ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. -- Golfers experience full Americana, driving up and down bucolic hills and touring the main streets of several small towns, to reach the remote Olde Stonewall Golf Club. So it comes as a shock when a giant castle clubhouse with 50-foot turrets comes into view once you pull in the parking lot. This dramatic first impression introduces a golf fantasy land north of Pittsburgh that might house the best public course in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry, of Ohio, designed Olde Stonewall. The gorgeous natural setting is accented by hundreds of limestone boulders imported from a nearby rock quarry. They decorate green sites and tee boxes. Often, the best view is to look backward from the green to admire the stacks.
Each nine provides a different dynamic. The front nine roams mostly flat land along Connoquenessing Creek. There are a handful of good holes featuring water, although the excitement builds significantly on the higher ground of the back nine, where the vistas are grander and the hazards more daunting. After a pair of pretty par 3s back to back at holes 14 and 15, the round comes to a climax at the 16th tee.
Everybody should head to the back tee for a swing. Whether you make the 240-yard carry to the fairway doesn't matter. It's the view that makes you appreciate such a place.
Back at the Olde Stonewall clubhouse, dinner or drinks at Shakespeare's Restaurant and Pub is a worthy end to a fine day.