Wyncote Golf Club continues to earn accolades, impress golfers
● By Steven Hoffman
Jim Pepple knows his golf course and the land that it is situated on very well. On a sunny morning in late June, he looks out on the Heathlands-style course with its Bent grass and declares that it is too green—the result of a wetter-than-normal month.
These days, Pepple will sometimes show up for work at the Wyncote Golf Club in Lower Oxford Township at five o’clock in the morning so that he can play a round of golf at eleven o’clock. On weekends, he makes a point to stop by to sample the prime rib that now ranks among the most popular items on the specials menu. The golf industry is extremely competitive; the restaurant industry maybe even more so. But twenty-three years after Wyncote opened, Pepple still lives and breathes what happens here, still gets excited when the course earns yet another accolade.
The most recent praise for Wyncote, which translates to “windy cottage,” came from Golf Magazine, one of the authentic voices in the industry, which placed the course at number five on its list of the top courses in the state.
“There are 800 public golf courses in Pennsylvania, so getting that type of recognition is always nice,” Pepple explained.
Accolades like this have been rolling in almost since the day the course opened in in 1993. It was designed by award-winning golf course architect Brian Ault. Pepple recalled the time in December of 1994 when he found out that Golf Digest had rated Wyncote as the third-best new course in the country.
“I really did not have a clue yet that I had a good golf course,” Pepple explained. “Brian Ault gave me a good design. It’s the highest-rated course that he ever designed.”
Over the course of the last 23 years, there have been plenty of highlights and times when the Wyncote Golf Club shined in the spotlight. Even the top golfers in the world are challenged by the tall grasses, quick greens, and ever-present winds. Wyncote was the site of two Exelon skins game events that featured top professional golfers like Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, and Davis Love III. The course earned great reviews. Numerous other professional athletes, including members of the Philadelphia Eagles and basketball great Charles Barkley, have played the course, too. Pepple fondly recalls one of his sons serving as a caddy for Barkley.
One of the more recent highlights for Wyncote is the addition of Tim Brown, a 17-year PGA professional, who joined the staff in April of 2014. Brown was born near Philadelphia and raised in southern New Jersey, learning to play golf in one of the best regions in the country for the sport. When he embarked on his professional career, Brown served as an assistant golf professional at St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida before being selected as an instructor in the Nicklaus/Flick golf schools. In 2000, he became the director of instruction at the English Turn Golf and Country Club in New Orleans, and then took the position as head professional at the Timberlane Country Club. In 2009, he was named by Golf Digest as the top golf teacher in the state.
After more than a dozen years teaching golf in the south, Brown wanted to move back to this area. He settled in Avondale and reached an agreement to open a golf academy at Wyncote, where he works with members and guests. He incorporates state-of-the-art technology in his lessons, utilizing the Swinguru 3D center of gravity system, Flightscope 3D-X2 launch monitor, Tomi Putting motion analysis, Casio high-speed cameras and V1 golf video software.
Pepple is glad to have him on board.
“He did more lessons last year than any pro that I’ve had here,” Pepple said, explaining that Brown has proven his skill at working with golfers with various skill levels. One gentleman had a tendency to push the ball too far right or to the left. Brown worked with him one afternoon and had him change his swing plane. The advice worked, and the golfer was driving the ball much further as a result. It's this type of practical instruction that can help golfers as they develop their skills. As any golfer will attest, improving one's game is an ongoing effort.
Brown is excited to be teaching golf in this area.
“I think you have the best golf courses in the country within 100 miles of here,” Brown explained. “It’s very, very competitive here. The number of great golf courses in this area is incredible.”
Wyncote certainly has earned its place among them.
Pepple has seen a lot of changes in the golf scene during the last 23 years. The sport’s popularity ascended to new heights when Tiger Woods arrived on the scene in 1996, changing the history of golf forever. The “Tiger Effect” encouraged many people who had never tried the sport to take up golfing, and helped the U.S. golf economy to grow to $75 billion.
Pepple said that he sees a lot more women enjoying the sport, and couples are playing golf together a lot more. One of golf’s major attributes, according to Pepple, is the sport’s handicapping system that allows participants to compete against each other, regardless of skill level or age. Golf, more than most sports, can be enjoyed throughout a lifetime.
Despite its merits, golf has had a difficult time attracting millennials, which will make it difficult for the sport to grow in the future.
“Golf is a tough game because of the time requirement, the cost of the equipment, and the greens fees,” Pepple explained.
Yet, on a recent weekday, Pepple looked around him as he was playing his 11 o’clock round of golf and saw as many men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 as there were older golfers.
While Wyncote has always attracted regional golfers who want to put their skills to a test, Pepple has always been a strong proponent of introducing golf to youngsters in this area. On this day, a group of seven- eight- and nine-year-olds are practicing hitting the ball off the tee as Brown offers words of advice. Wyncote has earned much acclaim since it opened, but its most lasting impact may be this: An awful lot of men and women and boys and girls have fallen in love with the sport of golf on this course.