please keep the Graham family in your thoughts and prayers during this time.


The information for the celebration


February 18, 2015 update2:  Recently Mike Cirba penned a nomination letter to have Cobb’s Creek Golf Course be part of the National Black Golf Hall of Fame.  Many thanks to Jake Murray in helping us with the gathering of information for the submission.  You can read the letter in a link below:


NBGHF nomination letter for Cobb’s Creek Golf Course


February 18, 2015 update:  I took a walk at Cobb’s after the recent snowfall.  The 2nd hole looks very nice after a fresh coating of snow:


Winter wonderland at Cobb’s Creek


February 8, 2015 update2:  Recently I asked blog friend Jake: “Who was Cobb?”  A condensed response is as follows:


The Dutch, Swedes and later English originally settled the area.  The Swedes named the creek, called Karakung by the Indians, Mill Creek.  A number of mills were built along the creek, the oldest by the Swedes in 1642.  It was renamed Cobb's Creek after an early English settler, William Cobb.


Hence, it is Cobb’s Creek, with the apostrophe!


February 8, 2015 update:  Another golf great has passed, this time Billy Casper at the age of 83.  He won a whopping 51 PGA titles, including 3 majors.  Go here:


Coverage at GeoffShackelford.com


February 7, 2015 update:  More good stuff remembering Charlie Sifford:


Philly’s Terry Gross NPR “Fresh Air” interview with Mr. Sifford

Golfing pioneer Sifford got his start at Cobb’s Creek, by Frank Fitzpatrick

Steve Eubanks article at GlobalGolfPost


February 4, 2015 update:  Charlie Sifford, perhaps the best golfer to have regularly played at Cobb’s Creek, passed away recently at the age of 92.  Often called the “Jackie Robinson of golf”, he was a true pioneer.


Coverage at GeoffShackelford.com

Sifford’s obituary by Joe Jiuliano of the Inky


January 22, 2015 update:  Courtesy of friend and supporter Ari Flaisher comes this cover page of the 1956 National Open & Amateur Championships of the United Golfers Association program (btw:  Charlie Sifford won this tournament by fifteen strokes over 2nd place finisher Howard Wheeler!):


1956 UGA program cover

PIcture of Charlie and others with the trophies


January 17, 2015 update:  Follow this link to see how our tome (“Cobb’s Creek Golf Course:  Uncovering a Treasure”) looks when bound nicely and printed on high quality paper.  Our friends at Conlin’s Digital Print & Copy Center (King of Prussia) did so at a very competitive price.  Contact me if you would like to purchase a copy.


January 13, 2015 update:  A belated Happy New Year to all our golfing friends. 


December 1, 2014 update:  Loyal blog reader Jake Murray has followed Mr. Sifford’s award carefully and sends along three links showing Charlie enjoyed the fete:


Sifford takes spot among golf greats

Charlie Sifford, the PGA Tour’s First Black Golfer, Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Sifford receives Medal of Freedom at White House


November 13, 2014 update:  Charlie Sifford, who refined his game at Cobb’s Creek, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Well deserved, IMHO.  Read about it here:


Sifford to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


November 5, 2014 update:  A nice story about PGA pro Michael Wheeler at Bellewood CC, who desires to expose the game of golf to juveniles that have been too frequently on the wrong side of the law.  “Alleys to Fairways” is the name of the program.  Read about it here:


Golf seen as a way to help juvenile offenders


October 22, 2014 update:  In the latest Golf Digest The Donald is interviewed and reveals how he learned the game at Cobb’s Creek while a student at Wharton.


Golf Digest Interview of Donald Trump


October 15, 2014 update:  Cobb’s pro Mike Owsik is part of a story on foot-golf at Cobb’s:


FootGolf Comes to Philly


September 13, 2014 update:  Jake Murray, good friend of the Friends of Cobb’s Creek GC, checked in to comment on the photo that was the topic of the August 12 update:


Enjoyed the picture from the old 17th tee.  I remember that view.  It was probably the most spectacular on the course.  When you compare it to the current picture on your photo album you can see how far the wooded areas have closed in behind and to the left of the green. The old tee was still in use in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  The path to the current tee and down to the bridge was not always there.  From the old 17th tee there was a path straight down to the bridge.  It had been created with fill and in the late 50’s it was badly eroded and difficult to walk down.  The path to the bridge that is currently used was created at some time in the late 50’s or early 60’s and later in the early to mid 60’s the current tee was added.  For a time both tees were available.  I called a friend and talked to him about the 17th tee, and he said the old 17th tee was used during the 1955 and 1956 Daily News Opens, and that the new path and tee were added later as I described.


