Donald Ross is credited with designing the 18-hole layout at York Golf & Tennis Club and the family connection extends further as his brother Alex Ross (the US Open champion in 1907) was the club’s first professional. Nevertheless, the course is named after another golfing Scotsman, William Wilson, who gave lessons at the club for over sixty years.
A round on the William Wilson course begins with a 225-yard par three, with holes then routed towards the north bank of the York River, along which the 404-yard (stroke index 2) 6th is laid out. This demanding hole is then followed by a testing long par three that plays across a small gorge to a green situated on the extremity of the property.
On the back nine, feature holes include the 379-yard 12th, which turns right to the target across a lake, and the left doglegged 560-yard 13th. The sand-protected 145-yard 17th is a fine example of a typical Ross-designed par three, encapsulating the Golden Age charm of a lovely old layout.
Boy, I enjoyed this place. That's tough to admit given how terribly I hit the ball but after a pretty strange 200 yard par 3 start, the course really becomes something. It's pretty odd to get out of the car or a short range session and be hitting long iron to a tiny green with OB immediately left. every new player here must miss right and struggle to get up and down. The second hole is a pretty straight forward par 4 and one of the only claustrophobic tee shots on the course but the second shot on #2 is where the round really starts.
The course got going for me on #3 which has a completely blind second shot to a redan green. After that you can really see some Donald Ross magic on the property. This place doesn't play like some of the "I spent a grand total of 6 minutes here" Ross that you can find around New England. It's clear he had some really fun ideas about it and it's not surprising as the piece of land is outstanding.
#16 was another standout with an uphill infinity green that you better not be short on and a VERY-Ross-like 30 foot falloff immediately behind the green (I feel like every Ross I've ever played has a hole like this). The course is not long on the card but it's not chalk-full of birdie holes either. One of the two Par 5's (#8) is very reachable with a mid iron for long hitters, the other (#13) is a three shot hole due to water that is not carry-able from the tee.
The green complexes are super interesting all the way around. It's a nice mixture of being able to bounce the ball in (#3, #7, #18 come to mind) or sometimes having to fly the ball not just to the green but to the proper level of it (#8 and #12) and the putts really break here.
If you have a way on and are in the area, I'd be stunned if you didn't find this place to be a hidden gem. You don't need to be super long to score well. You can plot your way around the course and if you find some magic with the putter, you'll be rewarded. It's also a very scenic place with water views on many holes. Recommend.
York was a great surprise. I was expecting another "good Donald Ross" course in New England, but it had some fabulous land and weaves through some beautiful seaside terrain. One or two holes may have been compromised over the years around the clubhouse, but just a fun place to play. Enjoy.