(Pictured: Pleasant Valley CC, founded 1922)
The 97-year-old Pleasant Valley Country Club in Connellsville, Pa. and 111-year-old Uniontown (Pa.) CC are both under new ownership and making extensive improvements to their facilities and golf courses as they seek to create more casual and informal atmospheres that can appeal to wider audiences and bring in younger members. “This is more of a country club today than it was five years ago,” says Ken Ivory, Pleasant Valley’s Director of Golf Operations.
Elite, golf-centric country clubs may be becoming a thing of the past in Western Pennsylvania, at least in the traditional sense, according to the Washington, Pa. Observer-Reporter.
The days of high-priced dues and initiation fees, strict dress codes and rules are being replaced by lower or no dues and special activities or events at some of the region’s more prominent and established private clubs in the region, according to the Observer-Reporter. These clubs’ owners, some of whom are new to the business and the area, hope that creating a more casual, informal atmosphere will appeal to a wider audience and help to bring in younger members.
The former Pleasant Valley Country Club, now called the Pleasant Valley Golf Club, is the perfect example, according to the Observer-Reporter. Founded in 1922, the Connellsville, Pa. venue operated as a private, members-only club until the spring of 2018, when its owners opted to sell, rather than watch the club fold.
Now under the ownership of local businessman Tuffy Shallenberger, the club is fully open to the public.
“Thirty years ago, Pleasant Valley was the premier country club in the area,” Ken Ivory, the club’s Director of Golf Operations who stayed on after the club was sold, told the Observer-Reporter.
However, Ivory pointed out, times have changed. Membership had dwindled and those who did remain were paying far less in dues than they ever had. Ultimately, the club couldn’t make enough to put any money back into the club.
“It was done out of necessity, like most courses,” Ivory told the Observer-Reporter. “It was give it to the bank or take a very fair offer to buy the place.”
The 111-year-old Uniontown (Pa.) Country Club (UCC) also recently saw a change in ownership, according to the Observer-Reporter.
After closing its doors in October 2018, the club was purchased by Phoenix LLC, a group that owns and operates several businesses in the area, including Uniontown’s Duck Hollow Golf Club, a public course that also sells golf memberships.
Uniontown CC will still be a country club and will now operate on a semi-private basis, General Manager Rico Coville told the Observer-Reporter.
That means the restaurant/bar and golf course will be open to the public, but the club will offer “members-only” times for those amenities as a special benefit to those who choose to join. The pool and a cigar room, Coville said, will be for members only.
“We’re just taking it step by step,” Coville, a Uniontown native, told the Observer-Reporter.
Both clubs have undergone and continue to undergo numerous renovations, according to the Observer-Reporter.
Changes at UCC have included updating the kitchen, painting, redecorating and even reworking the restaurant area, which now features a big open room where it was once closed off by a wall. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner daily.
The restaurant has been renamed the 1908 Bar and Restaurant, in a nod to the club’s founding year. It will feature a bar menu during the day and dinner menu beginning at 4 p.m. The outdoor deck will also be available for diners, to take advantage of the property’s views.
The banquet hall will also be available for meetings, private parties and special events, with seating up to 225 and an additional 100 on the outdoor deck.
Drainage issues on the course and updates to bunkers are just some of the work being done on the UCC golf course, according to the Observer-Reporter. There is also work to be done to the swimming pool and baby pool.
With such a transformation under way, Coville is encouraging the public to come and check out all the changes, according to the Observer-Reporter. The club also recently held a grand reopening.
“Come out and see it. We are open every day. Come walk around the grounds and see what’s happening here,” Coville said.
Updates at Pleasant Valley, according to the Observer-Reporter, include a restaurant and bar called The Locker Room, located in the former site of a literal locker room. Another restaurant and bar, 19th Hole, is on the second floor of the club.
“This has really taken off and flourished, and not just as a bar, but as an eatery,” Kim Robson, who was hired as Director of Club Operations in the fall of 2018, told the Observer-Reporter.
Behind The Locker Room, new state-of-the-art golf simulators have become a huge hit as a valuable instructional and practice tool and attraction both for serious golfers and novice golfers just learning the game, Ivory told the Observer-Reporter.
On the top level of the club, renovation plans are underway for the banquet room, according to the Observer-Reporter. The pro shop has also been redesigned and new merchandise is arriving.
On the exterior, an extensive renovation of the course began at the end of the season last year and continues, including the construction of an island green on the 17th hole, and a peninsula green on the 14th – something Ivory said will be unique to this area. Additional bunkers and cart paths are also being redone.
“This place is more of a country club today than it was five years ago,” said Ivory.