September 5, 2014 update:  Did you know Hugh Wilson designed the 10th and 11th holes at the South course at Philmont CC?  Yep, he did.  I finally got to see the course yesterday.  Here begins the pics at the 10th hole:


Hugh Wilson holes at Philmont South


August 31, 2014 update:  I’ve recompiled the Cobb’s Creek photo album to include hole diagrams.  If you haven’t looked at this album, you might want to as the first three images show the various hole-sequencings (aka “routings”) at Cobb’s since the course opened in 1916.


Cobb’s Creek photo album


August 12, 2014 update:  The ‘Noer slides’ contain images taken between the 1920’s and 1980’s and covers a variety of things, including golf courses:


The Noer/Milorganite Image Collection


One photo is from the abandoned tee on the current par 3 17th hole at Cobb’s Creek:


1956 view of Cobb’s Creek 17th hole from abandoned tee


July 24, 2014 update:  Big ups to friend Pete Trenham for his wonderful piece on Cobb’s Creek Golf Course at the TrenhamGolfHistory site.  It focuses on five prominent tournaments the course has hosted over the years.  Read it here:


“Cobb’s Creek Golf Club....Past, Present, and Future”


June 25, 2014 update:  Thanks to blog reader Bob Zecca for providing GolfWorld articles on the 1955 and 1956 Daily News Open golf tournaments held at Cobb’s Creek.  Check them out below:


1955 GolfWorld Article on the Daily News Open


1956 GolfWorld Article on the Daily News Open


May 21, 2014 update:  Horace Gamble was an early pro at Cobb’s Creek and a big advocate of the quality, and challenge, of the course.  He wasn’t timid about comparing Cobb’s to other famous courses as demonstrated by this March 16, 1919 article by Perry Lewis in the Philadelphia Inquirer:


Critics Overlook Municipal Course


Apparently this article caused lots of chatter in the golfing circles.  Perry Lewis had a follow-up piece on March 25:


Wonderful Course is Cobb’s Creek


April 30, 2014 update:  Joe Logan recently penned an updated article on the current status of the project (link below).  The Friends of Cobb’s Creek GC still have confidence in the viability of the project.  So, keep the faith friends!


“Cobb’s Creek Restoration Update:  The Good, the Bad, the Realities”


April 9, 2014 update:  Blog reader and contributor Leo “Jake” Murray saw our March 31st update and wrote to me the following concerning African-American golfers and Cobb’s Creek:


Cobb's Creek Golf Club hosted three UGA Negro National Open Championship - 1936, 1947 and 1956.  Howard Wheeler won in 1947 and Charlie Sifford captured the title in 1956.  Wheeler was the Negro National Champion 6 times - 1933, 1938, 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1958 (no tournament 1942-1945).  Sifford also won 6 times - five in a row from 1952 to 1956 and 1960.  Although Wheeler was a local legend I don't think he's ever received the recognition he deserves.


As a teenager I knew Howard Wheeler, as I was at Cobb's almost every day.  Unfortunately his playing days were over, as I think he had rheumatoid arthritis.  Most afternoons he could be found behind the 18th green of Cobb's or on the 14th tee of Karakung.  In the late afternoon the 14th to 18th holes of Karakung were favorites of the gamblers who had day jobs.  It was known as the "Back Five".  I would always say 'hi' and make small talk.  I always called him Mr. Wheeler.  I had heard many stories about him over the years but never any from him.  He was quiet and a real gentleman.  


I spent time with him at the 1967 Philadelphia Golf Classic, a PGA event, held at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club from 1963 to 1980.  Much to my surprise he was known to the pros.  I had heard the stories about him and Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Porky Oliver but it wasn't until recent years that I was able to fully research how great he was.  I last saw him in the fall of 1967, as I enlisted in the Air Force and served in Vietnam.  Howard Wheeler died on April 25, 1968.  He was only 57.  He was a World War II veteran and is buried at the Philadelphia National Cemetery.


