Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania remains the absolute embodiment of class and elegance as when Richard Beatty Mellon founded it in 1917. Rolling Rock is an hours drive from the Mellon’s home city of Pittsburgh, but the Club is world’s away. Secluded over 10,000 acres in the gorgeous Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, Rolling Rock has magnificent amenities in every element of the Club. Most notably, a lovely Clubhouse flanked by a medieval water tower, a museum quality Donald Ross front nine complimented by a Brian Silva home nine, a shooting lodge beyond imagination, top flight trout streams, riding and fox hunting and sprawling upland game habitat are just a few samples of the offerings at RRC.
As for the Rolling Rock golf course, the front nine is Donald Ross at his most clever and, in some instances, most severe. After a straightforward par four first, the fun builds with the short second that contains so many great design elements. The semi-blind tee shot crests over a pleasant rise and then reveals a visually deceptive cross bunker yielding to a devilish green bisected by a diabolical ridge. The third is flat out murder, from the back tee, a long iron or wood is necessary, but the green is the feature attraction. Although quite large, the third green is anything but receptive. Rolls, dips and ledges make for near impossible up and downs and likely three putts. Brian Silva astutely observed Ross’ greens at RRC as follows:
“I still can’t believe how severe the original greens are.. You often hear that Ross was “the master of subtlety.” but he designed a 220-yard par-3 at Rolling Rock (no. 3) with about four elephants buried in the green. When you’re standing in the fairway bunkers 8 feet deep, the last thing your thinking about is subtlety” – Brian Silva
The dogleg forth is another Ross beauty with the cross bunker again creating havoc and another green that requires plenty of forethought on the approach.
Five is Ross’ stab at Tiny Tim and six is a terrific dogleg left uphill to a wicked back to front tilting green. Seven is the beast of the course with a dramatic downhill tee shot demanding a fairway landing, then uphill to concave green covering 450 yards. Eight works around the Benno Janssen Normandy-style stables, now condos, to another original Ross green. Nine is a wonderful par-5 that offers the golfer a chance to air out the long game. The Rolling Rock Clubhouse frames the approach to number nine and reminds the player of just where they are enjoying a round of golf.
The back nine is a very modern design that makes no bones about its total distinction from the Ross front side. Although the land provides many challenges to the golf architect, the back nine is very pleasant and many vistas of the gorgeous Laurel Highlands are in view. The maturity of the back nine will no doubt enhance the eighteen hole experience.
The Club also boasted the Laurel Mountain Resort as its private alpine skiing facility before the Mellon Family opened it to the public in 1958, then gifted the mountain to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1962. Incredibly, Laurel Mountain’s first ski school director was none other than the renowned father of alpine skiing, Johan “Hannes” Schneider. Schneider was arrested in Nazi Germany as part of Hitler’s Anschluss, but managed to be released and came to the U.S. in 1939. Through contacts in high places, Schneider wound up at the Latrobe, Pa. train station in that same year and ended up designing the Laurel Mountain Ski slopes.
Rolling Rock Club offers a rare step back in time. The Club continues to offer every element of the experience at the highest level of quality and service. The standards set at Rolling Rock Club are unmatched in our complex world and we can be thankful that such escapes continue to thrive.