The Tuxedo Club features one of the deeper histories in American golf, as the very first interclub match in American history was held between Tuxedo and the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club during 1894 on site. Later, the club fielded two separate teams (compared to one from Shinnecock and The Country Club) against two from Saint Andrew's Golf Club that same year.
Unfortunately, the original golf course was cancelled during the construction of the New York Thruway, and Robert Trent Jones constructed the current version of the course in the Poughkeepsie region during 1957. Although the club is certainly classily named, the name stems from the Lake on which the property sat, and not the preferred attire of the members.
The new course now features Summit Brook as its primary water body, and the stream runs between a number of ponds on the property that will contend with approach shots. Although a more wooded region upstate of New York City, the fairways and playing grounds at Tuxedo are kept admirably open as the course continues past its 60th anniversary. No doubt its deep roots in American golf history help.
Often times the sunshine that illuminates the top tier golf layouts that inhabit Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties in The Empire State can obscure those courses located in the shadows just outside the immediate New York City area.
The Tuxedo Club dates back to 1886 and golf has certainly a big part of its membership offerings over the years. When the New York Thruway was being completed in the mid-1950s the construction necessitated the relocation of golf to another site within the vast bucolic property.
Architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr., was brought into the picture and his efforts produced a quality layout superbly in step with the natural landscape. The strength of The Tuxedo Club is how naturally the routing works with the beautiful countryside. Unlike so many efforts from Jones which predictably featured his traditional style of airport runway teeing areas, mega-sized bunkers and even larger sprawling putting surfaces, The Tuxedo Club has more of a subdued feeling -- golf blending in rather than standing clearly apart.
The entrance road to the golf course sets the tone -- you don't have the bombardment of mansion-like homes overwhelming their importance. The stewardship of the property promotes a willful desire to keep Mother Nature front and center.
The round commences with a fascinating and quite challenging hole. Golfers playing the layout for the first time will be struck how the opening hole is quite isolated from the rest of the layout. You walk across South Gate Road and the teeing area finally comes into view. The blind tee shot is uphill and the landing area does turn left slightly. Getting acclimated for what's called upon requires a meaningful commitment and for first time players it helps if a member or caddie can properly outline what the appropriate line of play is before firing away.
There is a dictum among many architects espousing the belief that opening holes should be ones gently beckoning you into the round that lies ahead. The 1st at Tuxedo is akin to waking up in the morning by splashing cold water on one's face -- a clear wake-up call of the highest order. The 418-yard part-4 mandates a skillful intersection of placement and power. There's one greenside bunker and smartly Jones saw fit not to overwhelm the hole with silly inclusions robbing the essence of naturalness.
The 2nd that follows is also quite good. The hole works the other direction and it behooves players to give ample respect to the turning point of the dog-leg hole. The green is narrower in the front before widening towards the back and has a series of bunkers flanking both sides.
The phrase "good member's course" is often used by many and just as often misapplied. The Tuxedo Club is in wonderful alignment in that spirit. There's sufficient length for the highly skilled player but the club has wisely eschewed the need to add inane yardage simply to add more difficulty. That does not mean the shotmaking requirements are low brow -- hardly. After a quality par-3 at the 3rd, the tenacity of the strong par-4 4th rounds out the opening quartet in sterling fashion.
Overall, the holes encountered broadcast a clear signal -- an enticing stroll -- golf and nature working together.
Jones saw fit to make sure the holes favor players able to work the ball into the proper positioning. The holes with the least amount of character happen as one concludes the outward nine with the long straightaway 9th -- which is hardly a pushover -- and the starting hole for the inward half -- the par-5 10th.
The rest of the back nine features a quality mixture of holes and challenges with the penultimate hole at the par-3 17th featuring a carryover Summit Brook and then climaxing with a par-5 where birdies are clearly on the agenda but far from being assured.
The Tuxedo Club celebrates the catharsis in rejuvenating mind and body with golf the chosen vehicle. Jones deserves substantial credit in putting forward a golf connection never standing apart from the land it occupies. The golf requirements are clear, purposeful and rewarding when the execution is added to the mixture.
Mark Twain, the illustrious humorist, was fond in saying golf is a "good walk spoiled." The Tuxedo Club clearly disproves that adage.
M. James Ward