Norm Wilde’s Guide to Golfing in Greater Philadelphia
There are at least 50 golf courses in the Greater Philadelphia Area, which is an ideal situation for Norm Wilde. Norm has been an avid golfer for over 62 years and has played both public and private golf courses all over the world. And yet, Norm does not hesitate to say that the absolute best golf course he’s ever played on is just across the Delaware River from his home at The Hill at Whitemarsh.
Norm has enjoyed membership at the exclusive Pine Valley Golf Club since 1983, which has been ranked as the Number One Golf Course in the World by Golf magazine. The Club, which was founded in 1913 by a group of amateur golfers from Philadelphia, has some unique qualities, including the fact that each hole is not laid out parallel to the next, preventing players from viewing any hole but the one they are playing.
Through his membership at Pine Valley Golf Club, Norm has played golf with some incredible people, including George H.W. Bush and Sean Connery. (Norm reports that Mr. Connery is the better golfer.)
Golf was not always such a primary focus of Norm’s life. He was introduced to the game when he was 25 years old and serving in the Navy. Stationed at the Bainbridge Naval Base in Maryland during World War II, Norm was invited to play golf by his peers. Together, they played nine holes of golf three days a week, and Norm instantly became hooked.
“I think I mostly enjoyed the social component at first,” says Norm. “I wasn’t very good at the beginning, but it would get me outside in the fresh air and provide some exercise and some good company. I loved it.”
After leaving the Navy and returning to Philadelphia, Norm went to work in the financial sector, eventually running the investment company Janney Montgomery Scott, which left little time for golf. He became a member of the Philadelphia Cricket Club in 1959, and tried to get a round of golf in whenever he could. Upon retiring and moving to The Hill in 2007, however, Norm was able to resume golfing several times a week, just as he had when he first took up the sport.
“I still belong to the Philadelphia Cricket Club, as well as the Pine Valley Golf Club, and I joined Sunnybrook Golf Course in 2000,” says Norm. “I think it’s safe to say that I love golf! I’ve counted at least 12 golf courses within about 8 miles of The Hill, and have played all 12. I actually collect golf balls with the logos of each course that I’ve played and now have 922.”
Established in 1854, the Philadelphia Cricket Club is one of the oldest country clubs in the United States and is right down the road from The Hill At Whitemarsh. For the first 30 years of its existence, the Philadelphia Cricket Club was nomadic—consisting of a group of men who played cricket at various locations across the Greater Philadelphia Area. But thanks to a generous benefactor, the club built its first golf course, St. Martins, in Chestnut Hill and hosted a U.S. Open in 1910. Although the club was initially intended to serve as a private cricket club, it became one of the preeminent sporting clubs in the Philadelphia area, boasting excellent tennis courts, squash, swimming and golf courses. In fact, they hosted the 2015 PGA Professional National Championship in 2015.
Sunnybrook Golf Club, another local favorite for Hill residents, was founded in 1913. In 1954, Sunnybrook Golf Club was forced to relocate from its original site, settling on 135 acres of land with a brand-new, more modern Clubhouse in Plymouth Meeting. Over the years, Sunnybrook has hosted the United States Golf Association’s Senior Men’s Amateur Championship and the USGA Ladies Amateur Championship.
“Each of the clubs I belong to provides me with different benefits,” says Norm. “Pine Valley has an incredibly interesting group of members and a challenging course. Philadelphia Cricket Club is more family oriented, and Sunnybrook provides me with a great social aspect since I go for men’s day on Thursday afternoons.”
Norm stresses that you don’t have to be a great golfer in order to enjoy the game, and you don’t have to belong to an exclusive club to have a great golfing experience. In fact, Norm often joins a group of other men from The Hill on Wednesdays to play some of the public courses in the area. The “Wednesday Group” enjoys the activity, the camaraderie and the game.
A short drive from The Hill, The Center Square Golf Club is an 18-hole public course that has hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament since its inception in 1977. Another public course worth visiting is The Golf Course At Glen Mills, which is a full-service 18-hole course that hosted the U.S. Amateur Qualifier in 2009 and the U.S. Open Qualifier in 2006. And Turtle Creek in Limerick was rated by Golf Digest as one of the Best Places To Play in 2008 and 2009.
“There’s so much more to the game of golf than just the competition,” says Norm. “You don’t have to compete with anyone but yourself, which makes it fun. It’s also a great way to connect with people and enjoy beautiful surroundings. Those are the same reasons I love life at The Hill, actually! There’s a wonderful social environment—everyone is very friendly—and the views are just magnificent. In fact, it’s a lot like living on a golf course, since both the 7th and 8th holes of the Whitemarsh Country Club abut the property.”