Fall Colors in Pittsburgh
RSG Mini-Pitt 2005
Dave Tutelman - November 2, 2005
Thor had this great idea...
How about getting together for one last RSG event for the year.
Some of us were inordinately fond of those courses north of Pittsburgh
that we only got to play once. RSG Pittsburgh was held there in 2003,
and has been difficult to schedule there since. After a flurry of
email, we had five hardy golfers show up: Thor (of course --
it was his idea), Mark Georg (of course -- he lives right there), Joe
Dean, Fred Stluka, and me. The intent was to get in three rounds,
including two Saturday in spite of the shortness of the daylight hours.
And we made it! It was nowhere near dark when we finished the afternoon
round at Krendale. That's where the photo above was taken, about three
holes from the finish. But there was plenty of daylight left to finish.
Saturday: Stoughton Acres and Krendale
Here's our group, enjoying the fall colors and delightful weather. (Of course
the weather was delightful! Hey, Thor was there; in fact, it was his
idea.) From left: Joe "Deuce" Dean, Dave "Thor" Collard, Fred Stluka,
and Mark Georg.
We got together as planned at 8am at Stoughton Acres. We got on line to register in
the folksy "pro shop", intermixed with a group of riding regulars
there. We let them go out first, since we were planning to play as a
fivesome. (Yes, they let you do that.) The lady behind the counter
assured us, "They're fast. They're really fast. I know them." Well, the first few holes, they weren't really fast
-- more like half-fast. But they finally did pull away from us so we
were no longer waiting by the middle of the front nine. There were
holes open in front of us by the turn, and we were caught by a riding
threesome a couple of holes from the end; but we didn't slow them up
much. We finished in just over four hours, so we didn't embarrass the
course for letting us play as five.
Mark and I switched our usual roles for the round. He normally carries
and I have a three-wheeled push cart. But I had just bought a new bag,
and wanted to test it as a carry bag. And Mark now has his own
three-wheeler. So he wheeled and I carried. (While the bag was a big
success and a great design, I'm probably no longer physically up to
carrying. I played well -- my best round of the weekend -- but I
started to feel it in my knees and obliques, and had a nasty toe
blister by the end of the day.)
Stoughton is as lovely as I remembered it. Rolling, even hilly, they
keep it in immaculate shape. No two holes are similar, and the course
(especially the back nine) just "flows" over the land. A few memories
of specific holes:
In the afternoon we played Krendale. The West nine was closed. (Too
bad; that's Mark's favorite nine there, and mine too.) We played the
North followed by the South. We played as a foursome; Joe's elbow was
bothering him, so he walked with us, tended the flag, and otherwise enjoyed the round
without ever hitting a ball.
- Thor had two birdies this round. The first came on the
"signature" thirteenth hole, a Z-shaped par-5 that goes steeply down a
hill and across a pond to the green. Thor hit a great drive to the
middle of the "Z", only a little over 200 yards from the green. The
good news is he was well above the green. The bad news is that it was a
downhill lie, and the last 70 yards to the green was all carry over the
pond. He hit a hard screamer, but a little too low because of the lie.
It splashed about 10 feet short. But, because it was a screamer, it
skipped twice and wound up dry in the rough below the railroad-tie
retaining wall fronting the green. A lob and a putt later, he had his
birdie -- the hard way.
- He also birdied the last hole, a drivable (265-yard) par-4. He was hole-high to the left, and got up and down.
- I did pretty well too on the last hole. I used the left greenside
bunker as an aiming point, figuring a good drive would be a fade into
the fairway short of the green. It was straighter and longer than I
expected, and I had a really challenging lie in the bunker. I made the
most of it, hitting a good shot onto the green and two-putting for my
had two consecutive bad breaks on good shots. On the fourteenth hole, I
hit a soft approach wedge to land in the neck in front of the green. It
hit a paved cart path that I didn't even see, and took a big leap
toward the water hazard. As it turned out, it stopped inches before the
water, on a downslope in the very deep rough at the edge of the pond.
Instead of an easy chip, I had to pitch over the pond from a snarly
downhill lie. I made a good shot of it, and almost got it to the green.
It landed at the top of the slope; another few inches and it would have
been stiff. Instead, it rolled down the slope, again almost into the
water. I had a sloppy stance (right foot on near-mud) and a sloppy lie.