March 31, 2014 update:  On May 2, 2014 the World Golf of Hall of Fame will open a new permanent exhibit entitled “Honoring the Legacy:  A Tribute to African-Americans in Golf”.  The historian for the WGHofF, Dr. Tony Parker, contacted me to obtain some photos of Cobb’s Creek as “The Crick” will be part of this permanent display.  As most of my blog readers know, Charlie Sifford honed his game at Cobb’s Creek, and the course hosted multiple UGA championships (1936, 1947, and 1956).


March 26, 2014 update:  Gosh, would I like to buy this 1928 Publinks badge currently for sale at eBayUpdate:  I did buy it!


Badge with authenticity letter


March 14, 2014 update:  Leo “Jake” Murray has continued his wonderful research on the relationship between the Underground Railroad and Cobb’s Creek (see earlier February 25th update).  By working with leads from the Delaware County Historical Society, he summarizes his findings to the blog below:


The land Cobb’s Creek Golf Course occupies today was owned by Samuel Rhoads, 1806-1868.  He was a cousin of Thomas and Edward Garrett and he was a Quaker as were the Garrett’s, Pennock and Sellers.  Rhoads was a good friend of Abraham L. Pennock.  They all worked together to help runaway slaves traveling north.  Rhoads, in addition to having an Underground Railroad station on his property, was a stockholder in the Underground Railroad.  Stockholders provided financial support for the Underground Railroad.  Rhoads traveled to England in 1834 and met many Quakers who were actively engaged in the anti-slavery movement.  On a second visit to England in 1847 he was able to raise considerable sums of money in addition to his own contributions.  The Philadelphia and West Chester Turnpike Road Company was formed in 1848 by a group of Quakers to build a toll road between the two cities, Samuel Rhoads was the President. On old maps from the mid 1800’s todays State Road is called New State Road and where it crosses Cobb’s Creek into Philadelphia it is called Pennock Street.  After his death in 1868 the land was sold to the city of Philadelphia.


In the book “Cobb’s Creek Golf Course Uncovering a Treasure” (page 218),  a reference is made to buildings on the property, “An old homestead on the property that had recently been burned had been rebuilt as the women’s locker and dining room and the barn was remodeled for the men’s locker room and the course offices”.


Abraham L. Pennock and Samuel Rhoads were close friends.  Pennock owned the Howard House, a temperance inn, at the corner of West Chester Pike and Pennock Avenue, ( Pica’s Restaurant and parking lot occupies the site today).  The inn served meals and rented rooms to travelers.  It was also the location of a toll gate on the Philadelphia and West Chester Turnpike.  The Howard House played a role in the Underground Railroad.  It was a meeting place for abolitionists.  Tunnels from the building were found that led to Cobb’s Creek.  Southern businessmen traveling to Philadelphia often stopped at the inn and left their slaves there while they conducted business in Philadelphia.  Upon their return to the inn they would discover that their slaves were gone!  On maps from the mid 1800’s what is today Pennock Avenue extended north and across Cobb’s Creek for a short distance.


February 26, 2014 update:  Recently I penned an article for MyPhillyGolf on the writings of golden age architect A.W. Tillinghast.  He played a prominent role in making the City aware of the need for a public golf course.  You can read my article here:


The treasure trove of golf writing by A. W. Tillinghast


February 25, 2014 update:  One of the great delights of maintaining this blog is the number of wonderful e-mails we receive.  Just today we received the following from Leo “Jake” Murray:


I no longer live in the area but I grew up in the Highland Park neighborhood of Upper Darby in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Highland Park is the neighborhood just south of the third green, fourth, fifth and sixth holes and is visible in many of the aerial photos you have posted on the website.  I frequently visit your website and always look forward to your updates.  I found your January 4th update about “does Bossie’s spirit watch the golfers at Cobb’s Creek” interesting.  Scott-Powell Dairies was a real dairy and many people collect the old milk bottles.  Of course the land the golf course occupies was at one time farmland.  “Cobb’s Creek Golf Course Uncovering a Treasure” on page 218 refers to the land as, “for the most part was undeveloped farm and woodland paralleling Cobb’s Creek”.


Your website update on January 4th made me think about some events that may have happened in the area between 1830 and the start of the Civil War.  A short distance from the Cobb’s Creek Golf Course club house is the Sellers Public Library at 76 South State Road.  This building served as an Underground Railroad station from the 1830’s to the Civil War.  John Sellers, a Quaker, was the station master.  After his death in 1847 his son in law, Abraham L. Pennock, took over as station master.  Pennock was a good friend of Edward Garrett, the brother of Wilmington station master Thomas Garrett.  The three worked together to help runaway slaves traveling north. Garrett, Pennock and Sellers names appear on local street signs, Garrett Road, Pennock Avenue and Sellers Avenue.


