As I’ve mentioned a few times before, one of my golf friends has a place in the West Virginia panhandle. So, periodically I’ll get up that way to visit and play golf! We had some Pennsylvania courses on the list this weekend and our first stop was to check out Iron Masters Country Club, in what I believe is considered to be the western part of the state. We had a mid morning tee time and it turned out to be pretty busy! We were behind some sort of tournament but the pace moved fine as we played in 4 hours and 15 minutes.
My friend and I both enjoy playing Ed Ault courses and that is how we ended up at Iron Masters. We like the fact that Ed Ault courses give you a chance to recover and aren’t too penalizing. Most of the time when we play one of his designs it turns out to be a relaxed round of golf and some laughs. You can page back in my reviews for more of my prize winning commentary about Ault if you’d like!
Needless to say I was expecting Iron Masters to be more lamb than lion, but turns out that I was wrong! The scorecard doesn’t necessarily paint that picture as the course is 72.1/126/6527 from the blue tees, where I played. Silly me though, I should have realized that Iron Masters could be a mountain course because of its location either in, or just east of, the Allegheny Mountains.
There is a good bit of elevation change at Iron Masters and I’d say it has some characteristics of a mountain course. There aren’t any tees or greens hanging off cliffs and there aren’t any unreasonable forced carries, but it has that mountain feel to it. I’d say the course is a typical layout for a hilly, forested piece of property. In all honesty, I never would have guessed Ed Ault designed the course!
I don’t think Iron Masters is unfair, but you’ll need a lot of local knowledge to play here. That knowledge will come in extra handy when the course is playing firm and fast, like it was when we visited! There are going to be a lot of layups and hard working pars here. It definitely isn’t a course to swing the driver unless you have a specific idea of where it is going.
The course’s main defense are the narrow, tree lined holes and all the slope in the fairways. You’ll need to be aware of how much the ball kicks when it lands and always want to have that first bounce on the high side of the fairway. If you don’t get the landing spot right then you are going to end up in the woods, having to hit a great shot just to get it back in play. Heck, my best shot of the day was a left handed upside down wedge shot back to a fairway!
Overall, there was just too much quirkiness for me to like Iron Masters. It wasn’t just one or two holes either. The 5th is a short par 4 where I had to try to slice a mid iron from the tee, just to find the fairway. The 6th is a downhill par 5 and I hit a great drive on the left edge of the fairway. The ball kicked all the way to the right edge, leaving me about 200 yards to the green. I took a picture from where I ended up, but I had no shot at the green in two due to overhanging trees. The 14th is a similar dogleg left par 5 on the back nine.
To me these holes are examples of nature taking back a course. They may have been good holes years ago, but I think the trees need to be cut back. I hit great drives on the par 5’s that I mentioned but I had to hit a chip, hook 5 iron just to get within 50 yards of the green. I’d be curious how the course played before the trees got so mature.
On the flip side, I enjoyed a stretch of holes in the middle of the course. The 7th through the 13th contain the best holes at Iron Masters if you ask me! The 7th and 9th play from a chute of trees towards the parking lot and have good views of the hillside in the background. Those are two tee boxes where you’ll want to pause and take in the setting.
On the back nine the 11th is mid length par 4 where you’ll need to carry a pond on the approach. I had just a sand wedge from the fairway, but erred on the side of caution to make sure I cleared the water. The 13th is the signature hole at Iron Masters. It is 174 yards from the blue tees, but plays downhill about a club to another green with water short.
For $42, I’d say the conditions were nice. The ground was firm so we got plenty of roll and once you got off the rough line there were bare patches marked as ground under repair. Other than that things looked good. The tees and greens were full and the greens rolled true! The greens had that trickle to them, meaning that I had to be cautious on my putts. There was a nice collar cut around the greens, which I always think is a touch of class!
There are some good holes at Iron Masters, and the par 3’s are pretty good. But by the end of the round, my brain was toast! There is a lot going on here, so if you want a relaxing round this may not be the course for you. On the other hand, if you like target golf then Iron Masters will be your kind of course.
#1 (339 yard par 4):
#2 (366 yard par 4):
#3 (162 yard par 3):
#4 (447 yard par 5):
#5 (305 yard par 4):
#6 (507 yard par 5):
#7 (398 yard par 4):
#8 (413 yard par 4):
#9 (200 yard par 3):
#10 (398 yard par 4):
#11 (379 yard par 4):
#12 (543 yard par 5):
#13 (174 yard par 3):
#14 (548 yard par 5):
#15 (367 yard par 4):
#16 (171 yard par 3):
#17 (405 yard par 4):
#18 (405 yard par 4):