HASTINGS - Located in northwestern Cambria County, between Northern Cambria and Hastings, is one of the area's hidden gems - the picturesque nine-hole Cambrian Hills Golf Club.
The course, constructed in 1964, is located on property formerly used for both strip mining and farming, typical industries for this part of the state. In the early 1960s, local businessmen from Hastings, Barnesboro, Spangler and surrounding communities banded together with the goal of building their own local course, and the group was able to purchase land just west of Hastings along Municipal Drive.
A nine-hole course was quickly laid out on the club's 121-acre property, and a driving range was eventually added on the 40 acres of property located just across the nearby public road.
Photo for the Mirror by Ken Love
Cambrian Hills Golf Club’s clubhouse was built in the early 1980s after a fire destroyed the original structure.
Resources for the necessary work were obtained - similar to many central Pennsylvania courses built at the time - through the sale of stock. Interested local citizens invested in what would become Cambria county's newest course: Cambrian Hills.
Many local residents remember Mike Nastasi as the head pro who presided over the course for many of the club's early years. He, along with a growing membership, enjoyed a nine-hole layout that when played twice around, from two sets of tees, culminated in a 6,117 yard course playing to a par of 71 (the second hole playing as a par-4 from the front tees, and a par-5 from the back).
Some of the more significant changes at Cambrian Hills over the years include the construction of a new clubhouse during the early 1980s after a fire destroyed the original structure.
Another significant loss occurred in 1997 when the club's signature landmark - a 100 year-old elm tree that stood along the first fairway - was struck by lightning and had to be removed. Images of the massive tree are still used as part of the club's logo.
Despite the changes, Cambrian Hills remained relevant and even thrived over the decades. For the past 22 years, Eva Wargo has worked as the club's manager.
"We have a beautiful nine-hole course here," Wargo said. "The layout might look easy when you first see it, but it isn't - it's a challenging course."
One interesting feature of the nine-hole design is that every third hole returns close to the clubhouse, allowing golfers frequent access to club facilities during their round.
Nearby resident Denny Fowler, of Carrolltown, appreciates the design. He plays several times each week, with a regular foursome.
"I've been a member here for 18 years," Fowler said. "The camaraderie here is great, and they do such a great job maintaining the course."
In addition to the club's membership and frequent greens-fees players, it's also interesting to note that one of the area's finest golfers honed his skills at Cambrian Hills. Local golf great Frank Frontino, who pitched in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system during the late 1960s-early '70s, learned the game here. Over the years, he spent countless hours hitting balls and practicing at the club.
"I probably first played here in 1965," Frontino said. "They have a great practice facility here, in addition to a really good group of guys."
All area golfers are welcome at Cambrian Hills, which typically opens for play on April 1 of each year. The club hosts a number of leagues throughout the summer months, along with numerous club events and outings. It remains open through the end of October, unless weather dictates otherwise.
While Cambrian Hills is enjoying another successful summer, the end of this season will see a particularly bittersweet close. Long-time manager Eva Wargo is set to retire at the end of the year along with her husband Ken Wargo, who has spent more than two decades as the club's superintendent.
"It's time for us to move on," she said. "I'm training someone to take over for me and Ken is doing the same, so there will be a good transition to next year. Cambrian Hills is a great club, with a great group of members."