Draped over the verdant Washington County countryside, Fort Cherry Golf Club's 18-hole course spans 6,205 yards of rolling, player-friendly terrain. The course's relatively open layout invites players to blast tee shots with their drivers or T-shirt cannons at nearly every non-par 3, as sparse tree lines offer little impediment to shots that find the rough, and the course's multiple sand bunkers loom by the greens—not the fairways. An adjacent driving range loosens up swings to perfection, and a practice green sharpens up putting strokes and helps players get a feel for how to read the course's subtle slopes and metaphorical flagsticks. With its own motel and a gourmet bar and restaurant, the club hosts all-day and overnight golf-outing packages for a restful pin-hunting vacation.
Course at a Glance:
Formerly known as Ambridge Country Club, Harmony Ridge Golf Club reopened in 2008 under the guidance of PGA professional John Mazza and local business owners Ed Rae and Greg Paul. The nine-hole course is commonly referred to as Oakmont's Little Brother, as it shares Oakmont Country Club's designers, H.C. Fownes and Emil Loeffler, and has a propensity to withstand noogies. It beckons swingers of all levels with 120 verdant acres that stretch across Beaver County countryside. A newly renovated blues cafe and sports bar, which proffers a menu of American fare along with weekly live music, rounds out an afternoon of long drives and short putts.
Located 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, Highland Country Club's 18 holes total 6,084 yards from the longest tees. The tree-lined course's narrow fairways and plentiful hazards challenge golfers' accuracy and iron play throughout the game. A gauntlet of difficult holes populates the par 70 links, such as the par 5 fifth, which rises 84 feet from tee to pin, sports a green that slopes sharply from back to front, and is lined with trees that blow their noses loudly during players' backswings. Drives arc downhill on the par 4 10th hole, where the temptation to pummel the ball is curbed by a fairway pitching sharply to the left, and verdant journeys end on the deceptive par 3 18th, whose sloping green whisks over-struck putts well past the hole and the celebratory slice of pie hidden inside.
A tricky aspect of the game of golf – and one that amateurs are often slow to recognize – is the notion that all misses aren’t created equal. This becomes starkly apparent with shots into the green, from mid-iron approaches down to greenside chips. Often, beginners give in to the temptation to hit directly at the hole, thinking that it will leave them with the shortest possible putt. While there are certainly situations when going directly at the flagstick is the right decision, they’d be much better off remembering to take into account the other factors at play, such as the layout of the green, where the pin is positioned upon it, and whether or not a lemur’s head is sticking out of the cup. With a little forethought and execution, they should be able to set themselves up perfectly for the next shot – usually a short uphill putt. Versus a downhill putt, uphill putts can be struck harder with little risk, making them less susceptible to lateral movement, more forgiving, and less likely to fly past the hole and settle on the opposite fringe.
Golfers will find themselves embroiled in this decision-making process numerous times throughout a round at Green Valley Golf Club, a rolling course tucked into the hills of Tuscarawas County. On just about all of the 18 undulating greens, stopping the ball on the downhill side of the pin is the correct move. If they succeed and sink their putts, players give themselves a good shot of posting a good score against the par of 72. And if they don’t, they can always eat away their post-round regrets with a hamburger, coney dog, or smoked sausage at the 19th Hole.
Course at a Glance:
Designed by Mark Ormison in 1897, the fairways of Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park sprawl over 51 acres and invite linksmen to frolic among foliage that has been flourishing for more than a century, while also gazing out on metropolitan views. Players find themselves challenged right from the get-go with a second hole that is also the toughest, but can strive for birdies at holes 8 and 17 to recover. At the 11th hole, golfers encounter a quirky rectangular green, whose geometric origins are likely found in a house having occupied the space long ago. The course is managed by the local charity The First Tee Pittsburgh, which strives to encourage good character, values, and healthy life choices in children through the game of golf, and proceeds from the course benefit its programs.
Before hitting the course, players can hone their form at the course’s driving range in good weather, take lessons with a Class A PGA professional, or strengthen their swings at the Full Swing simulator, which tracks ball flight, speed, and distance in real time. The simulator offers high-definition projections of more than 35 notable courses, including Pebble Beach, Oakmont Country Club, Pinehurst Country Club, and Harbour Town Golf Links, and lets golfers sharpen their swings in the dead of winter without fear of losing a limb to frostbite or abominable ground squirrels.
Course at a Glance:
Set on the rolling wooded banks of the Youghiogheny River, Butler's Golf Course has been challenging golfers for more than 80 years with two 18-hole courses. The 6,314-yard Woodside course cushions golf shoes in a gently rolling terrain, and the 6,689-yard Lakeside course grants sweeping views of the adjacent valley and a few blind shots. Both par 72 courses can be enjoyed from the seat of a conveniently motorized golf cart, which transports golfers and their gear between holes, around scattered hillocks, and across the line in tense photo finishes.