The 18-hole layout at Sewickley Heights Golf Club was only five years old when it was selected to host the U.S. Women’s Amateur championship in 1966. The final match that year lasted 41 holes, the longest in the tournament’s history.
The club's course was originally laid out by Jim Harrison (who worked for Donald Ross in the 1920s) and his son-in-law “Fred” Garbin. Both father and son-in-law became President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (1955 and 1968 respectively). Garbin was an avowed admirer of Donald Ross and he restored a number of the Scottish master's Pennsylvanian courses during his career.
In 2016, architect Jim Cervone was contacted by the club to oversee an extensive greens renovation. Four greens that has been converted to bentgrass five years earlier were returned to Poa Annua and all the other greens – two of which were rebuilt in new locations – were re-laid with the same type of grass.
The greater Pittsburgh area is blessed with a number of wonderfully designed courses but for some reason Sewickley Heights is often looking from the outside in when a collective assessment of the areas courses is featured. Frankly, it amazes me because the layout is clearly deserving of more attention.
The layout is very strong with a solid mixture of hole types. Like a number of Western PA courses, the topography adds to the experience.
One of the attributes of the design is the test in driving the ball. The layout does not permit haphazard tee shot and those failing to do so will encounter testing approaches to a number of well-defended greens.
Having all the greens now with poa annua was the smart call and the range of internal movements is quite testing.
For the purposes in scoring -- its crucial for players to get off to a good start with the first five holes. When you reach the long par-5 6th the intensity meter picks up considerably and the outward side closes out strongly with the par-4 8th and 9th holes.
The inward side is also good -- although I think the par-5 14th should be played as par-4 for strong players. The closing stretch brings the round to a fine conclusion -- the par-4 18th is one of the finest holes in the greater Pittsburgh area.
Those visiting the area should keep the course in mind if an offer to play is presented. The design is indeed a fine test and well worth playing.
M. James Ward