Field guide: Exploring Gil Hanse-designed French Creek Golf Club

French Creek Golf Club in Elverson, Pa.

Ed. note: As GOLF’s chief photographer and visual editor, Christian Hafer visits some of the most gorgeous and exclusive golf courses and properties in the world. Here, in his Field Guide, he’ll take you along for the ride. Lucky for us, Christian never leaves home without his camera. Follow Christian Hafer on Instagram here.

With popular designs like Streamsong’s Black Course or the overhaul of Pinehurst No. 4 — to name just a few — Gil Hanse is everywhere these days. But before the Olympic course in Rio or the high-on-my-list-to-see Ohoopee Match Club in Georgia, Gil and his crew tossed dirt around in Central Pennsylvania.

Across the street from Stonewall, where the 2016 U.S. Mid-Am was contested, sits a member’s club that is straight-forward golf. Carved into the hillside of Amish country, French Creek, which opened in 2003, weaves around the property to create countless intriguing golf holes.

It has all the old-world charm of a classic Scottish course with a few modern tweaks.

The 1st gently moves uphill while the 2nd is a wild ride back down with a massive swale in front of the green. There is no let up from there. French Creek may have some quirky property to navigate, but Hanse did a wonderful job of transporting the golfer into another realm.

The 9th is a split fairway par-4 that uses an elevated and blind green into a semi-punchbowl. Its quirks, like on this hole, elevate the experience. The 16th, 17th and 18th stretch is one of my favorites I’ve played. It has all the old-world charm of a classic Scottish course with a few modern tweaks.

Christian Hafer

French Creek is often overshadowed by its neighbor, but that’s probably fine. This early Hanse clearly shows his roots in design and construction, and I’d assume members are just fine keeping it to themselves.

So, if you ever find yourself near Elverson, Pa., find a member, make the call and enjoy the round. For a few hours you’ll be transported to a far away golfscape that will leave you wanting more quirk in your life. Also, they have golf boards, and I am here for it.

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