Name a golf course architect and there is a chance that they’ve made a stop by the Pittsburgh Field Club: Alex Findlay created the original 18-hole course and the club has in the years since received Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast, Willie Park Jr., Robert Trent Jones and a handful of others. Most notable perhaps was the recent visit from Keith Foster, who undertook a restoration project of sorts, which is to say that facets of many architects have been retained to comprise the current, acclaimed course.
Findlay famously had a bit of a routing problem in the notoriously hilly Pittsburgh area. The result was a final hole that played severely uphill for 275 yards. During an era without golf carts, aging and otherwise unfit members risked heart attack climbing up to the green (club lore claims this happened on occasion). Therefore a decision was to relocate the No. 17 hole and create a cable-car lift that still takes players from the No. 17 green to the No. 18 tee to this day. No doubt this offends the sensibilities walking golfers just a little bit, but we don’t recommend hiking up the hill.
Despite the club’s name, it’s located in the Fox Chapel neighborhood, catty-corner to the highly rated Fox Chapel Golf Club.
One of the most thrilling opening tee-shots anywhere in America. From an elevated perch at the back of the clubhouse, you launch your first drive up into the sky with 8 or 9 seconds of hang time before it finally touches down. The opening 7 holes at the Field Club play on a tight East-West parcel of land with a variety of par 3s, 4s and a reachable par 5 back up the steep slope that is parallel to the first hole. The 8th hole is index 1, and certainly lives up to it given a blind drive over a plateau to a pinched landing area, followed by at least 180 yards to a green surrounded by a massive grass ravine area. Hitting this green is regulation is a truly memorable and rewarding experience.
The joy of the back nine is the constant change in direction, particularly holes 8-10 that are considered the courses best stretch. The land heaves at the Field Club, and the back nine certainly plays a few shots tougher. The long downhill par 3 14th and 16th holes play at least 215 yards, and ironically, 3 of the last 5 holes are par 3s. The course finishes with an elevator ride from the short par 4 17th (which has a highly debatable big tree overhanging the right side of the green) up to the newly discovered par 3 18th tee. Rumour has it that the hole used to be a closing par 4, but numerous members struggled with heart & respiratory issues getting up 18, that the club installed a lift to get to a par 3 finisher!
I’ve no doubt that this club produces highly talented players, as the land that the course is constructed on is a significantly challenging canvas. Alex Findlay originally laid out this course, but it is Tillinghast’s hands that created the course we play today. The membership is blessed with a brilliant classic course that is all you can handle on any given day. This club and course easily holds its own against its famous neighbours, but as a primary course, it gets my vote for enjoyment.
Greens are always in great shape. Number 1 is one of the best opening holes in Pennsylvania. Fairways are so pure. The elevator makes the course very unique. I would highly recommend it.