Hidden behind the wrought-iron gates and stone pillared driveways of Westchester’s most exclusive golf clubs are hideaways of private enjoyment.
The 10th hole at Winged Foot West. The 16th at Sleepy Hollow. The ninth at St. Andrew’s. All great golf holes. We know them and love them, even revere them, but there are many other great holes in the county that please the eye and challenge the skills of those golfers lucky enough to find them.
Nearly every course has at least one—a hole that members love (or hate) but the media have ignored in deference to the famous fairways and often-photographed greens that usually fill the pages of magazines like this one. We compiled a 6,917-yard, par 72 course composed entirely of holes that haven’t been seen here before. Our goal? To give you a look at Westchester’s grassy glens of golfing gratification generally unnoticed by casual passersby but known to the cognoscenti of the game as special spots of secret pleasure.
Anglebrook Golf Club
Lincolndale • Hole 14 • 409 Yards • Par 4
Teeing off into the sky and watching your drive sail forever before it drops to a fairway far, far below is a near-orgasmic experience for most golfers, which is one reason we open our course of secret pleasures with the 14th hole at Anglebrook. The view from the elevated tee box is pretty spectacular even before you hit your drive, taking in the hills surrounding the Amawalk Reservoir to the southwest as well as the award-winning clubhouse on another hill rising far beyond the green to the east. Pay attention to where you’re supposed to hit your ball, however, because the “Cape hole” layout demands you choose your line with precision to avoid driving through the fairway if you aim too far right or falling seriously short (and possibly blocked) if you try to cut off too much distance by driving left. A good line for a long hitter is the 200-year-old white oak tree that defines the right side of the green complex. The resultant second shot will be with a short iron—something you’ll appreciate when trying to find the right spot on the radical three-tiered green.
Sunningdale Country Club
Scarsdale • Hole 7 • 510 Yards • Par 5
The journey to the green is more than half the fun on this long, uphill, bunker-protected par five. It starts with deciding how best to navigate the cross bunkers that stretch across the fairway in the landing zone off the tee. A draw will put you in the best position for your second shot, but the bunkers are only 230 yards away on the left side while you have twenty more yards to play with on the right. Assuming your drive stays out of trouble, the next question is how best to reach the green perched far above you near the stone tower on the hilltop. Deep bunkers in front of the green discourage a go-for-it second shot, but laying up is no guarantee of success either, since you almost have to land your subsequent wedge within three feet of the hole on the three-tiered green to guarantee anything fewer than three putts.
Brae Burn Country Club
Purchase • Hole 8 • 210 Yards • Par 3
Sand, water, a huge rolling green—what more do you want in a par 3? Distance, you say? There’s that as well on this picture-perfect hole, with the center of the green a mere 210 yards from the back tee. Most of that yardage is carry, too, so you’ll never want to under-club on this hole. Behind the two-tiered green is a grassy berm and a backstop bunker just in case your testosterone gets the better of you on the tee. Try to control yourself, though, because playing from behind the green means you will be shooting back downhill toward the water. More than a few wily members at Brae Burn lay up to the pond, pitch it close, and one-putt for a par.
Hudson National Golf Club
Croton-on-Hudson • Hole 10 • 425 Yards • Par 4
Visually, strategically, and athletically, the 10th hole at Hudson National is a pleasure to play. It offers a stunning view of the course’s namesake river in the distance from the elevated tee. The fairway is protected by bunkers on the right and an environmental area on the left, though, so tear your eyes off the scenery long enough to take careful aim for your drive. A good line is the left edge of the bunker complex midway to the green. It’s about 270 off the tee but uphill, so reaching it is unlikely and a well-struck drive will leave you with a short iron to the crowned green. Choose your club wisely and hit it straight—perdition awaits anything but a precise approach.
