The present site of the Chester Valley Golf Club (CVGC) was once two farms, the Smedley farm (141+ acres)
and the Hatton farm (46+ acres). The land was purchased in 1928 by members of the Pennsylvania Railroad Golf Club (PRGC) for the magnificent sum of $350 an acre. The real estate agreement called for the property to be used solely as a golf course for at least 10 years. Prior to 1928, the PRGC rented space at Llanerch Country Club in Delaware County.
The land occupied by Chester Valley Golf Club, which straddles Swedesford Road in Malvern, was, in the latter part of the 17th century, a place where Swedish fur traders exchanged rum for beaver pelts with the Native Americans, presumably a Lenape tribe. A hundred years later, General Washington and General Howe deployed their respective forces for a battle that was rained out when a nightlong torrential storm soaked both armies’ gunpowder.
By the time golf came to the Chester Valley, more than 150 years later, the would-be battleground was farmland. The Railroad provided the land, but construction of the course was financed by the $90,000 raised when 300 bonds were sold at $300 each to railroad employees. All this on the very brink of the Depression. The original clubhouse of the Pennsylvania Golf Club (now Chester Valley) was a converted barn, more than a hundred years old, when the club opened in 1930 and was completely destroyed by fire in 1950.
The PRGC incorporated the Chester County site on March 6, 1928 and continued to operate the Llanerch site while the new course was being built. By November of 1928, of the 215 proprietary memberships available in the new club, more than half had been subscribed. According to the prospectus, the memberships were open to “any Director, Officer or Employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company”.
The new course was officially opened on Memorial Day, May 30th, 1930 with 55 foursomes of men and 5 foursomes of women competing in the Opening Day Tournament. A playoff was necessary to determine the men’s winner, Mr. Stanberry. Mrs. C. W. Voorhis was the winner of the ladies' competition.
This beginning of the new golf course was a valiant undertaking for the times. The Great Depression was being felt all over the area, and in 1931 the PRGC even held a tournament to benefit unemployed local residents. Membership never reached its full potential, and the club sold in 1948 by the railroad to the existing members and became the Chester Valley Golf Club (CVGC).
There is some question as to who laid out the eighteen. Some evidence points to Donald Ross, but Cornish and Whitten, in The Architects of Golf, attribute it to Perry Maxwell, who had designed Melrose four years earlier. In any event, there was nothing predictable about the routing plan. At no point did more than two consecutive holes proceed in the same direction, so that the battle with the breeze was a constantly shifting one. Significant changes in elevation meant that the player was faced with a number of hilly lies. The greens tended to be small and relatively simple. And since the fairways were decidedly narrow, bunkering was confined mostly to the greens.
The next milestone for CVGC was the 1968 re-routing of the golf course due to the building of Route 202 across a part of the land. CVGC was paid about $265,000 for the land, and George Fazio was hired to redesign the layout. The only remaining original (1928) holes are number 3 and 4.
Chester Valley has long been considered, by most, to be one of the “hidden gems” of Philadelphia golf, and as such was selected to host the Senior PGA tour in 1985. Hosting the senior tour, for 13 of its 16 years in the Philadelphia region, Chester Valley became known as one of the toughest tests on the Senior Tour, and its 6th hole was ranked in the top five of toughest holes year to year.
Golf at CVGC continues to thrive as it has passed its 75th anniversary. CVGC continues to be thought of as a hidden gem, and remains one of the premier courses in Chester County, the Philadelphia region, and the entire Delaware Valley.