The Metropolis Country Club course has been touched by several prominent architects down the years: originally designed by Herbert Strong, it was remodelled by A. W. Tillinghast, reconfigured by Joe Finger then lengthened by Ken Dye in the late 1990s.
Forse Design competed a restoration at Metropolis Country Club in 2015 and Ron Forse commented as follows in an interview with Golf Course Architecture magazine:
“Strong was an Englishman and did a lot of work in the New York metropolitan area. His design at Metropolis CC, which was completed in 1922, has brilliant routing and you have to be here for a while to understand how good a job of the routing he did.
He’s a relatively unknown classic architect in the US, yet his work is absolutely superb. His style was different to other guys, but his expertise is in routing golf courses, and Metropolis is one of the best jobs of routing a course I’ve seen. He capitalised on every golfing advantage the land offered. There’s a tremendous variety in the setting and the contouring of the green settings. There’s not a lot of heavy contouring in the greens or the routing, and they’re generally subtle. But like a good piece of music, it takes time and observation to notice how well designed the greens are.”
Established in 1922, the original 18-hole layout was designed by Herbert Strong and later expanded when A.W. Tillinghast redesigned the course - adding the existing 7th, 12th, 13th and 14th holes. In the early 70s architect Joe Finger reconfigured the 15th and 16th holes to accommodate additional parking areas near to the clubhouse. During 1998 and 1999, Finger's partner Ken Dye, updated the course again - lengthening to its current just over 6,800 yards and as a par-70 now.
In 2013, Metropolis hired architect Ron Forse on a major restoration project. In conjunction with course superintendent David McCaffrey the project was completed in the spring of 2015.
Metropolis clearly improved in terms of strategic interest as numerous trees were chopped down and unnecessary underbrush was also eliminated. The visual dynamics are clearly improved and the turf quality has clearly benefited from the added air flow provided.
The upside of Metropolis is with the range and diversity of the par-4 holes. You see this early on at the 2nd -- a slight dog-leg left with a pond in the drive zone and a green with plenty of contour to force players to execute a superior approach. The par-4 3rd that follows is one of the best holes at the course. Here players must work the tee shot from left-to-right to a sloping fairway. A series of bunkers stands guard at the inside corner of the turning point. Even if the fairway is found -- the approach is a challenge. There is a noticeable false front and the varying contours will put enormous pressure on anyone having less than the surest of strokes.
Much has been written -- rightly so -- on the grandeur of the par-4 6th. It's a beautiful hole and the restoration effort as eliminated the hideous foliage and trees that had overwhelmed the left side of the hole. The removal has only made the hole better visually. The strategic quality is quite testing. Players must work the tee ball right-to-left and avoid a center-placed greenside bunker that awaits the hapless approach. The green, is arguably among the finest at Metropolis -- presenting different levels for the pin to be placed. When the position is in the front right you'll need all the golf skill one can muster.
The par-4 7th has been upgraded significantly by Forse and the added back tee provides a bit of muscle for those who dare to play from the new tip position. The par-4 8th provides a wonderful counterpoint. Blind off the tee and turning left -- players must be confident in their line of attack. The green is well-protected by a series of bunkers to the left and, like other holes at Metropolis, sports a fine green. The par-4 10th also merits special attention. The hole commences from an elevated tee near to the pro shop. The requirements are quite rigorous. The hole slides downhill and turns right in the drive zone. Players have to skillfully calculate how much of the corner is worth cutting. Those who take off too much can find trees and even out-of-bounds. Those who pull a tee shot can find a tree cluster that will interfere with the 2nd shot to a very interesting green. The land makes the hole and the challenges are interwoven without silly artifice.
The main downsides with Metropolis is that with only two par-5 holes they are not dissimilar. In fact, the 1st and 11th are nearly identical in terms of the direction they traverse so that whatever the wind direction is you will encounter it twice. The 1st plays downhill and the 11th goes uphill slightly before also heading downhill. It's too bad because while both holes are fun to play the need for diversity would only have helped matters.
On the par-3 side -- Metropolis only has two holes of serious architectural heft -- the 4th and 13th. The former plays well to a perched green. On its face it appears simplistic -- until one attempts to get near to the pin. The 13th is the best of the quartet. Hats off to Tillinghast for its creation. Playing uphill and to an angled green the need for proper club selection is paramount. Credit McCaffery with providing a turf situation with a devilish false front that demands sufficient club be taken at the tee. When the pin is cut in the far deep left corner it takes a bold effort and the soundest of plays to succeed.
In terms of the routing -- the former par-3 16th was eliminated for parking reasons and the "new" par-3 at the 15th is a good replacement but its position in the routing makes for a jumbled walk between holes. The club wisely has the new 16th as a long par-4 and when the southwest wind is blowing it takes two hearty shots to get to the putting surface.
The short par-4 17th is a wonderful hole given its penultimate position. However, the aesthetic of the hole is badly compromised because it is adjacent to the club's driving range. There is no sufficient screening between the range and the 17th. Therefore, players are forced to look at a mega-large net that provides the border of the range with the hole. The merits of the hole itself is very good. The green is very small in the front and widens a bit more in the rear. A key decision was made to have a sunken depression on the front right side of the green. Players who opt to go for the green on this 350-yard hole have to be extremely careful not to get short-sided.
The 18th hole was changed from what it was previously. In its original form the hole had a pronounced turning point to the right. The show was quite awkward and not at the kind of level a finishing hole needs to be. Forse did make a good option - pushing the tee back to add yardage and making the turning point less severe. It's better than what was there previously but far from the overall quality of a number of other par-4s one played earlier in the round.
Overall, Metropolis is a quality layout -- the improvements have clearly helped in the overall presentation of the course. The land is quite special -- plenty of movement but no so abrupt as to be beyond the reaches of most golfers to enjoy the stroll when playing. In the pantheon of Westchester courses -- Metropolis is not in the upper echelon tier but it clearly merits position at the next level. Place Metropolis in another area of the USA where the overall competition is not that keen and the overall standing would likely be more noticeable. If somehow the minor deficiencies are corrected there's plenty to support an even higher grade.
M. James Ward