After three wonderful days in New Hampshire visiting Clark, Alex, and three grandkids (Sarah, Owen, and Elisa) we returned to Milton Sunday afternoon 10/4. I headed to the New York area early on Tuesday morning, hitting the road at 3:35am (I think that qualifies for “early”) and made great time driving to NY. I had five courses on my itinerary and would drive back home Thursday afternoon. Second on my to do list was to collect some missing scorecards. Having played 1249 courses, at this point I only had scorecards from 1109 as I was missing 140. For sure at least 11 of these with never be found, either because I do not remember the name of the course (7), the course no longer exists (2), and because I have no intention of traveling to Venezuela to get the cards (2). But I do hope to whittle down the missing list and this visit to NY was a good time to further the process.
North Shore Country Club, October 6, 2020: I was scheduled for my first round at 8:30am, but my first stop was around 6:40am at Trump Ferry Point, which I had played in 2014. They were preparing for an outing in support of NY’s Firefighters and securing a card was quick and easy. Next stop was just across the Throgs Neck Bridge at Clearview Golf Course, a muni in northern Queens which I first played in 1959. My third and last stop was at another muni, Forest Park which sits along the Queens and Brooklyn County line in a fairly sketchy neighborhood. This was somewhat greater adventure but by 7:40am I had secured all three cards and was on my way to Nassau County, passing within about 0.3 miles from where I grew up.
I arrived for my first round at North Shore Country Club, which not surprisingly lies along the north shore of Long Island in Roslyn, NY, at 8:10am. While I had heard of North Shore, I was certainly not on my bucket lists or radar screen until a golf friend (and Golf Digest Panelist), Bob K., told me I had to play it. Bob has a superb eye and feel for golf course architecture and I absolutely trust his opinion…hence my inclusion of North Shore on this itinerary.
I must say that the facilities at North Shore are not exactly pristine. But I knew I was there for the golf course, not the clubhouse and maintenance facility.
By 8:30 I was off the first tee and by the time I had played the third hole (this is a Seth Raynor design and the 3rd is the Road Hole) I knew I was falling in love, even after hitting my third into the Road Hole bunker. The Road Hole here is one of the best I have played, even though the bunkering is about 60° off of most Road Holes. The 6th is an outstanding Punchbowl, and the 7th has some outstanding risk/reward decisions (due to an almost 90° drop off on the green’s left side) for the player to deal with. The 9th is an exceptional Redan…even though somewhat different from most Redans…but a fabulous example of a “fortress” green (“Redan” translated to “fortress”).
On the back nine, #11 is a hole that needs some work IMO…it is a 391-yard, downhill then sharply uphill, almost 90° dogleg right with a very tall tree at the inside of the dogleg. That tall tree limits the options on this hole and the contours/slope on the green are too extreme. The 419 yards par 4 14th is an outstanding double plateau and its green in some ways reminded me of Brookline’s 7th green (even though 7 at Brookline is a par 3). Well before I finished I had concluded that North Shore was deserving of the title “Hidden Gem”. It is pure fun…a little short at 6603 yards (par 71) but who cares.
The history of North Shore is very interesting. Around 1913 some younger members of New York’s Harmonie Club (an eating and entertainment club with primarily German Jewish members) pushed the older members of Harmonie’s Board to pursue purchase of a golf course. Sounds a little like the start of Winged Foot by members of the NY Athletic Club. But in this case, Harmonie ended up purchasing the Glenwood Club on Long Island’s North Shore. Glenwood had built a course designed by Devereaux Emmet, who had watched C. B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor construct the National. Emmet went on to design (or revise the design of) the likes of Garden City (NY), Congressional (MD), Engineers (NY), St George’s (NY), and Rockaway Hunting Club (NY), but Glenwood was one of his first efforts and was not well received. Within eight months of purchasing Glenwood, Harmonie had retained Seth Raynor to redesign the course. Within 18 months the course was open for play.
Some 90+ years later, Tom Doak was retained by North Shore CC to restore the course which had previously been purchased from the membership by real estate developer and golf enthusiast Don Zucker. Here’s hoping that Zucker doesn’t have a change of heart…especially since he is about 88 years of age now.
Final details…I played well…shooting a 41 – 40 = 81. North Shore has never been on a USA or World “Top” list and the most prominent event ever held there was the 1919 Metropolitan Open (generally considered to have been a “major” at that time).
After telling the staff there how much I enjoyed the course and thanking them, it was off to collect some more missing scorecards. First stop was about 10 miles east at Huntington Country Club which I had played in 1978 (Starter said my host , John Bliven, had passed away but his son was a member), then Old Westbury G&CC (also played in 1978) (Starter asked why I wanted a scorecard and after I said I had just payed my 1250th course and was missing almost 140 cards he relented), and Lake Success Village Club (played in 1986…and this was the site of the original Deepdale Golf Club…see Post #145).
