A LinksGems course tour and appreciation of the Robert White designed Longue Vue Club by Jon Cavalier
Much attention is paid to National Golf Links, Oakmont, Cypress Point and their peers, and for good reason. But it also useful and enjoyable to shine a light on a lesser known, but very worthy golf course. Longue Vue Club, designed by Robert White, a St. Andrews native and former president of the PGA of America, as well as the architect of the first putting green ever installed on the White House lawn, is well deserving of our attention and praise. The course opened for play in 1922 and a decade and a half later, A.W. Tillinghast lent his eye and his mind for potential improvements. The club wisely acted on several of his ideas, including changes to the first, ninth, tenth and eleventh holes.
The product was a first rate golf course on an astonishing piece of land high above the Allegheny River. The course incorporates several templates of the Macdonald/Raynor school, including a Redan, Eden and Punchbowl. Despite the hilly nature of the property, the course is a joy to walk and to play. The staff does a fabulous job of keeping the conditions ideal for enjoyable golf and the club maintains firm fairways, fast greens and penal but playable rough.
Longue Vue has a tendency to be overlooked due to its location in the long shadow of nearby Oakmont and Fox Chapel, but this gem is more than worthy of discussion. I hope you enjoy the tour.
I tend to rattle on a bit about clubhouses in my tours, as I have always believed that, when done right, a clubhouse can add to the experience of a golf course. Longue Vue’s clubhouse is, in a word, exceptional.
Designed by architect Benno Janssen, the clubhouse is entirely stone with a slate roof and includes several large archways.
As seen above, the clubhouse is designated a National Historic Landmark and appears on the National Register of Historic Places.
Upon arrival at the club, and depending on the entrance used, the player drives through the arched tunnel to reach the parking lot.
The landscaping surrounding the clubhouse is impeccable, and colorful flowers are planted in seemingly every available space.
The views from the club’s main patio are likewise impressive – hence the name.
This view from the west side of the clubhouse shows the 18th hole, which finishes steps from the building.
Even the walk to the first tee is impressive.
Longue Vue plays to a yardage of 6,606 from the back tees and to a par of 71. The course is routed loosely in a counterclockwise fashion, though it doubles back on itself frequently on the second nine.
HOLE #1 – 396 yards – par 4
A tough opener, the first doglegs to the left around a sharp falloff—anything to the left of the fairway is looking at a bogey or worse.
A tee shot hit too long or too timidly to the right will find rough and a challenging angle. An accurate drive is a must on this hole.
The right side of the first hole gives the player his first look at some of the scenery to come.
The first green is sloped substantially from back to front, providing a receptive target for longer approach shots while penalizing balls hit long.
A very solid opening hole.
HOLE #2 – 390 yards – par 4
The next of two stout par-4 openers, the second hole plays gently downhill to a fairway bending in the opposite direction from the first.
The fairway falls off to the left and feeds into these bunkers, which make for a challenging recovery to the elevated and well-protected green.
The proper play is down the left side of this fairway, which provides both the ideal angle and view into this green.
The slope of this fairway, the angle to which it feeds into the green, and the left to right tilt of the green itself combine to provide for some very interesting approach shots.
HOLE #3 – 202 yards – par 3
An excellent Redan, the third plays over a large ravine to a green at tee height.
There is little room for error here—misses short or left are dead, and those long or right make for extremely challenging recoveries.
The green is unique among Redans, in my experience, as it contains both a hollow and a second tier to the right rear.
The third is a standout hole at Longue Vue.
HOLE #4 – 553 yards – par 5
The first three shot hole of the round begins high above the Allegheny River and drops steeply downhill.
An accurate tee shot on the proper line will run forever, and will provide most players with a second shot into the green.
Those who choose to lay up are offered a generous fairway, which then tightens considerably near the green.
The large green is receptive to shots hit from distance, but care must be taken to avoid the miss long or right. An enjoyable hole.
HOLE #5 – 198 yards – par 3
An Eden template par-3, the fifth plays over a shallow ravine to an elevated green with replica Hill and Strath bunkering to either side.
The green slopes hard from back to front here, and the Eden bunker is ready to catch balls hit long. The hazard bounding the right side of the hole adds an element of difficulty due to the steep slope from the green to the trees. Though not as dramatic as some Macdonald Edens, the fifth at Longue Vue is a fine example of this template.
HOLE #6 – 390 yards – par 4
The sixth requires a tee shot to a banked fairway running left to right around a large ravine that encroaches from the right side.
The banked fairway rewards well-struck drives that fade right to left with some extra distance and a kick down into the flat bottom of the fairway.
The large green is accessible, but the penalty for missing it is high, as it is surrounded on all sides with trouble in one form or another.
HOLE #7 – 312 yards – par 4
The shortest two shot hole on the course, the seventh asks for a tee shot to a narrow fairway benched into the side of a hill. Longer hitters wishing to challenge this green off the tee must confront a set of bunkers set into the hill above the left side of the fairway. The contours of the fairway obscure parts of the landing area and the green.
This unique bunkering presents a visual and actual hazard on the seventh hole.
As seen from behind the green, the topography at Longue Vue makes for some challenging and interesting golf. A fun risk-reward par-4.
HOLE #8 – 548 yards – par 5
The start of what might be considered Longue Vue’s prettiest stretch of holes, the eighth begins on a rise and proceeds over the club’s entrance road to a fairway canted steeply uphill and hard from left to right.
This fairway is truly difficult to hold, and your author thinks this hole could improve from good to great if the fairway were widened by 20 or more yards. In any event, second shots are hit from a significantly uphill lie.
The fairway short of the green is beautifully contoured and open to encourage running second shots. While the ideal approach is down the left side, the cross bunker some 50 yards short of the green on the left must be avoided.
