MADISON, Pa. -- The first thing you'll notice about the Madison Club is that it's away from everything.
Located in Westmoreland County, it's a good 45 minutes southeast of downtown Pittsburgh, but more importantly, homes don't come into play, and the views from the elevated tees seem to go on forever. There are rabbits and deer and, yes, a few more golfers.
But the second thing you might notice is that the Madison Club is worth the drive. The golf course is always in good shape, its bentgrass greens are pristine, and no two holes are alike. This local favorite traverses across hills, through mature trees and around seven lakes.
There are blind shots and elevated shots and plenty of bunkers -- 65 to be exact. And there are four sets of tees, ranging from 6,900 yards down to 4,905, which makes the course very playable for women and juniors.
Good first impression
Right off the bat, the Madison Club impresses. In fact, in a rare move, it opens with its no. 1-handicap hole, so the good news is that the course gets easier after the opening par 5, which plays 546 yards from the back tee.
What makes it play so difficult is that it goes uphill, and the fairway is fairly narrow. In fact, it gets narrow for the layup shot, if you don't try to hit it in two, and there's trouble all around, including trees left and high grass around the green.
The par 5s are, in fact, one of the strengths of the golf course. Though none are particularly long, they all have their pitfalls, including the 18th, which is just more than 500 yards from the back tees. Trouble is that there are two large lakes you have to navigate on the way to the hole. Loose shots can easily result in double bogey or worse.
One of the Madison Club's most memorable holes is the par-3 17th, which begins with a forced carry over water. Considered one of the best public holes in western Pennsylvania, it's just 153 yards but requires a precise shot. The course's par 3s are all very different, playing 165, 181 and 214 yards respectively before you get to the 17th.
Madison Club: The verdict
Simply put, you won't be bored at the Madison Club, and you'll love the greens. Play the right set of tees (remember Tee It Forward), and you'll have a really enjoyable experience.
One of the nicer touches is the "Loop Card" Madison Club provides to golfers. Not only does it include a yardage book with good hole descriptions, but it also has entries for your statistics, making it easy to see where the strengths and weaknesses are in your game.
The golf course also has excellent practice facilities, including an all-grass range and short-game area. Lessons are also available.
And, finally, the club has a fairly new clubhouse with an outdoor deck and great views of the ninth and 18th holes. It features a snack bar and restaurant with three large-screen TVs, perfect for watching the PGA Tour or those Pittsburgh Steelers games on Sunday afternoon.