250 Country Club Road,
Pennsylvania (PA) 15143,
- +1 412 741 7500
10 miles NW of Pittsburgh
Members and their guests only
Donald Ross was one of the first words on the course at Allegheny Country Club, and he was certainly the last (in a professional capacity, at least). The Scot consulted on the design of the current 18-hole course, which was later expanded by Englishmen Herbert Fowler and C.H. Alison a decade later. That pair left the project, however, and Ross stepped back in to finish their work. Finally, with so many members serving during World War II, the club closed its back nine. When the conflict had ended, Ross returned toward the end of his career to bring that section of the course back.
That was the last notable design work to occur to the course played today, but Gil Hanse had a major role in keeping it in its current shape.
Allegheny Country Club has a wealth of history in the women’s amateur game. During 1954, Barbara Romack defeated Mickey Wright in what remains the longest final of USGA championships, approaching cricket length at 29 hours and 15 minutes. The USGA also hosted its Mid-Am and Senior Amateur Championship there during 1990 and 2001 respectively; both were won by the local icon Carol Semple Thompson.
Just northwest of Pittsburgh, the terrain at Allegheny plays up to its mountainous surname.
Any layout that tags the names Bendelow, Ross and Hanse as the architects since 1902 clearly sets itself apart. The clubhouse alone has the designation of a National Historical Landmark. There aren’t many members, and the course doesn’t get much play. The men’s locker room highlights the almost 120 years of history that has been preserved onsite. You get a similar vibe at other notable clubs such as The Country Club (Brookline) and nearby Oakmont CC. While Ross redesigned the original course circa 1923, the roads that cut through the opening 8 holes are somewhat of an unfortunate distraction. Apparently, the roads were there from the start, obviously with less traffic in earlier years. After the first green, you cross an intersection to get to the second tee and play 3 holes. After the 4th green, you cross back over the road to get to the 5th tee which sits behind the first green. Immediately after the 5th, you cross another intersection to get to the 6th hole to play the next 3 holes, where you encounter a fun par 5 (6th) over a hill, a super par 4 (7th) with a hybrid biarritz green and a short well protected par 3 (8th) along the boundary line - before crossing the road again to get to the 9th tee. The golf holes themselves traverse rolling land and are well designed, especially the epic downhill par 3 3rd hole at the start of the round – however, you have to flex your imagination and patience with the broken flow of holes given the location of the integrated roads around the club.
From the 9th hole onwards, this golf course is a real beast, and offers some of the best golf in the State. The uphill par 4 9th green is among the most difficult on the entire course, which is followed by a 606-yard par 5 dog-leg that demands precision and accuracy the entire way to the green. The par 4s on the back nine, and the change in elevation makes for a very challenging test. There are no easy (or any) birdies out on the inward nine. The course closes with 3 long par 4s, with the uphill 16th being incredibly tough to hit in regulation. The massive driving range abuts the right-hand side of the 16th with out of bounds coming into play off the tee for errand drives. The 17th and 18th run down and back to the house in front of the clubhouse. There’s an argument to change the routing so that you play the current 17 and 18 after you play the 9th and continue on with the long par 5 playing as the 12th instead of the 10th. The end result of this suggestion is that the current 16th would play as the heroic last hole in front of the clubhouse. I would welcome this change, but it’s just a pipe dream. It was a huge privilege to visit this momentous club and embrace why it’s recognized as one of the top classic courses in the nation.