Grand View Golf Course completely out of place, but that's the attraction

By Dave Berner, Senior Contributor

NORTH BRADDOCK, Pa. -- I can't say I remember feeling in danger on a golf course before I played Grand View Golf Club. I can't say I remember being on a layout that felt so, well, out of place, until I played Grand View. And I can't remember ever being so thoroughly intrigued by a golf course's location. It is so uniquely situated, it can't be seen unless you are on the fairways or high atop a roller coaster at the amusement park a couple of miles away across the Monongahela River.

Grand View Golf Club
Grand View Golf Club is one of Pittsburgh's most talked-about golf courses.
Grand View Golf Club
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Grand View Golf Club

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Grand View Golf Club in North Braddock is one of the area's most challenging layouts. The course's 160 acres were carefully carved from a woodland hilltop. The distinctive layout will test your creative shot-making skills. It may seem relatively short at 6,111 yards from the back tees but it feels much longer thanks to the rolling fairways and undulating greens.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 70 | 6096 yards | Book online | ... details »
 

Grand View is not a typical golf club.

First, it flirts with danger because it seems to teeter on the bluffs above the urban community of North Braddock near Pittsburgh. It has precarious hills and slippery slopes, and golfers are cautioned to make no sudden turns, take it slow, and stay away from the hillsides that would send a wayward cart diving hundreds of feet down to the river. Scary enough for ya?

Second, the course is completely out of place.

"There's a golf course up there? No way," said the man I first asked for directions just two miles from the golf club. "This is an old steel town. There can't be a golf course up there."

No one believes there's golf in North Braddock, an economically troubled former industry town formerly linked hard to molten steel and certainly not known for lush, tree-lined fairways.

And third, Grand View is simply invisible. It can't be seen from the road that leads you to it. It can't be seen from the downtown streets of North Braddock. But you can get a pretty good look from the Thunderbolt, Kennywood Park's famous roller coaster. As you climb in the rattling coaster cars at the century-old park and look to the left across the river, you'll see patches of green and the clubhouse. In fact, sometimes the screams from the ride echo across the valley and onto the golf course.

First blush

"I guarantee you haven't played a course like this before, " said the golfer slipping on his spikes in the parking lot.

My first visit to Grand View was just to look around and decide whether to make a tee time. I had heard so much about this unusual venue that my curiosity got the best of me.

"Some people don't like it, " he said. "Got to hit it straight. You don't, you lose a dozen. And those are a dozen you can't go looking for."

I assumed he meant balls and not people, despite Grand View's reputation for scaring off golfers who aren't fond of cliff dwelling. And when they're lost, (balls, of course) the terrain doesn't permit you to wander around looking for them. All joking aside, it's unsafe on many holes to move even a few yards off the fairways.

Ah, but the views. Wow. From a dozen spots on the course's 160 acres you can look out over miles and miles of the Mon Valley. And you're so high up you can literally look straight down onto the roof of the enormous Edgar Thompson facility, the first and last major steel mill in Western Pa.

On my first look around, I was hooked. There was no doubt I would be back.

Playing Grand View

There is nothing about Grand View that depends on length. It's only 6,111 yards. But, boy on boy, if you play a consistent sweeping slice or hook, you better be prepared to gasp as your ball carries over hills and bluffs into terrain most would consider "No Man's Land." It's best to have a straight ball flight and be comfortable with sidehill and downhill lies.

You also need to be able to judge unconventional distances. What I mean is, the gullies, hollows and ravines throughout the course make it necessary to be creative in club selection. Reading yardage markers is just part of the job.

Take a cart. They would probably let you walk, but you'll only survive if you're a mountain goat. You NEED a cart at Grand View. It's either a cart or 911 for the average golfer.

Although nearly everything else isn't, most of the greens are relatively flat. The design is set up to give you a bit of a break on the putting surfaces.

Be patient. This kind of golf course requires a steady head, and if you're always pressing to score you'll likely be counting scores on your fingers and toes. Not good.

Grand View Golf Club is far from ordinary golf. The perceived danger, the unlikely venue, and the roller coaster ride it offers are all part of the experience, the memories, and the comments you'll make to those who haven't played it.

Orientation

From downtown Pittsburgh - Follow Rt. 376 to the Forest Hills exit. Follow Rt. 30 about 2 miles to Ardmore Shopping Plaza. Turn right onto Yost Boulevard and follow to the stop sign at the top of the hill. Mark a left onto Brinton Road and pass the Brinton Apartments then make the first right onto Locust Street. Immediately bear left onto Erma Street. Follow the blacktop road to the clubhouse driveway on the right.

Where to dine

The Grand View Restaurant
1000 Club House Drive
412-351-5390
Rack of lamb, steak, chops.

The Original Primanti Brothers
Strip District
46 18th Street
412 263-2142
A Pittsburgh favorite where the fries are inside the colossal sandwiches.

Where to stay

Hampton Inn Pittsburgh-West Mifflin
1550 Lebanon Church Road
Pittsburgh Pa.
(412) 650-1000

Comfort Inn West Mifflin
1340 Lebanon Church Road
West Mifflin, Pa.
(800) 523-8460

Off Course

Kennywood Park
4800 Kennywood Blvd. West
West Mifflin, Pa.
(412) 461-0500
This is a classic amusement park with five fantastic roller coasters.

Fast Fact

The Grand View Restaurant, situated inside the clubhouse, is one of the best places to eat in the Pittsburgh area. People who don't play go there for the great menu, which includes rosemary breaded pork chops. There's also a cigar-friendly section.

Dave BernerDave Berner, Senior Contributor

Dave Berner is a long-time journalist for CBS radio in Chicago and has freelanced for CNN, National Public Radio, and ABC news. He created and produced the popular radio feature "The Golf Minute" for CBS-owned radio station WMAQ in Chicago along with writing a regular column for Golf Chicago Magazine. He is also author of "Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons" and "Accidental Lessons: A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed."


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