After a later night than I wanted (thanks Hotels.com!) I arrived at Birdsfoot a few minutes before my 6:22am tee time. If you think that early of a tee time for me is unusual then you are correct! I’m not a morning person and would rather start my day around lunchtime! But, I purchased a ticket to the 1:05pm Pirates game so I wanted a sunrise tee time which would comfortably allow me to make it to the game.
Birdsfoot is located about 40 minutes northeast of town just off of PA 28. PA 28 is a divided highway that seems like an interstate so it is a pretty direct route to the course from the metro area. I certainly wouldn’t call the course convenient as it didn’t seem like there was much around. But, I guess you could pass by traveling to and from Pittsburgh from certain areas. I had heard the course’s name mentioned a couple times so I decided to go out of my way and give it a try. Even though it cost me a little extra in gas to get there, it turned out to be a good value since I found it for $37 through Golfnow.
I was paired up with a twosome and we were off a few minutes past the scheduled time. One guy had played the course before and offered some much appreciated assistance as I navigated my way around. We played in 3.5 hours which I think is a decent pace for a threesome early in the morning. It worked out great for me as I didn’t have to rush getting to the baseball game.
I’d best describe Birdsfoot as a “hilly links” style course. The area is heavily wooded, but it looks like the designers (Ault, Clark & Associates) brought in some bulldozers and had fun knocking down all the trees! If you look at the satellite image of the course you can see what I am talking about. The only trees that present lost ball trouble are on the perimeter holes. The course is extremely open and inviting, at least off the tee. It is a place where someone can slash it around and still find it.
I played the black tees which play 72.0/134/6547 and there is a nice mix of difficulty throughout the course. There are some holes where I was happy with a par and others where I was disappointed with one. Most holes had some elevation change, so they either played shorter or longer than the distance on the scorecard. The uphill and downhill holes were mixed nicely too. Because of the open land and elevated spots on the course, I enjoyed some nice views of the area. An added bonus, is that there aren’t any homes that line the course!
Most of the trouble at Birdsfoot is going to come in the form of fescue, mounding, slopes, and semi-blind shots. I played here early in the season, so there wasn’t much fescue to deal with, which was nice! Because the course is built on a hill I faced plenty of uneven lies and had to try to land the ball at a high point to let it run down to where I wanted. The uphill holes tended to have semi-blind approaches which made those tougher to play the first time around. Another thing that adds difficulty is all the slopes in the greens.
The maintenance wasn’t anything special. I don’t say that in a bad way and for the price that I paid I thought the maintenance was respectable. The tees and fairways were a bit long which affected how cleanly I could contact the ball and I had a couple thin lies. The greens were very nice, rolled well, and picked up pace as the morning went along. By the end of the round the greens were very firm, too firm for regular public play in my opinion. Also, there were some rocks in the bunkers which could nick a wedge.
I have mixed feelings about Birdsfoot. I really want to like the course because of the open layout and I wish Charlottesville had that style of course nearby. But, there was too much slope in the fairways and on the greens for my liking. If you follow my blog, greens with too much slope is something that I have noticed before about Ault, Clark & Associates courses. If you enjoy their courses, they you will probably like this one!
#1 (370 yard par 4):
This is my type of opening hole! There is hardly any trouble to be found but it still requires some decent shots to make a par. It is wide open, but plays uphill to the green. The approach is semi-blind and it was at least an extra for me.
#2 (547 yard par 5):
The 2nd is the longest hole on the course and I certainly could have benefited from seeing it before. The green is located off the picture to the right and the hole boomerangs around a pond that could come into play off the tee or possibly on a second shot from the rough. The best line is out towards some bunkers in the shadows and then it is semi-blind layup. The good news is that there is plenty of grass right of the cart path (past the pond) in which to find a ball. The green slopes from right to left.
#3 (434 yard par 4):
The 3rd is a long par 4 (it is also the hardest hole) that moves left along the tree line. The best tee shot will move from right to left with the shape of the hole and it plays to a skinny fairway. There is plenty of room to miss right and find the ball, but there are grass mounds to the right of the fairway. I ended up on the downhill slope of one and only felt comfortable advancing it 125 yards. I think it is a great driving hole! I still had a chance at a par so missing right isn’t terrible.
#4 (155 yard par 3):
The 4th is the shortest par 3 on the course and it should only be a mid or short iron for most. The small green angles left around a pond. Anything to the left of the green could get a big bounce left and end up in the hazard. Therefore, I’d err on the right side again here.
#5 (486 yard par 5):
The 5th is a short par 5 that is a birdie opportunity. It doglegs left and the green is up near those left trees in my picture. I struggled to pick the correct line off the tee as I couldn’t tell how much of the corner I could cut off. I fanned it out to the right and had to layup but the bigger hitters could get there in two even though it goes uphill to the green. I could only see the top of the flag for my 3rd shot and it played about a club extra into a multi-tiered green. The back section was elevated and there was a front left and right section.
