Spring brings the suburbs back to life. For many families, that means back to the tennis courts and golf courses at the area's top country clubs.
Golfer Rickie Fowler during the final round of the 2013 US Open, which was played at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore.
For some Main Line families, country club membership has been an integral familial thread for generations. Go to the hallowed greens at the world-renowned Aronimink Golf Club (3600 St. Davids Road, Newtown Sq., 610-356-8000) or Merion Golf Club (450 Ardmore Ave., Ardmore, 610-642-5600) and you’ll see sons, fathers, and grandfathers hitting the links together. Or look out on the spectacular grass courts at the historical Germantown Cricket Club (411 W. Manheim St., 215-438-990) or the clay courts at The Cynwyd Club (332 Trevor Lane, Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-4524), and you’re sure to see families hitting some tennis balls—in their tennis whites, of course—before convening for a post-match barbecue and drinks on the patio. No matter where you turn, nothing ushers in spring quite like the resurgence of seasonal outdoor sports at Main Line clubs.
Clubs are like a second home for many people, says Rob Isaacs, co-owner of High Performance Tennis Academy (HPTA), which also runs the tennis programming at The Cynwyd Club. “It’s a one-stop destination for anything social and athletic, and you’re always making new connections with folks and meeting new people,” he says. “There’s so many opportunities to be social in a club environment since you’re all there because you share a similar interest, whether that be tennis, squash, or golf.” Tennis junkie and Gladwyne resident Jennifer Simmons, chief of breast surgery at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, seconds that. “Many a friendship starts on the tennis court,” she says. “It’s just so great for social purposes as you become an adult.”
But for parents, part of the appeal is about being in an environment that occupies the kids while they can enjoy some grown-up time. “We spend many hours at the pool eating and swimming, but we particularly love Friday nights by the 18th green. We listen to music, and have drinks and food and get to relax with our friends while our kids are playing games,” says Wayne resident Kimi Sokol. “Maybe you want to relax by the pool. At a club, it’s safe for the kids to run off and hit balls all day long as you chill out and read a book,” seconds HPTA’s Isaacs. “Or maybe you’re hitting and they’re off swimming. Or maybe you’re out there playing tennis together.”
“I remember working late one night in my office preparing for a meeting,” recalls Tim Muessle, general manager and COO of Philadelphia Cricket Club, of one busy summer night. “I wandered out to the pool just to get some fresh air. The bar was hopping. Kids were having a ball in the pool. Parents were watching baseball and enjoying flat-bread pizzas and drinks on a beautiful summer’s night. That’s what it’s all about.”
Philadelphia Cricket Club’s immaculate Wissahickon golf course will host the PGA Professional National Championship in June.
But as good as they are for adult-only activities—like the new pool bar at Philadelphia Cricket Club (415 W. Willow Grove Ave., 215- 247-6001) or wine tastings at Germantown Cricket Club—clubs are also a great avenue for family bonding. After all, there are only so many activities out there that appeal to both parents and children alike, and a round of golf or a few games of tennis is something that people of all ages can have fun partaking in together.
“The great thing about clubs is that it’s a way for the whole family to enjoy each other’s company,” says James Ivankovich, general manager and COO of the Germantown Cricket Club. “Our families come to Germantown to enjoy one another’s fellowship and to participate in a wide variety of programming that [everyone] can enjoy.”
At Germantown, they throw family-centric activities such as family dinners on the outdoor veranda, squash and tennis junior camps that run all summer, swim team meets, bowling parties, family game days, and parent-child tournaments. The programming at Philadelphia Cricket Club is equally kid-friendly, with movie nights, laser tag, and the occasional petting zoo. And Green Valley Country Club (201 W. Ridge Pike, Lafayette Hill, 610-828-3000) offers much-talked-about Memorial Day and Fourth of July bashes, replete with fireworks.
HPTA offers intense, youth-centered training in addition to recreational classes and programs (above).
“Club sports is a way for families to gel,” says HPTA’s Isaacs. “During the warm weather, we have a ton of social tennis happening at the Cynwyd Club. There are weekly round-robins where kids and parents can take on other families in friendly mixed-double matches. And it always ends with a barbecue. It’s just a cool vibe.”
Over at Green Valley Country Club, families can take each other on in the annual parent/child golf tournament in June. Designed to keep the kids from getting frustrated, the format is a selective drive and alternate shot, so if the parent hits the first tee shot, the child then hits the next, and so on until the ball is holed. “Our Sunday afternoons at Green Valley are always very busy with family golf,” adds Green Valley’s head golf pro John Cooper. The Father’s Day tournament is also a club favorite. “Many of the foursomes are made up of three generations of members,” says attorney Scott Brucker, whose father is also a member. “It’s a special day.”
In our go-go-go world, these clubs can help carve out quality time for the family. But for those who think that tennis- and golf-filled days at the clubs are only for the blue-blooded elite, think again. “Yes, there is a rich tradition of legacy at the club,” says Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Muessle. “But more and more, new families are folding into the community and culture.” To which Main Line parents and kids give their very best golf clap.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GETTY IMAGES; EVAN SCHILLER