Our daily-fee golf keeps getting better and better as Westchester County courses are rejuvenated and amenities improved.
Lake Isle Country Club
Lake Isle Country Club features a short (6,019 yard) course that’s long in character. It was designed by Devereux Emmet in 1926 and updated by Stephen Kay in 2000. It’s owned and operated by the town of Eastchester, which does an exemplary job of maintaining it. Greens are small and fast; the pro staff is helpful; and the club draws a great mix of friendly families and players of both genders. The course is fun, too, since it has a great mix of short and long holes that let players at all levels succeed at something.
The first three holes—two of them drivable par fours—give you a chance to make some hay in the sunshine, but clouds may come out on the fourth, a 425-yard par four that’s long and mean with a lean fairway, out of bounds left, and a wickedly narrow green. Even longer and tighter is the 449-yard sixth hole. Both par fives on the par 70 course are reachable, but only if you’re willing to take risks like the 230-yard approach over water on the 17th hole.
While Lake Isle is open to daily-fee play with weekend greens fees of $55, nonresidents of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and Bronxville must be accompanied by a member to play. Nonresident memberships are also available, however.
New management and significant investments in the course, clubhouse, and amenities have reinvigorated Mansion Ridge, one of the few Jack Nicklaus Signature courses you can play in the Hudson Valley. The course, which is now run by Troon Golf, sits on a historic 220-acre estate in the foothills of the Catskills. It’s an easy drive from Westchester and one well worth taking to enjoy an excellent golf experience.
Like the best Nicklaus courses, Mansion Ridge is both mentally and physically challenging, but it’s entirely possible to score well if you keep your wits about you. From the championship tees it measures 6,462 yards, with a 72.3 rating and 136 slope. Four other sets of tees (one longer, three shorter) are available, as well. Nicklaus took full advantage of the topography and natural features of the site, creating some intimidating forced carries, sloping fairways, and interesting green complexes. The par fives are in the 500-yard range, bringing them all within reach, and the par threes range from 136 to 202 yards, for good variety of shot value.
Mansion Ridge also has several memorable holes. The seventh and ninth, both par fives, require double-carries over hazards to reach the green. Head pro Nick Schremser says of the 514-yard ninth hole in particular, “We see scorecards with a lot of nines on this hole.” On the other hand, the first, fourth, eighth, and tenth holes are all short par fours, under 350 yards, that will let you put some birdies on your scorecard if your wedge game is sharp enough.
Mansion Ridge uses dynamic pricing, but greens fees generally start at $45. Annual memberships are available, too, and offer real value. For $215 per month, for example, you can play all the golf you want weekdays and after 1 pm on weekends and holidays.
The Links at Union Vale
The popular Links at Union Vale completed several changes to the course recently, making it a bit more playable without losing the unique feel and look of the links-style layout. A new set of tees that play at 5,740 yards will help out those of us who don’t bomb 250-yard drives, while forced carries on the first, second, and 14th holes were removed, eliminating the aggravation they’d often caused.
The Links is still quite a challenge, though, with the 6,646-yard blue tees earning a 72.1/132 slope and rating. Course management really pays off here, especially on the front nine, where four of the par fours are under 400 yards, but good scores don’t come without deft ball placement. The back nine, which is longer, really beats you up on the par fives. The 14th hole is a monstrous 587 yards; the 18th is 573 from the blue tees. Both have trouble in the landing areas off the tee and require distance control, as well as accuracy on the second shot.
Greens fees are quite reasonable, considering the quality and condition of the golf course. Peak weekend rates are $92, including mandatory cart, but you can walk the course other times for as little as $30. Another recent improvement was to the practice facility, which features new grass teeing areas for the range, two large undulating putting greens, practice bunker, and chipping areas.
Garrison Golf Club
Golfers keep coming back to Garrison Golf Club for good reason: The course has a variety of fun, challenging holes; the staff makes it easy to enjoy yourself; the views are stunning. To keep them coming back, Garrison recently underwent a major facelift. Not only were several tee boxes rebuilt, trees were removed to improve airflow and turf conditions in a few places, and all of the bunkers were renewed. The spectacular views of the Hudson River, West Point, and the Hudson highlands were left untouched, of course.
As you might expect, elevation changes are the distinguishing feature of this highlands course perched 800 feet above the river. Rolling hills, side-hill lies, carries over ravines, and other natural elements are plentiful, too. At 6,497 yards from the tips, Garrison sports a 71.9/134 rating and slope. Right-handed players who draw the ball will have a bit of an advantage, since seven of the longer holes turn left. One of the best is the 404-yard sixth hole, a downhill par four with a beautiful pond in front of the green. Drive it long and right, and you’re faced with an impossible second shot, but draw it off the tee, and you’ll have an easy pitch.
The Garrison greens fees peak at $85 for weekends; weekday rounds after noon are a bargain at $50. All rates include carts. Food service at Garrison, meanwhile, is a major cut above your standard golf-course fare. The Valley restaurant features seasonal American cuisine using fresh products from Garrison Farm and other local farms. The Terrace Grill is a casual outdoor restaurant with freshly prepared “grab and go” fare.