From there I needed to high tail it to Westchester County and the town of Ardsley.
Ardsley Country Club, October 6, 2020: Before Sleepy Hollow, Quaker Ridge, and Winged Foot, in the late 19th century a group of new golf clubs started springing up in Westchester County including St. Andrews, Apawamis, Century, and Ardsley Casino/The Ardsley Club (later renamed Ardsley Country Club). Ardsley was founded in 1895 and started with a nine-hole course designed by Ardsley’s first pro, Willie Dunn. This club was a big deal from day one. Its membership role included the likes of J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, and the Rockefeller brothers. Transportation facilities included a private train station and train for travel to Manhattan and dock space for member’s yachts along the Hudson River.
In 1897 Dunn expanded the course to 18 holes and in subsequent years an amazing group of golf course architects led efforts to renovate the course, including:
1915…by Willie Tucker
1920…by Donald Ross
1930…by Alastair Mackenzie
1966…by The Robert Trent Jones Organization
Willie Dunn’s original 18-hole course was utilized for the 1898 US Women’s Open.
The Club’s website implied that the course today was occupying different land than the original 18-hole course (which was used for the 1898 Women’s Open), and I had therefore considered the 1898 course to be a “NLE”. After conversations with Chris S., the club’s historian, I was able to review a “Google Earth” aerial shot with an overlay of the 1897-98 course (see below...Hundon River to left fo photo and white lines represent Willie Dunn 1897 course used for 1898 US Women's Open). This made it clear that while today’s course used some of the same land as the 1897 course, none of today’s holes use a tee and green from any hole on the original 1897 course. However, since some of the land is the same land as used in 1897, I decided I needed to play it.
While the site is spectacular in terms of vistas and views, the land has such a great slope that it is very difficult to build a great course here. As I have written in previous Posts, site selection may be the most important aspect of course design….and this is a very tough site to deal with and would be a very difficult walk. Over time more homes have been built on adjoining land parcels and the course can be fairly “tight” in places.
The club had an outing earlier in the day that concluded around 2:30. Ardsley’s Head Pro, Jim Bender (a very special guy and previous President of the PGA’s Met Section) arranged for me to tee off on #10 at 3:00pm. I got in the full 18 but it included hopping around a bit, which was fine. The course does an amazing job given the site. But then again how many courses have been worked on by the likes of Dunn, Tucker, Ross, and Mackenzie?
Due to COVID, I did not see the inside of the clubhouse, but would guess that it is fairly impressive.
This had been a long day but I still needed to get back to my hotel room on Long Island (I was scheduled to play two LI courses Wednesday). I arrived at the hotel around 7:30pm…some 16 hours, 36 holes, and 290 miles of driving from when I left home!!
The Creek Club, October 7, 2020: Before heading to The Creek for my 8:12am tee time, I made a quick stop at Bethpage State Park. As many of you know, Bethpage has 5 courses (Black, Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow) and I have played all but the Yellow. My scorecard collection however, was missing cards from the Red, Blue, and Green. A quick walk to the first tees of these three courses solved that problem and I was on my way north to The Creek.
The Creek was founded in 1922 after the purchase of Paul Cravath’s 600 acre estate on Long Island’s north shore, just north of the town of Locust Valley by a group of extraordinarily successful industrialists and financiers (including the likes of J. P. Morgan, George F. Baker, Jr., Vincent Astor, C. B. Macdonald, Herbert Pratt, and Harry Payne Whitney). Paul Cravath was a partner at one of the premier “White Shoe” law firms in New York (Cravath, Swaine & Moore) and lived in this estate from 1890-1914. After fires in 1908 and 1914 he became disheartened and sold the property to the founders of The Creek and moved elsewhere. C. B. Macdonald was asked to evaluate the property before the purchase and design a course, but Macdonald’s partner, Seth Raynor is generally credited with the design of The Creek.
The property is simply exquisite, with a high bluff overlooking a sharp drop down to the Long Island Sound coastline with outstanding views of Greenwich and Stamford, CT across the Sound. Raynor created a wonderful course making great use of the property’s fabulous attributes.
This was my second visit to The Creek, the first having been in 2012 (prior my starting this blog…so there is no “other Post” reference). I was returning in part because Gil Hanse, who had completed an initial restoration in 2011, had completed addition work on The Creek about three years ago, and I had heard his more recent work was very much worth another visit. That turned out to be a great understatement.
