Although there are numerous public golf courses circling America’s largest city, Trump Ferry Point is certainly the most celebrated among them. The course represented the first new golf build in New York City in more than 50 years when ground was broken. The brown site restoration project was built atop of a former waste dumping ground, requiring significant maneuvering by the city.
The lack of existing landforms, however, allowed Jack Nicklaus to let his imagination run more wild than usual. The result is a sea of artificial dunes on the south side of The Bronx, offering players a glimpse of Ireland for one shot, and then a look at the skyscrapers of Manhattan when they turn the dogleg. The Throgs Neck / Whitestone Bridge also looms impressively throughout the round. Nicklaus’s version of links golf includes a multitude of centerline bunkers for players to dare crossing.
Although not quite as discounted as the public options on Long Island, a deal brokered between the city and owner Donald Trump allows both locals and out-of-towners to play at a rate much lower than at other public Trump Golf properties.
A public golf course in The Bronx, what’s not to like? I liked the whole course, but liked the back nine better, I thought it was the easier of the two. The course has a lot going on being set in a dense urban environment. For example, the 11th hole has apartment buildings in the back framing the hole in the distance. In the middle-distance the fescue provides a backdrop, and in the immediate distance there is a plethora of bunkers. It is a short par 4 of only 302 yards from the blue tees, so obviously designer Jack Nicklaus wanted to make it more challenging the more of the hole you try to bite off. I found it difficult to pick and commit to a target with so much distracting the eye. My favorite hole was the 12th, a par three of 166 yards from the back and 139 from the blue tees. The 12th green is surrounded by shaved collection areas on three sides (right, left and back) and is protected by a jagged-shaped bunker in front that conceals the front of the putting surface, which is slanted, oddly shaped, oblong, and at a right angle to the golfer. I liked the finishing stretch (16-17-18) and think they are the best consecutive holes on the course. Sixteen is a demanding 437-yard par four that requires a precision shot to a well protected green, with great views in every direction of the water and the large suspension bridges that connect the Bronx to the other Boroughs. All the par threes on the course were particularly well framed by the mounding and the fescue, especially the 17th. The 18th is a 500-yard par 5 playing along the tidal river. I thought the course's greens were fair: there are not too many undulations in them, the breaks are more subtle, but still challenging. I only missed one fairway all day, speaking to their width, because I usually hit less. My other observation, which the caddies confirmed, is that the course plays longer than the card. Approaches to the greens are almost always one club longer than you think. I'm no physics or solid waste expert, but the suspicion is that it has to do with playing atop a capped landfill. Either that or the greens are slightly elevated and I didn't take that into account.
You almost sound surprised to find a public course in The Bronx! Hopefully you've had / will find the time to visit the borough's Van Cortlandt Park near Kingsbridge...it may not live up to its younger brother in Throggs Neck, but it deserves some credit for being the first public golf course in the United States! Happy travels.
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
How anyone can say that the fairways at Ferry Point lack contours or that they are not rumpled or have vagaries that affect the bounce of the ball is beyond me. I question whether you actually played the course or just watched a video of it. Pretty much every par-4 and par-5 has undulated, rumpled fairways, with speed slots, slopes and bounces. Maybe the 10th is flat in the landing area, and 11 but 11 has a minefield of bunkers. The 7th too but that is a narrow fairway set as a cape hole over the pond so the fairway is appropriate. Every other hole has very well done contouring.
I think Ferry Point well deserves placement among the top public courses in the U.S. It is the type of course that you enjoy even more and notice more details and features the more you play it. It is not at the level of Pebble Beach, but hardly any courses are. For example, among the public courses I have played, I find it to be better than Torrey Pines, or two of the three Streamsong courses.
I have played the course twice in different times of the year and I also rated the layout five golf balls given the qualities of a number of the holes. Possibly you missed the other details of the extensive review I provided. Let me explain a few points which you likely glossed over. Trump Links is not a links -- it is a manufactured layout with little meaningful bounce of the ball. Second, the fairways are, for the most part, simply manicured to the max with really little impact via movement when balls land from the respective tee boxes.
If you believe the layout is among the top public courses in the USA that's certainly your opinion. Your comment that the Bronx layout is beyond two of the courses at Streamsong is highly debatable and one I would not concur with.
Let me also point out what architect Tom Doak said of the course in his latest updated "Confidential Guide" book series -- the concluding sentence of his review --
"Too much of the shaping is wasted in between the holes, and not enough spills over into the fairways themselves." I guess Doak, like me, is clearly mistaken.
Please also read Mr. Cambridge's review which follows mine. He states, "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 pretty much favors hitting it high over the hazards rather than a ground game even with the wind."
By the way -- I do concur with you that I would certainly favor TL over Torrey Pines / South.
M. James Ward
Thank you for your response. I am not trying to be contentious.
I agree that the course is links-style (aesthetically) and is not a true links course. However, as the other reviewer said, this is because many of the greens are protected in such a way that you must land your approaches rather than run up on them.
I would suggest the next time you play to pay careful attention to the fairways. To imply they are flat is completely wrong. To say they aren't "rumpled" is inaccurate. Other than the fairways I noted in my prior comment, there is lots of contouring in the fairways. I've played the course approximately ten times. I always walk the course so I clearly experience those ups and downs of the fairway contours. I've seen balls push right and left based on the fairway movement. I've certainly seen drives get a boost if they hit downslopes in the right parts of certain fairways.
To Tom Doak's comment, there are very few holes where the fescued mounding on either side of the fairways jut into the fairway areas. 13 is one of the few where it does, on the left side. 6 as well. Perhaps that is what Tom Doak was referring, that he would have liked to have seen more of those features. But if he was implying the fairways are flat, then I don't care that he is Tom Doak, he is wrong. The fairways also do have good movement, there aren't any symmetrically straight fairways tee to green.
I like all the Streamsong courses. I'm not taking a negative view on any of them. I just like Ferry Point a great deal as well. I think Streamsong Red is outstanding and one of the best courses I've played. I would put Ferry Point at the same level or better than the other two, and consider all three to be very good to excellent.