Friday, July 25, 2008

Wyoming Valley Country Club

No, it's not in the Mountain West, it is in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (The locals pronounce it Wilk's Berry.) Sorry I don't have any photos just yet, HEY! it was pouring!

One Albert Warren Tillinghast designed the current course which opened in 1925 on an existing 9-holer. It currently, albeit a "small course" version at under 6200 yards, is as true to Tillie's designs as about any place you'll find. According to the club's website, "Andrew Derr and John Conyngham were key factors to the establishment and construction of the Wyoming Valley Country Club". I spoke with the club's unofficial club historian "Doc" for a while and he could not remember who was the original designer, more to come later when I get some photos, too. Doc is a Urologist, one of the first and although 92 is spry and has the mind as sharp as any.

The land was owned and leased from the Glen Alden Coal Company and purchased in 1957 by the members according to Doc. Sure, the bunkers have become a little stylized, rounded and clean, but the greens are wild and wicked and even in the rain they are a slippery challenge. The 8th hole has a deep swale in the fairway, a reminder of it coal mining heritage. the par 3's are devilishly good and there is a very solid Hell's Half-Acre hole that stands up even today.

The course was placed where it is to allow trolley line access to the club. Later when the motor car became more prevalent, the original clubhouse burned down and the 18 holes were in place, a new approach to the course was created from the roadway requiring the previous first hole to now become the sixth creating the current routing layout. The original nine was founded as the fifth oldest in PA and the forty-fifth in the USA with the clubhouse opening on October 17, 1896. History seems to indicate creation of 15 holes and even the remaining three of the original were re-designed by Tillie.

It is an absolutely outstanding example of Tillie's work and would likely be a top 100 course if it were over 7000 yards with today's equipment. As it is, it is positively a thrill to play being as scenic as it is challenging and even at 6200 yards, a challenge to all levels of players. But on the other hand, not challenging 1 or 2 out of every 100 golfers due to length and equipment changes is honestly no deficit.

For now you can view its routing by using your favorite map program and searching Wilkes-Barre, PA and then using a little of your noggin.

I'll have some photos later this summer and more to say.

No comments: