Totteridge

6,659 yards, 132 Slope from the Blues

Course:  Just east of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, PA lies Totteridge, a course built by Rees Jones that opened in 2001.  It has been ranked as one of the better courses in Pennsylvania though I haven’t seen it on many lists recently. *Update: Totteridge is ranked #25 of 2015 Golf Digest’s Top Courses in Pennsylvania.  The day after playing Stonewall for that tournament, my plan was to drive down to West Virginia to play there and knock it off my list, but instead I decided to play with a group of friends here.  It’s a course I certainly heard of before and generally remember hearing good things, so I was a little curious to play it.

The juxtaposition between Stonewall and Totteridge was interesting.  While Stonewall sported an elaborate clubhouse, higher green fees and strives to be one of the premier public course destinations, Totteridge was refreshingly understated.  The clubhouse was just big enough to house a pro shop in one corner and a grill/seating in another, while a friendly black lab walked around greeting everyone.

It seemed as if the focal point was on the course and while I don’t believe there is a driving range, the putting green and short game practice area were more than adequate to warm up before the round while the course itself was in pretty good condition.  I feel like I use the description rolling hills in several of my reviews, but it truly fits the terrain of this course.  Rees Jones provided a nice mixture of a player friendly lay out with enough heroic shots, options around the greens, blind shots and forced carries that resulted in an impressive play.  The routing seemed to flow pretty nicely as well.  On courses with a good amount of elevation changes, there is a tendency to overdo the elevated tee shots and pitched greens, but Totteridge provides these in welcome moderation, mainly by setting the holes horizontally along the hillsides in a switchback type fashion. The rough is manageable but hazardous while the greens are challenging but not terribly tough to hold.  Comparing it to a local course, I’d characterize it as a toned down Broad Run (while Stonewall was Broad Run on steroids).

I got a nice, comfortable, homey sense of the place as I was getting ready to tee off.  It seemed like some where that would be a nice regular course to play if you’re local, yet was nice enough and challenging for those not in the area to venture to.  With that nice easy feeling, I teed off with three rounds for a pretty fun round.

The First is a 410 yard par 4 (from the Blues).  The hole is as wide open as it comes and even though the there are no trees and only a couple bunkers off to the right, the sidehill lies and moderate rough make for a difficult second shot if your drive doesn’t hit the fairway.  The green is similarly generous, though blatant mis-hits will make for a tough recovery.  As far as starting holes go, it’s fairly friendly.

The First

A look at the green from the left side

The Second is a 395 yard par 4.  The hole switch backs in the direction of the first tee, yet below it, so eat hole is on a separate terrace of the hillside.  Bunkers are along the left side while on both sides fronting the green, which is slightly elevated and pretty well-sized.

The Second

Second shot territory

The Third is a 371 yard par 4.  Things start to get a little interesting after a couple warm up holes.  The tee shot is blind as the fairway rises up to block the other side.  The fairway then dog legs right to the green, which runs right to left and has bunkers on either side.

The Third

Approach shot territory

The Fourth is a 496 yard par 5.  Things continue to spice up with this hole, which sits at a 1:00 angle from the tee, which creates a little risk reward with a gully to the left of the fairway, goading you to carry as much of it as you can take on.  There are mounds lining the right side of the fairway as well.  The green is elevated and separated by long grass at the base.  The hole demands precision, but there are several ways to make par here, which is the mark of a good hole in my opinion.

The Fourth

Second shot territory

Looking back at the fairway from the green.  Also give you a good overview of the terrain.

The Fifth is a 157 yard par 3.  There isn’t too much bail out room except for short and a pin on the right side of the green could make this hole infinitely more difficult because of the bunker intruding on that side.  The green undulates a little more than prior holes as well.

