Ah, fall in the Northeast. The unparalleled and sudden flourish of color; the almost imperceptible downshift in mood and speed; the equally unsubtle signals that golfers begin attending to those final rounds of the year—or planning your winter trip.
The next two weeks are among the most elegiac and atmospheric time of year to play. Rounds in the late fall are rounds not forgotten. But for the non-affiliated living in the New York City area, where to get a tee time to best soak in these days of autumnal beauty, and also feel the thrill of great golf, is forever a question.
Two years ago that question was more difficult than it is now. Two years ago, Tri-State public players and travelers didn’t have the remarkable Pound Ridge Golf Club to consider, a Pete and Perry Dye-designed adventure located 40 miles north of Manhattan on the New York-Connecticut border and perhaps the one course in the region with fireworks on the ground to match the surrounding explosion of nature.
But first, some background. Pound Ridge got off to a, shall we say, “rocky” start.
Development of this daily-fee course took no less than 12 years—28 years if you count back to when the owners, the Wang family, first purchased the property. Virtually every local government entity, regulatory branch and neighbor threw some obstacle or grievance into the stew during the process of expanding to eighteen holes the remaining nine of a 1920’s-era course called High Ridge Country Club, thereby delaying indefinitely its commencement.
When the light finally flipped to green in 2005, construction of the new nine holes on the severely wet and rocky property to the southwest provided a daunting engineering challenge.
By that time the anticipation for the course was palpable, and when the 7,171-yard Pound Ridge finally opened in 2008 the golf publications dutifully heralded its arrival. Golf Digest, Golfweek and LINKS hailed it as one of the best new courses in the country, while GOLF Magazine tabbed it the No. 2 course on their “Top Ten Courses You Can Play” list for 2008.
Chatter on the back channels, however, expressed alternative views: the course was too narrow, too rocky, too contrived and too difficult. Furthermore, the cost to play it, well over $200 a round, was too expensive.
Forget for a moment certain nattering nabobs predisposed to criticize any course that either doesn’t fit their skill set or has to actually be installed physically into a site. At this point it’s useful to consider the Westchester County golf environment surrounding Pound Ridge. When the regional culture is dominated by Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, Westchester and dozens of other nearby clubs requiring untold amounts of money and social capital to join or even to play, a couple of clams to get a taste of what’s on the menu in this section of the Northeast doesn’t seem too steep a price to pay.
Not to mention that the Pound Ridge golf experience fits neatly into the fold created by its private brethren. The wooded grounds are exceptionally secluded and scenic, never more so than in late October. The A-4 bentgrass greens, L93 bent fairways and fescue and bluegrass roughs are kept primed to conditions that any neighboring club would admire.
Still, the question of value persists: is it worth it?
That question becomes much easier to answer since green fees were reduced to a $155 weekday rate, $105 after 3pm, with five-day advance booking ($195/$150 Friday-Sunday). After November 1, fees drop to $150, and $100 after 2pm. While still pricey it becomes quite attractive on the relatively scale for local players, and it’s enough of a discount to cast a serious hook in the mouths of those of us passing through NYC on business and pleasure.
The Dyes’ work here is something that ought not to be missed at any price. Pound Ridge is a theater of the fantastic and bizarre. The holes dip and rise through forested shelves and channels of hand-pummeled earth. Swelled and bubbling bunker clusters suggest some sort of unstable subterranean pressure on the verge of eruption. The wetlands strewn throughout the property have become pits of explosion and flame, smoking props for shape-shifting holes to leap and do tricks over. Even the slender fairways are tightropes—they average just over 30 yards across the most frequented landing areas and tighten severely beyond that.
The most memorable features are the rock outcroppings and the motif of stone. The omnipresent rocks occur throughout the course, notably as stacked bulwarks to tees and the site’s many water features, replacing Dye’s trademark sleeper ties.
Larger exposures were left unbroken, like at the tight par-5 13th where one stands between you and the hidden fairway. The most recognizable hole is the 15th, a par-3 that plays over a wetland to a green running diagonally in front of an expansive stone backdrop. The hole recalls a post-industrial section of Brooklyn, a monolith of abandoned concrete seen across an overgrown canal of reeds. The only thing missing is kids with cans of spray paint, tagging the thing or bouncing spaldeens off of it.
Pound Ridge Golf Club
Castle on the Hudson
Built between 1897 and 1910 by a wealthy family as a country estate, the structure sits on 11 acres overlooking the Hudson River. The 45-room castle, which includes a 75-foot main tower, was designed to replicate Norman fortifications in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Today it is a AAA 4-Diamond luxury hotel with elite accommodations highlighted by the Equus restaurant and its three impeccably decorated dining rooms and the warm, clubby General’s Bar.
For more information on special golf arrangements at Pound Ridge, call Castle on the Hudson at 919-909-3629.