Trump National Golf Club
Briarcliff Manor • Hole 9 • 401 Yards • Par 4
There are “only” ten bunkers on this fun little uphill par four, so bring your beach towel unless you’re ready to hit two perfect shots. Actually, the drive isn’t too bad—the fairway is pretty generous in the landing area, although you’ll want to favor the right side (which means challenging some of the sand) to leave yourself the best angle to approach the green. That’s when the real fun begins. The green sits at an angle behind a 40-yard-long bunker and climbs three big tiers, so make sure you check the distance to the pin and choose plenty of club to get there. The putting surface itself is as large at the Donald’s persona and even bigger than the bunker, measuring about 50 yards from front to back.
Bedford Golf & Tennis Club
Bedford • Hole 10 • 162 Yards • Par 3
Not every golf hole has to be hard to be pleasurable, although the fine par three at the turn at Bedford G&T is no pushover. The hole is a visual feast that you should take a few minutes to enjoy from the elevated tee box before you take your swing. The green is a jewel set in a ring of pristine bunkers flanked by fescue-covered hillsides with seasonal flowers providing colorful highlights and mature maples and oaks a dramatic backdrop. When the air is calm, the entire scene is reflected in the mirror pond that lies between you and the flag.
Bonnie Briar Country Club
Larchmont • Hole 13 • 458 Yards • Par 4
The number-one handicap hole at Bonnie Briar features a smorgasbord of pleasures from the winding Sheldrake River and one of the course’s most dramatic rock formations to an elevated tee box and a green with a deceptive false front. Long and straight is a must off the tee, since not only are you driving to a blind landing area, but thick woods encroach on the left side of the fairway while a rock wall lines the right. The second shot is even more of a challenge with the river cutting across the fairway about 60 yards in front of the green and bunkers flanking it on both sides. Long and straight works best here, too, since the green is only about 20 paces wide. Plenty of players lay up to the water and make their par with a wedge.
Fenway Golf Club
Scarsdale • Hole 3 • 510 Yards • Par 5
Don’t be lulled into complacency by the inviting tee shot on this tame-looking par five. One small slip—an overly aggressive swing that turns into a longer than normal fade, perhaps—and you may find yourself in an ocean of sand scrambling for damage control. The ultimate nightmare, of course, is escaping from one bunker only to hit into another, a prospect that’s all too real on your second shot when you consider that the bunker complex on the right side is almost as long as a football field. Even if you stay in the fairway and smash your drive, you’re left with a monster approach to a big two-tiered green fronted by 15 yards of rough and—guess what?—more bunkers.
Westchester Hills Golf Club
White Plains • Hole 9 • 303 Yards • Par 4
Just for a change of pace from long and mean, how about a hole that’s short and mean? The ninth hole at Westchester Hills fits that bill perfectly. At only 303 yards, it dares you to pull the driver out of the bag and smash one straight away toward the green that sits so tantalizingly close. The landing area is a little tight, of course, but why worry about a few trees when you can almost will your ball to land in the fairway? And that big bunker stretching across the entire front of the green? Ignore it; your ball will probably stop right in front of it leaving a simple little pitch to the strongly sloped green. Before you take the cover off your driver, though, check the tee markers. The bunker is 260 yards from the back but only 230 from the front of the tee box. And those trees? They are a mere 19 yards apart in the landing area.
Pound Ridge Golf Club
Pound Ridge • Hole 14 • 401 Yards • Par 4
Pound Ridge has many pleasures that are secrets simply because the course has only been open since 2008. We start the back nine of our course with one of the most intimidating Pete Dye delights you’ll find anywhere. It all depends on which tees you play, of course, but this is one of the hardest driving holes you’ll ever see—and that’s meant literally, since you’re faced with not one but two tall stone walls on the other side of the water hazard you have to carry to reach the fairway, which is a full 222 yards uphill from the back tees. Even from the front tees where most bogey golfers should play, you’ll need to carry your drive over 200 yards if it’s aimed slightly too far left. And that’s just to reach the other side! If you hope to see the green for your second shot, you’ll need to drive the ball well.
