Framed by the Manhattan skyline, Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design. Situated on top of a former landfill site, it’s the first golf course built in New York City in more than fifty years.
I played the Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on a chilly and breezy late April day, the course was still waking up from winter which meant the rough was forgiving albeit still easy to find a tough lie, still easy to find a wayward ball, I can well imagine high summer you can easily loose a bag of balls if you’re not careful. I note the previous reviewer says it not really a true links, I agree and ‘links style’ would be more appropriate, a stylish pastiche which looks like a links but doesn’t really play like one, playing the course very much favors hitting it high over the hazards rather than a ground game even with the wind. Perhaps it was the early season conditions but there was very little roll so the course played to its true length, choose wisely which tee you use, I played golds which was a tough 6800 yards with soft ground on a cool day. Expect to hit lots of long irons and woods on approach, the fairways are inviting and wide, well bunkered but not penal if you chose a sensible line, the green complexes are the courses real defence. Land your approach in the wrong place and the bunkers, false fronts, hollows and swales will devour your ball leaving plenty of tough up and downs. The greens were still healing from spring aeration so not running perfectly true but still very fast with lots of subtle breaks to test even the best hottest putters. Favorite holes for me were the par 5’s, the short par 7th (a real risk and reward hole), and the long par 3’s, needing you to hit your Sunday best and account for the wind.
As you'd expect from the group which owns it service is a focus, free range balls, great putting green and short game area. I’m told the club house is brand new and only just opened for the 2019 season, surprisingly understated ranch style with no gold leaf or marble to be seen anywhere! Given its only just opened and early in the season I’ll forgive the 10 minutes it took for me get a coffee, once fully open the outdoor areas will look great. Does it offer great value, maybe, I got a discount off the sticker price as a NYC resident but it’s still towards the top end of what I’d pay for a round but then again it is NYC and public golf courses are the minority. Pace of play was great in comparison to most NYC public courses but also a reflection of the green fee deterring only the keenest golfers. Certainly worth visiting if you’re in the area, easy to reach from Manhatten.
The usage of the word "links" makes me cringe when assessing this layout. Jack Nicklaus and John Sanford, Jr. simply manufactured a layout over a former 222-acre landfill site. It's too bad because given the location and the impact of the daily winds which blow quite frequently the course could have been created with a far different outcome where the ground game has a much more meaningful role. What you often see is massive shaping to the sides of most holes with fairways almost always devoid of any contours. Links golf is about having rumpled land and vagaries where the bounce of the ball is certainly a recurring issue. That's not the case here.
Ferry Point is no easy challenge and among the numerous Nicklaus courses I have played -- over 100+ -- I can easily say that on the demands side Ferry Point is among the top quarter of layouts of Jack's I've played. The key, like a number of Nicklaus courses, starts with the tee game. One has to be consistent -- for both length and placement. However, hard golf does not make for compelling architecture. The fun quotient is resides more in the shadows.
No question the Manhattan skyline makes for an intoxicating view and, as with other Trump associated golf facilities, the range of amenities is clearly maxed out so one's personal comforts are well attended. The other drawback is that despite the connection as a "city-owned public course" -- the fees to play are not exactly in alignment with the base population that lives in and around the property.
Among the best holes include the par-4 6th at 468 yards with its smartly center placed bunker in the drive zone. The short par-4 7th is a quality counterpoint. At just 337 yards from the tips there's an opportunity for a bold play but the execution has to be present. Water hugs the entire right side and those who opt to bail away from the aqua will find a most demanding pitch to a narrow green. The best play is trying to keep one's ball as close to the water as possible for the best and easiest approach angle. The par-4 9th is quite good -- again a center-placed fairway bunker adds to the driving challenge.
The par-4 11th -- at just 352 yards gives players plenty to ponder about when you arrive at the tee. Several bunkers are scattered about in the drive zone. One can go for the boldest of plays - hitting right at the green but the tee shot has to get through a narrow fairway opening to reap the reward. Nicklaus / Sanford also included a devilish center-placed bunker that mandates respect with the approach.
The remaining holes are routed well and whatever wind is blowing that day will vary so adjustments are constantly called upon.
The ending trio concludes the round in fine fashion. The long par-4 16th at 487 yards generally plays into the prevailing wind during the prime summer months and once again water enters the scene -- off the tee and with the approach. The par-3 17th has a narrow opening -- with bunkers pinching in from both sides. If the pin is cut towards the front it takes a well-controlled shot to handle the challenge. When the pin is cut in the far left rear area the decision on whether to fly over a protecting bunker or bail to the right becomes the focus.
The closing hole plays 576 yards and can be a real chore because the wind pattern during the prime playing months can mean a demanding headwind or cross wind. The tee shot is a central element because failing to find the fairway will only intensity the challenge that follows. The fairway tapers down considerably and also turns left so being able to shape a shot to set up one's approach is paramount. While the green is surrounded by bunkers the actual green itself is fairly basic in the puzzles it provides.
Overall, Ferry Point shows what the power of money can do given the years it took to complete the project and the related cost overruns absorbed. On the public side within The Empire State, Ferry Point certainly commands a high position with the demand side its central thesis. Interesting architecture is present at times but more could and should have been done given the nature of what Nicklaus has done in his design career. Doing more of the same is not an advancement but more of a repeat. A pity. Turf quality when I have played the course has always been very good to excellent and given the prices involved clearly should be. Is Ferry Point worth one's time? Yes, for the immediacy it provides but no for anything on the enduring side.
M. James Ward