Created for the Austro-Hungarian born Adolph Zukor, film mogul and founder of Paramount Pictures, the course at Paramount Country Club was originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1920 and subsequently remodelled by Robert Trent Jones Snr during the 1950s. More recently, Jim Urbina carried out a critically acclaimed renovation of the layout in 2013.
“The strength of the design lies in its greens which follow the broad slopes of the property,” wrote Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses , “but we doubt Tillinghast ever envisaged green speeds this fast; many approach shots land on these tilted putting surfaces only to be summarily shunted off. Always Tillinghast’ pride and joy, the par three holes here are exceptional, including the 18th which is one of the few examples of his ‘Reef’ concept in existence.”
The “Reef Hole” is unique to Tillinghast and he coined the name due to the angled ridge in front of the green and the surrounding bunkers. In the architect’s own words, because “of the diagonal spine which suggested treacherous reef water outside the harbour”.
The roots of Paramount Country Club go back to the efforts of Adolf Zukor -- the man responsible for the creation of Paramount Pictures Corporation. Zukor bought land that had been Mountain View Farm from Lawrence Abraham of A&S Department Stores. That site had a 9-hole layout but Zukor purchased 500 additional acres and engaged A.W. Tillinghast to design an 18-hole layout in 1918. Over the course of time the property experienced its ups and downs. Zukor, who would live to 103, eventually sold the property in 1948 to a syndicate of NY businessmen. Eventually the name was changed to Dellwood and many of the original Tillinghast features were compromised. In 2007, a new ownership group -- the Mandelbaums -- took ownership and the move towards resurrecting the property was clearly front and center.
The name of the course was changed and architect Jim Urbina was hired. Urbina had been Tom Doak's right hand man for a number of years before going out on his own practice and his expertise paid huge dividends in getting the course back to the promise it once had. Numerous trees were eliminated and underbrush cleaned up. The putting surfaces, the heart of the course, were wonderfully brought back to life. The edges of the greens were once again a terror as any half-hearted approach will likely roll away into a precarious position.
The outward half is quite hilly and the first hole requires players to cross a public thoroughfare to an elevated putting green. The long downhill par-5 2nd is a quality hole as is the short par-3 3rd and the rigorous uphill par-4 4th.
The scale of the property is what captures the eye and Urbina masterfully made sure all the features have come to life. This is best illustrated by the restoration of the Reef hole -- the par-3 closer at Paramount. The features are now back in full view and the elasticity of the hole has been greatly enhanced for all levels of players.
Paramount is likely an invisible entity for those living outside the immediate NY metro area but for golf connoisseurs and especially Tillinghast devotees it is one that should be played if the opportunity arises. It is amazing when dedicated ownership in concert with architectural expertise and the talents of the former superintendent Brian Chapin who served Paramount for 13 years before departing for Rolling Green GC in Springfield, PA, can do when working in unison.
by M. James Ward