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Sports

Members not gored at scenic Elks

| Thursday, June 17, 2004

SPRING CHURCH -- There's certainly one advantage to applying to become a member at the Apollo Elks.

Membership has its privileges.

Oh sure, there's the fully stocked bar and open invitations to dances and dinners. But when it comes right down to it, the best reason to join this particular lodge is the 18-hole golf course out back.

"We're planting new trees and we're trying to make improvements every day," Apollo Elks course manager Dennis Piccoli said. "Right now the big thing that we're going to work on is to put new cart paths put in. In the past we've had dirt and shells, but we want to get blacktop put in."

That would just be the final touch as far as renovations go. Apollo Elks added nine holes to complete the course only five years ago to make it the only pure 18-hole private course in Armstrong County. Kittanning Country Club can be played as an 18-hole course because of generous tee box uses and additional greens, but it is primarily designed as a 9-hole course.

Aside from the course itself, Apollo Elks has every amenity that any other private club has to offer. There is a hall that can accommodate 200-250 guests depending on configuration, a smaller dining room and a spacious bar area for another 100 people.

More importantly, you don't have to be a member to have an event at the Elks.

"You can book anything here," Piccoli said. "We have numerous weddings and dances and everything here."

All that being said, the reason why people come to the Apollo Elks is the golf and no hole exemplifies this course more than No. 12, a breathtaking 379-yard par-4 that starts out treacherously and winds up beautifully.

"It the most scenic hole on the course," Piccoli said. "You're teeing off over a lake and, you've got to hit only 150 yards to get over the lake, but it's still in the back of your mind."

If the water itself isn't distractingly picturesque enough, there is a fountain in the middle of the water to add a bit more water to the brain.

After clearing the water, the approach shot isn't a slam dunk either.

"The green is surrounded by trees and, if you miss the green, you're in trouble," Piccoli said. "You have to hit the green and that's what makes it so tough."

For all its scenic beauty the Apollo Elks isn't really a long-hitters course. It's only 6,123 yards from the blue tees, but players must rely on placement more than power.

"The course is not long on the back, but you have to position your shot," Piccoli said. "It's tree-lined the whole way. There are a lot of woodpeckers out there."

Still, the fact remains that Apollo Elks is a private course and only members can play there. That would be an issue if it were impossible to join.

Application for membership in the Elks is only $70 and, if approved, only the same amount for dues each year.

There are also various levels of golf course membership - which is additional to the lodge dues - and Elks from other areas can play for a nominal fee. Then of course there are rushes, when the general public with an interest in joining can pay to play the course.

"It's very reasonable," Piccoli said.

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