The private golf club is the oldest in Western Pennsylvania, established in its current location in 1915, but with roots that go back 133 years. The club is planning a formal celebration on June 13 with a golf tournament and dinner dance.
After 133 years, the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Field Club is the oldest private golf club in Western Pennsylvania. Today, the club celebrates its 100th anniversary at its current location, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Nothing special is planned for the occasion, at least not now. The club plans a more formal celebration June 13 with a golf tournament and dinner dance, the Post-Gazette reported.
In the meantime, the members and golf staff will look back at a club that has been re-routed, refurbished and re-done so many times that portions of the course look little as they did when the Field Club opened 100 years ago.
“It has been phenomenally touched over the years,” said Dave Martin, who has been the club’s head professional since 1982.
One hundred years ago, the golf course took off when some club members purchased 171 acres for $38,000 and moved the club from the city. Alexander Findlay designed 18 new holes that opened June 1, 1915, in the area that was officially incorporated as Fox Chapel Borough 20 years later, the Post-Gazette reported.
The Field Club does not lack for any signature landmarks, not all of which have been warmly received. The tee shot at No. 1, looking east from the clubhouse perch high above the property, is the most dramatic vantage point on the course. But getting the 6,783-yard layout back to that same lofty elevation has been a source of consternation for years. The 18th hole at the Field Club, which began as an uphill par-4, was converted into a nasty par-3 that has been blown up and redone repeatedly, the Post-Gazette reported
To get to that tee, an elevator was constructed beyond the 17th green to carry golfers some 80 feet in the air. The elevator is believed to be the first of its kind to be built on a golf course. Finally, what stands today as the 18th hole—a flattened-out, mounded and well-bunkered 215-yard par-3—has been graciously accepted as a suitable finishing hole. It is the work of architect Keith Foster, one of at least a half-dozen architects to put their hands on the layout after it was originally designed by Findlay, the Post-Gazette reported.
Among the others: A.W. Tillinghast, Willie Park Jr., Robert Trent Jones, Arthur Hills, Craig Schreiner, Tripp Davis and a club member named Xenophon Hassenplug. Donald Ross was also said to have provided revisions to the layout, though there is no record at the club of the famous architect having been on site, the Post-Gazette reported.
“There are no drawings and nothing in our old board minutes to suggest he was here,” Martin said.
The Field Club has an outdoor elevator that transports players from the 17th green to the tee at the par-3 finishing hole. It was erected in 1938 when the original 18th hole, a 330-yard par-4 that climbed severely uphill, was changed to a par-3 with a new tee that sat at the top of the hill. In those days, golf carts did not exist, so players used the elevator to avoid the long, strenuous walk up the hill. The elevator was the first of its kind to be built on a golf course. But it was not without its problems, the Post-Gazette reported.
At the 2004 Pennsylvania Open, Chartiers pro Joe Klinchock took the elevator with his two playing partners and their two caddies, plus their bags. Klinchock’s caddy decided to skip the elevator and walk to the 18th tee using the winding cart path. Turns out, he was the wise one.
Halfway up, the elevator lost power when a generator on one of the nearby roads was struck. Klinchock and four others were stuck approximately 30 to 40 feet in the air for nearly an hour before power was restored, the Post-Gazette reported.
“It just went blank,” Klinchock recalled the other day. “It was dark and you’re standing face to face with people you don’t know. And it’s July and you’re hot and sweaty.”
Ambulances and nurses were called to the scene to attend to the players once the power was restored. A storm had been approaching, too, increasing the urgency to get the players out of the elevator, the Post-Gazette reported.
Klinchock and the four others were lowered to the ground when power was restored. Because the storm was imminent, play was suspended and Klinchock retreated to the clubhouse, the Post-Gazette reported.
“It was pretty close to an hour before they got us out,” Klinchock said. “It didn’t bother me. I think the one guy said he was a little claustrophobic. They had nurses there but we were fine.”