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Birdsfoot Golf Club – Freeport, PA
This is the fourth year in a row that I have greeted the fall foliage with a 3 day weekend golf trip to Western Pennsylvania. In fact, we are running out of golf courses to play. Birdsfoot had been on my Pennsylvania course radar for quite sometime now. Not anymore. We played Birdsfoot Golf Club in Freeport, Pennsylvania on a dreary Sunday morning for $59 with cart. Birdsfoot was designed by Ault, Clark and Associates and might be one of the better public offerings within a 50 mile radius of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Golf Digest awarded this course a 4.5 star rating and from the looks of the course on their thoughtfully designed website, I knew I had to give it a go this year. Give it a go I did.
The course architects had a nice piece of land here for sure. This course had it all, tough par 3′s, tough par 4′s and fair par 5′s. Although the course appears to be wide open, there are many holes with all sorts of trouble. Number two (not pictured above that is #4 which you can also cut off) is a silly hole in that they staked it out of bounds so you wouldn’t play down an adjacent hole (shorter route) rather than play the dogleg around the lake.
In fact, the pro incorrectly instructed us that the staked off area was "only OB off the tee" when in fact according to the USGA rules of golf it cannot just be OB off the tee. OB is OB is OB. Trust me, I held a playing partner to this and he broke a Callaway driver in a fit of rage over this. He soon asked the pro on a later hole who misinformed him of the OB ruling. I let it go until I pulled out my little rule book. Design the hole properly and golfers will stop trying to find a shorter route to the green, it is that simple. In fact, there are many ways that you can play these holes here, lots of shortcuts that I am sure the architects never intended. A lack of trees allows you to do this at Birdsfoot.
Number 9 (par 3) is a tough 195-200 yard CARRY from the back two sets of tees and is a real monster of a "short" hole. Birdsfoot really does have a heap of trouble all over the place. The course offers great views of the rolling Pennsylvania farmland, it’s as scenic as one could hope for in a course. Its a good thing too as the pace of play was somewhat slower than I am accustomed to. The greens were large, undulated and even though we played in wet conditions, they were rolling FAST. There are few unfair holes at Birdsfoot as well. Hole #13 (pictured in the above photo) immediately comes to mind. Without a hard draw off the tee, your ball will be lost right into the woods. Lots of room for error here. As we all know, golf like most things in life, isn’t fair anyway. I may even be looking for excuses for the large number I put up here. The front nine is mostly sans trees and the back nine brings more trees into play on many of the holes. This unique course a very poor man’s rendition of Oakmont (in a way) if you will.
Hole #17 is called "Pot Luck" (pictured below) and sports a multitude of pot bunkers surrounding an elevated green. The chances of hitting into one of them are fairly good here. I wish I had some local knowledge of Birdsfoot as well. Number 18 is a blind shot to a split fairway, and from the tee box you really have no idea what or where to aim. Adjacent to the 18th fairway is hole number one’s adjacent fairway and any big cut cold kill someone over there. In fact, you could even play down number one for a better view into the 18h green.
Although I wouldn’t design my golf trip around Birdsfoot again, it is most definitely worth playing if you are near the north side of Pittsburgh. I would rate it even higher once the cart paths are properly paved (bring a seat belt) and they have a pro shop rather than the bucolic old farmhouse, where more than 3 people can actually stand in line to pay for your round. Heck, I’m just being picky here folks, Birdsfoot is true test of interesting golf with outstanding course conditions. Give it a go and remember on hole number two to aim your drive over that adjacent hole so that you can get home in two for an easy eagle putt. Rules are rules it’s NOT OB.