Review for Sleepy Hollow (Upper)

Reviewer Score:


Kudos to the club's leadership in recognizing that having a previously discombobulated layout needed to be rectified. Different design fingerprints only served to muddy the waters - even if those fingerprints came from some of the most noted architects.

Fortunately, the club was able to hire an ascending career wise Gil Hanse and in securing him the club also benefited from the involvement of the late George Bahto. George passed away a few years ago but, in his lifetime, there was no one with more knowledge of the career of CBM than he.

The Sleepy Hollow site is blessed with engrossing terrain and the views of the Hudson River from certain vantage points is clearly something one will not forget. When the sky is clear and sunshine abundant, the panorama really adds to the golf experience - especially in the Fall period.

Others have weighed in on the merits of the holes and generally I concur. I will say this to Brian -- you mention the qualities of the reverse Redan at SH -- be sure to visit The Banks Course at Forsgate (NJ) and play the 7th hole there -- I see the Garden State version no less the equal to the one at SH.

The totality of the experience is something to savor when on property. Clearly, the rush one gets in driving through the entrance way is accelerated when you catch a glimpse at the storied clubhouse. It is truly a site to behold. If one has the time it helps to walk through and see it from the inside.

My only downside of SH is that there is no par-5's of note. The 6th and 12th are good but not in equal stature as so many of the other holes. The layout is also lacking a vintage short par-4 that really adds to the overall shotmaking repertoire that players should encounter.

The longer two-shot holes are a wonderful array - with the terrain bolstering them. Going over the hill and seeing where one's approach finished at the 16th is an exhilarating moment. Ditto the climb on the 18th hole with the clubhouse in all its royal grandeur immediately in the background.

What makes SH so special is the utter precision in getting the turf with the necessary cuts done with the utmost care and attention. It's nothing short of fantastic when architecture can shine so brightly when the turf is in alignment in bringing to the sharpest hue the shotmaking that's called upon. Removing numerous trees, clearing out underbrush and updating bunkers both in appearance and position and aligning the putting surfaces is truly a magnificent effort.

SH has been included in the recent Golf Digest top 100 course listing but in my own personal listing I see the course in my second top 100 for the USA. By no means is that some sort of demotion but just the nature of how competitive the other courses I view as being just a bit more complete on all levels. I do concur with Bob's comment on the restoration dimension of the course -- Gil and George did a stellar job and he's right -- it belongs in such lofty company with the Cal Club within the USA.

The headless horseman rides supreme.

M. James Ward

Date: September 19, 2021

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