Wildwood Golf Club's Colorful History

No one can say for certain, but Delaware and Shawnee Indians who lived in the Pittsburgh area probably once hunted deer, wild turkey and other small game over the gently rolling hills which have become the lush fairways of Wildwood Golf Club.

The Iroquois once claimed ownership of the land that is now Wildwood, and at various times, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Benjamin Herr family, a bank, several wealthy families, the Boy Scouts of America and the University of Pittsburgh owned it.

The Wildwood land, more than 170 acres, was part of the "depreciation lands" of Pennsylvania, some 720,000 acres acquired in a 1784 treaty with the Iroquois Indians. After the Revolutionary war, the state gave the land to Pennsylvanians who fought in the war to reimburse them for their "depreciated" scrip pay which had become worthless.

Benjamin Herr, a Mennonite from Lancaster, Pa., acquired the property in 1848 and farmed it until his death, but the farmland remained in the Herr family until the mid-1920's.

That's when Wildwood Golf Club's history began. George Wittmer, Jr., with the financial help of Dr. W. B. Ray, acquired the rolling farmland 12 miles north of Pittsburgh from Benjamin Herr's descendants and built an 18-hole golf course and a beautiful stone clubhouse. Wittmer and Ray opened the facility, which they called Wildwood Country Club, in late 1927. During its early years, Wildwood Country Club was the site for several major golf tournaments, including the Dapper Dan Open, which attracted some of the great professional golfers of that era, including Ralph Guldahl, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.

Like most country clubs, Wildwood struggled financially during the Depression, and as World War II began, gasoline rationing dealt it a death blow. Considered as "out in the sticks" then, and hard to get to, the club began to lose members. It was sold in a sheriff's sale on April 6, 1940.

Ownership of the Property changed hands two more times before John W. Hubbard, a wealthy industrialist, acquired it on October 28, 1944. Hubbard donated it to the Boy Scouts of America.

With money it received from its participation in the 1956 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), acquired the club on March 28, 1956, and used it as practice areas for its athletic teams and as a recreational facility for its faculty.

Pitt rejuvenated the facilities, including the golf course, and operated the club as Pitt Wildwood. After four years of operating at a loss, the university sold the property on June 28, 1960 to Stone Lodge, Inc., a group of members from the community and Pitt, for $535,000.

Stone Lodge, Inc., which owns the real property, leases it to Wildwood Golf Club.



Golf Course News

Course Update

Despite some timely rain showers, this spring has provided great weather for our members and guests to enjoy all the Club has to offer.  Early season daffodil and pear tree blooms along the driveway signaled the end true end of winter.  Eventually, the fading daffodils were crowded out by several species of bearded iris, towering above the landscape with their intricate purple, white, and maroon flowers.  In the coming days, plantings of annuals such as zinnia, salvia, and alyssum will fill the pockets of these sunny and dry landscape beds.  At the Clubhouse main entrance, installations of coral bells, Anthony Waterer Spirea, phlox, and Pieris japonica flank either side of the stairway providing colorful foliage beneath the shade of our stately elm trees.  The potted plants throughout the club are off to a great start this year as well!  Pots brimming with frost tolerant pansies have been thriving since early spring in both full sun and shade locations.  As the temperature climbs, the pansies will fade making way for more heat tolerant annuals such as wave petunias with sweet potato vine in full sun and non-stop begonias in shady locations.  Several of our beds will be punctuated by the addition of Canna Lillies generously donated by our own Mrs. Nancy Hudac.  The dark red foliage of the Canna will give way to vivid red blooms, providing season long appeal from the first frost to the last frost.  Thank you to Mrs. Hudac for this great addition to our gardens!
While considered penal in some circumstances, the course conditions have provided for some memorable rounds this spring.  Recently completed bunker renovations and drainage projects have made it easier to spend time on more value added tasks in our daily maintenance schedule.  As is the case every spring, management of the rough is a top priority with over 90 man hours per week dedicated to this task.  The 2 ½” height of cut is deemed optimal as it provides the best conditions for the turf to thrive into the hot summer months ahead.   The rough can seem so thick and unruly this time of year because the plants are drawing easily available water from the soil, inflating the plant cells and making the turf more physically resilient.  As the season progresses, drier summer conditions will tame the rough making it easier to find (and advance) your ball!
Thank you to the membership for your eager usage of the divot mix containers provided on the carts.  This small task taken on by golfers saves our department approximately 20 man hours per week, not to mention fairways free of excessive divots!  The divot mix is meant to be used on tees and fairways only; Divots in the rough will regenerate on their own and do not require the mix. 
Wet spring weather will undoubtedly lead to varying cart policy changes.  Please see the policy distinctions below for a brief reminder of each policy distinctions.
No Carts:This policy typically takes place in the off season when frozen or waterlogged soil conditions cannot sustain even incidental vehicle traffic.  This policy is also sometimes utilized in the shoulder season through the back nine which lacks continuous cart path. 
90 Degree Rule:Considered a step up from “No Carts”, this policy is meant to encourage golfers to utilize cart paths where they exist, and to keep off-path traffic to a minimum.   Plainly stated, exiting the path at 90 degrees, driving directly to your ball, and then returning to the cart path via the shortest route will disperse cart traffic patterns. 
Paths and Fairways:The most commonly utilized policy here at Wildwood during wet conditions; this encourages golfers to use paths where they exist, but permits players to drive the fairways to gain access to their ball.  Sudden starts, stops, and turns can cause torsional stress on the turf and are discouraged.  Golfers are encouraged to keep the wheels pointed between 10 and 2 to minimize the potential for turf damage.
No Restrictions:This policy is utilized during optimal conditions.  Please observe posted signage and rope stake throughout the course.   Maintain a 50 yard radius around Greens and utilize paths for Tee access.  
Signage will be posted at the first tee informing players of any applicable restrictions for the day.  These policies are meant to facilitate play as conveniently as possible while protecting the turf from damage.  Adhering to these guidelines will help to ensure enjoyable conditions throughout the entire season. 
As always, feel free to contact me via email, tfisher@wildwoodgolfclub.org, or on our office line 412-487-1234 to discuss these or any other topics.  Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, @wgc_greens.  Here you’ll find frequent updates of what’s happening on the course and grounds!  Thanks and see you on the course!