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
 

March is having a difficult time figuring out which way to go in 2018. The few sunny days we have been able to enjoy more often than not have been punctuated by brief snow squalls and blistering winds.  Prior to this, winter had pretty much lived up to it’s reputation with colder than average temperatures in December and January.  February broke winter’s grip with record breaking rains.  Through all of this, the grounds staff has been keeping busy with renovation projects, scheduled winter maintenance, as well as snow and ice removal throughout the club.

When the weather has been reasonable, our crew has been working through one of our most ambitious bunker renovation campaigns to date.  Renovation of bunkers on holes 17, 16, 14, 13, and 10 will be wrapping up in the near future, ready for our opening days.  Much like our bunker renovation projects throughout the course, we are giving the Chipping green a much needed makeover.  Utilizing the footprint of the existing facility, we reimagined the space to mimic shots most encountered on the course.  Highlights include a single large sand bunker, as well as intermediate, fairway, and rough height turf.  Work is beginning to wind down at the site and given good growing weather, the facility will be available for member use in mid to late April.   

Many times, harsh weather conditions warrant days working inside the shop. Refurbishment of all course accessories, from the rope stakes to bunker rakes, is undertaken at this time.  We also utilize these “shop days” to thoroughly clean and inspect our entire equipment fleet to ensure efficient and seamless operation during the golf season.  

You may have heard the buzz, but Wildwood Golf Club will be home to three bee hives starting this spring.  Following a Pro Pollinator initiative put forth by the USGA and Bayer Agro Science, hives of docile Italian and Carniolan bees will benefit our local ecology, serving as a crucial vector in plant development.  All hives will be clearly marked with signage, registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and will be managed according to Best Management Practices put forth by our local Beekeeping Association.  Careful placement of hives in far reaching corners of our property will ensure little chance of human contact.

Course aerification is scheduled for March 26-28.  Our Greens aerification program extracts soil cores, therefore diluting the amount of thatch in the root zone.   Backfilling the holes with topdressing sand provides an oxygen rich root zone for the plant.  Biannual completion of this procedure is critical to the season long playability of the greens.  If left unchecked, thatch accumulation can make the greens feel spongy, increasing the likelihood of mechanical damage from our mowers.  Thatchy greens also have a greater water holding capacity, and just like houseplants, turf doesn’t like wet feet.  Given good weather conditions, our Spring recovery times have been in the 10-14 day range.  Thank you for your patience as we lay the foundation for 2018’s greens!

XGD Greens Drainage is scheduled for the first week of April on the putting green, 10 green, and 8 green.  Undulations and pockets on these greens can lead to excessive ponding following rain events, resulting in delays in play.  Completion of this procedure in years past has yielded excellent results on greens 11, 16, 1, and 6.  Expert installation ensures the greens surface is flawless upon completion, immediately ready for play. 
 
Early spring weather patterns can have a great effect on cart policy.  Please adhere to the daily cart policy information put forth by the Golf Pro Shop.   Feel free to contact me with questions regarding these or any other Greens and Grounds related topics at 412-487-1234 or tfisher@wildwoodgolfclub.org.  Also, find us on Instagram, @wgc_greens for photos of green grass, Abbey, course projects, and spring flowers (hopefully sooner rather than later!).  Thanks and Think Spring!
Tom Fisher, Superintendent