Much to everybody's amazement, my lob wedge managed to find the ball
and get it up onto the green.
- The steep hill to the left of the sixteenth fairway is a
certifiable ball magnet. Three of our five drives hung up in the slope,
and the escape shots did too, in spite of serious sidehill lies that
you'd expect would prevent it.
Here are some more photos from Krendale.
- I started out hot. (Unfortunately didn't stay that way.) I parred
the long par-4 first hole, with a great drive -- long and dead center
-- a perfect 4-iron to the front apron, a chip and a tap-in. On the
second, I hit a decent drive, but found my ball in a bad lie in the
right rough. The best I could do was to dig it to the middle of the
fairway. (Good thing it didn't go as far as I wanted; from my position,
the flag I could see was the ninth green, not the one I was playing --
so I was aimed in the wrong direction.) I hit a perfect 60-yard
half-wedge that bounced, checked, and casually rolled into the hole for
still call the fourth on the North "the hole from hell". Remember
RSG-Pitt 2003? If so, you may remember that the best we had there was a
triple-bogey seven. The photo shows Mark teeing off on that hole. You
have to flirt with the fairway bunker on the left, and actually hit
your uphill drive well past it, to have any hope of going for the green
in two. In fact, you need to keep the ball in the narrow slot you see
between the trees to even have an easy layup. The green is tucked well
right, with trees overhanging the right and a pond in front. Damn near
unreachable unless you're well down the left edge of the fairway.
played it almost perfectly. His drive threaded down the left side, just
missing the bunker and finishing just in the fairway about 160 yards
out. His iron shot flirted with the trees, but found the front right of
the green. He misread the first putt, not allowing nearly enough break
nor speed, and finished a good ten feet below the hole. Unfortunately,
he missed that putt and had to settle for bogey.
I'm proud that I managed to scrape out a bogey
too, after a not-so-good drive but a good recovery, pretty good layup, and
got a birdie on the par-5 seventh hole. Just like on the diagram: good
drive in the fairway, good wood in the fairway, approach holds the
green about 8 feet from the hole, and make the putt.
- The South nine is really funky. Here's some idea of what you're dealing with:
- The first and last are pure target golf around a serpentine
The first plays 5-iron to a safe layup area and 8-iron to the
green. Mark and Thor tried cutting off some of the lake with a driver;
they cleared the pond handily, but were in trouble well right of the
narrow strip of fairway.
And the last plays 5-wood (or hybrid utility
club) short of the first leg of the lake, 8-iron to the next landing
area, and sand wedge over the other leg of the lake to the green.
- There is another pure target hole in #8. Unless you can draw a
drive around the dogleg left, you need to lay up about 160-180 yards
from the tee. If you miss the layup, you can be in trees right or the
stream left (which the drawn drive must cross; don't draw it enough and
you're wet). If your layup is at all short, you still can't see the green for
- Four middle holes are long par-fours (with one five thrown in) going back and forth across a ridge.
third is a 420-yard par-4. The approach shot (seen in the Mark Georg
photo) is sufficiently intimidating that it's a par-5 for most of us.
The last 120 yards or so is across a pond, with a waterfall fronting
the green. The green is not very deep, considering that the second shot
will be with a long iron or a wood, and you can't run it on. Fred put a
great drive in the fairway, and decided to go for it. We didn't see his
shot come down, but it sounded like it hit one of the trees on the
right. However, when we arrived at the green, we found his ball in the
fringe behind the green. He wasn't able to get up and down, but a bogey
on that hole was really good. (I managed to save a quadruple-bogey
- The seventh is an island green. It's 150 yards, but playing 140
or less because the pin is way front. (The green is very narrow but
very deep.) We all hit the green. In fact, we all hit good enough shots
that our balls were within a foot of the ball-mark. Mark made a 20-foot
birdie putt, and the rest of us made par. Good hole!
Fred tees off on the second hole.
Thor's approach shot on the third hole crosses the pond.
Thor relaxes and enjoys the scenery.
Fred and me. Yes, Fred is taller than I am, but he's also standing uphill.
After golf, we went to Mark's house for dinner. We had "undergraduate
Italian": pizza and beer. We also met the three women in Mark's life:
Grace, Abby, and Sophie. In my opinion, one is a sweetheart and the
other two are dogs.