I suspect, as the runaway slaves continued on their way north with a conductor, that they would have passed through what is today the Cobb’s Creek Golf Course. I currently live in Florida and recently made a phone call to the Delaware County historical society in an attempt to confirm my suspicions.  To date I have not received the information requested.   I hope to receive information that would confirm that the routes taken to the next Underground Railroad station passed  through what is today the Cobb’s Creek Golf Course.


February 19, 2014 update:  I’m happy to pass along the info that the new superintendent at Cobb’s, starting the 24th of this month, is Rich Sweeney.  He is joining us after being at Rock Manor down in Delaware.  Welcome, Rich!


It is also long overdue to thank the past superintendent Darren Wondolowski.  Darren is staying with the Billy Casper Group family but is moving to another club in Connecticut.  Many thanks for all your work Darren.  And we hope to still stay in contact as these exciting times come upon us.


January 6, 2014 update:  Thanks to our friend Neil R in NY comes this wonderful picture of Phil Ogden of Cleveland on the 3rd green in the championship match of the 1928 National Public Links at Cobb’s Creek (he lost to Carl Kauffmann of Pittsburgh).  A neat cartoon of Kauffmann’s achievement appeared in the Public Ledger on August 5, 1928.


January 4, 2014 update:  If this 1922 Philadelphia Inquire ad is to be believed, the land which the golf course sits used to be a dairy farm.


Christmas Day, 2013 updateOn this Christmas Day, we’re at liberty to share a bit more about the proposed Cobb's Creek Golf Course restoration project, the details of which are presently being worked through legal mechanics with city and state officials.


Going forward, the plan, and yes, detailed plans have already been developed by Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner, and other specialists, is to work with city, state, and federal entities to restore and flood proof the creek along the length of the course, create environmental benefits through creation of tens of acres of wetlands, remove invasive species of trees and plants, restore the original routing of the Old course, reconfigure Karakung into an original nine hole design, top-notch practice facility/learning center, and junior course which would all be configurable into a hybrid Composite course worthy of top national competitions (yes, including a tour or USGA event), and become the permanent home of the Golf Association of Philadelphia.


To accomplish this, private funds have been raised to create a non-profit organization that will both fund this renovation/restoration through a sizable grant to the city, as well as maintain the course in perpetuity. It is proposed that the foundation, aka the Cobb's Creek Golf Foundation, will lease the property from the city of Philadelphia for a term of 99 years.


The mission statement of the Foundation is as follows:


By restoring a Philadelphia landmark, the CCGF will utilize a world-class golf course to provide three core elements to the Greater Philadelphia metropolitan community:


1. Create environmental and economic sustainability for Cobb's Creek Golf Course.

2. Provide premier value driven educational center.

3. Stimulate charitable activity and economic growth in the Philadelphia region.


CCGF's sole purpose is to stimulate charitable activity, economic growth and educate Philadelphia's youth in the values inherent in the game of golf while returning a Philadelphia landmark back to its historic significance.


December 19, 2013 update:  Geoff Shackelford has penned a note for his blog on Cobb’s Creek called “(Potentially) Great Places In The Game:  Cobb’s Creek”.  Go here:


http://www.geoffshackelford.com/homepage/2013/12/19/potentially-great-places-in-the-game-cobbs-creek.html


December 18, 2013 update:  On a recent Grey Goose 19th Hole episode, the panel consisting of host Steve Sands, Geoff Shackelford, John Feinstein, and David Fay discuss the recent tournaments held at classic golf courses (2013 US Open at Merion and the 2013 Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America).  Then the topic turns to what classic courses could and should be renovated, and Geoff mentions Cobb’s Creek (at about 3 min 20 sec mark of the video).  Below is a direct link to the video (yes, you must watch a commercial first):


http://www.golfchannel.com/media/course-classic-venues-need-host-majors


Note:  Geoff is familiar with Cobb’s Creek as I gave him a personal tour of the course the day after the US Open at Merion.


December 12, 2013 update:  In 1948 a plane landed on the golf course!  See the photo here.  That is on the 14th fairway looking back to the 13th green.


December 11, 2013 update:  The text of the article that goes with the pictures in yesterday’s update is here, with the catchy headline of “Philadelphia Catches Up”.