#6 (302 yard par 4):
The 6th is the shortest par 4 on the course and it is a great strategy hole! It moves to the right at the end and can be driven depending on the conditions. There are plenty of bunkers and the fairway slopes from left to right so keep that mind. I think the pin location is a big factor when deciding where to hit the tee shot. If there is a back pin then I would like to try to hit my tee shot as far as possible for a good angle. To a front pin I would be content laying up to my favorite yardage.
#7 (381 yard par 4):
The 7th is a straightaway par 4 that plays uphill. The fescue obstructs a full view of the fairway, but it wasn’t as tough a tee shot as it looks. I would favor the left side though because there is a water hazard on the right which can come into play on a weak right shot. The approach climbs the same hill as 5th and it also played a club uphill. The green has two tiers and putting from the incorrect one could be difficult.
#8 (400 yard par 4):
The 8th is one that could require some local knowledge. The green is straight ahead, but the land on which the hole is built slopes hard from right to left. It plays downhill so driver is an option. I tried to play it right of the fairway for a kick and missed over there. I had a lie where the ball was severely above my feet and all I wanted to do was chop it up short of the green. The green has a ridge in the middle that separates it into a left and right half.
#9 (190 yard par 3):
The 9th is the longest par 3 on the course and it is a tough one. It plays uphill and is all carry to a green which is located over a deep hazard. There is a little bit of room short, but not as much as I expected. I think an extra club would be helpful.
#10 (356 yard par 4):
The 10th looks like a boring hole from the pictures, but I found it interesting to play. The tee shot plays to an inviting fairway that narrows near a fairway bunker. The green’s surface cannot be seen on the approach so I wasn’t confident hitting my second shot. Come to find out the green has three tiers and it is narrow. Missing it can leave a very tough short game shot, as I found out! I hit a good chip and all I could do was watch it trickle off the other side of the green.
#11 (175 yard par 3):
The 11th is a slightly uphill par 3 that played tough when I was there. The black tees were playing the gold distance (212 yards) and all I tried to do was find the narrow opening with my hybrid. One bunker circles most of the green and I bet it gets a lot of play. Make sure to park the cart a bit short and right of the green! The green itself is higher on the left side so playing out to the right should leave an uphill putt or bunker shot.
#12 (437 yard par 4):
The 12th is a long par 4 and it has a lot going on. It has some nice views from the elevated tee so make sure to take in the scenery before teeing off. There is a lot of slope from left to right so favor the left side on the drive. The trouble is to the right and there is a small valley in the fairway that could come into play. The approach plays about a club downhill into a funky green. The front half of the green rises up to the middle and then it falls away towards the back. The green makes it tough to play any shot into, around, and on it!
#13 (476 yard par 5):
The 13th is an uphill, but potentially reachable par 5. In order to get near the green in two someone is going to have to hug the left tree line or play a draw to offset the left to right sloping fairway. Playing from short and left of the green is a pretty good spot and I didn’t have any trouble with my chip. If laying up, I’d try to get it past the last tree on the left. Also, try to leave it below the hole if you can. I didn’t and had a short putt that I had to try to drip in the front of the cup.
#14 (404 yard par 4):
The 14th is another good driving hole. A left to right shot is preferred and there are some bunkers out there on both sides of the fairway which can come into play. Laying up could be an option to avoid them. The second shot is played into a green that angles from front left to back right and it has a bowl in it. I had to skirt the edge of the bowl on my long putt which certainly was a challenge.
#15 (345 yard par 4):
The 15th is a short par 4 that has a longer carry to the fairway than I would expect given the yardage. It plays uphill too so it isn’t as easy the yardage indicates. The green moves the opposite way as the previous hole and it is pretty narrow.
#16 (466 yard par 5):
The 16th is the best birdie chance on the entire course if you ask me. The tees were back and it was playing ~500 yards. Even at that distance I hit a driver and a mid iron near the green. The tee shot is more open than it looks as those trees on the right stop maybe 50 yards once you get to the fairway. The drive should run out a bunch leaving a chance to go for the green in two from an uneven lie. The green is blind so that might require driving up a bit to pick a line. I’d play a bit right into the green because of some slope that will feed it left.
#17 (168 yard par 3):
The 17th is an innocent enough looking par 3, but it could pose quite the problem. It isn’t too long, but it falls off short and right of the green. Distance control is important and because of the way the green angles a good shot on the wrong line might not end up on the surface. A left to right shot is best to maximize the time that the ball flies over the green.
#18 (455 yard par 4):
The closing hole is the longest par 4 on the course. It plays downhill and I only hit a driver and short iron. Unfortunately, the tee shot is strange. You will see that the fairway is split left and right of some bunkers. The right fairway runs out into a bunker and then starts back up again. I played down the fairway and hit what I thought was a great drive only to have it end up in the left rough with huge hook stance. I have no idea how to hit that left fairway past the bunkers. There are a couple grass mounds short and left of the green which add some interest.