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Golf: Cranberry Highlands newest must-play municipal course

Sunday, August 18, 2002

OK, so it's tough to beat Torrey Pines, which is in San Diego and sits on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And the Black Course at Bethpage (N.Y.) State Park has become a must-play for just about everybody after being refurbished and playing host to the 2002 U.S. Open.

Most municipal courses, however, are not of this quality. Typically, they lack the necessary acreage, design and conditioning of most upscale, daily-fee courses. They also lack the financial backing.

That is not true at Cranberry Highlands, the latest public course to open in Western Pennsylvania.

To be sure, it is not located along an ocean; rather, it sits off the aptly-named Freshcorn Road in Cranberry, approximately 5 miles from Route 19. And it is not scheduled to hold any major championships, now nor in the future.

But, for a municipal course, Cranberry Highlands can proudly take its place alongside any course owned by a city, township or borough.

It has rolling, mounded fairways, plenty of sculpted sand bunkers, greens that jut into man-made lakes and yellowish, wind-blown fescue that lends a Scottish feel to the 6,400-yard, par-70 layout. And it is all ready to play, which is why the course that is owned and operated by Cranberry Township will open Saturday.

Cranberry Highlands was designed by Bill Love (TPC at Avenel, Tom's Run) and his signature -- generous landing areas and angled greens -- is evident on many of the holes. The best is No. 3, a 192-yard par 3 that plays downhill to a large peninsula green surrounded by a man-made lake. Right behind is No. 12, a 350-yard par 4 with a large lake running up the right side of the fairway to the green. Both lakes feature water fountains in the middle.

Unlike some public courses that open too early, there is little evidence of premature conditions at Cranberry Highlands. OK, the clubhouse with lots of glass windows is not finished -- it will open in September -- and there is no practice range, yet. But there are few spotty areas on the course. Even the bunkers are perfectly edged.

Greens fees will be $48 on weekends, $42 during the week, with discounts for Cranberry residents. Cranberry Highlands might set a new trend for municipal courses.

Trivia question

Who is the oldest player to win the PGA Championship? Answer at end.

COR risk

Dick Rugge, senior technical director of the United States Golf Association and the man in charge of equipment testing, said he has no sympathy for equipment manufacturers who already began shipping and marketing the so-called "hot" drivers in the United States.

Callaway Golf reintroduced its ERC II driver and Taylor Made was shipping its R500 Series drivers, each of which carried a coefficient of restitution that exceeded the USGA's allowable limit for spring-like effect. Those companies did that in anticipation of the USGA raising the allowable limit from .830 to .860, which the U.S. governing body proposed it might do for five years, beginning in January 2003.

But the USGA reversed its stance last week, saying the COR would remain at .830. Rugge said the decision not to raise the limit to .860 for five years was because the USGA received overwhelming feedback not to keep raising and lowering the COR.

"They said either keep it at .860 or leave it at .830," Rugge said. "And we didn't want to keep it at .860."

Rugge said the original proposal to raise the COR, introduced in May, was merely that -- a proposal. He said equipment manufacturers who thought that was the final rule "jumped the gun."

"They took a risk," Rugge said. "That happens sometimes. They knew it was a proposal. They thought it was going to go through and it didn't."

Top 100 list

No public course from Western Pennsylvania made the list, not even Olde Stonewall, but Golf Magazine has announced its "Top 100 You Can Play" in the September issue.

Topping the list of daily-fee or resort courses that are accessible for the public is Pebble Beach, which retains its No. 1 position. Pacific Dunes, in Bandon, Ore., which is only a year old, is No. 2; and Bethpage Black, site of the U.S. Open, moved up two places to No. 3.

The course on the list closest to Pittsburgh: No. 34 Longaberger, located in Nashport, Ohio, near Columbus.

Arizona led all states with 10 courses in the Top 100, followed by California (9) and Hawaii (8). Not all the courses put a strain on the wallet, either.

Eight of the 24 new courses on the list can be played for under $100. Three -- Paa-Ko Ridge in Sandia Park, N.M. ( No. 43), Pinon Hills in Farmington, N.M. (45) and Grand National Lake at Opelika, Ala. (57) -- carry a greens fee under $50.

Quotable

Nick Faldo, on the need to come up with a catchy name for his golf-course design and teaching-facilities business: "Yeah, I could use a nickname. Maybe the Great Brown Trout."

Dissa and data

Chuck Scally's commitment and passion to teaching golf, especially to players with disabilities, is remembered every year. The 10th Chuck Scally Memorial Open is tomorrow at Fox Run Golf Club in Beaver Falls. The scramble format begins at 9:30 a.m. The event is sponsored by Three Rivers Adaptive Sports and HOPE Network.

The 4th Gerry Dulac Charity Classic, benefiting West Hills Rotary charities, is Sept. 23 at Seven Oaks Country Club in Brighton. Fee is $150 and includes continental breakfast, box lunch and dinner. To enter call, 724-947-1234.

Corporate hospitality packages for the 2003 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club are available. Packages range from $5,000 to $100,000. Call 412-838-5559.

The Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Country Club has been selected as site of the men's and women's 2004 World Amateur Team Championship. The resort features courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.

Trivia answer

Julius Boros was 48 when he won the PGA in 1968.

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