I distinctly recall playing the first five holes in 2012 and saying to myself that these holes clearly were designed by Macdonald and/or Raynor, but that they were rather subdued examples of their work…and actually thought about going to my car and leaving as I left the fifth green. But instead I walked over to the sixth tee, which sits on top of the above-mentioned bluff, and was basically stunned by the view of the rest of the course, and across the Sound to Connecticut. The golf course really starts at the 6th tee!! And #6 is one of the finest par 4’s I have played. It now plays to 481 yards, downhill to a “punchbowl” green that slopes strongly from front left to back right. Finding a flat lie between the tee and the green is a difficult task as is avoiding trees along the left side of the fairway and bunkers primarily on the right side. But the hole is also fair and fun…with tons of width and just as much in the way of risk/reward options and angles.
Quite simply, the stretch of holes from #6 through #17 is as good a stretch as perhaps any set of 12 holes in the world. In particular I would point to the following other great holes in this stretch:
o #7 is a superb 566 yard par 5 heading toward the Sound (north), protected by eight bunkers but with a green open to run in shots in front, and with one bunker smack in the middle of the fairway about 40 yards short of the green (OK…decide…play short, over, left, or right of it…golfers hate options like that but that is part of the chess match between architect and player…cross bunkers create OPTIONS);
o #8 is an excellent reverse Redan of 180 yards with a green sloping sharply from left back to right front; being in the left bunker is higher dangerous given the slope of the green away from you coming out;
o #10 is a short (313 yards) Leven par 4 with a big green but trouble (water and beach) left off the tee; lots of choices off tee from going for it to laying back; tough to resist the siren call of “birdie” but be careful here;
o #11 is a 195-yard Biarritz with an island green that is literally 87 yards deep and a relatively shallow “dip”;
o #14 is 421-yard dogleg right par 4 with creek through fairway about 150 yards short of the raised green;
o #17 is an excellent “Short” (132 yards) with an old burial plot on a large mound behind and above the green.
The course played beautifully fast and firm and the greens are “governed” by sharp slopes that are well camouflaged by the slopes of the surrounding land (one’s eyes tend to see the greens slope RELATIVE to the surrounding slopes, but gravity is a function of the absolute slope of the green!!). Hanse did a beautiful job with the bunkering and certain “finishing touches (such as connecting the 6th, 16th and 18th fairways). Work is continuing on a renovated practice range to the east of the 18th fairway that looks like it was proceeding with little thought as to cost…should be open in 2021 and should be outstanding
Yes, the course is not perfect but not many (or really any) are. The uphill par 5 18th is much improved (better use of fairway bunkers) but not outstanding and the first five holes are still pale compared to the rest of the course. But then again, nothing wrong with lulling the golfer to sleep before the brilliant shock that awaits on the 6th tee. And the subtle false front on #1 is one of the best and most wicked I have seen.
Net net…great club and great course. Wish I had played this round before my GOLF Magazine 2020 USA Top 100 ballot was due five weeks earlier.
After saying hello to and thanking HP Sean Farren, I was off first to pick up another scorecard, then to Cherry Valley Club 15 miles south in Garden City. Scorecard stop: Glen Oaks, played in 1977 and host of The Northern Trust (one of the Federal Express Cup playoff events on the PGA Tour) in 2017.
Cherry Valley Club, October 7, 2020: I arrived at Cherry Valley at 12:40 for a 1:00 game with HP Ed Kelly. Cherry Valley is located about 0.5 mile from Garden City Golf Club. Long story on how I was introduced to Ed Kelly. Back in 2016 I attended the “Walker Cup Reunion” at Quaker Ridge and met Joe H., who was President of Garden City GC. Turns out that Joe was raised in Queens Village, NY, close to where our family’s trouser manufacturing business was located…so we had a good time trading Queens and Queens Village stories.
Earlier this year, confined by COVID regulations to New England, New York and New Jersey for travel, I tried to secure access to Cherry Valley (which had hosted the 1927 US Women’s Amateur as well as the 1981 Metropolitan Amateur) to no avail due to the increase in member play during COVID. At that point, I called Joe H., who advised that he had lots of friends who belonged to Cherry Valley and that he also was friends with its pro, Ed Kelley, whose father was best friends with Joe’s father when Ed and Joe were growing up in QV…Bingo!!
Ed and I were scheduled to play CVC on September 10, but that round was rained out (see Post #147). This time the weather worked and Ed and I were able to play CVC. Given we grew up 5 miles from each other (although Ed is 10 years younger) we had a lot of common ground to sort through during the round. Ed went to college at St. John’s University, which was about 0.4 miles from the house where I grew up, and played lots of golf at Queens munis and Bethpage. His professional career brought him first to Glen Oaks Club and then to CVC, and being part of the “Met Section” he knew all of Quaker’s head pros from the 25 years when I was a member. Most important, Ed is a wonderful guy.
