Set on the South Shore of Long Island, Inwood Country Club is not only steeped in history but the golf course was also built originally as a romantic gift.
Founded in 1901, the golf course at Inwood was established as a gesture of love from a wealthy tobacco merchant to his fiancée who wanted to play golf on a course reminiscent of the famous seaside courses of England and Scotland. William Exton and Arthur Thatcher laid out Inwood on a humble old potato farm and a rudimentary 9-hole golf course soon opened for play. Edward Erikson extended the golf course to 18 holes in 1906 and, a decade or so later, the English ex-pat and resident Inwood club professional, Herbert Strong, completely redesigned it. Strong went on to design the course at the Engineers Country Club but his work at Inwood Country Club went largely unheralded. Inwood, however, never looked back, becoming one of a few elite golf courses to host two different Major golf championships.
“Despite my failure to win the British Open, 1921 was a great year for me.” Wrote Walter Hagen in The Walter Hagen Story. “I won my first PGA Championship at Inwood, Long Island when I trimmed Jim Barnes 3 and 2. It was one of my prize championships. In the morning I scored a 69 yet I was only 1 up. In the afternoon I fired a 33 on the outgoing nine to go 4 up. Barnes rallied late, but I was too far ahead for him to catch me.” Walter Hagen went on to win four further PGA Championships, a feat matched only by Jack Nicklaus.
The closing hole at Inwood Country Club is perhaps the most famous finishing hole in the New York metropolitan area, not least because this was where, in 1923, Bobby Jones won his first Major championship, the US Open. “Shot of the Century” was how Golf Magazine described Jones’s 2-iron approach that finished 6 feet from the pin. Considering water cuts across the front and right side of the green, the approach to the 18th is not for the faint-heated.Tom Doak has been engaged at Inwood Country Club on a programme of course improvements for the last fifteen years. Commenting on the excellent Golf Club Atlas website, Doak stated: “Inwood is a neat golf course, and one of our favorite places that we've worked. We pretty much completely rebuilt the bunkering and took out a lot of trees – there aren't any trees at all now on the peninsula of 13-14-15. The original H. Strong bunkering was almost too wild to reproduce, and they didn't have many good photos of it left... but what we had, we used as license to do some pretty wild stuff. It's a very quirky routing, with three par-5's in a row on the front nine, followed immediately by back-to-back par-3's. It's also one of the busiest courses I've ever worked on... right up there with Pasatiempo.”
This is the course where the famed Bobby Jones began collecting major titles with his first of four US Open titles in 1923. The course was impacted by the eventual creation of JFK airport across the marsh and when playing you're going to encounter a steady steam of flights coming and going.
Inwood is literally dead flat. The course is aided by a series of subtle inclusions where land movement can influence shots but those times are more the exception than the rule.
The 2nd hole is quite good -- with the marsh pushing in from the right. From the 3rd through the 7th you then play three consecutive par-5 holes and back-to-back par-3s. This was done because of a change of sequencing of holes. Each of the holes is fairly interesting but when you have dead flat land there's only so much one can do without concocting silly inclusions that clearly would be forced upon the terrain.
One of the best holes at Inwood comes with the dog-leg left 8th hole. This par -4 of 415 yards requires a smart approach as you face a deep bunker to the right side which most be avoided. Frankly, any shot hit to the right will face a daunting challenge in securing one's par. The greens site is well done especially when the pin is placed in the top right hand corner. The outward nine concludes with a quality mid-length par-4 which goes in the opposite direction back to the clubhouse.
The inward side commences with a short par-3 just over 100 yards which is rather pedestrian given its lack of length. Things change immediately when you arrive at the par-4 11th which plays 433 yards and requires two well-played shots. The long par-4 12th ramps up the demands even more so -- playing 456 yards and taking you to the narrow land area in the far north corner of the property for holes 13 thru 15. The par-4 16th is a good hole as it turns right along the edge of the marshland.
The final two holes are also par-4's but each plays vastly different. The penultimate hole heads away from the clubhouse and is very clear in its presentation. The final hole returns in the opposite direction -- and it is the location where Jones hit his famous 2-iron over the protecting pond to six feet to claim the title. The concluding hole is worthy ender because when the pin is cut towards the front it's imperative to be in the fairway to maximize one's opportunity to finish the day with a smile instead of a frown.
Inwood has been updated in recent times by Tom Doak and the overall golf experience is a good one but when you have flat land there are clear limitations in terms of hole types you'll encounter.
M. James Ward
You pull up to Inwood and you feel somewhat like you are in a time warp. At one time this was a top shelve club. Today it is staying above water and making things work. The course is in good shape. Not great shape but good. They are working with it and my belief is it will be in great shape by next year. The course has a strong group of par 4's. The 3's are a little week. One being a 90 yarder with a pond short. The real issue is it is par 71 with 3 par 5's. And they are holes 3,4,5....Then 6 and 7 are 2 of the 4 par 3's...
The course sits right on the water across from JFK airport. Planes take off or land every minute. That actually isn't a distraction. Rarely is the sound enough to be bothersome. It's actually a nice setting for the course.
The final 4 or 5 holes are very nice. A couple playing along the water and a couple very good par 4's. The back side is much better than the front.