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Course Review: Breathtaking, Challenging Totteridge Worth the Trip

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No. 17 at Totteridge Golf Course invites a big swing off the tee, but beware the elevation change. (MIKE DARNAY/PGN)

GREENSBURG, Pa. — My first thought upon steering into the parking lot that overlooks Totteridge Golf Course was, ‘Wow, these are some serious wide-open spaces.’

My first handful of rounds this year were played at courses in and around the city, so that reaction was natural. But these really are some wide-open spaces.

If you like clear sight lines and breathtaking vistas, you’ll savor the views at Totteridge, nestled in and around a windswept bowl about 15 minutes north of Greensburg.

If you like your golf challenging, you’ll also relish* the contours of Rees Jones’ 2001 design, which is just a couple nitpicks shy of a masterpiece.

(*From a selfish perspective, I didn’t enjoy my first trip as much as I should, thanks to a balky driver and a few too many hacks out of the high stuff.)

It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to describe Totteridge as a true links, due to some impressive elevation changes, but there are plenty of opportunities to chase balls up onto the spacious greens, and there’s enough scruffy native grass flanking the fairways to give it a vintage look.

I also wouldn’t classify it as a walker’s course. Your intrepid (read: bullheaded) editor gave it a shot, but my legs were pretty burnt by the final few holes. I confess I jumped onboard my buddy’s cart for a couple of late climbs from greens and tee boxes.

What Totteridge is, though, is plenty of course to keep your mind more than occupied as you traverse hill and dale.

What I most appreciated about the design was that there were scoring opportunities to be had with quality tee shots. In particular, three of the four par 5s are reachable with a good bash down the fairway — at least they were from the blue tees — and none of the four par 3s are unapproachable brutes.

A look from the 10th green into the split fairway, with No. 3 to the right and No. 11 tee left. (MIKE DARNAY/PGN)

Only those who venture west of town for their golf will get this reference, but Totteridge has a (dead) relative in the defunct Castle Shannon, a beast built in the crater of an old mine near Cadiz, Ohio. It used to be a regular pilgrimage for me and my friends when we were younger, but it fell into disrepair and eventually closed a few years ago.

Castle Shannon’s downfall was that it was almost impossible to keep it from baking out, since it was so exposed to the elements.

I’m guessing it’s a temptation to water the hell out of Totteridge; fortunately it looks like the staff has restraint. The turf was playable and the greens held, but the track had enough firmness to live up to the links tradition from which it’s derived.

Oh, yeah, the nitpicks.

It’s ironic, but the two most stop-and-snap-a-photo holes — Nos. 7 and 17 — are also ones I found a little much in terms of playability. Both involve dramatic drops in elevation that can only be described as canyon-esque. You might as well throw out the yardages, especially on a breezy day.

Then again, I had a ball on both holes, so maybe I’m full of it. It helped that my two best drives of the day were on those two, but even if I had scuffed it around, it’s still stimulating to navigate an approach to a green several stories down.

I’ll also mention that, over two rounds, a couple of my fairway lies were bare. I suppose that’s the price you pay for firmness, and I don’t mind a little hardpan if that means no soggy shots.

But any negatives at Totteridge are almost completely washed out by the price. On the brilliant early-June weekday afternoon I played, rates were $40 with cart included. My playing partners and I raved aloud at the value more than once during the four-hour round. (Head pro Rick Gay told me for last week’s COVID-19 rebound feature that Totteridge’s dynamic pricing model yields online deals for those on the ball.)

Even though it’s abutted by a burgeoning housing development, Totteridge the course is clearly about the golf. In my mind, those priorities are in perfect order. The clubhouse is modest, but the practice facility is first-class and extensive, highlighted by a three-green short-game area adjacent to the driving range.

If you’re traveling from near Downtown like me, Totteridge is accessible via the Parkway East and the Turnpike, via Route 66. U.S. Route 22 through Murrysville is also a simple toll-free option, if you don’t mind a few stoplights.

It’s a journey from the city center, no doubt, but it’s well worth your time and gasoline.

PGN’S ON COURSE

And now, a special treat: Gay personally showed me and photog Mike Darnay around his favorite corner of the property.

As you might expect, we couldn’t resist hitting a few shots along the guided tour. Special shout to Darnay for the beautiful drone footage you see throughout this video feature, which we’re calling PGN’s On Course!

PGN Value Rating: 4 of 5

Totteridge Golf Course
2029 Totteridge Dr.
Greensburg, PA 15601
(724) 837-6700
32 miles from Downtown via Parkway East & PA Turnpike or U.S. Route 22

Scorecard (All tees are par 72)
Black – 7,154 yards, 75.8 rating, 139 slope
Blue – 6,659 yards, 72.6 rating, 132 slope
White – 6,186 yards, 70.2 rating, 128 slope
Gold – 5,483 yards, 67.4 rating, 126 slope
Green – 5,307 yards, 66.4 rating, 122 slope

A 15-year veteran of sports media, Matt Gajtka (GITE-kah) is the founding editor of PGN. Matt is a lifelong golfer with a passion for all aspects of the sport, from technique to courses to competition. His experience ranges from reporting on Pittsburgh's major-league beats, to broadcasting a variety of sports, to public relations, multimedia production and social media.

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