CVC was founded in 1916 and its course was designed by Devereaux Emmet (note comments above regarding North Shore’s predecessor club Glenwood). It was 6200 yards in 1916 and now totals 6807 yards. Shortly after its opening Walter Travis made some minor changes. Then some 4 decades later Robert Trent Jones added much length and over time trees grew in size (trees grow about 3% per year---so do the math---they double in size every 24 years). Finally Stephen Kay came in for two restorations some two decades apart to remove many of the trees, widen the fairways, and update the course for the distances players hit the ball these days.
Given that CVC sits less than 10 miles south of North Shore CC and about 12 miles south of The Creek Club, it is simply amazing how different the terrain and topography is at CVC. As I have explained in previous Posts, during the last Ice Age, the glaciers stopped their southbound march half way across Long Island. The northern half of LI was littered (for lack of a better word) with rocks and rock outcroppings dragged down from Canada and New England…and the southern half of LI was left untouched, and hence almost as flat as a pancake. That does not mean that a great course cannot be designed on land such as CVC’s…remember that Garden City GC lies less than 0.5 miles away!!
CVC has very good “bones” and is a very good course. It has never been on a USA or World “Top” list but that should not be taken as a negative. Note that the courses that have ever been on a USA Top 400 total about 850 courses…just over 5% of the courses in the USA.
All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon…and a great day. Ed is a great guy was so much fun to swap golf stories with. But before I headed north to Westchester, I had to head south to Hewlett Harbor (near JFK airport) to secure a scorecard from The Seawane Club. Back in 1962, I played in a junior tournament at Seawane, and somehow misplaced my scorecard in the ensuing 58 years. If my recollections of my play that day are correct, the blank new card is much better looking than the original! I then headed north to Rye, NY to watch the Vice Presidential debate and prepare for 18 holes at Quaker Ridge the next morning.
Quaker Ridge Golf Club, October 8, 2020: This is my 4th Quaker Ridge post (previous are Posts #1005, 59, and 128…covering visits on 6/8/14, 10/4/16, and 5/4/19). Just to remind you, I was a member here from 1975 to 2000.
If my memory is correct, Quaker started thinning what had become a claustrophobic tree cover and making other changes to the course around 2005. Recent improvements that I noticed were:
(1) further extensions to certain greens…most notable on the back right of #1, the front of #8, and the back of #15;
(2) the course is definitely firmer and faster than ever before…and the greens are simply wild and so much fun…really make one think and use some imagination.…backstops on greens are now critically important; and
(3) tons of construction work as the pro shop has been torn down and a new one being built, and the practice green is being redone.
Although no one asked, my thoughts on next steps would be:
(1) widen the fairways to bring the cut line to the outside of fairway and front corner greenside bunkers…thereby allowing the bunkers to be real “collection areas” as one sees in GB&I;
(2) eliminate rough between some of the greens and greenside bunkers to extend the greens to the bunker edges…as seen at Royal Melbourne, particularly on the left side of #2, the right side of #3, the front left of #4, the right and left sides of #6, the right side of #7, all around #9, etc. etc.;
(3) bring the few greenside water hazards more directly into play by bringing the front of the green on #5 all the way to the stone wall at the pond’s edge, and bringing the greens edge on the front and right side of #11 to the drop off to the stream; and
(4) create a new back tee on #12 on the hill just left of the front left corner of the 11th green.
I played with fellow GGCC member Jeff L. and two friends of Jeff. The day was simply beautiful but very windy (15-20mph) and a bit cool because of the wind. I had a 44 – 41 = 85…pretty good IMO given the wind. All in all a really fun day.
I left thinking that QR has ben making steady inroads toward becoming one of the truly great clubs and courses (certainly among parkland courses) in the USA and World. Would have never predicted that in 2005. Folks…a hearty congratulations…keep up the great work.
Drive home was better than I expected. Arrived home by 5:30pm. Total mileage for trip was 647 miles. Lots of extra miles related to picking up those 11 scorecards!
Now stand at 1252 courses…including 43 new courses played in 2020, plus 11 replays for 54 different courses so far this year…way down from previous years but not too shabby given I didn’t touch a golf club until May 1 or so, and the impact of COVID on travel and course access.
One last piece of good news. Last week the USGA announced the first staging of a US Championship in Alaska (the 2022 US Women’s Senior Amateur to be played at Anchorage Golf Course. As I played Anchorage in August 2017 (Post #91) to complete playing all fifty states, no need for a special trip to AK.