Cranberry Highlands

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Cranberry Highlands Golf Course in Butler County. Pennsylvania Is An Excellent Layout

By Scott A.Sumner
   This past May long weekend I had the opportunity to travel to the Butler County area near Pittsburgh and play some golf.  My trip began with a short flight on Northwest Airlines to Minneapolis and then a good connection on to Pittsburgh.  You can be on the golf course by mid afternoon, seeing a fantastic par tof the US along the way.
   Our first golf course on this trip was the Cranberry Highlands Golf Course established in 2002 in the area known as Cranberry Township.  This part of Pennsylvania is a 1/2 hour drive from the city of Pittsburgh and is said to be one of the fastest growing areas in the US.  You are in a rural setting but have the glitzy city of Piitsburgh complete with fancy office towers and baseball and football stadiums right on a river.  It is quite an impressive area to see.
    John Shuster is the Director of Golf at Cranberry Highlands.  "We started construction in late 1999 and opened in August of 2002.  In this immediate area of 7 to 10 miles there are 5 or 6 courses.  The National Golf Foundation came in and did a study of the area.  The demographics were very right for the golf course to be built as there is a lot of disposable income here, a lot of people here who work in Pittsburgh."  states John Shuster.  The course is owned and operated by the Township of Cranberry, population 23,000.  It was their land and they decided to do the course instead of  constucting housing lots to sell off.  They wanted the green space and it has been a big hit.  Previously it was a sludge dump area for the water treatment plant that is right down the road, but before that it was three working farms that the township owned for awhile and subbed out the work at the farms. 
     "The  golf architect of Cranberry Highlands was Bill Love from College Park, Maryland.  He is a well known American architect who likes to use the natural contours of the land, disrupting as little as possible to build a course.  The total project was around $7 million including protecting all the wet lands that we have here, the clubhouse and maintenance building and also we had to change the road to get the bridge from the front nine to back nine,' notes Shuster.  "The Township took out that amount in a Bond.  In the short history that we have we have averaged over 34,000 rounds per year.  Golf usually starts the first or second week of April and slows down October 31st.  During the week the green fee is $49 with a cart and on the weekends it is $59.  Cranberry  Highlands doesn't have memberships, however Cranberry Township residents have a preferred rate and advance tee time status."
    "I think the course is very playable.  Our goal is to have it in great shape every day.  It is also very playable depending on the tees that you choose.  It can also be very challenging and the wind is always quite changing which gives you a different feel and look.  We are just over 6400 yards and a par 70 which has 5 par threes.  The greens are pretty fast.  We sped them up for this week as we have the growth and the ability to do it."  states Shuster.  "Our superintendent is Davis Barber and he does a tremendous job on the golf course.  The customers pay and we want to give them a good value."  I think the greens were made so fast in honour of our media presence (just kidding) but added to a great golf experience for this writer.
    John Shuster is a PGA golf professional from originally from Greensburgh, a hour east of the Cranberry area and 40 minutes east of Pittsburgh.  He started his golf career in Tampa, Florida.  Cranberry Highlands has 7 full time staff and a part time group of 40 people.  "In the winter I take calls for weddings, banquets and do business planning for the next year,' smiles Shuster.  "The Township of Cranberry is very happy.  The goal is to pay off the bond with the revenue so tax payers don't pay more.  We get a lot of compliments on the conditioning and playability of our course."

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