1195 North Ave,
New York (NY) 10804,
- +1 (0) 914 636 8700
Wykagyl Country Club is one of the many underappreciated gems located in Westchester County, just a few miles to the north of New York City. Surrounded by the likes of Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, Westchester Country Club, Sleepy Hollow and dozens of other renowned layouts, this hilly course more than holds its own. Originally laid out by Lawrence Van Etten in 1905, the course has been tweaked several times since by a who’s who of American golf course architects, including Donald Ross, A.W. Tilllinghast, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Arthur Hills and most recently, the team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore who recently renovated many of the greens and tee boxes, added 30 bunkers, removed numerous large trees whose branches had encroached toward the fairways over the past 100 years and made the sloping approach to the 18th hole less severe. The 18th (playing as the ninth for the LPGA pros) was the scene of an unlikely triple bogey for Annika Sorenstam in 2006 when her approach shots twice hit the green near the flag and each time spun back down the slope to her feet 60 yards from the green. Wykagyl has hosted numerous matches from Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in 1913 to PGA events in the 1940s and 50s won by Bobby Locke, Robert DeVincenzo and Sam Snead and LPGA events from 1961 until 2007 with winners such as Betsey King, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer and Lorena Ochoa. The first golf tournament aired on US Network Television was the PGA Round Robin at Wykagyl in 1949.
There are few flat holes among the 18. The 1st is a down hill par five to a green fronted by a stream that prevents all but the longest of hitters from trying to go for the green in two. 3rd and 17th feature fairways that slope severely downhill for 125 of the last 150 yards with elevated greens just beyond. Long hitters can reach the slope and, with the roll down the hill, have a short but tricky pitch up to the green. Shorter hitters will hit their approach from the plateau above. The course has five par threes and five par fives. There are two short (the 147-yard 4th and 164-yard 11th) and three long (172-yard 7th, 210-yard 13th and 226-yard 16th) par threes. The 4th and 13th each play from elevated tees over valleys to equally elevated greens, with the shorter 4th hole requiring almost all carry and the longer 13th providing some room for error in front, although the false fronted 13th green can result in shots hitting the front and rolling back ten or twenty yards back down the fairway. The greens on 4, 7 and 13 all slope severely making placement of the tee shot extremely important. The 11th plays at least one club shorter than its actual length from an elevated tee to a small green below which is surrounded by bunkers and thick rough.
The 8th and 15th are each right to left doglegs from elevated tee boxes. At only 341 yards the 15th can be birdied with a good tee shot, while #8 at 446 yards is a very tough par four. Bunkers and high fescue protect the left side of the fairway, requiring a great tee shot to cut the corner. However, even if you clear the bunkers and fescue, a 200-year-old oak tree may still block the approach to the green unless you made it to the center of the fairway.
The 5th, 6th and 18th each start from elevated tee boxes and end at elevated greens, but that’s where the similarity ends. The 5th has a wide fairway area but requires that the tee shot be placed on the left side in order to have a shot at the small green guarded by bunkers left and right, The 6th is a 528-yard par five with a right to left dogleg with a burn running down the right side and thick rough and a steep hill on the left. The approach is best made from the right side of the fairway to a green whose distance is difficult to gauge due to the 60-foot rise and landing area in front of the green. The par five 9th requires a tee shot up hill which will likely leave a blind second shot to a landing area that overlooks the beautiful clubhouse (the LPGA play this hole as the 18th).
Wykagyl is a wonderfully traditional course in a beautiful setting amidst mature trees and hills with rocky outcroppings. Almost every hole is memorable and challenging. If you can find a member to get you on the course don’t miss the opportunity.
by Stewart Abramson
Wykagyl has been touched by the hands of architectural Gods, including Ross and Tillinghast at its inception followed by modern improvements by Coore/Crenshaw. Talk about the best of both worlds. In 2005 when Coore/Crenshaw were initially contracted, not only did they implement their own unique style of shaping and bunkering, but I was glad to see them restoring precious Ross/Tillinghast features and removing the interim efforts of RTJ Snr and Arthur Hills which occurred during an era when golf course architecture was not at its best.
I am always skeptical when I visit a golf course that has had its canvas worked on so many times, but Wykagyl is on the right side of the scale when it comes to success. The partnership of Coore/Crenshaw is forward thinking, but I know when they are gifted with a Golden Age classic they embrace the past and springboard the layout to surpass membership expectations.
The terrain in Westchester is famously rocky and undulating, which is glorious for golf as it offers endless options for dog-legs and exciting green-sites. The routing at Wykagyl continues to be a point of frequent discussion as the closing stretch, especially the 18th hole, for the regular daily member play is a few hundred yards away from the clubhouse.
When tournaments are played however, they re-route the course to finish on the current 9th green which sits in front of the clubhouse and offers the grand-stand finish. It begs the question that is undoubtedly argued at every golf committee meeting – “Why don’t you just permanently change the routing to finish in front of the clubhouse like you do for tournament play?”
The 18 holes at Wykagyl are really wonderful (Whippoorwill is also another hugely underrated course in New York) and changing the routing would only improve the flow.