A. W. Tillinghast is said to have worked on more than 250 courses during a prolific career between the two World Wars and he designed around a dozen of these in his home state of Pennsylvania, one of which was Sunnehanna Country Club.
The golf club evolved from the Cambria Country Club which had been established at the end of the 19th century. When new land became available in 1920, a club was formed the following year, taking its name from the Native Indian term for a local waterway, and by 1923, Albert Warren, or “Tillie” as he became known, had laid out a course for the members.
Located in the hills to the west of the Keystone State, Sunnehanna originally played to a par of 72 but alterations made in 1960 – when the 6th was both lengthened and reduced to a par four and the 14th was changed from a short par four to a long par three – considerably increased the scoring averages. The par threes, which vary in length from 171 to 240 yards, are particularly strong here.
Greens are generally small and well bunkered, requiring accurate approach play. Constructed way before irrigation systems were thought of, they were designed for golfers to make use of the bump and run shot to hard and fast putting surfaces, accounting for the open entrance to most of them.
The Sunnehanna Amateur began in 1954 and the tournament was the first 72-hole stroke play competition sponsored by a country club for amateurs in the USA and winners have included famous names like Ben Crenshaw, Jay Sigel, John Cook and Scott Verplank.
A bunker renovation was carried out by Ron Forse in 2002, when greens and fairways were also expanded to improve the playability of the course. A decade later, Brian Silva was called in to upgrade bunkers on three of the holes and this project, along with a program of tree removal, is still ongoing.
Mr. Top 100, the intrepid “Rudo,” visited Sunnehanna
in August 2018 and commented as follows: “This is an outstanding course! It plays
only 6,880 yards (par 70) from the tips but there are simply no weak holes and
so so many great ones. The land has major slopes and the clubhouse sits on top
of hill with the course circling the clubhouse site. There are six big downhill holes (1, 3, 4, 7, 10 and 17) and six
major uphill holes (2, 6, 9, 11, 15 and 18).
Five holes dogleg to the right, four dogleg left and there’s one “S”
shaped par five (15). I guess the best
holes are #2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, and 15 and the par fives are outstanding despite
Tillie having a reputation for weak par fives.”