A bargain with bite: Dubbs Dred golf course delivers a low-cost gauntlet by Pittsburgh
BUTLER, Pa. - Aubrey's Dubbs Dred is a golf course that a beauty shop owner would love. If the famed Page 6 covered golf, this would be one of its rising favorites.
For people cannot seem to help but gossip about Dubbs Dred.
It's a largely small town gossip with few outside the county of Western Butler in Pennsylvania even aware this quirky course exists. But that doesn't temper the enthusiasm of the "did-you-hear-that?" banter. Dubbs Dred has never been caught canoodling in a local tavern, but it's the talk of the Butler golf community regardless.
"Have you seen that back nine at Dubbs Dred?" golfer Jim Miller asked completely unprompted in an interview at a Butler course miles from Dubbs Dred. "I won't play that thing. Can't afford to lose that many balls."
You've entered the Dubbs Dred chatter zone. And you're not getting out anytime soon.
"Have you seen that special they're running at Dubbs Dred?" rival golf course owner Wayne Conley said completely unprompted over at his own resort.
Conley has probably done more to bring publicity to Butler, Pa., golf than any other man, but you could hear the incredulousness coming through at this promotion waged in Pittsburgh's shadow.
"Fifteen dollars for 18 holes riding," Conley practically spat out. "Can you believe that? You can't make any money charging those rates."
This is how it goes with Dubbs Dred. If people are not marveling at how ridiculously unfair the back nine is, they're marveling about how ridiculously low the greens fees are. Both are true at the moment making Dubbs Dred one of those courses you just have to experience.
Plunking down $15 for a full round of golf and then watching a perfectly struck tee shot on No. 16 bounce off its Leaning Tower of Pisa fairway and into the ravine is one of those uniquely Butler golf experiences.
It is also one you'd best enjoy now. For all the gossip over Dubbs Dred, one important bit of news that is often missed is that the Aubreys are in the midst of selling their family course to an outside real estate mogul who plans to put up to 700 homes around the course and likely remove much of the back nine's fearsome bite.
The Aubreys are a well known western Pennsylvania golfing family. John Aubrey recently competed in the Senior PGA Championship. But it turns out the Aubreys may have designed their course the way Jack Nicklaus is accused of plotting many of his early tries.
"A lot of people think the Aubreys made the course so tough so it could give them and their friends a challenge," Superintendent Mike Toubakaris said.
Toubakaris has been brought in by the likely new owner to evaluate and work on the course. With the ultimate end game being making Dubbs Dred into the type of course that people who buy homes on a golf course would not dread.
A large part of that involves improving the conditioning of the course. Toubakaris apologized for the shape Dubbs Dred was in at least a half dozen times during our round.
Other local course owners were just as harsh, talking sadly about Dubbs maintenance problems whenever it was mentioned. But in truth, Dubbs Dred wasn't that bad off. Especially compared to some of the other courses seen on this tour at the end of a long, dry Pennsylvania summer.
The other part of Toubakaris' job involves blunting the toughest back nine in the county and maybe western Pennsylvania period, a nine-hole run where the superintendent himself says it's not unheard of for a hacker to go through 15 balls. That's right, five sleeves in nine holes.
The fairways are tight, with woods all around. The greens are slanted, up on ridges, down in valleys, tucked away in impossible corners. Heck, as No. 16 shows, sometimes the fairways are slanted at geometry-defying angles. There's a 640-yard par 5 as well as a 185-yard par 3 where you have to shoot down and around a tree.
Yet as Toubakaris tells you what he's going to do to make it a little more merciful, part of you wishes he'd leave it alone. That's Dubbs Dred.
Everyone needs to stop trying to make Dubbs Dred fit their view of what it should be and just let it be what it is. This is a fun, almost ingeniously devilishly tough play.
It's in decent shape, getting better every day. Some of the holes on the back nine are crazy but sometimes a little craziness is just what you need. Besides, there are plenty of chances to build a cushion on the front nine.
It's difficult to imagine a more worthwhile dirt-cheap play. Here's hoping Dubbs Dred keeps a lot more of its current character than it loses.
Talk about that amongst yourselves.
Stay and play
The Pittsburgh Marriott North ((724) 779-4201) in Cranberry is your best high-end option in the area by far. It's one of the nicer Marriott properties you'll find, with extremely comfortable beds and large rooms. The kitchen even produces better dishes than you get in most chain hotels, showing that who's running the individual location still matters these days.
Basic snacks are offered in a clubhouse that's large enough to be full food service in the future.
For something more expansive, the Harmony Inn ((724) 452-5124) in historic downtown Harmony offers a menu that ranges from German to Mexican specialties, ghost stories - complete with sighting pictures - and a surprisingly bustling bar scene.
April 17, 2006