After supper, I discovered what Joe was saving himself for -- bowling!
Actually, we had agreed that Saturday night would be bowling night. The
other four actually brought their own bowling balls. I decided not to
partake, but had a good time just sitting and watching. Saturday night
is date night, of course, so there was plenty to watch. Among other
attractions, the near-centerfold identical twins in the next lane kept
me from getting bored while the others bowled, but I think they were a
major distractions to the bowlers. Fred had tried to get sympathy (I
don't think you get strokes in bowling) by pointing out how much dust
there was on his ball, but he turned out the big money winner for the
evening. Hey, I don't think I've seen that much money change hands over golf
at an RSG event. Joe's forbearance during the afternoon bore some
fruit; he had the high game -- I think it was something like 189.
morning, we drove about 40 minutes to Birdsfoot golf course in Slate
Lick. The first thing we noticed as we entered the clubhouse was a face carved into a tree. There were several more all
over the course.
We had almost an hour's wait for a frost delay. Birdsfoot is very
well-managed. They kept the golfers informed of progress and estimated
starting times, and put together a shotgun start to minimize the wait
for most. We all had to wait until the course defrosted, but nobody had
to wait much beyond that. Clever!
Since we were the only walkers in the Sunday crowd, they sent us off
from the first tee, so we wouldn't have a walk out to our start or back
from our finish. They actually allowed us to play as a walking fivesome
among all those riding foursomes. That shows a lot of confidence in us,
and we appreciated it. But they did warn us to keep up the pace, and
told us that the ranger, Leo, is highly assertive and his nickname is
"Shotgun". We felt duly notified.
As it turned out, their confidence was not misplaced. On the sixth tee,
which was on top of the world, we had a wait for the group -- the
riding foursome -- ahead of us. So we looked back down the long par-5
fifth hole and saw that the riding foursome behind us hadn't teed off
yet; we were a full par-5 ahead. That was not maintained for the whole
round. As hilly as the front nine was, the back nine was even more so,
with the addition of long uphill climbs from green to tee. With the
terrain slowing us down compared to the riders, the group ahead inched
away. The last time we had to wait for them was on the fifteenth tee.
By the end, the group behind us did a little waiting for us -- but only
I've already said how hilly the course was. It was also quite challenging, and played longer than the marked yardage.
After we finished, we said our goodbyes in the bar and headed for home.
Thanks to Thor for the idea and Mark for making the local arrangements.
Had a great time!
- There wasn't much water on the course, but I still managed to drown two balls. Both were terrible shots.
- I don't think anybody in our group got a birdie this round.
- The ninth hole is an intimidating par-3 that plays 185 yards over a ravine;
it's all carry. Still, four of us were hole-high, with two on the green
and two just off.
eleventh hole is the only really badly designed holes on
the course. A par-3, it has a long, continuous bunker around
270º of the green. The front is open, so you can run the ball on;
that part of the design is reasonable. But the sides and back are all
sand. Why is this bad? Because the next tee is almost straight off the
back of the green. But, unless you are going to stomp through the
bunker, you have to walk in the wrong direction. Obviously walking
golfers were not considered when this hole was designed. We made it
using a "rake brigade"; walk across raking as you go, then throw the
rake back to the next guy.
twelfth hole (see photo) is a long, downhill dogleg right, with woods
guarding the dogleg. If you hit right of the cart path (or even near
the cart path) you probably won't see that ball again. By the time we
were done, Thor claimed he had found a new "hole from hell". (The rest
of us weren't quite up to taking that title away from the original at
Krendale, but agreed that it certainly was devilish.) In addition to
lost balls (plural) on both first and second shots, we encountered a
nasty green. There is a ridge across the green about 2/3 of the way
back. The putting surface slopes back-to-front for most of the green,
but drops off steeply in the back. And that's where the hole was. Chips
and even putts from the front picked up speed after they crossed the
ridge, and continued off the green into the rough. One of us saw this
and cozied his putt to the top of the ridge -- well, almost to
the top of the ridge. His next putt was the one that rolled off the
back. Bottom line: Mark and I walked away with double-bogeys, glad to
share the low score for the group.
- The finishing hole has a double fairway. You have to commit to
one or the other on the tee, because there is serious rough and even
bunkers in the no-mans-land between them. We all hit good drives that
caught the fairway we were aiming for.