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
 

If not for the sound of school busses, you’d have a hard time believing it’s nearly November.  Fantastic weather throughout the fall is providing great opportunities to get out and enjoy the course.    As is the case every autumn, a large portion of our daily work schedule is devoted to leaf cleanup and removal.  High maintenance playing surfaces must be completely clean of leaves and debris prior to daily mowing.  That means on any given day, employees expediently clear 25 acres of fairway, 2 acres of tees, and 3 acres of greens just to perform our mowing practices prior to daily tee times.  Staff levels typically drop off this time of year as our seasonal student help is back to school.  Fortunately the experience of our core crew makes this formidable task a little more manageable.   Frost delays pose another challenge this late in the season.  Frost sets in on turf and other surfaces in the cold early morning hours, which is prime time to get a head start on our mowing for the day.  Such delays restrict the amount of time we devote to important tasks like rough mowing.  To maximize the value of our rough mowing operation, we maintain mowing frequency in areas adjacent to corridors of play while placing secondary emphasis on rough areas well outside of play. 
Even though the golf season is drawing to a close, project season is heating up.  Sand injection on the greens is scheduled for Monday October 30.  This contracted procedure is analogous to core aerifcation without any of the mess or recovery time.  Pressurized sand is injected into the greens soil profile, increasing water infiltration rate and aeration porosity, both critical to turf health.  The green is playable immediately after the procedure with very little surface disturbance.  Later in the month, internal greens drainage will be installed on the putting green, 3 green, and 10 green.  Existing Greens Drainage, or XGD, has been completed on a number of our greens in the past, and provides benefits from an internal drainage standpoint.  As evidenced in this summer’s frequent rains, ponding on putting surfaces delays play and can cause turf decline if left unchecked. Installation of drainage will shorten delays, and make the turf healthier and better able to withstand daily stress.  Crews will be working on one green at a time, resulting in closure of that green for the time being.  The greens will be reopened for play immediately following completion of the procedure with virtually no putting surface disruption.  We can anticipate approximately 3-4 days of work on these greens start to finish.  Additional course improvements include replacement of our driving range net along Sample Road and before long we will continue our bunker renovation campaign with improvements coming at 13 green, 16, and 17.  Utilizing in house labor, we will remove the sand from these bunkers, reestablish drainage where necessary, and backfill with fresh new sand creating a less laborious bunker to maintain in season.
Shorter days and cooler temperatures have a long lasting effect on soil moisture, the main driver in day to day cart policy decisions.  During periods of inclement weather, please adhere to cart policy as stated by the Pro Shop.  In general, avoid fast starts and stops, sharp turns, and driving through our native rough areas. 
Please feel free to contact me regarding these or any other greens and ground topics.  I can be reached in the office at 412-487-1234 or via email, tfisher@wildwoodgolfclub.org.  Thanks and see you on the course!  
 
Tom Fisher, Superintendent