The Fifth

The Sixth is a 331 yard par 4.  The hole dog legs sharply to the left and features a narrower fairway that we’ve seen prior to this.  Cross bunkers on towards the tee landing area makes it a tough driving hole.  The green is essentially perpendicular to the fairway, with bunkers guarding the front left and left sides. Something less than driver may be a good play here as well.  It’s a good short par 4.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 534 yard par 5.  Funny/almost scary story about this hole.  I hit my shot on to the green and proceed to drive up to the right side of the fairway to the cart path.  It’s a fairly steep climb to the cart path and the course had taken on a good amount of water from rain the night before.  As I’m at the top of the hill, the cart keeps slipping on mud and I can’t actually get to the cart path.  The cart starts sliding backwards and since the slope is so steep, I could feel the cart starting to tip over.  I was literally stuck with no where to go.  My initial thought was just to get out of the cart, so if it tipped over I’d be fine.  So I did that, but then realized the cart was going to shoot back down the hill.  So I started gently rolling the cart backwards down the hill, with one foot on the brake.  Well, that didn’t last long and the cart took off down the hill, with my clubs and those of my partner’s in tow.  I start running after it, as I was worried that the cart would barrel into another group or go off the other side of the fairway into a ravine or something.  The cart finally slows down when it hits the rough on the other side of the fairway and I’m able to jump in and drive it to the green, on the low side.  By this time, everyone in my group is on the green watching this unfold while the group behind us, whom are also with us, is watching as well.  I park the cart, walk to the green with my putter like nothing happened, and calmly made my putt, just before what felt like the entire course started laughing uncontrollably at me.

As for the hole, the fairway starts falling downhill just before tee shots would land, so it’s a fairly blind tee shot.  The hole then terraces as it descends to the green, with the aforementioned steep embankment along the right side and bunkers and a drop off along the left.  The views of the hole are also terrific.  Just watch yourself if you’re trying to reach that cart path…

The Seventh

Moving down the fairway

The Eighth is a 166 yard par 3.  It’s another par 3 that is deceivingly difficult if you don’t hit the green.  Water is on the left while bunkers surround the front of the green except for a narrow opening.  The green has a good amount of undulation as well.

The Eighth

The Ninth is a 445 yard par 4.  The tee shot is a forced carry of sorts over long grass, which then dog legs right to the green.  There is a slope of rough along the left side while the right side is rather tame except for a couple bunkers.  While it’s a longer par 4, the challenge stays focused on the distance while providing a reprieve in other features.

The Ninth

Approach shot territory

The front nine is essentially a loop over and down a couple of the hills and provides a nice warm up before the holes start increasing in interest and difficulty.  The par 5’s are the highlight for me, while a number of the par 4’s were solid plays and the par 3’s were subtle in their challenge.  Ranking them, I’d go 4, 7, 3, 9, 6, 5, 8, 2, 1.

The back nine starts with the 386 par 4 Tenth.  A bit similar to the Ninth in that it dog legs right, is along the same ridge line and direction, but it’s shorter and the green is elevated and a hidden creek separate the fairway from the green, creating a forced carry.  Knowing about the creek is vital, as many will be tempted to go for the green no matter what, not realizing they are risking a penalty stroke.  I feel like the routing theme of starting off on the easier side and working into difficulty and interest that we see on the front nine is also prevalent here.

The Tenth

Approach shot territory

The Eleventh is a 331 yard par 4.  The tee shot is elevated and the hole is relatively straightforward, although I would say the bunkers are semi-hidden, at least from the tee.  The green is shallow yet wide, so get your approach distance in and avoid the bunker on the front right side.

The Eleventh

A look at the First, Second and Tenth, with the clubhouse in the background

The Twelfth is a 509 par 5.  The lone tree to the right of the tee area could out some golfers in fits and visually it appears to be a narrow opening for the tee shot, but there is a lot of room off to the right.  The hole dog legs left then straightens out a good deal to the green, which is tucked in on the left side of the fairway with another green perpendicular to the fairway.  While the tee and second shots are received by rather wide fairway space, the approach shot tightens considerably and really doesn’t provide much in the way of tolerance for bad shots.  Lining the fairways with drop offs and embankments is done well throughout the course but to be is typified here, acting as a more then effective hazard in slowing your progress in advancing to the hole.

