POTTSTOWN, Pa. – Can’t say I ever started a round of golf like a recent one at Raven’s Claw, a public course near historic Valley Forge.
You line up your tee shot and the most noticeable obstacle in an old brick house – or at least part of one. It doesn’t really come into play and host golf professional Jim Bromley doesn’t know why it’s there. He believes it dates back to at least the early 1800s.
Well, it is something that gets your attention—and it’s not a bad thing, either. It’s just something different.
Ed Shearon, who owns the course, also designed it. Raven’s Claw opened in 2005 and was built in conjunction with a pleasant neighborhood of traditional-style family homes on a 177-acre plot.
Shearon, who lives in the area and has designed several other courses, owns a big landscaping business. Raven’s Claw got its name from some of the birds that frequent the place and a tough stretch of the course – holes No. 9 to 11 – has been dubbed The Claw.
The ninth hole doesn’t bring you back to the clubhouse, so you don’t get a break when you take on The Claw.
Measuring 6,739 yards from the tips, Raven’s Claw has testy, undulating greens and some other interesting features. Two smokestacks loom above the layout, a striking feature though nothing like the old brick half-house. Shearon has also made excellent use of big bolders, which guide players at several spots along the course.
“It can look difficult but play easy’’ said Bromley. “There’s a lot of room out there. The challenge is if you want to make birdies. There’s lots of interesting things to challenge a good player.’’
At least one good player was up to the challenge. The Raven’s Claw course record of 8-under-par 63 is held by a woman.
Sweden’s Louise Ridderstrom posted that low number in the inaugural Valley Forge Invitational, a Symetra event that has been held at Raven’s Claw the last two years. Ridderstrom’s low number came in the final round of the 2018 tourney, with the course set up at about 6,400 yards. She went on to win the tournament and been playing on the LPGA circuit in 2019.
While the Symetra event is the biggest event held so far at Raven’s Claw, it won’t be the last. In 2020 the course will host both competitive rounds at the International Network of Golf’s 30th annual Spring Conference from May 31 to June 3.
Golf is clearly an amenity in the Valley Forge area. The Valley Forge Casino Resort, which will host the ING visitors, is across the street from the Valley Forge National Historic Park. It’s worth plenty of visitors’ time as well.
The Park offers a restoration of George Washington’s winter headquarters as well as the very basic lodging available for his American troops in the 1770s – the early stages of the Revolutionary War. The Park offers guided tours – which I’d highly recommend – but many of the visitors use it for exercise as well. The trails winding through it are walkable and also ideal for cyclists.