December 10, 2013 update:  Wow, you should see some pictures I have unearthed from the national publication called Golfers Magazine (May of 1926).  Check out the page of pictures here.


December 3, 2013 updateHere is the Master Cricker Greg Jarmas (medalist in the 2013 Ivy League Golf Championship)!  Note how he is proudly wearing a Cobb’s Creek shirt.


November 22, 2013 update:  While you continue to remain patient (trust me!), an excellent holiday gift for the golfer is a book penned by a friend and colleague of mine Jeff Silverman.  His 501 page treatise on the championship story of Merion is now available and is a delightful read.  It is available here.


November 7, 2013 update:  Stay patient my friends!


October 14, 2013 update:  It was the late January 1915 Golf Association of Philadelphia annual meeting when it was announced “that work on the public links at Cobb’s Creek park will begin as soon as weather permits”.   See this note together with a fantastic picture of those at the meeting (including Hugh Wilson, A.W. Tillinghast, and many other noted golfers) here.


October 7, 2013 update:  Check out here this very awesome picture [big thanks to my friend in La Habra, CA, for rehabilitating that photo] of the locker rooms under construction at Cobb’s Creek (1915 or 1916, I think), with the neat mounding behind the 2nd green.  The women’s locker room on the right (the current clubhouse) and the men’s locker room on the left (the current luxurious maintenance headquarters for Darren and his crew).  This picture is similar to the one from the September 29, 2012 update below.


October 4, 2013 update:  More early pics of Cobb’s Creek from friend John B. are now available.  Two pics from the first hole (here and here), one of the 3rd green here, and two from the 4th tee (here and here).


September 28, 2013 update:  The back of the 1931 scorecard in the 9/24/13 update is here.  It shows the 11 holes in play on the Karakung course, the “Abster-piece” as Mike Cirba and I have dubbed it, designed by Ab Smith.


September 24, 2013 update2:  Long time player at Cobb’s Bob M. has checked in and sent along some early scorecards.  Check out this beauty from 1931 here.


September 24, 2013 update:  A friend of the Friends of Cobb’s Creek GC recently came upon three nice photos of the course from 1964.  You can view them here (18th green at Cobb’s), here (the 18th green at Karakung) and here (first fairway at Cobb’s).


September 23, 2013 update:  Mike Cirba has penned part 2 of “Who Was Hugh Wilson”.  Anyone with an interest in Hugh Wilson and Cobb’s Creek should read this and part 1.  Follow the link below:


Who Was Hugh Wilson? – Part II


September 14, 2013 update:  In 1947 Cobb’s Creek hosted the United Golfers Association National Negro Open.  Howard “Butch” Wheeler won his 4th of six National Negro Open titles that year (and he played cross-handed!).  Read about it from the sports page of the Philadelphia Afro-American newspaper here.


August 20, 2013 updateHere is a picture of the creek on the 5th hole from the Public Ledger in 1916.


July 30, 2013 update:  Thanks to Pete Trenham for providing this course diagram from the 1955 Daily News Open official program (click link below):


1955 Daily News Open Course Diagram


July 24, 2013 update:  Quite the headline here from the opening round of the 1928 Public Links at Cobb’s Creek (from the August 8, 1928 edition of the Evening Public Ledger).


July 8, 2013 update:  With the course in tip-top shape, I thought it deserved a new photo album.  Hence, based upon two recent visits I have this to offer:


Cobb’s Creek 2013 Photos


June 21, 2013 update:  Nice article on Bob Mayes, a golfer that played at Cobb’s with Charlie Sifford:


Mayes’ journey to the ’74 U.S. Open


June 18, 2013 update:  Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger penned an article on Cobb’s Creek GC last Sunday.  Read it here:


Cobb’s Creek Golf Club, four miles from Merion, preparing for rebirth


June 11, 2013 update:  If you missed the excellent piece on Cobb’s Creek GC by The Golf Channel Monday morning, you can view it here:


Morning Drive story on Cobb’s Creek


Note:  that video probably won’t play on an iPad or iPhone (unless you use the Chrome web browser on those devices which can play streaming flash videos.).


