Course Renovations Everywhere • WMC Four-Course Fundraiser • Head Pro Changeovers • MGWA Honors O’Meara • Willow Ridge Centennial
Major Makeovers Alter Westchester’s Golf Landscape
Bulldozers and backhoes replaced golf carts on an amazing number of Westchester courses over the winter. Several complete course restorations began, and more than a few were wrapped up in the fall, while amenities that include spectacular clubhouse expansions will greet members at other clubs in the county.
Gil Hanse started his restoration of Winged Foot’s West Course on the back nine in October with the front nine slated for this coming fall. The project will mirror the goal already achieved on the East Course, where greens were restored to original sizes and bunkers were renovated to match A.W. Tillinghast’s original design. Completion in 2018 should be ideal timing for the US Open to be played at the Mamaroneck club in 2020.
Century CC in Purchase began a two-year project to bring the course back to the original Alison & Colt style, with wider fairways, deeper, more strategic bunkering, and creation of greens without collars last fall. Architect Keith Foster also rerouted the 1st hole and rebuilt the 9th green, plus completely overhauled the short-game practice facility. A major change is the remodeling of greens to remove high, thick collars. This brings the greenside bunkers more into play while allowing a greater variety of short-game shots from closely mown collection areas. The second phase will begin this fall, with similar work scheduled for the back nine.
Old Oaks CC brought in Rees Jones last fall to begin a two-year project to modernize the Purchase course. Every bunker on the course was redone over the winter; new tee boxes were added on the 2nd and 11th holes, and the 18th green was blown up and redone completely to make it more in keeping with the playing style of the rest of the course. Phase two, which starts this fall, will include a new 3.5-acre short-game area, expansion of the range, and other changes to the course itself, to make it more playable for average golfers yet more difficult for the pros and low-handicap amateurs.
Sleepy Hollow CC wrapped up its plan to return the course to the original design concepts of CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor, with most of the work dedicated to replacing Tillinghast green complexes and contours that had been added after the original course was built. Among other improvements, Gil Hanse worked his magic with a complete redesign of the 8th green, which promises to substantially change its playing characteristics. The 9th, 10th, 11th, and 17th greens also received major attention.
Ontario-based architect Ian Andrew began work on Knollwood CC’s venerable course last fall with a plan to restore some of the original Seth Raynor and Charles Banks ideas that had been lost over the years. The architect had access to Raynor’s original plans, as well as Banks' construction notes, and the club’s archives yielded an aerial photograph taken in the middle of the construction project in 1926. Bunkers are the center of the current restoration, with both location and style updates that will change the way many holes are played. On the 14th hole, for example, a fairway bunker at the far corner of the sharp dogleg was removed, while one on the inside was added to adjust the line of play away from the nearby road and discourage long hitters from trying to drive the green.
Sunningdale GC finished a major renovation in grand style over the winter. While there were extensive changes made during the multiyear project under the guidance of architect Mike Devries, the grand finale was construction of three completely new finishing holes that promise to challenge golfers of every skill level. The 16th hole is now a bunker-less 580-yard par 5; the 17th is a reverse Redan par 3; and the new 18th hole is a killer 475-yard par 4 that plays uphill and generally into the wind.
Ardsley CC members and guests will enjoy an expanded clubhouse this year, a phoenix that rose from the ashes of a disastrous fire in late 2014 that heavily damaged the 19th-century Gould mansion the club has occupied since 1966. The new facility provides breathtaking views of the Hudson River from the new mixed grill room and lounge as well as from the extended patio decks that offer outside dining. The locker rooms and showers have been modernized and expanded, while a new 280-seat ballroom was added as well. The pro shop and bag room were completely renovated, too.
Salem GC (below) added a new pool last fall, as well as a pool house for men’s and women’s locker rooms, a teaching and golf-simulator room, and a dedicated children’s activity room. A halfway house and outdoor bar and patio for member dining are in the works, as is a new fitness center with a private studio for Pilates and yoga in the main clubhouse. The tee for the par-3 10th hole was relocated to accommodate the pool, but the green will remain in place, completely changing the character of the hole.
The South course at Westchester CC has undergone a complete renovation, where all 18 holes were touched in some way over the winter. The changes are designed to make it more challenging for the better player while making the course more accessible for shorter hitters. To that end, new tee boxes were added and many fairway bunkers were moved. The greens remain intact, but some of the green surrounds were altered.
