Before golf came to Chester Valley, it was a place where Swedish fur traders in the 17th century 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 on the land for a battle that was rained out when a nightlong torrential storm soaked both armies’ gunpowder.
The would-be battleground was Chester County farmland when it was purchased in 1928 by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, which had originally leased space on Manoa Road in Delaware County and built a golf course in 1923 for its employees to enjoy. The Manoa Road property was called the Pennsylvania Golf Club (PGC).
To help fund construction of the new course in Malvern, the railroad company sold some of the land to employees, who purchased bonds for $300 per acre. Ninety thousand dollars was raised from the sale of bonds – all while the country teetered on the brink of the Depression.
The PGC incorporated the Chester County property on March 6, 1928 and continued to operate the Manoa Road site while the new course was being built.
It is not entirely clear who laid out the eighteen. Some evidence points to Donald Ross, but Geoffrey Cornish and Ron Whitten , in The Architects of Golf, attribute the layout to Perry Maxwell, who had designed JC Melrose Country Club four years earlier. In any event, there was nothing predictable about the original design. For instance, no two consecutive holes proceeded in the same direction, which made the shifting breezes a battle. Significant changes in elevation meant golfers were faced with numerous hilly lies. Since the fairways were narrow, bunkering was confined mostly to the greens, which tended to be small and relatively simple.
By November of 1928, more than half of the 215 proprietary memberships had been assigned to directors, officers, and employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.
On Memorial Day, May 30, 1929, the new course kicked off with 55 foursomes of men and five 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.
The club persevered even as the Great Depression was being felt everywhere; in 1931, the PGC even held a tournament to benefit unemployed residents of Chester County. Then, in 1948, the railroad company sold the club to the existing members, who renamed it the Chester Valley Golf Club (CVGC).
The next milestone for CVGC was the 1968 re-routing of the golf course due to Route 202’s construction across part of the land. CVGC received approximately $265,000 for the land, and George Fazio was hired to redesign the layout. The only original (1928) holes are numbers 2, 3 and 4 and the number 9 green.
The original Clubhouse was a converted barn, more than a hundred years old, when the club opened in 1930 and was destroyed by fire in 1950. Today’s stunning, 24,000-square-foot Clubhouse was built in 1994 with large windows overlooking the course and pond.
From 1985 to 1997, Chester Valley was selected to host a tournament event for the Senior PGA Tour (now called PGA Tour Champions). The players viewed the course as a favorite stop, providing one of the toughest tests on the Tour. In fact, year to year, its 6th hole was ranked in the Top Five most difficult holes. World Golf Hall of Famer Lee Trevino called Chester Valley a “hidden jewel” of Philadelphia golf.
Additional improvements to the golf course were completed in 2009. All 18 greens and fairways were redone with bent grass; eight greens were rebuilt, and the tee boxes were refurbished. The putting green and short game practice facility were also rebuilt and improved.
Fast approaching its 100th anniversary, Chester Valley Golf Club remains one of the region’s premier courses and a club treasured by golfers and families alike.