The Twelfth

Moving down the fairway

The Thirteenth is a 436 yard par 4.  You turn around and go back in the direction you come on the Twelfth, which is another dog leg left.  Another tee shot where you may need to shape it a little to stay in the fairway and the green is surrounded by bunkers and hillsides.  The bunkers are actually pretty deep.  Long grass on both sides of the hole essentially put you in jail if you get too far offline.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 189 yard par 3.  Staying with the theme of intolerance of shots too far offline, the only bailout room is short of the green while there is a nice large bunker off to the left and rough with mounds off to the right that make for a difficult downhill shot to the green.  I enjoy the theme actually.  Par 3’s are on shotter holes and it’s apparent that you are to land on the green or else have your work cut out for you in saving par.

The Fourteenth

The Fifteenth is a 543 yard par 5.  I enjoyed the series of holes from here to the finish very much.  Things start to get a little different here with the tee shot where you hit into the angled fairway that runs at about a 10:00 angle from the tee.  The fairway then straightens out before curling to the left to the green.  The left side dips down into a gully while the right side is an embankment with rough before trees start coming into play.  It’s yet another terrific par 5.

The Fifteenth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The Sixteenth is a 159 yard par 3.  The last par 3 is similar to the first, as it’s a carry to the green with bunkers off to the right.  The green, however, is more centered behind the greens and runs more back to front.  I forgot to photograph the hole, but here’s the illustration on the score card:

The Seventeenth is a 379 yard par 4.  The most visually striking tee shots on the course is from the elevated tee, with the entire hole almost set perpendicular to you, tempting you to take off as much of the fairway as possible without ending up on the ravine off to the right.  You are above the green on your second shot and there is a steep drop off if you go long, so stay on or short at all costs.  The tee shot alone makes this hole a big part of what makes this course enjoyable and I like that it comes later in the round.

The Seventeenth

A look at the green

The Eighteenth is a 422 par 4.  Another elevated the shot although not as majestic as the Seventeenth.  The tee shot is boxed in a little by trees on both sides and the fairway immediately juts to the right, so straight shots may end up off fairway.  The green clearly favors you advancing up the left side, as there are a swath of bunkers on the right of the green.  Both tee and approach shots demand precision in order to end the round on a good note.

The Eighteenth

Approach shot territory

The back nine takes a little longer to start becoming engaging, but the par 5’s lead the pack in very good holes with most of the par 4’s are solid plays and the par 3’s maintain a consistent template and theme.  Ranking them, I’d go 17, 15, 12, 18, 13, 11, 16, 14, 10.

Generally, Totteridge was a consistent play that maintained a level of moderate difficulty while flowing well from one hole to the next and providing some nice scenery.  The par 5’s were the highlight for me, while the par 4’s featured enough variety and decision making to stay intriguing.  The par 3’s were consistent in their theme of urgency in hitting the green from the tee while most of the course relying on embankments and terraces was done very well.  It appears the course changed ownership shortly after my round here, so I hope the course sees growth and improvement.  If you are in the Pittsburgh/Greenburg area and are looking for a solid round of golf for an extremely reasonable green fee, Totteridge has to be one of the best in the area to check out.

Gripes:  Well, the carts should be upgraded….  Also, the surly pro shop guy who was all bitter he had to work the grill I could have done without.  But otherwise, I liked a lot of what I saw here.

Bar/Grill:  While there’s a nice seating area in a covered porch, it’s a spartan set up for those looking for luxury after the round.  For those who want a cheap hot dog, cheap beers while overlooking the course after your round, it does just fine.

Practice area:  The putting green and short game practice area were more than adequate.

Nearby:  Houses, maybe some places to eat in Greenburg.

Getting there:  I’d say it’s about 15 minutes off the PA Turnpike.

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