At Westchester Hills GC, another round of improvements to the course include a new back tee to lengthen the 2nd hole and major tree-and-rock removal on the 15th and 16th holes. The most radical change was sculpturing down the huge rock outcropping that bordered part of the 15th green and a new tee box for 16, to increase the options for the picturesque par 3 hole.
Mount Kisco CC got serious about changing its controversial 5th hole last fall. Golfers this spring will play a completely re-contoured green that hopefully will take “four putt” out of their vocabulary. The hole will still play long — it’s 453 yards uphill! — but at least it will be possible to sink a putt once you get there.
Westchester County’s Dunwoodie Golf Course received a long-overdue upgrade to its irrigation system over the winter. The Yonkers course was acquired by the county in 1955.
Upgrades are underway at Game On Golf Center (formerly the Westchester Golf Range) in White Plains, too. The new owners are replacing everything from the fence to the range targets and starting to seriously upgrade the teaching and short-game areas. A new kids range is being built at the back of the existing range to accommodate an expanded First Tee program. New teaching pros have been added to the staff and DD Custom Golf brought its club-fitting expertise to the facility.
Westchester Medical Center Sponsors Unique Fundraiser
The fifth annual WMC Golf Invitational tees off May 16 at the first of four venues where 18 teams will vie for honors to be awarded at the conclusion August 21. The four-golfer teams will play a round each at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point, Morefar in Brewster, Quaker Ridge, and Winged Foot.
“Funds raised are invested in projects like the new Caregiver Center in Westchester Medical Center’s recently renovated and expanded Main Concourse,” explains Zubeen Shroff, chairman of the Westchester Medical Center Foundation. “The center supports patient families caring and advocating for loved ones at Westchester Medical Center through special programs and access to information and resources. This vital service, and other advanced-care enhancements, including the acquisition of state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and expansion of services, are all possible due to the participation and generosity of Invitational players, sponsors, and other supporters.”
Leadership Changes In County Pro Shops
Ben Hoffhine (above) was chosen this winter to lead the professional staff at Westchester CC, replacing the legendary John Kennedy. “Westchester is one of the premier clubs in the country, so it’s the thrill of a lifetime for me,” Hoffhine says. “My first goal is to continue John Kennedy’s legacy here, but I want to bring some of my ideas for the various programs, too.”
Hoffhine actually began his professional golf career as an assistant pro working for Kennedy in 1998. He later moved to Pelham CC before becoming head pro at Wykagyl, a position he held for 13 years.
He says one of his goals at Westchester is to add a little more luster to the venerable Hoffhine Memorial tournament, which was named in honor of his great-great uncle, John Hoffhine, a longtime Westchester member.
John Deigan moved up from assistant to head pro at Wykagyl to replace Hoffhine.
Nick Maselli was promoted to the head professional position after 15 years at Old Oaks CC in Purchase. Maselli graduated with a degree in finance from Villanova (and four years on the golf team) in 2001 and was recruited for a job on Wall Street with a first day of September 11. The catastrophe threw his plans awry, so he decided to pursue a golf career and landed a job as an assistant pro to Bobbie Heins at Old Oaks. Heins has assumed an emeritus role, while Maselli takes on the head-pro duties.
The reins at Trump National Briarcliff have passed to Chris Marinaro, who moves in from the head-pro position at Long Island’s Muttontown Club. Sharon McQuillan, well-recognized teacher and onetime head professional at Bonnie Briar CC, took over the top job at Pleasantville CC this spring.
Mark O’Meara Headlines Golf Writers Dinner
Two-time major winner Mark O’Meara will receive the Gold Tee Award at the 66th annual Metropolitan Golf Writers Association (MGWA) dinner on June 26. The affair will be held at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown. O’Meara won 16 times on the PGA Tour, including five triumphs at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The highlight of his career, though, came in 1998, when he won both the Masters and the British Open. In 2015, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The MGWA dinner and other activities raise money for the Westchester Caddie Scholarship fund and other organizations as well as the MGA Foundation and other charities.
Willow Ridge Celebrates Centennial
Originally organized as Green Meadow Country Club in 1917, Willow Ridge CC in Harrison celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. General Manager Christopher Rogers says the club strives to remain true to the founders’ intentions “to be a casual, family-welcoming social-and-recreational club that provides a sense of community to its members and guests.” That approach has attracted a remarkably young membership, with an average age of 47.
The present member-owned club took over the site in 1965 and has continually improved the course and other amenities in the years since. Architect Ken Dye updated the golf course in successive phases during the last decade, and a large outdoor deck was added in 2012, to accommodate an increasing membership. Willow Ridge has hosted numerous tournaments over the years, including the local 2016 US Open Qualifier.