Once again, the rolling land provides character and interest to this two-and-a-half shot hole.
HOLE #9 – 452 yards – par 4
The bunkerless ninth hole at Longue Vue may be the most difficult on the course. The tee shot requires a carry over a ravine to a fairway not only sloping left to right, but substantially undulating as well.
Level lies are few and far between in this fairway, making the long second shot that much more difficult.
Missing the fairway off the tee means having to confront this deep depression some 80 yards short of the green.
The interest of the ninth is increased by the fact that the horizon green slopes from front to back, a feature made more challenging by the length of the hole.
A superb hole, and perhaps the best on the course.
HOLE #10 – 171/148 yards – par 3
A gorgeous par-3 set at the edge of a bluff, the tenth is all carry to a green that appears suspended in mid-air.
As this view from short and left of the green illustrates, there is almost no room for error here. Further, the green itself cants sharply from high left to low right, which is exacerbated by some pin positions.
The slope of this green provides it with near-redan like characteristics, as properly flighted balls can be aimed at the larger, safer side of the green and use the slope to funnel down toward the hole. The ninth is visible in the background. A beautiful setting for golf.
HOLE #11 – 417 yards – par 4
A rise in the fairway obscures the landing area on this tough, dogleg right par-4. The hole slings to the right, opposite the slope in the fairway, making a fade the much preferred shot shape off this tee.
Most second shots will be blind here as well, as the hole continues its gentle climb up and around the hillside to the large green. The flagpole marks the center of the green.
This view from the right reveals the depth of the green, appropriate for receiving the long, often blind approach shots required here.
Bunkers to the left of the green catch any shots not properly aimed, which is complicated for the player by the blindness of the approach.
HOLE #12 – 200 yards – par 3
A long one-shot hole to a very dramatic green, the twelfth is played over another large ravine with the slight elevation creating partial blindness from the tee.
The green is riddled with ridges and undulations, making a two putt far from certain, even for those shots that are fortunate enough to find the putting surface from the tee.
Pins on a high tier in the right rear of the green provide their own set of additional challenges. A first rate par 3 hole.
HOLE #13 – 334 yards – par 4
A Robert White Alps/Punchbowl! The short thirteenth is your author’s favorite hole at Longue Vue. The tee shot plays out over a pond to a bowled fairway that rises sharply uphill.
The approach shot is blinded by the Alps feature, here a fairway mound fronting the green.
The punchbowl green is open front right but extends deeply to a back left corner. The green itself slopes from back to front and contains all manner of pockets and hollows.
This view from behind the thirteenth reveals the back left pocket, which provides for the best pin positions on this outstanding green.
Who among us doesn’t love a well-done punchbowl? The thirteenth at Longue View certainly qualifies.
HOLE #14 – 445 yards – par 4
Having ascended the alps hill, the course plays out across the highest point of the property. The fourteenth begins with a slightly uphill drive to a wide fairway that bends gently left. Bunkers guard the inside of the dogleg, while the right is bounded by a steep, tree covered slope.
The wide fairway flows seamlessly into the green, allowing long approaches to be run on to the putting surface.
One last gentle hole before the drama of the closing stretch begins.
HOLE #15 – 540 yards – par 5
Wow. The fifteenth hole plays straightaway along the ridgeline, with the Allegheny Valley in full view far below. The view from this tee box is surpassed only by the one from the green.
While traps down the right will catch balls careening toward the cliff’s edge, hidden bunkers down the left see far more action, as players naturally bail out away from the certain death of a miss right.
The beautifully rolling fairway will reward accurate drives with added distance and the promise of an opportunity to go for this green in two. The cliff looms right for the entire length of the hole.
Again, the green is open in front to receive running approaches, but is surrounded by sand, including this bunker short left that will gather shots missed left.
Golf in the Pittsburgh area does not get more scenic than the fifteenth at Longue Vue.
HOLE #16 – 198 yards – par 3
The par 3 holes at Longue Vue are extremely challenging, and the sixteenth is no exception. In fact, it may be the most difficult of them all. An uphill tee shot into the prevailing wind is required, and accuracy is a must, as the green will shed balls missed right or long.
The area short of this tough green is mowed and maintained as fairway, and can be used by players to bounce balls on to the putting surface.
HOLE #17 – 470 yards – par 4
Longue Vue closes with two lengthy and difficult two shot holes that run downhill and back to the clubhouse. The first of the pair, the seventeenth, plays down to a fairway moving gently from right to left. The hill obscuring the beginning of the fairway makes distances difficult to judge.
The fairway banks slightly from right to left, making a level lie a difficult find. Once more, the green is open in front but well-protected to the sides.
The lack of trees immediately behind the green plays yet more tricks with judging distance, and the green itself slopes from right to left.
The seventeenth—a hole as pretty as it is difficult.
HOLE #18 – 471 yards – par 4
Strong courses have strong finishing holes, and Longue Vue is no exception. The second of two consecutive 470+ yard par-4s, the eighteenth plays out over a rise to a wide fairway. Like the eighteenth at Eastward Ho!, the finishing hole at Longue Vue hides its drama until the second shot is reached.
Playing directly at the gorgeous stone clubhouse, the final hole winds its way down the rippling terrain to a large green.
The green slopes slightly from front to back and hard from right to left, and out of bounds is tight to the rear of the green, incentivizing a ground approach.
A last look back up the eighteenth hole leaves one in awe of the effort that must have been needed to build a course on these grounds nearly 100 years ago.
Longue Vue is a course that is under the radar of most, but for those who enjoy their golf fun, fast and challenging, and with some gorgeous scenery sprinkled in, it is not to be missed. Next time you find yourself in the Pittsburgh area, you should give Longue Vue a look. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
Copyright 2019 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf