In 1988 Rees Jones began searching the countryside around Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for a site worthy of a strong golf course that would meet the lofty expectations of his client, local businessman Dick Maslow, who wanted to build a high-quality private club. Four years later, Jones found what seemed to be an ideal tract, a 310-acre farm north of town.
After mapping out a few unsatisfactory routings, Jones looked enviously at the property across the street. “I can build a very good golf course with what you’ve given me,” Jones told Maslow. “But if you purchase the property across the road, I can build you a great golf course.”
So Maslow bought 120 acres on the other side of Old Route 115, giving Jones an expansive canvas. Since opening in 1995, Huntsville Golf Club quickly has become one of the state’s best golf courses—a real achievement considering Pennsylvania is home to legends like Merion and Oakmont.
The site, which features plenty of golf-friendly features like wooded areas, rolling prairie and nearly 150 feet of elevation changes, allowed Jones to craft a fun, demanding layout that engages players from the 1st tee to the 18th green. Although the course looks completely of a piece with the land, Jones had to dynamite nearly 100,000 cubic yards of rock to achieve a natural look for the holes, like the stretch from the 2nd through the 6th, which weaves through a forest of hardwoods.
The 7th begins a series of holes that sit on open land, and the meat of the course is the four holes on the parcel across the street, starting with the 11th, which features a split fairway. Most members go right, which leaves a longer approach but a better angle into the green.
The next hole, which measures 532 yards, is a favorite of founding member and golf chairman Richard Caputo. Behind the green is an old barn, one of several landmarks, including the stone walls that crisscross the property, that give the course a rustic look and feel.
The 552-yard 14th offers the course’s strongest risk-reward proposition. A tee shot down the right side can allow longer players to reach the green in two, but a large bunker and ravine will punish any drive that overreaches in either planning or execution.
There are simply no let-up holes on the back nine, and the challenge reaches a crescendo at the 456-yard finisher. Gradually climbing from tee to green, the 18th is one of the most difficult par 4s on the course.
Jones’ strategic layout has attracted a membership made up of golfers of all levels, who appreciate not only the flexibility of the course, but also the practice facilities, caddie program and the distinctive clubhouse.
The airy single-story building was the first golf clubhouse designed by award-winning architect Peter Bohlin, who is from the Wilkes-Barre area. His firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, has produced many iconic structures, including Seattle City Hall, the California headquarters of Pixar Studios and the glass-cube entrance of Apple’s flagship store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
The modern style of the striking clubhouse may sit in contrast with the property’s agrarian surroundings, but it offers guests a unique experience, like the course itself. When put together, the course and clubhouse make up the core of a private club that has exceeded the vision of its founder.