Winged Foot East Course
Mamaroneck • Hole 7 • 471 Yards • Par 4
A.W. Tillinghast named this hole “Quaker,” not, I suspect, because it is gentle and peace-loving but rather due to the feeling you’ll get in your knees trying to make a par. The hole lies fairly straight away off the tee, but driving anywhere but to the right side will send your ball down the left-sloping fairway and into the trees or, if you really bang a drive, into the 35-yard-long bunker guarding that side. Keep in mind that the drive is the easiest shot you’ll have on this hole! There is more sand than green around the cup on the long, narrow green, so choose the right weapon for your assault on the flag. The highly contoured green doesn’t really have an “easy” pin position, either, so expect a little more knee knocking before your ball finds the bottom of the cup. If our imaginary course were rated, this would probably be the number-one handicap hole on the scorecard.
Armonk • Hole 8 • 196 Yards • Par 3
Playing the eighth hole at Whippoorwill is like traveling to an exotic land. From the elevated tee, you have an intimidating view of bunkers like desert wastelands that flank the green. Travel a little closer and you’ll see the charming waterfall feeding the picturesque pond behind it. The green itself is extraordinary. At 66 yards from front to back, it may be one of the longest in the county while its 16-yard width makes it one of the narrowest. Depending on the tee and pin positions, the hole can play from 139 to 229 yards. The most striking feature of all, though, is the knee-deep valley that splits the green into two parts—not something you want to putt through. Distance control, in other words, is the foreign language you need to learn to visit this exotic hole.
Siwanoy Country Club
Bronxville • Hole 12 • 359 Yards • Par 4
Short par fours can be equal parts pleasure and pain, and the 12th hole at Siwanoy is no exception. You’ll get either one or the other with your tee shot, which, if straight and reasonably long will catch the down-slope in the fairway and leave you a short wedge into the green. Off-line or short from the tee, though, and you’ll bring Bohn’s Pond into play. The lovely little ball-gobbler stretches from one side of the fairway to the other and runs right up to the green, waiting to swallow errant shots from those who have the temerity to challenge it. The pond got its unofficial name from long-time Siwanoy member Bohn Vergari, who was known for generously helping his opponents fish their balls from the water.
Ardsley Country Club
Ardsley-on-Hudson • Hole 4 • 511 Yards • Par 5
Some of the greatest names in golf architecture had a hand in shaping today’s course at Ardsley. The original layout was by Scotsman Willie Dunn in 1896 while Donald Ross reconfigured the course in 1917, followed by Robert Trent Jones in 1965 and Ken Dye in 2005. In 1928, Alister Mackenzie put his imprimatur on several holes, including the classic split-fairway fourth. Long hitters can reach the green in two by driving up the right side, while conservative players can play their tee shots up the middle, lay up to the left of the trees dividing the fairway, and have a short iron to reach the green in regulation. The green itself is Ardsley’s toughest. It’s only 22 yards deep and has a wicked false front that you must avoid at any cost.
Metropolis Country Club
White Plains • Hole 12 • 457 Yards • Par 4
The shape of the land serves as a guide to the shape of your shot on this risk-and-reward dog leg. The perfect drive is a long draw to the left center of the fairway, which will catch the hill and leave you a mid- or short-iron approach from a level lie. Don’t feel up to hitting a 270-yard draw? Aim for the center of the fairway and plan on a long second shot from the top of the hill. The hole plays downhill, though, so you can probably hit a club or so less than the measured distance, and the bunkers on the left aren’t particularly obnoxious. The green is one of the flattest putting surfaces on the course, so getting on in regulation can bring you a par or better if you don’t read more break into the putt than really exists.
Scarsdale Golf Club
Hartsdale • Hole 7 • 435 Yards • Par 4
One of Westchester’s newest golf pleasures is the seventh hole at Scarsdale, which opened in 2009. The old par 5 became a demanding par four during the rebuild, with a tough new green that was moved forward about eighty yards. The tee shot is blind, uphill, and generally into the wind, followed by an approach off a lie that’s guaranteed to be anything but level. Regardless of the pin position, aim for the right side of the new green, since everything runs to the left, and check your distance, too, since a ridge across the green can leave you with a tricky downhill putt if you’re not careful.