Hanah Mountain Country Club
Water is the theme of the exciting Hanah Mountain golf course, a 7,033-yard killer course in the Catskills. There are places to drown your ball on all nine holes of the front side and five more after you make the turn. But don’t be discouraged—the water just adds to the excitement of this bucolic mountain-valley layout.
You also don’t have to play from the blue tees, which have a 73.5 rating with 133 slope. Big hitters may be tempted to try the blacks, which measure 7,195, but most of us will opt for the 6,313-yard white tees. Two other sets of tees are even shorter and more manageable. Greens have lots of slope and moderate speed, so putts need to be looked over carefully.
The sheer variety of holes makes Hanah Mountain worth the drive. Par threes range from 145 to a whopping 257 yards from the blue tees, with water in play on three of the four. On the front nine, you’ll face a 479-yard par four (the ninth hole) with a bunker-lined landing area and green protected by both sand and water. Then you’ll tackle the 598-yard par five 10th hole, where the river along the left and a pond on the right threaten your drive. A real treat, though, is the shortest par four, the 17th hole. It’s only 330 and plays downhill, so go for it! Just watch out for the cross bunker in the landing area.
During peak summer months, the weekend greens fees are $65, with midweek twilight rates just $40. Something to consider is a stay-and-play package. Hanah offers delightful guest rooms, indoor pool, and other resort accommodations for an overnight stay.
Pound Ridge Golf Club
Pete Dye’s impact on the modern game of golf is immeasurable, which makes his only New York-area course a must-play for anyone serious about the sport. It’s radical, scenic, and it’s as tough a golf course as you can play in our area.
Most of all, Pound Ridge dares every golfer to do his or her best. It’s far from easy, but players who respect the challenges and choose an appropriate set of tees will find par an achievable feat. You just need to remember that if you let Pete Dye get inside your brainpan, you’ll be posting some big numbers on the scorecard. If you follow the handicap guidelines on the scorecard and play within yourself, though, you’ll have a round you can brag about. The “granite” tees, for example, are for players with course handicaps of 13 to 20. At 6,261 yards, it may look short, but the course plays to a 71.2 rating and 142 slope from those tees—how much tougher do you want?
Consider the second hole, a 413-yard par four from the granite tees. If you hit a good 250-yard drive, you’ll be left with 163 to the center of the green, a mid-iron for most mid-handicappers. Step back to play from the “oak” tees, though, and that same drive will leave you facing 201 yards—over water. Why would you want to try that?
Pound Ridge Golf Club’s peak greens fees are $210, but you can also play for $120 after 2 pm seven days a week. With its award-winning golf course and clubhouse, Pound Ridge Golf Club is a great alternative to private-club membership or an excellent change of pace for club members seeking something different.
Saxon Woods may not be a long course, but it’s entirely possible you’ll use every club in your bag to navigate it. At 6,293 yards, the Westchester County-owned course is replete with elevation changes, impinging trees, water hazards, and small, testy greens that produce a 70.2/125 course rating and slope. Best of all, according to regular player Ron Vitti, “Saxon Woods is in the best condition of any of the county courses.”
While Tom Winton is credited with the 1931 design of the course, a number of holes at Saxon Woods look like they could have been lifted intact from two nearby A.W. Tillinghast masterpieces, Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge. The third hole, a 511-yard par five, has an obviously artificial mound cramping the fairway at the landing area for the second shot, as well as two steep-faced bunkers squeezing the green. The fifth hole, the number-one handicap hole, is a 390-yard dogleg par four you can play off the tee two ways: with a straight drive to the left half of the fairway, which leaves a mid-iron over another mound, or a long fade to the narrow alley next to the mound, which rewards you with a wedge in. The 16th hole is one of the best 152-yard par threes you’ll ever play, with a steep, narrow green flanked by bunkers and protected in front by a stream.
Westchester County park-pass holders pay $36 to play during peak times; others pay $46. Weekday rates are lower, and seniors and juniors receive substantial discounts.
Putnam County Golf Course
The eighth and ninth holes at Putnam County Golf Club exemplify perfectly the quality of the golf course. They’re both 438-yard par fours, only the eighth plays downhill and favors the player with a draw off the tee, while the ninth is uphill all the way and calls for a controlled fade. There’s not a lot of trouble on either hole, as long as you stay in the fairway, much like the rest of the course.
Putnam County has gone through some management changes in recent years, but it’s on an even keel now. Conditions are good; service is excellent; and the course remains a favorite of golfers in Westchester, Putnam, and beyond.
When playing, expect rolling fairways and a good use of elevation changes. The course has plenty of length, measuring 6,804 from the blue tees, and a substantial course rating of 73.3. The moderate slope of 129 is a sign that while there’s trouble, it’s not going to jump out to get you. Keep the ball in play, and you’ll be fine.
Putnam County residents pay $59 to play on peak weekend hours while nonresidents pony up $10 more. Carts are $18 for each. Season golf passes are available to both.