Woody’s Golf Center: The end of an era

By PHIL ANDREWS
Senior Writer — pandrews@highhopesblog.com
_______

There is perhaps nothing worse than being the last to know.

At first, I was in total disbelief, and then over the next few moments my emotions ran the gamut, from disbelief to confusion to anger and of course denial.

So perplexed by what I was seeing, I actually had to pick up my cell phone and call a friend to get some clarification on  what the heck was going on.  If anyone would know the 411 on this situation, it would be my long time friend Frank Phifer; Owner, CEO and President of one of the most respected real estate appraisal and title companies in the tri-state area.

As expected, Frank knew exactly what was going on and as he offered up details, my mind started to wonder.

You see it all started last weekend while on my way to watch the Philadelphia Independence play their regional rival Sky Blue FC in a Women’s Pro Soccer match.

I was at the intersection of Germantown Pike and Whitehall Road in East Norriton, Pa. waiting for the traffic light to turn green.  I took a quick glance over my left shoulder and there they were; bulldozers, dump trucks and other construction vehicles, replacing the manicured greens and lush fairways of what was once a golfing oasis.

Also gone were the trees and bushes that shaded the various portions of Wood’s Golf Center, once the Philadelphia area’s only 18 hole Executive Par 3 course. The course was beautifully maintained, featuring bent grass greens, sand bunkers and ponds, giving it a “regulation feel” that appealed to golfers of all ages and abilities.

The Par 3 holes on the executive course ranged in distance from 105 to 250 yards adding up to an impressive 3076 total yards. These distances were not too intimidating for beginners, and not too excessive for seniors, and yet there was still plenty of sand and water to provide the ultimate par 54 challenge for the advanced player.

The entire course had been laser measured and given a U.S.G.A. (United States Golfing Association) short course rating of 54.7 for the men and 57.4 for the women.

Unfortunately, it now looked like a huge laser beam from a space ship had blown the whole thing up, killing every tree, shrub and blade of grass in sight.

Gone was the 9 hole Chip and Putt course with distances ranging from 44 to 91 yards.  Gone was the Center’s award winning miniature golf courses which were themed around “The Adventures of Sinbad” and “The Land of Dinosaurs”. Gone was the 20 acre, award winning driving range once tabbed as the biggest and best practice range in the Philadelphia area.

Yes, for just $14.99 I could purchase a monster bucket of 150 balls and continue to tee them up, load up my driver and aim for the chain link fence some 300 yards away. I think I actually even reached that fence on a few occasions.

When I first arrived in Pennsylvania back in 1990, Woody’s was my golf practice facility of choice and remained so up until about two years ago when I became unemployed and could no longer afford the luxury of playing golf.

Over the years I had taken both my sons to the driving range, par three course and mini-golf course in an attempt to teach them the game, and who can forget the numerous long drive and chipping challenges with my former golfing buddies.

Woods Golf Center first opened in 1957, and for over  fifty years provided folks here in this part of Montgomery County with hours of entertainment, but now it is about to become the sight of a new $360 million dollar hospital being built by the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network (AEHN).

Apparently the 82-acre parcel of land was purchased earlier this month (July 2010) for about $25 million dollars.

The 360,000-square-foot, five-story hospital building will include a separate, 75,000-square-foot medical office building, 1,137 parking spaces in four parking areas and a dedicated traffic light controlling the new driveway entrance on Germantown Pike.

In the latter half of 2009, AEHN officials announced the hospital would open (in June 2012) with 146 beds and the ability to expand later to 218 beds. In-patient services at 172-bed Montgomery Hospital in Norristown will move to the East Norriton facility when it opens. “Ambulatory services,” including an obstetrics clinic and general medicine services, are slated to remain at two medical office buildings in Norristown.

Construction should be complete by late summer/early fall of 2012.

It’s certainly going to feel strange driving by that property in the future, but then again given the industrial revolution in this part of the county over the past decade or so, it is simply just par for the course.

As for the Wood family, thank you for the memories.

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3 Comments

Filed under Editorial, Phil Andrews

3 responses to “Woody’s Golf Center: The end of an era

  1. Michele

    Phil, we know how you feel. We have lived in the area for over 10 years. Woody’s was a great place to go and as you stated the ONLY par 3 executive course around. My husband and son (Jay, a High Hopes writer himself) have spent many evenings and weekends there. Do you know of any other good par 3 executive courses within an hour of this area?

  2. Ed

    10 years?

    I grew up there.

    I don’t play “golf” as it is known today, but Woodies was our Mecca.

    Let’s go get a black & white shake.

  3. I would like to thank you about the nice story about woody’s golf center. My uncle John and aunt Rose Wood would be very happy about your comment. As you know uncle John died And the one son sold the property.

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