GlenArbor Golf Club
Bedford Hills • Hole 17 • 191 Yards • Par 3
On a course where nearly every hole is a scenic delight, this mid-length par 3 stands out. Before you tee off, take a moment to enjoy the reflections on the lake to your left and try to forget how close the water comes to the green on that side. Then notice the way the white sand of the bunkers practically glows against the lush rough on three sides of the green. Before you tee off, enjoy the multi-hued trees serving as a backdrop for the entire scene. Then relax your mind and body with a deep breath and take dead aim at the pin on the generous but subtle green.
Quaker Ridge Golf Club
Scarsdale • Hole 14 • 508 Yards • Par 5
A good finishing hole should give the players a chance for redemption, a tough final birdie that can decide a close match, or at least a shot at a par as a reward for a series of well-struck shots. The closing hole on our course of secret pleasures, the fourteenth hole at Quaker Ridge, offers all that and a little intimidation on every shot to boot. Off the tee, you’re faced with a bunker complex off the left side of the fairway designed to discourage a straight line to the green. If you successfully challenge it, though, you’ll have a go-for-it second shot. A shorter, safer tee shot to the center of the fairway brings a set of cross bunkers into play on the second shot, but a short iron will let you lay up to them and still leave a short- to mid-iron to the green at the top of the hill. That’s where the fun really begins, anyway, because it looks like someone buried a Beeline bus right in the middle of the green, presenting some of the most challenging putts you’ll face anywhere. •
Uncovering the Secret Pleasures
We had an easily defined but difficult-to-execute game plan. Since our goal was to find the best holes we’d never covered before, the first step was to go back to every previous Westchester Magazine/Hudson Valley Magazine Golf Guide and make a list of the 109 holes that have been written about since 2002. That sounds like a lot (and it is!) but there are nearly 950 total holes on the 54 courses in the county, so we knew there were many hidden treasures out there.
Then we surveyed all the PGA professionals at the area’s courses and asked them to nominate the best par three, four, and five holes on their home course that wasn’t on that list. Nearly every one of them responded enthusiastically.
Then the real work (and the real fun) began. Our panel of players diligently played 37 of the county’s courses this year, checking the pros’ choices against our own and soliciting the opinions of club members and other players as we went. We judged each possible selection on shot values, visual appeal, difficulty, and many other subjective intangibles. A couple of the panelists wanted to automatically include holes where they scored birdies, but that didn’t seem fair. Besides, there weren’t enough of them to fill the scorecard.
The panel was led by Westchester Magazine Publisher Ralph Martinelli, whose enthusiasm—if not his play—inspired us all. In addition to Ralph and me, our panel included Phil Striano, Dobbs Ferry; Ken Nilsen, Mount Kisco; Thomas Ralph, Pelham; Alan Kalter, Stamford; Ned Branthover, Bronxville; Ralph Wimbish, Mount Vernon; Robert Westenberg, Bedford; Mark Maznio, Somers; Craig Burrows, Yonkers; Joe Miressi, New Rochelle; Ryan Lake, Rye; Dan Berger, Rye Brook; and Tom Waurishuk, White Plains.
Yardage Course Hole Par
1 409 Anglebrook #14 4
2 510 Sunningdale #7 5
3 210 Brae Burn #8 3
4 425 Hudson National #10 4
5 401 Trump National #9 4
6 162 Bedford #10 3
7 458 Bonnie Briar #13 4
8 510 Fenway #3 5
9 303 Westchester Hills #9 4
Out 3388 36
10 401 Pound Ridge #14 4
11 471 Winged Foot East #7 4
12 196 Whippoorwill #8 3
13 359 Siwanoy #12 4
14 511 Ardsley #4 5
15 457 Metropolis #12 4
16 435 Scarsdale #7 4
17 191 GlenArbor #17 3
18 508 Quaker Ridge #14 5