June 9, 2013 update:  It is time to release the latest versions of the Master Plan for the proposed Cobb’s Creek GC restoration project.  The “Historic Course” link below is for the restoration of the golf course to essentially what it was in 1928 until the early 50’s, and includes modification of the Karakung course to a wonderful 9-hole layout as well as a practice course and new driving range:


Historic Course


The second drawing shows an extremely clever composite golf course envisioned by architect Gil Hanse and his associate Jim Wagner that is called “Championship Course” (see link below).  We feel this composite course is of the quality and length to be able to host tournaments with players at the highest level.  This tournament course utilizes 4 tees and greens from the Karakung property resulting in a layout over 7200 yards (par 70).


Championship Course


June 7, 2013 update:  Programming note - A piece specifically on Cobb’s Creek by Matt Ginella of The Golf Channel will air this Monday (June 10) on Morning Drive (7 – 9 AM EST).


June 5, 2013 update:  Mike Cirba has written a fascinating article entitled “Who Was Hugh Wilson?”.  You can read it here:


Who Was Hugh Wilson?



May 30, 2013 update:  Matt Ginella of The Golf Channel was out to Cobb’s Creek GC yesterday to meet with the Friends of Cobb’s Creek GC.  Interview to be included on a piece concerning Philly public golf courses on Tuesday of US Open week (June 11).  Here is a picture of Matt interviewing Chris Lange.


May 18, 2013 update:  Ed Abrams’ TeeItUpPhilly site has also checked back in on the project:


http://www.teeitupphilly.com/?p=2676


Cinco de Mayo 2013 update:  Well, the cat is nearly completely out of the bag now!  Just this afternoon Joe Logan from MyPhillyGolf reports on the latest regarding a restoration of Cobb’s Creek:


http://myphillygolf.com/detail.asp?id=13153


May 4, 2013 update:  see the June issue of Golf Digest for a nice article on Cobb’s Creek by David Owen!  The article is available online:


http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-courses/2013-06/david-owen-muny-life


April 29, 2013 update:  Gil Hanse discusses progress on the Olympic golf course with Joe Logan here:


http://myphillygolf.com/detail.asp?id=13112


April 27, 2013 updateHere is an aerial of the 2nd green in 1930 (picture courtesy of the Hagley Museum).


April 23, 2013 update:  Note here how much bolder the green surrounds at the first green were in 1930 (picture courtesy of the Hagley Museum).


April 12, 2013 update:  With the movie "42" coming out later this week chronicling the admission of the first African-American player into Major League Baseball in 1947, it's good to see that at its most basic level, at least some of golf was integrated well before then in Philadelphia, as written here (from the September 20, 1924 edition of the New York Age).


April 8, 2013 update:  Local golf course architect Gil Hanse loves Cobb’s Creek.  Check out his 2011 interview by Joe Logan of MyPhillyGolf:


http://www.myphillygolf.com/detail.asp?id=9117


March 24, 2013 update:  Brad Klein also did an extensive profile of Gil Hanse recently:


http://golfweek.com/news/2013/mar/15/olympic-course-architect-hanse-wins-jobs-personal-/


March 19, 2013 update:  Brad Klein of GolfWeek reports that work begins today on the Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro:


http://golfweek.com/news/2013/mar/19/work-finally-starts-rio-2016-course/


The architect is Gil Hanse of Malvern.  Gil has done work at Cobb’s Creek over the years, in particular rebuilding the 4th green.


January 21, 2013 update:  Nice picture here (courtesy of the USGA) from the 1928 US Publinx tourney held at Cobb’s Creek GC.


January 2, 2013 update:  Check out the unique shape of the current 10th green here in this 1939 aerial from the Dallin Collection (courtesy of the Hagley Museum).


December 20, 2012 update:  Tomorrow (Friday, Dec 21) there will be a Holiday Happy Hour at Cobb’s Creek from 12 noon till 5 PM.  Mike and I will be there at the beginning and hope to see some familiar faces, and meet a few new ones too.  Pics from this nice gathering are here.


December 12, 2012 update:  Do you remember the article back in April 2008 by Joe Logan, former golf writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, entitled “With a little help from a few friends”?

A readable version of the above article is here.


December 10, 2012 update:  It took a little over a year to build the course.  Construction began on April 12, 1915 and the course opened on May 29, 1916.  Read about it here from the April 12, 1915 edition of the Evening Public Ledger.


You’ll notice the name William Flynn in the article.  He went on to become quite the golf course architect, with Shinnecock Hills on Long Island being his masterpiece.  In the Philly area his courses include Philadelphia Country Club, Rolling Green GC, and Lancaster CC among others.  The definitive book on Flynn was penned by Wayne Morrison and Tom Paul and is called “The Nature Faker – William S. Flynn, Golf Course Architect”.  To purchase this electronic book, contact Wayne.


