Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, has a long, proud, and under-publicized tradition as home to one of the area’s great classic courses. The curtains were drawn back last year, though, when the club celebrated its 85th anniversary by unveiling a major restoration under the direction of golf architect Brian Silva. The applause was well earned.
Silva’s work brought the course up-to-date without altering the playing strategies of its original architect, Charles “Steamshovel” Banks, who was known for moving vast amounts of earth to elevate greens and excavate massive bunkers. Silva enlarged many of the greens, bringing them back to original size or larger, built additional tees both shorter and longer than existing ones to match the modern game, and not only completely rebuilt the fairway bunkers, but added 24 new ones.
The restored golf course plays more like the strategic gem it was meant to be. The larger greens, for example, bring more opportunities for a traditional ground game to be played instead of demanding that every approach be a soft, high wedge. Even though more fairway bunkers were created, a number of out-of-place trees were removed at the same time, opening up alternate lines of play on several holes.
What wasn’t changed were the numerous classic European hole designs Banks used on many of his courses. These include a long par three “Biarritz” (222-yard No. 12), a carom shot “Redan” (187-yard No. 7), and an exciting “Punchbowl” (434-yard No. 11). The spirit of Charles Banks lives on, too, in “Sahara,” the 504-yard 17th hole guarded by the largest bunker on the course, aptly named “Big Bertha.”
No one will ever accuse Donald Trump of doing anything halfway. Trump Hudson Valley, his club in Hopewell Junction, New York, is concrete proof that he doesn’t stop until it’s perfect—and sometimes not even then. Since Trump bought the club at the end of 2009, he’s sunk untold millions into the property—almost all of it where the members can see and enjoy it.
He started by lengthening the already long course to a Donald-sized 7,693 yards from the appropriately named Trump tees. He personally laid out new bunkers, realigned fairways, and specified pin positions on the large rolling greens. On an early inspection tour, he spotted water sparkling through some trees and discovered a lake behind them. Within days, the trees were removed and the 15th and 16th holes became miraculously wonderful.
Next—and in very short order—came the clubhouse, which not only got a paint job but a new dining/banquet area, patio, and an opulent lower-floor locker room fit for, well, Donald Trump. In recent years, he put in a great new pool with all the latest aquatic features, then added a pool house and fitness center that rival any health club. Last year, it was back to the course, with a total bunker renovation and complete overhaul of the green surrounds, making the grass type uniform throughout the course.
Trump Hudson Valley is noted for a variety of challenges on the golf course. There’s an exceptional mix of long and short holes, birdie opportunities, and demanding pars. Both nines have reachable par fives as well as monsters that take a cannon to conquer. There are also drivable par fours on both sides along with several that call for an approach shot with a hybrid or even longer club. The four par threes range from 156 to 200 yards (from the blue tees) and each one looks unique—and plays that way, too.
It’s hard to imagine how many shots have been played since 1897 at Dutchess Golf Club, but it’s safe to say the vast majority have been struck during enjoyable, sociable rounds at the historic Poughkeepsie course. While the club struggled a bit during the recent economic unpleasantness, new owners have brought it back from the brink and kept the tradition of family-centric golf alive.
The par-70 golf course plays 6,475 from the back tees, but three shorter sets of tee boxes make it playable by golfers of any level. The tree-lined fairways and many elevation changes mean even the better player will have to bring his or her “A” game to the first tee, not to mention several holes that follow. These include the 567-yard fifth, a par five that takes three shots to reach, even if you stay right off the tee and have a good look at the green.
Water and strategic bunkering toughen up the course on holes like the picturesque 159-yard par three eighth hole. For the real shot-shaper, there’s the 17th hole, a 406-yard dogleg where a slice will land you in the cemetery off the right side, but a long draw will give you a good shot at the water-guarded green.
Dutchess Golf Club boasts 24 New York State champions on its membership roster over the years, as well as Walker Cup team members and competitors in the US Amateur Championship, British Open, and the Masters. Strong golf traditions like that are hard to beat—and well worth preserving.