How could the Donald Ross-designed Tumblebrook Golf Course return to its former glory?

By: May 12, 2023

I always get very excited when I hear about a golf course designed by a famous golf course designer of the past (e.g. A.W. Tillinghast, Donald Ross, Harry Colt, James Braid, Charles Blair Macdonald, etc.) being renovated.

Such is the current situation when the Tumblebrook golf course designed by Donald Ross is being renewed after many delays. Well, how?

Tumblebrook Golf Course drawing

The 2022 ASGCA-SLRG golf facility trend watch study found

  • The volume of renovation business over the past 24 months shows 50% of the architects reporting year-over-year revenue improvement, maintaining an upward 3-year trend. The plurality of architects reports flat or consistent revenue, with just one-in-five experiencing declines.
  • 56% of architects look to see renovation revenue increase over the next 2 years. Only 11% look to be down…a four-year low.

Tumblebrook golf course Revival?

The 9-hole Tumblebrook golf course was founded in 1931 by Harry Holscher, formerly manager of Lehigh Country Club. Holscher commissioned Donald Ross to design the golf course, and it is believed that the architect’s associate J. B. McGovern oversaw construction.

The family continued to own and operate the course until the death of Harry’s son, Harry Jr., in 1994. In 2001, the course passed into the ownership of the township and ran as a municipal, under several different management regimes, until February 2020, when the last management company terminated its lease agreement.

In the late summer of 2020, at an event Josh Woodward – a golf enthusiast – met Donald Ross Society board member Pam Allen, and through her was put in touch with Dr. Joseph Bausch, a Villanova University professor, Golfweek course rater and avid golf historian.

Tumblebrook Golf Course today
The revival of the Tumblebrook golf course began when…

Bausch offered to facilitate an introduction to his friend and Donald Ross design expert Ron Prichard. Prichard immediately thought of connecting him with Vaughn Halyard.

Halyard — also a Ross Society board member, a Golf magazine rater, a former senior Disney executive, and now a filmmaker.

Halyard and Woodward began exploring options for the golf course, created a new company, Tumbebrook Golf Campus LLC, and have been chosen as the preferred operators of the facility by Upper Saucon Township.

At a public meeting held on May 8, the Board of Supervisors of Upper Saucon Township voted unanimously to approve the issuing of a Letter of Intent to Tumblebrook Golf Campus LLC.

Halyard helped fashion an agreement with Ron Prichard – known in golf circles as ‘the father of restoration’ – to create a full architectural master plan.

Josh was able to obtain the original drawings of the golf course from the township’s archives. It turned out that Ross’s design was never properly built.

What’s really exciting about this project is that it will see the realization of Ross’s vision for the golf course.

Prichard has become an equity partner in Tumblebrook Golf Campus. He has also enlisted the help of fellow golf architects Jeff Mingay and Christine Fraser.

Vaughn Halyard says

“Included in the project are 90 acres of additional land alongside the course, and we plan to use that for a second nine hole course, to be designed by a world-class golf course architect.

The extra land will also support a range and learning facility. These are critical in support of our plans for a golf-forward community environment.

We are resolved to deliver the kind of golf that should keep kids active outdoors for hours. We are in the early days of our project as our current plans are dependent on a number of factors such as zoning and other approvals.”

The team expects to lead off with the Prichard work on the Ross course concurrent with the driving range build-out. Construction of the 2nd 9-hole course will commence as the Ross course opens. 

Josh Woodward says

“Our golf campus concept — to use golf as an educational and recreational tool — will provide programming in scholastic, youth caddie, community and township parks and recreation areas.

It will be part school and playground for golfers, part teaching facility about the business of golf, and part STEM and STEAM lab.”