Huntsville Golf Club
|Golf Professional||Matt Occhiato||(570) 674-3673|
|General Manager||Jeff Fry||(570) 674-6531|
|Superintendent||Mark H. McCormick||(570) 675-3800|
|Tee Sheet||Front 9||Back 9||Course|
The one sure way to satisfy your golf course architect is to let him choose the land. That is what happened at Huntsville Golf Club, in Shavertown, Pennsylvania, and the result is yet another outstanding course.
Richard Maslow was convinced that Wilkes-Barre ought to have a first-rate golf club with a championship course. A successful businessman (metal and plastics fabricating), he went about creating his brainchild in a very businesslike way. In 1987, he hired a club-and-course consulting firm, The McLaughlin Group, to do a feasibility study based on an analysis of the private club situation in the area. “Jim McLaughlin came back to me,” says Maslow, “and indicated that yes, an up-scale golf club did make sense. So I started to look for land and Jim recommended a number of architects, including Rees Jones.”
The 1st hole at Huntsville is an inviting par 5
Having played a handful of Jones courses, Maslow felt confident that from Jones’ drawing board would come a layout which could challenge the world-class golfer and still be thoroughly enjoyable to the average club player.
Finding the right land was a lot tougher than finding the right architect. Maslow wanted Jones in on the search all the way, and the architect was pleased to oblige, especially since he was given veto power. As Ed Abrams reported in the Fall 1994 issue of Philadelphia Golfer, “Not once, not twice, but five times Jones traveled to Wilkes-Barre and toured sites, each time giving a thumbs down. Maslow confesses that his frustration was growing as the search dragged on into 1992, five years after the feasibility study. But his patience paid off with a 303-acre plot that looked like the real thing.”
Jones said that he could lay out a good course on this land, but not a great one. He then urged Maslow to come up with some adjoining ground. Across the road were 170 acres for sale. Maslow promptly bought them and the architect now had at his disposal 473 acres of farmland and woodland. (The average good course is laid out on 150-160 acres.) There would be no housing lots to work around, and the topographical mix included highlands and valleys and rolling farmland, often demarcated by beautiful old stone walls. Jones says: “Huntsville has what I look for in a course site—graduated climbs, sweeping fields, and an abundance of natural features…. the charm of a course is not only how it plays, but how it feels, what types of vegetation and terrain it has, and what views it offers.” The overall elevation change is 147 feet.
With five sets of tees, the course readily accommodates players of any skill level. Par is 72. From the championship tees, the course measures 7,120 yards. It is 5,400 yards from the forward markers. Members will generally choose to play it at either 6,130 or 6,480 yards.
On a course where no hole is less than good and every vista is little short of enthralling, we don’t have to wait long for an unforgettable moment. Carved out of a dense forest, the short par-4 2nd, only 330 yards from the middle tees, takes off from a towering tee—a launching pad, really—some 140 feet above the landing area. Sand flanking the spacious fairway is the architect’s first line of defense; then come the great evergreens and hardwoods. The hole doglegs neatly left to a green that is heavily bunkered.
So plentiful are the natural features—swales and hollows, falls and rises, trees and scrub—and so dramatic the elevation changes that Jones was not compelled to do as much “creating” as he otherwise might have. Still, his patented and links-like mounds and moguls do frame a number of holes.
Except for the 143-yard No. 3, where a stream crosses in front of the green, water hazards are confined to three of the four holes across the road on that additional piece of ground Jones felt to be essential. And what a magnificent stretch this is, 11 through 14. The 400-yard llth may well be an original. The player has the choice of the left-hand fairway or the right-hand fairway. Down the center is a line of trees and brush. The hole climbs into the prevailing wind and a stream crosses it some 60 yards short of the green. Sand imperils both the drive and the long second shot.
A large pond is the key feature of the 503-yard 12th, where the water lurks tight on the left to swallow the pulled second and the pulled third. The 410-yard 13th plays over a roller-coaster fairway to a green tightly framed left and right by sand. The #2 stroke hole, it is simultaneously strong and delightful, offering, as it does, a lovely grace note near the green: a natural spring well that is surrounded by an ancient stone wall.
Two streams cross the fairway on the 480-yard 14th, one to penalise the underhit drive, the other to penalise the underhit second. Sand threatens all three shots on this especially beautiful hole, which is sculpted out of the forest and the hills.
1994 was the first full year for the course. In addition to Richard Maslow, the owner and president, the club’s founding directors were Paul Lumia, David Hall, Richard Pearsall, and Richard Caputo. Tim Foran, former head professional at both Torresdale- Frankford and Wilmington, was named director of golf. It was he who urged the club to join the Golf Association of Philadelphia, which gives Huntsville members a number of excellent competitive opportunities as well as access to USGA-approved handicapping services
Ron Whitten, architecture editor for Golf Digest and Golf World, called Huntsville “an instant classic.” In 1995, this superlative 18 finished second to Nebraska’s Sand Hills (Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, designers) in Golf Digest’s ranking of the best new private courses in the country. Clearly, the painstaking and patient Richard Maslow has accomplished what he set out to do.