So we have all heard the names Pete Dye, Donald Ross, and Robert Trent Jones when we think of Golf Course Designers. These are some of the greatest of all time and there are a lot more where those come from. Especially when you add in the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, both of which have courses in Western Pennsylvania. But when it comes to golf in Western PA, most of us did not grow up on those courses. It was the smaller or less expensive municipal style courses where the balk of the average players cut their teeth. Have you every wondered who designed those courses?
I grew up playing a course that actually sat in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia called Highland Springs. It is a wide open track, about 6900 yards and just fun. It was designed by James Harrison and opened back in 1962. Harrison was a Member of the ASGCA and for those of you that are not aware of what that is, it’s full name is American Society of Golf Course Architects.
The ASGCA was organized back in the 40’s and held their first meeting led by Robert Trent Jones and Robert Bruce Harris Feb. 13, 1947, at the Hotel New Yorker.
So enough about where I started, how about some of the other courses in Western PA. And if we are going to start, let’
An hour north of Pittsburgh is Foxburg Country Club, which is the oldest continuous running golf course in the US. That’s right, the oldest. It was designed and built by J.M. Fox, who owned the land and was a fan of golf after being introduced by Old Tom Morris, in England, a 4-time British Open Champion.
Then there is the Shenley Park Golf Course, also known as the Bob O’Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park. Designed by Mark Ormison, the Schenley Park golf course opened in 1902 With a 4700 track set at a par 67. It is the second oldest golf course in Western PA.
How about Moon Golf Club? That was Designed by Golf Course Architect Harold Heinlein, and opened in 1932. Originally called Bon Air, both Harold and his brother designed and ran the course until 04’. Tragically, but coincidentally, Harold had a heart attack after hitting a drive on the 1st hole in 2012.
Beaver Valley Golf Course is a semi private club now and was built back in 1898 by Architect(s): Emil Loeffler (1898), John McGlynn (1898), Ron Forse. It was later updated by Ferdinand Garbin in 1958. It is actually considered the 4th oldest in the State of Pennsylvania.
Garbin actually had his hand on many of Western PA’s golf courses including 3 Lakes, Buhl Farm, and Chippewa Golf Club. He also designed St. Clair Country Club, Blue at Penn State, Valley Brook Country Club(Closed, soon to be Peters Township School District), Butler Country Club, Grand View, Green Oaks, Duck Hollow, Edgwood Country Club, Fox Chapel Country Club, and others. He is also listed as the designer of Highland Springs Golf Course(which the Highlands website says James Harrison…. I never truly thought the Former Steeler designed that course anyways.)
Wildwood Golf Club, opened back in 1944, it was also a supposed Ferdinand Garbin designed course. It actually was the home of many big Golf events, including the Dapper Dan Tournament which would host the biggest names in the sport at that time including Ralph Guldahl, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
Make note, I am sure there are some descrepencies in the history and or the resources that are available to us now to do the research. This is just the first of many posts highlighting the designers of our favorite local courses.
So, if you have a local favorite that you would like to know more about, email me or message us through the site, we would love to find out the information for you and put it in our next post.