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|Latrobe Country Club has very tight fairways. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
LATROBE, Penn. - If a man - not a stalker or any other kind of wacko - had a certain kind of man-crush on Arnold Palmer, he could do worse than going to Latrobe and doing a stay-and-play at the Latrobe Country Club.
Latrobe, of course, is where Palmer was born and reared, right smack in the middle of Pennsylvania farm country, and the club's golf course is where young Arnold strode the fairways like a young prince, before he became the King.
The country club is a laid-back, little place, set back discreetly off Arnold Palmer Drive. No big billboards advertise its presence. In fact, if you didn't know where you were going, you'd have a hard time finding it.
But, once you get inside, it's all Arnie, all the time.
Hundreds of photos adorn the walls: Arnie doing this, Arnie doing that, Arnie winning this, Arnie winning that. Arnie as a young man, Arnie as an older man. Arnie with golf greats, dignitaries, politicians, us common folk.
The country club guest houses are more of the same. Every kind of Arnold Palmer memorabilia, including Arnold Palmer salt and pepper shakers. Jerry Palmer, the general manager, is the golf great's brother.
This is a little different from the rest of Latrobe. Oh, they love Arnold here, they just want you to know he isn't all that Latrobe has produced. On the city's Web page, for example, Palmer is lumped in with other Latrobe luminaries, like Mr. Rogers.
They also filmed part of "Night of the Living Dead" here, which has nothing to do with Arnold Palmer.
And everyone has his or her own Arnie story.
"He's just like a regular guy," said Ron Schuster, outside a convenience store where he had just bought an Arnold Palmer beer. "You hear that a lot about other people, but with him, it's really true. He doesn't act like some big hero or anything. You'd never know he is who he is."
"When people talk about the King to me, I say 'are you talking music or golf?'" said Jesse Horner, head professional at Old Stonewall Golf Club in Ellwood City. "If you're talking music, it's Elvis. If you're talking golf, it's Arnold Palmer."
The country club is a private club, 40 miles east of Pittsburgh, up in the Laurel Highlands. Again, it's a low-key club, befitting Palmer's rather humble personality and the rest of this part of rural western Pennsylvania: No scampering ball boys, no GPS in the carts, no big bronze statues. Unlike many other country clubs, it isn't overflowing with houses around the fairway perimeters. Just a good golf course in a pretty, small-town setting.
It's a hilly layout, very green and lush with elevated, bentgrass greens and tight, tight, tight fairways. This is where Palmer learned his accuracy.
In fact, though the golf course is only 6,500 yards from the back tees, it has a slope rating of 142, very high considering its length. That's partly because of the elevation changes, the many trees that lie just off the narrow fairways and the fast, tricky greens.
Latrobe Country Club is a course that will not let you escape Palmer. You find yourself constantly thinking: What would Arnold do on this hole, from this spot? I wonder how he would have pulled off this shot? Sometimes, you find yourself doing your Arnold Palmer imitations.
Still, it's a fun course in its own right, even if the Palmer family name weren't stamped all over it. The elevation makes for more than a few blind shots, especially off the tee, like on Nos. 6, 8, 15 and 17.
The club also has tennis courts, a heated swimming pool and bathhouse, locker rooms and dining and entertainment facilities.
The Latrobe Country Club has four deluxe guest houses, all close to the golf course, available for the club's guests and non-resident members. They are all well-appointed with Arnold Palmer memorabilia.
The Hauser House overlooks the golf course. The others are: The cottage, which Palmer built in the 1970s, the newly remodeled Stader House and the Barnhart House. All of the houses are adult only and include a country-style, freshly prepared breakfast.
September 8, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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