Listed by Business Insider as one of “The 12 Golf Courses Where Wall Street Big Shots Love To Play,” The Golf Club of Purchase is a 1996 Jack Nicklaus Signature layout that’s routed through woodland where wetlands also create challenge.
“An understated place that doesn’t draw publicity, but a solid modern addition to Westchester’s heavily classic golfing landscape,” is how author Daniel Wexler describes the course in his book in The American Private Golf Club Guide.
“Though not overly long, it is a significantly demanding test, highlighted early by the 459-yard 4th, a creative design is something of an island amidst a marsh. The 372-yard 5th plays to another wetlands-guarded putting surface, as does the 539-yard 7th, a fine three-shotter with alternative layup areas.
The back nine’s best come mostly at the finish, beginning at the 516-yard 15th (played across a creek to a small hilltop green) and the 456-yard 16th, a very demanding par four whose putting surface sits behind a pond. The 146-yard 17th is similarly water-menaced, while the 418-yard finisher doglegs sharply right before crossing one final stretch of wetlands to reach a narrow, angled green.”
One of the most glaring advantages for old-time architects was in NOT dealing with a myriad of laws, rules and regulations tied to environmental matters -- most notably wetlands.
In the early days of golf course construction if wetlands were an inconvenience they were simply filled in as needed. That remedy is not doable today because of a host of local, State and Federal requirements proscribed by law. The old-time architects also had the advantage in scoping out the most desirous sites and having deep-pocketed benefactors oblige them. Such locations in distant areas outside of major metro areas were not prized for other possibilities such as residential and commercial development but as populations grew and the desire to secure sites further removed from major cities became more and more a reality the competition for prime sites only intensified.
Over the last 30-40 years the expansion of various rules and regulations in dealing with available lands having wetlands and other sensitive environmental characteristics has placed a higher burden on such developments. Golf course construction is certainly more complicated and the wherewithal to find suitable sites has clearly been a major element in the overall process.
The Golf Club of Purchase came into being in 1996 and much of the prime land encompassing Westchester County was already in usage with residential and commercial at the top of the pecking order. The land on which GC of Purchase is located is inundated with wetlands and to the considerable credit of the Nicklaus team a workable routing was created.
Throughout the round the wherewithal to deal with wetlands crossings are a constant matter of attention for all players. The higher burden rests on those unable to carry the ball sufficient distances when called upon. When that happens it's a must to accept reality and lay-back to avoid even harsher penalties.
You see that with the demanding par-4 4th. Failure to get the ball off the tee with sufficient distance will likely necessitate a lay-up because the green is located on the other side of the wetlands.
Matters of this type can be stress producing for players unable to command their shots. The par-5 7th is another where sufficient distance and placement is essential. The hole is broken up into segments and it takes overall consistency to keep your scorecard from screaming out for help.
The outward side concludes with two fairly straightforward holes.
The inward half is even more intense with wetlands again playing a key role. You encounter that at the difficult par-4 10th where the wetlands cut-off the fairway with the green on the far side. Those failing to achieve adequate distance from the tee -- along with placement -- may have to lay-up and play a pitch shot across the wetlands to the putting surface.
This feature returns to the forefront at the challenging par-4 15th where you must do what was done at the 10th.
The final three holes are a quality mixture of two par-4s and par-3 sandwiched in between. The long par-4 16th is very particular in its requirements. The tee shot is crucial and the approach is played to a green well-defended by a menacing pond. The par-3 17th that follows is under 150 yards but it too is protected by a pond -- this time on the right side. The closing hole is a dog-leg right par-4 and fitting that the wetlands issue is once again in the forefront. This time you cross wetlands again on the approach shot to reach the green.
It's hard to say if a uniform assessment of GC of Purchase is possible because so much is dependent on one's level of golf skills. The routing certainly had to overcome a number of significant obstacles environmentally and the execution of that was no small feat. For those double-digit handicaps an 18-hole round is best handled through the appropriate tee box choice. Otherwise -- place the number of the pro shop on your speed dial because you'll be looking to reload your golf ball supply.
M. James Ward