Don’t be fooled by the phonetics of Longue Vue Club’s name: It actually translates to “telescope.” That said, the meaning remains the same: Perched high above the Allegheny River, the club offers some of the most stunning views in Pennsylvania, if not the national golf scene.
The trick then, for the architects of such a course, was to create a strategic test that could keep players’ eyes off of those longue vues for just a moment. Tillinghast is the name cited most often when discussing the club, however a fair share of credit belongs to Scotsman Robert White, the original architect. Tillie, after all, did not pursue the classic templates as much as his own, so the existence of a Redan, Eden, and Alps hole at Longue Vue are a strong indicator of White’s role (and his familiarity with the works of Macdonald et al).
The course plays much like a Tillinghast, however, with serpentine fairways reminiscent of Bethpage Black and large sand hazards (albeit not as large as the course just mentioned). Most telling are the slick putting surfaces.
Geoffrey Cornish and Ron Forse also came by to renovate and restore, respectively, during the past 60 years.
The immediate Pittsburgh area is blessed with a fine array of outstanding courses with clearly the likes of Oakmont leading the way. However, there's much more to the local golf scene and matters are helped considerably in having the kind of terrain which a course like Longvue occupies.
The layout at Longue Vue Club is just under 6,700 yards and frankly is simply grand to behold. There's constant movement -- a constant need to know how to flight one's ball and to include how to work the ball -- both ways. There are also uneven stances where players must adjust for downhill, uphill and side hill lies.
The essence of Longue Vue is about proper positioning. There's times when you can take the bold play but be strongly advised -- you best have the execution to pull it off.
The quality of the putting surfaces is also worth noting and celebrating. Longue Vue has greens not for the feint of heart. The overall speed can be terrifying for those who have the slightest tremor in one's hands. Keeping one's approach shot consistently below the hole is essential in scoring.
Longue Vue commences with an ideal starting hole. At 396 yards from the tips the hole turns left in the drive zone and it is crucial to find the short grass. A pull can find a steep downslope on that side and there is also the possibility in going too far if not able to work the ball from right-to-left.
The 3rd at 202 yards is a solid representation of a par-3 Redan hole. The key is selecting the right club because the green is split onto different areas. It is absolutely essential to flight one's approach to the right area because failure can easily mean a quick three putt or worse.
Another quality par-3 comes at the 5th. Reminiscent of the Eden hole -- the approach is played to an elevated target and the distance of 198 yards often requires 1-2 additional clubs. The green, like so many at Longue Vue is devilish because going long will face a most demanding situation with the green banked and running away.
The most demanding hole on the outward side is the challenging par-4 9th. Playing 452 yards the hole has no bunkers and yet it commands one's full attention. You also find a putting surface that moves from front to back so any approach that is short will be severely tested.
The 10th is the 3rd of the four par-3's and it plays to a green set on the edge of a bluff. The approach must be totally precise as the green slopes considerably from left-to-right.
The 11th is a tremendous challenge -- the hole plays uphill and turns right in the drive while the terrain falls abruptly to the left. Working a tee ball from left-to-right is an essential ingredient to have any hope of success. The approach is also a blind and uphill -- so getting a clear sense of where the pin is located may require walking just ahead to familiarize you with what's required.
The 12th is a par-3 with the green slightly elevated and over a ravine. The green is simply devilish with a range of internal movements. When the pin is cut in deepest of positions it takes a Herculean approach to flight it all the way back there.
The short par-4 13th is well done -- playing uphill and having a punch bowl type green. A superb change of pace hole.
The long par-4 14th pivots back uphill and requires a quality tee shot to set up one's approach.
The par-5 15th provides a wondrous view of the Allegheny River as the hole rides up above it. Miss too far right and you'll be quickly re-teeing. A boldly played tee shot can run out far enough for strong players to go for it on the 2nd to this 540-yard hole.
The uphill 16th is the final par-3 and it may be the most demanding. You can't really get a feel for the hole from the tee because of the rise in elevation. There is a shoulder to the left of the green which players can use to bounce the ball towards the target.
Longue Vue concludes with two long par-4's. The 17th plays downhill and turns slightly to the left. Getting a right-to-left ball movement from the tee helps considerably. You can roll the ball on but don't miss to either side.
The par-4 18th plays uphill for the first half of its length. At 471 yards the key is moving the ball to the left so as to take advantage of downhill terrain. The green is quite large and also sloped from right-to-left. Once again, shots can roll onto to the green but one must gauge correctly how far the distance is to be played in the air and on the ground.
One of the things I'd like to see happen at Longue Vue is widening of the fairways because there are instances where the existing fairway bunkers are choked with rough around them. The narrow fairways can be overly penal given the amount of ball movement when landing from the tee.
I would be remiss not to mention the architectural qualities of the clubhouse itself.
The clubhouse is designated a National Historic Landmark and appears on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by architect Benno Janssen, the clubhouse is entirely stone with a slate roof and includes several large archways.
The greater Pittsburgh area is blessed with fascinating terrain and often many might not associate the depth of quality golf that resides here. Yes, Oakmont is clearly at the top of the chart along with the likes of Fox Chapel and Pittsburgh Field Club, to name just a few. But make no mistake about it Longue Vue is certainly among the best in the Keystone State.
by M. James Ward
Thanks Jim- been pegging it at Longue Vue for 43years you captured it well. One comment, with the flow of the fairways broadening them would just make the ball just roll further down to the rough. All at lvc appreciate your endorsement. Rick
Rick: The Western Pennsylvania area has a number of quality layouts and often the lion's share of attention goes to Oakmont which is natural given its world class stature. Nonetheless, Longue Vue has all the key elements of a top tier design. The land is striking for its diversity and in mandating players adjust continually. Shotmaking dexterity at a high level is paramount. One must also possess a deft short game and an unerring flat stick on the superb putting surfaces.
During my last visit the course was especially firm and quite fast -- totally ideal for sure. Why the course goes unnoticed is quite shocking to me. In my mind, I'd certainly say Longue Vue makes a very compelling case for top ten status in the Keystone State.