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.

2016 Wildwood Golf Course Scorecard

Golf Course News

The weather this spring and summer has provided great opportunity to enjoy what Wildwood Golf Club has to offer.  Despite plenty of sunny days, timely rain showers have posed a few questions regarding what players can do to minimize cart impact during wet weather.  Overall, the course can manage even the most severe rain events via current drainage and cart path locations.  In areas where cart paths are not readily accessible or convenient, avoiding tight turns that take the wheel beyond the 10:00 and 2:00 positions is the best practice.  Driving with the intent of “keeping the wheels pointed forward” minimalizes torsional stress on wet turf susceptible to damage.   
Thank you to the golfers who have actively utilized the divot mix containers available on the golf carts.  Bottle refill stations will be made available at certain points throughout the course for those of us who create more divots than we care to admit.  Generally, it is best to replace the displaced turf to the divot; lightly sprinkling the divot mix along the seam of the replaced turf is a huge help as it will encourage heathy reestablishment of the fairway.    If the turf is not physically viable, refilling the divot with the provided mix and then smoothing it with the sole of your shoe to the elevation of the surrounding turf will ensure expedited recovery of the site.  Thanks to the efforts of the divoters and divotees, our fairways are looking and playing tight, and the Wildwood Golf Club Grounds Staff can devote labor typically tasked with replacing divots to more value added efforts throughout the property. 
A great way to encourage health and vigor of the range tee is to follow a linear divot path instead of scattering divots throughout the hitting station.  A linear path encourages more vigorous lateral growth, by reducing the surface area required to regenerate. 

Keeping the course lush and green is just one of the many seasonal objectives for the Wildwood Greens Staff.  An important component of any irrigation program is the ability to hand water.  While the in ground “Pop up” irrigation units provide a general baseline for our turf water needs, close monitoring and site specific watering is necessary as different topographical features as well as varying soil physics can lead to wide swings in water needs, even within a relatively small surface.  Safety of our crew members is always a priority; hitting into an employee unaware of your presence is not advised. Employees are instructed to avoid golfers by working on areas of the course that are not heavily populated with play.  In addition to facing the tee of the hole they are working, employees are instructed to acknowledge play, and place themselves in a safe position respective to ball flight.  When in doubt, yelling “Fore!” will get the employee’s attention, allowing play to proceed. 
In addition to the aesthetic improvements seen around the Club campus this spring, Wildflower patches have been established in low traffic areas well outside the corridor of play.  These areas include, left of the path leading from 4 green to 5 tee complex, right and left of 9 men’s tee, 16 tee, as well as the beds surrounding the bridge on 15.  Some areas like the bridge at 15 have really taken off, while others will take some time as they establish during the summer months.  Soon colorful displays will dot these areas enhancing their appeal. 
Please feel free to contact me via email, tfisher@wildwoodgolfclub.org or by phone 412-518-8384, if you have questions about these or any other topics throughout the grounds and course.  Also, check out our Instagram page @wgc_greens or search #wildwoodgolfclub.  See you on the course!