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Renovations complete at Sewickley Heights

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Heights Golf Course recently underwent renovations which included several new putting greens and all new bunkers.

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By Alex Oltmanns
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When golfers tee off at Sewickley Heights golf club this spring, it won't be the same course they've grown accustomed to over the years.

With the club putting the final touches on renovations as part of its multi-year master plan for the upcoming season, members will be able to play on four new holes and be challenged by 50 new bunkers that were completed over the past two years.

“Four of the holes we've totally blown up and started with a clean sheet of paper and re-contoured those to match the master plan,” said Mike Weir, President of the club's board of directors. “Three of the holes were open last May and one of the holes will open this May.”

In order to aid in its construction plan, the club hired Tom Fazio, one of the premier golf course architects in the world, to renovate the course. Fazio has designed some of the top courses in the nation, including two holes at Pinehurst, home of the 2005 U.S. Open.

With the first, 10th and 12th holes along with various bunkers re-opening last spring, the club re-worked the third hole and other bunkers this year at a course that has hosted prestigious events such as the 1996 U.S. Women's Amateur and the 1998 Champion's Tour Pittsburgh Senior Classic.

“The first thing that no one saw last year will be No. 3,” general manager John Sobecki said. “That is completely new. That will open up early May of 2013. The other part of it is we redid about 50 bunkers or so in 2012 and if you played at the end of the year you were able to see all the changes, but now all of those things will be done and the members will come out and basically play a brand new golf course.”

When the par 72, 6,927-yard course was first built in 1961, the theme for a lot of courses was to make greens faster by making them sloped, almost so much so that it made it difficult for balls to stay on the green. The master plan has improved some of the greens to maintain speed, yet making the surface more level.

“We've enlarged them, put different landing areas on them,” Weir said. “We didn't just take them and make them flat, we just re-contoured the entire green. But the biggest thing we did was to get rid of the steepness. Those were the four most severely sloped holes on the course.”

Another aspect of the renovations was to change the locations for some of the sand traps. With the new locations, some of the traps are now out of play for the average golfer, but provide more of a challenge for someone who can hit the ball further off the tee.

“For the 15-and-above handicappers, the course is easier,” Weir said. “For the low-handicap golfers in single digits, it's more difficult. For example, the fairway bunkers used to be 210 yards off the tee. Now they're 240 yards off the tee. Now that you have fairway bunkers that come into play for the good golfers, they have to be more accurate with their shots, they just can't blast it out there.”

With the five-year master plan finally coming to an end when the course opens again for play this May, Sobecki is excited to see all the years of construction finally pay off.

“Once we open up the golf course in 2013 here in a couple months all the construction will be done and people will be able to enjoy the fruits of the labor.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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