The Powelton Club is one of the oldest golf courses in the United States and yet golf was hardly its first priority. The founding of its tennis program during 1882 made it one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. promoting that sport as well and, even before that, it was founded as an archery club during 1878.
More than 40 years after its founding, its members came to the sensible conclusion that Devereaux Emmet should be contacted for a proper golf club, the 18-hole route that modern members now play. The club narrowly dodged destruction of the course during the construction of the State Route 84 bridge, the exit to which now wraps around the outskirt of the property. The benefit, of course, is that the club is now more accessible to those on the east side of the Hudson River.
That constriction left the club with little room to grow beyond the 6,200 yards originally set out by Emmet. Nonetheless, membership ensures that every one of those acres is maintained to the maximum. Tripp Davis led a full restoration of the property’s bunkers during the 2018-’19 seasons.
The Hudson Valley area is often forgotten when itemization of top tier golf courses is discussed from The Empire State. Part of that stems from the mega-shadows caused by three counties -- Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester.
The region follows the famed river from the Mario Cuomo bridge all the way to the capital region in Albany.
One of the more noted courses is the Powelton Club.
Located in Newburgh, the Devereux Emmet designed layout was smartly updated by Tripp Davis. The layout occupies gently rolling property and contains a quality assortment of holes on the par-4 and par-3 side.
The course is not long -- under 6,300 yards -- but there's enough details that clearly accentuate a healthy intersection of shotmaking challenges. Low handicap players who can advance the ball a good way off the tee will need to make sure accuracy in the mixture.
The short par-4 2nd is an engaging challenge. Players have to decide if going for the elevated target is worth the effort. Players can play to the base of a hill for a short pitch. The green is a wonderful Emmet effort -- plenty of vexing internal contours and ably defended by flanking bunkers.
The outward side provides a series of holes that reverse direction from the 3rd through the 6th. The downhill par-3 7th is aided by having two alternate putting surfaces -- with the one on the left brilliantly situated and protected by nearby trees. The short par-4 8th is likely underappreciated but it mandates archer-like skills in finding the fairway. The concluding 9th is a very strong two-shot hole with out-of-bounds hugging the left side. It's too bad that the same OB stakes were not placed near the rear and left side areas by the green. Such an inclusion is a tactic carried out by quite a few UK and Irish courses.
The inward half commences with a hole that captures your interest with a putting surface artfully shaped and contoured at thepar-4 10th. The rear area narrows down considerably and with a rear pin placement takes a jeweler's touch with the approach to be brazen enough to contemplate going for that location.
Powelton Club only has two par-5 holes but the 11th is done well. Players receive an ample landing area for the tee shot but then matters intensify as trees choke down the available landing area on both sides with the 2nd shot.
The par-4 12th that follows is even better. The tee shot needs to find a valley floor and then must successfully navigate an uphill approach to a green perched on an angle. Players who miss left will be severely impacted by a downward slope that can easily propel one's ball into further oblivion.
The remaining holes on the back nine are a good mixture but do not have the same kind of architectural heft as seen with holes 10-12.
Powelton Club showcases a clear reality - golf design need not be some sort of slog / heavy lifting exercise that bludgeons players incessantly. The shots and holes encountered here nonetheless beguiling at times and offer sufficient engagement. Golf need not be a torture test akin to wrestling solely with the likes of a Winged Foot / West or Bethpage Black. There's plenty of room under the large golf tent for a wider array of different architectural presentations.
Kudos to the club's leadership in thoroughly understanding its fine roots and providing the essential stewardship for the years ahead and the members who will follow in their footsteps.
M. James Ward