The golf course of the Club at Nevillewood is a Jack Nicklaus Signature design and its demanding par four 9th has been listed as a “Bear’s Best” hole, one of Jack’s greatest holes worldwide. Situated ten miles southeast of downtown Pittsburgh, the fairways are routed around a substantial residential development that lies between Presto and Rennerdale on the outskirts of the city.
“Largely a formula 1990s Jack Nicklaus production – not quite ‘inspired’ but offering enough strategic considerations to create some genuine playing interest” is how Daniel Wexler describes the course in his book in The American Private Golf Club Guide. “For the most part,” the author continues, “there is enough here to safely make Nevillewood one of the Steel City’s top five options.
It occupies typically rolling Western Pennsylvania terrain, which is nicely utilized at holes like the ravine-crossing 180-yard 5th, the 177-yard 8th (with sand and a pronounced fallaway left), the 546-yard 12th (where a well-placed bunker essentially creates a split-fairway option), and the 446-yard 16th, a tough two-shotter played to an elevated green.
The 416-yard 9th and 427-yard 18th are both exciting (if typical) water-orientated finishes, with the 9th green being fronted by several waterfall-connected ponds and the 18th attempting another split-fairway motif around a near-centerline bunker.”
So much of the attention -- rightly so in a number of instances -- goes to several classical designed layouts in the greater Pittsburgh metro area. For whatever reason -- ignorance likely -- so much attention is spent on Oakmont which is clearly a giant of epic proportions.
During the 1990s a number of golf courses entered the scene in the area and Nevillewood was among them with its opening in 1992.
The Nicklaus team followed a fairly similar formulas but the saving element that elevates the experience is the terrain and a good mixture of diverse holes.
Those playing the course will need to hold their applause until one gets by the opening trio of holes. They are satisfactory but hardly noteworthy with the exception of the daring approach shot encountered at the par-4 2nd with a intruding pond requiring one's attention. Things pick up considerably from that point and the shotmaking challenges become more engaging and the clutter of the housing recedes more into the background.
The par-5 7th is done well and much is rightly made of the par-4 9th as the approach here must be gauged with utmost precision - especially when the pin is cut in the far-right corner.
Just when things are moving ahead the next two holes at the 10th and 11th are hideous because the bunkers are placed in an overkill manner. The holes look they've been transplanted from any number of Golden Bear efforts in Florida.
Fortunately, the derailment is temporary and the hole quality returns to a much more coherent and quality level. Three of the final five holes are smartly crafted long par-4s -- a hole type that Nicklaus has always felt more adept in delivering. Each is quite attractive and can inflict serious pain on the scorecard for those failing to rise to the occasion. The finale is a rousing ending hole. Water is part of the puzzle to solve on both the tee shot and approach.
Nevillewood has clear moments where it shines. On the flip side, there are lulls on each nine and that anchor does weigh down the overall assessment. Undoubtedly, classical architecture proponents will likely pan Nevillewood because of its modern look and the housing inclusions. That's unfortunate because there's enough present here to enjoy and savor.
M. James Ward