Forse Completes Vision for Donegal Highlands

By: Mark Leslie

Completing the golf course architect’s original vision, the public Donegal Highlands Golf Club in Donegal, Pennsylvania hopes to build on its nine-year run of success with renovation work that it finished on Friday, May 18.

“With the benefit of time, we’ve been able to expand on our original vision and make improvements to the course in order to add interest and visual definition,” said course architect Ron Forse of Forse Design in Hopwood. “Donegal Highlands is not long, but it is sporty and a downright fun golf course, with good strategy and variety. Plus it has that nice climate in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania.”

General Manager Jeff Mowrer, former golf director at Penn State University and director of the Philadelphia PGA junior golf academies, said Donegal Highlands hosts a hefty 34,000 to 35,000 rounds per year.

“We will have four sets of tee markers, with blue-tee yardage at 6,350 yards and white-tee yardage in excess of 6,000 yards,” he said. “By lengthening and adding traps to the short par-5 holes, we can improve speed of play by forcing three-shot strategy.” Distance from the gold and red tees are 5,750 and 4,641 yards, respectively.

Forse has added three fairway bunkers and three greenside bunkers, including a couple of grass bunkers that have been filled with sand as originally intended. The bunkers, Forse said, will create general visual interest and better ball containment on the 1991-opened course he designed.

Tees were moved back on holes 2, 4, 5, 10 and 18, adding more than 200 yards to the overall distance. Twenty yards were added to the 2nd hole, stretching it to 349 yards, and the 4th hole has been lengthened from 417 to 443 yards.

Forse and Mowrer have been able to keep the course open throughout construction. Because the lengthened tee boxes are all championship tees, they have not affected play. Meanwhile, the club has added a new pavilion for outings. Sitting at about 1,800 feet above sea level, Donegal is a strong recreation area, with whitewater rafting, mountain hiking and biking, and other attractions such as Frank Loyd Wright’s famous Falling Water home.

Forse Design has performed more than 50 major and minor restorations, including projects at nine of the Top-100 courses in the U.S., representing eight different “classic” architects. In addition to 24 courses by Ross, Forse has restored 12 by A.W. Tillinghast and others by such luminaries as Willie Park Jr., William Flynn, Walter Travis, William Langford and Dick Wilson.