November 30, 2012 update:  The Cobb’s Creek Golf Association completed another successful year.  Check them out at:  www.the-crick.com


Contact Paul Cornely for more info and how to join.


November 29, 2012 update:  Progress on the clubhouses as reported in the September 30, 1915 edition of the Evening Bulletin is here.


November 28, 2012 update:  Probably the first skilled golfer to come out of Cobb’s Creek was Joe Coble. He won the US Publinx title in 1924. He was feted by the Cobb’s Creekers as written about here by Frank McCracken of the Public Ledger on July 30, 1924.


November 24, 2012 update:  A long time supporter of Cobb’s Creek, Don D., checked in to tell us he has a 1917 painting from the course by Roy Mason. It must be seen in person to be fully appreciated, but here is a picture of it.


November 14, 2012 update:  After a dormant period on the blog, I hope this is the first of many additions this off-season!  Here is another early photo, looking back from the 3rd green.


July 24, 2012 update:  Two PGA tournaments were held at Cobb’s Creek GC (1955 and 1956 Daily News Open).  Here is a picture of Bob Hope making an appearance in June of 1956.


June 12, 2012 updateHere is a picture of the 3rd green in 1916 (from the Public Ledger).


June 11, 2012 update:  Exhibition matches involving prominent amateur golfers were popular in the 10’s and 20’s.  Here is a photo of one from Cobb’s Creek, the lady golfers on the 12th green (the current 6th green).


June 7, 2012 update:  Back in the 20’s it was not unusual to have a multitude of people waiting to tee off at Cobb’s Creek.  Go here and get in line!


June 1, 2012 update:  The reason part of Cobb’s Creek GC changed dramatically was due to the installation of an Army AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) Gun Site Program (a precursor to the Nike missile defense program) in 1953 on the corner of the course where the current City Line Avenue driving range sits.  Here are two aerials from 1958, one with the base present (June), then later removed (September).


May 31, 2012 update:  Recently the Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course met with Ed Abrams of KYW 1060 Newsradio and TeeItUpPhilly.com.  From that interview will be a segment on Cobb's Creek as part of the station's "Golf Report".  It will be broadcast tomorrow and Saturday at the times below:


KYW Golf Report:

<runs fri:   9:10a, 12:10p, 3:10p, 6:40p, 8:40p, 11:10p>

<runs sat:  5:10a, 7:40a, 10:40a, 3:10p, 5:10p>


The full podcast will not be available until tomorrow, and here is the location it will be:


http://www.teeitupphilly.com/?p=1988


It will also be the topic of the CBSPhilly golf blog:


www.cbsphilly.com/golfblog


May 30, 2012 update:  William Evans, the golf writer for the Public Ledger, grew tired of there being no public course in Philly, and recruited the help of President Taft.  Here is the letter Taft wrote to Evans and published on February 23, 1913.


May 29, 2012 updateHere is an entertaining picture from the 4th hole at Cobb’s from the July 10, 1928 edition of the Evening Public Ledger.


Memorial Day, 2012 update:  Charlie Sifford was the first African-American on the PGA Tour.  Did you know he honed his game at Cobb’s Creek?  This from James W. Finegan’s wonderful book “A Centennial Tribute To Golf in Philadelphia”:


“Charlie Sifford was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1922. He grew up caddying and learning to play the game there, then came to Philadelphia in 1940 to live with an uncle, James Sifford, near 18th and Norris. The 17-year old landed a job as a shipping clerk at the Nabisco plant on Roosevelt Boulevard, and soon got wind of the municipal course at Cobb’s Creek.”


“Young Sifford was surprised and delighted to find both blacks and whites playing at Cobb’s Creek. “I’d never seen anything like that in North Carolina,” he writes. “But in Philadelphia, on the public courses at least, things were different…here was a place where I could play without having to worry about some groundskeeper coming by to run me off the course.” After a number of hours on the practice tee, he felt he was hitting the ball well enough to take on anybody who might show up at the Philadelphia muni.”


May 26, 2012 update:  Do you know how busy Cobb’s Creek was in the 20’s?  Some years more than 80,000 golfers are reported to have played it.  Here from the November 1927 edition of the Philadelphia Golfer magazine.


