Golf Quest West
Golf west of the Hudson features historic century-old courses with new attitudes alongside new clubs with old-style ambience.
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What do Clark Gable and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., have in common with Mark Wahlberg and Samuel L. Jackson? Though decades apart, all four have been seen on the grounds of some of the Hudson Valley’s finest golf clubs. Not all of them necessarily played scratch golf, but you can be sure they all enjoyed magnificent vistas of the Ramapo Mountains while having a libation or two in wood-paneled, leather-furnished clubrooms. Here are four of the finest golf and country clubs that give their members and guests a chance to live like the stars.
Dellwood Country Club
New City, NY
6,767 yards • Par 71 • Slope/Rating 134/73.5
Bring your best putting game when you play Dellwood Country Club—the A.W. Tillinghast-designed course in New City has some of the most demanding greens in the Hudson Valley. That’s one of the features of this history-laden club that the new owners, the Mandelbaum family of New York real estate fame, promised not to change when they bought the property from the members last year.
While the new owners intend to leave the course alone (a great idea since it’s one of Tilly’s most interesting early designs), they plan a major overhaul of the clubhouse and most of the other facilities, promising to bring back some of the glory (and deep-pocketed guests) the property experienced when it was the home of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor. That’s good news for the club members who stayed after the ownership change, since they’ll get an upgrade in amenities without any attempt to improve the sometimes quirky but always challenging golf course.
While Dellwood has a few tough tee shots, most of the big numbers on your score card are going to come from the greens, where the naturally hilly terrain combines with some devilish artificial contouring to give even the steadiest hand a quiver. The greenside bunkering will add a few strokes, too. There’s length on the course—two of the three par-fives are over 570 yards—but it’s the short, innocuous-looking par fours that will hurt you. Like the 394-yard 12th hole, a hard dog leg that ends with the sneakiest green on the course. Or the even shorter 350-yard 14th hole, where the green measures a full eight degrees of incline in some places.
You can take your mind off your putting woes, though, by enjoying some of the scenic beauty at Dellwood. From the seventh tee you watch the Ramapo Mountains march to the Hudson, while the ninth hole is a spectacular par three tucked into a colorfully-landscaped hillside and fronted by the only water on the course, a mirror pond filled with Japanese koi. The pond isn’t in play, but it’s worth taking a moment to pause and enjoy the view it creates.
Manhattan Woods Golf Club
West Nyack, NY
7,109 yards • Par 72 • Slope/Rating 149/75.7
Manhattan Woods is a quiet club you’re going to hear more about. The Gary Player signature course opened in West Nyack in 1998 to some acclaim but little fanfare. Now, after more than a decade to let the course mature and its reputation build, Manhattan Woods takes its rightful place as one of the New York metro’s premier golf experiences.
Rolling hills and wetlands define the golf course, while views of the Manhattan skyline, turn-of-the-century ambience, and impeccable service mark the well-appointed clubhouse. The innovative menu in the grill room sets Manhattan Woods apart as well. For a treat, I suggest you forego your after-round cheeseburger and opt for the lobster club sandwich instead.
Plentiful amenities notwithstanding, the golf course is the real reason Manhattan Woods deserves your attention. Five sets of tees stretch it from a fun 5,090 yards to a championship-caliber 7,109. The course fits perfectly into the terrain, with fairway landing areas squeezed by wetlands, fescue-covered hillsides, and bunkers that seem to have appeared full-formed when the last glacier retreated up the Hudson Valley. Player took advantage of the natural features to mess with the golfer’s mind from time to time, too. Several forced carries aren’t as long as they look, and many of the hazards have bail out areas that are actually good strategic choices.
The third hole is a short risk-reward par five at 504 yards that brings water into play twice. First is off the tee: do you challenge the water on the left with a drive to the narrow landing area along the right side of the fairway, or do you hit a 200-yard lay-up? The second time is the waste area that cuts the full width of the fairway in front of the green. The smart play is to lay up to it as well, which leaves a wedge to the green. If you successfully hit driver off the tee, though, it would be a shame to do anything but hit a hybrid or fairway wood and putt for an eagle.
The bent grass greens at Manhattan Woods deserve special consideration since the grain often moves your ball as much as the undulating contours. Cross-grain increases the breaks, down-grain cranks up the Stimpmeter, and putting into the grain is like trying to throw a knuckle ball with pinpoint accuracy. Even after you’ve played the course several times, it’s highly advisable to listen to your caddy when you’ve got the flat stick in your hand.