In 1995, Ridgewood hired an unknown golf course architect to build a short game practice area just north of their range. Twenty years later, he completed a full restoration of Tillinghast’s three nines there. Gil Hanse says the key to authentic restorations is research and at Ridgewood, he was blessed with a plethora of material. Not only were aerial photographs from the 1930s available, but the 1935 playing of the Ryder Cup produced detailed photographs of every hole.
Ridgewood has 3 nines, but the course used for the many championships it hosts is a composite. Called the Championship Course, it consists of seven holes from the East nine, six from the Central and five from the West. This routing flows quite naturally with only a slightly longer walk than normal from the 12th green. The members only get to play it a couple times a year, but it’s the configuration I’m reviewing here.
The usual reclamation of greens lost to mowing patterns was a notable part of Hanse’s restoration. He also reclaimed some fairway areas as well (to the right of the 18th green, for example). Tree removal occurred but the early photographs indicated that Tillinghast cut many of the holes near the clubhouse through a forest, and there the giant oaks still stand. The photographs showed ragged fescue fringing the bunkers and that has been restored as well. Hanse points out that restoration is not merely slavish copying of the original. If a fairway bunker is no longer in play, he will move it forward. The bunker to the left of the seventh fairway is a good example. All this work served to reveal and celebrate Tillinghast’s design.
Tillinghast is well known for his heavily bunkered green complex, and though his trademark is present at Ridgewood, fully half the holes—generally those requiring a long approach—leave the option of a running approach. I did not find the prevalence of right to left shots cited in other reviews. Certainly the 7th, 9th and 17th call for a draw. But the opposite is true at the 5th, 10th and 18th. Further variety is added in hole lengths, giving the player the opportunity to employ most every club (s)he brought.
Particularly noteworthy are the three par 5s, as fine a group as any I’ve played. From the tournament tees all are in excess of 580 yards, but it is the strategy required, as much as the length, that distinguishes them. Nor is merely reaching the green a cause for a sigh of relief: all sport nasty contours…….as do many of the others. Ridgewood’s most interesting hole is much shorter. The 12th plays a mere 294 yards from the back tee and has been dubbed the “Five and Dime” by members, the result of being played by some with a five iron and a wedge. But that’s just one of the options here: a fairway wood leaving a half pitch and attempting to drive the 33 foot wide green being others.
Date: October 14, 2016