May 25, 2012 update:  A variety of people likely helped design and build Cobb’s Creek.  As support, this snippet from the Jan 1, 1916 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer here (part of bigger article on golf entitled “Drives and Putts” by “Joe Bunker”).  Ab Smith, George Crump, and Hugh Wilson are three very notable names in early Philadelphia golf.


May 19, 2012 update:  Even a New York newspaper praised Cobb’s Creek soon after it opened!  Read about it here (from the August 28, 1916 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a very prominent newspaper in its day).


May 14, 2012 update:  Before Joe Dey went on to the USGA and later the first president of the PGA, he was a writer for the Evening Bulletin.  In 1931 that Philly paper ran a series of articles called “Golfing Waterloos” where a local hole was profiled.  On April 15, 1931 the original 6th hole was featured, and you can read it here.  The last 2/3 of this par 4 is still present at Cobb’s Creek, the current 16th hole.  Just imagine that hole playing from the original tee, today’s par 3 6th!  Note:  in the photo from the May 11th update below, where the 5th green is being constructed, you can see the 6th hole fairway corridor in the upper left, now an area that is tree-covered.


May 11, 2012 update:  On May 30, 1915 the Philadelphia Record published some pictures updating the progress at Cobb’s Creek.  See them here (that is the 5th green under construction).


May 10, 2012 updateHere is a picture (Public Ledger, 1915) of the original 12th hole, a downhill par 3.  Currently this is the par 3 6th green, played from a much different angle.


May 8, 2012 updateHere is the routing for the US Publinx tourney at Cobb’s Creek in 1928.


May 7, 2012 update:  Not long after the Public Ledger showed a routing (see May 5th update below) for Cobb’s Creek GC, the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 16, 1915 published a similar figure.  The main difference being the par 3 14th hole appears to have the green moved and the hole stretched to 175 yards.  View it here.


Cinco de Mayo, 2012 updateHere is the original routing at Cobb’s Creek GC from the April 11, 1915 edition of the Philadelphia Public Ledger.


May 4, 2012 updateIn the summer of 2008 the Friends of Cobb's Creek Golf Course met with Til De Palma, probably the oldest living person familiar with the Cobb's Creek Golf Course. He caddied there as a youngster in the 20's. You'll hear him describe many aspects of his days there, including caddying for Joe Coble, a very accomplished golfer that won the 1924 US Publinx tournament.  Unfortunately, Til is no longer with us, he passed away in late 2009.


Watch the video here:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCjsGQEizAk


May 3, 2012 update:  Ed Abrams of KYW Newsradio and TeeItUpPhilly.com has mentioned ‘the tome’:


Two local guys with a love of golf architecture and who dream of what could be at Cobb’s Creek Golf Club, have now compiled a comprehensive history of what it was.  Comprehensive might be an understatement:  it is 344 pages worth of interesting reading.


Here is the link:


http://www.teeitupphilly.com/?p=1881


May 2, 2012 update:  Late last year a friend sent pictures (here and here) of two Cobb’s Creek tags he owns (from 1934 issued by the Commissioners of Fairmount Park).


May 1, 2012 update:  Joe Logan of MyPhillyGolf has checked in again on the Cobb’s Creek front.  His article begins with:


The magnum opus that is the history and design evolution of Cobb’s Creek GC is complete and now available on the Internet for your reading enjoyment.


Weighing in at 344 pages, the manuscript, titled Cobb’s Creek Golf Course: Uncovering a Treasure, is by far the most complete – some would say mind-bogglingly exhaustive – chronicle of Philadelphia’s best known and most historic city-owned golf course.  Designed by Hugh Wilson, the same architect credited with Merion GC East and West Courses, Cobb’s Creek has long been regarded as a gem in is own right, albeit a gem in need of tender loving care.


Read the entire article here:


http://www.myphillygolf.com/detail.asp?id=11350&pid=20


April 26, 2012 updateA century ago, Philadelphia's golf leaders believed that building exceptionally challenging golf courses would help develop top competitive golfers in the region, which led to the creation of Merion East, Pine Valley, and... Cobb's Creek. Read the amazing history of the course that in its time was viewed as the best and most challenging public links in the country and the story of the visionary men responsible.


For more, check out the online book “Cobb’s Creek Golf Course.  Uncovering a Treasure”, available here:


http://www.trenhamgolfhistory.org/PTHGCobbsCreek.html




 

Cobb’s Creek Golf Course:  Uncovering a Treasure