Rye Golf Club has one of the more unique ownership structures in golf, as it was purchased by the city of Rye during the ‘60 to prevent its closure. Thus members benefit from no initiation fee and relatively low annual dues for the golf-laden Westchester County, with a Devereux Emmet design for their enjoyment. Some development was allowed, however it sits within a corridor that breaks up the two halves.
Property that may have been more attractive to buyers, such as that which looks out to Milton Harbor and its salt marshes, have been left for the golf course. Players will approach the harbor during the 480-yard No. 7, the top handicap hole, before playing a pair of short par fours on the water, and will eventually play the final two par threes of the round along the salt marsh. The course is a traditional “out and back,” ending up at the farthest point from the clubhouse after eight holes.
Adding to Emmet’s historic route is the historic clubhouse. Whitby Castle was acquired by the club as part of its purchase of the estate of George C. Park.
One can only have imagined what Rye was like after its opening. The layout provides a genuine meandering between interior land bracketed by trees to holes along the waterway with the Long Island Sound beckoning in the nearby distance.
The Rye of today is still worth a look but the totality of the course is a clear notch or two behind the gems Devereux Emmet created.
The flow of the routing is still present but the course is in need of a makeover which would resurrect the heart and soul of the layout.
The outward nine is the better of the two sides. Plenty of ground movement, bolstered by a routing that never falls into a predictable routine. The opening hole sends a clear message that one needs to be ready to go right from the outset. The par-4 of 439 yards does not suffer fools gladly. The par-5 2nd reverses direction and it's here you can appreciate the characteristics of the land.
The next few holes take a step back but matters return front and center with the demanding long par-4 7th which ends with a green nestled immediately in front of the adjoining waterway. At the 8th and 9th, you play alongside the waterway area and the juxtaposition of the terrain switch is clearly memorable.
The inward side, sadly, retreats a good step or two from the front. The 10th and 17th holes, are facsimile par-3s that don't really differentiate from one another. The positioning along the waterway is a good touch but having the holes play in a similar direction is hardly innovative.
The two noteworthy holes include the long par-5 11th which climbs to a green on the far end of the property. The par-4 16th is also worth mentioning. The hole works well with a greensite well-protected and interestingly contoured.
Rye could be so much more via a carefully thought-out renovation plan, however, being a municipally-owned layout can prove hard to do in tight budgetary climate. Rye has a few moments of note and if such an updating does take place the vision of Emmet can once again come to life for more than just a handful of holes.
M. James Ward