The best women golfers in the world will face one of the best courses in the NY metropolitan area this week, the west course at Westchester Country Club. The site of four decades of professional golf played at the highest level, the course will measure 6,670 yards and play to par of 73 for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Given the numerous elevation changes, slick and contoured greens, and the pressure of a historic major championship title on the line, par will be a very good score.
As the executive editor of Westchester Magazine’s Golf Guide, I’ve played the course dozens of times. Here are seven of my favorite holes, three of which (8, 11, and 14) were rated among the most difficult when the PGA Tour stopped here. To shoot winning scores, the LPGA stars will need every trick they know—and maybe a little luck.
410 yards, Par 4
Westchester Country Club Director of Golf John Kennedy says he enjoys this hole “because it has both challenge and beauty.”
“You have a forced carry depending on which tee you’re playing off from 160 to 190 yards, but the fescue on the side of the hill lends a touch of visual appeal,” he says. “Then you’re approaching a green that’s elevated and slopes from back to front like all our greens. The green is also outlined against the sky. It’s a great combination of beauty and challenge.”
545 yards, Par 5
Can the players reach this green in two? It’s possible, but not probable. The hole plays downhill, so they will get a little extra from their drives if they put them in exactly the right place. From the tee, they will aim at the fairway bunker in the distance. That’s a little over 300 yards from where they’re standing, so few players really have to worry about landing in it. The most important thing to do off the tee is to hit a long, solid draw, a stock shot for most of the top players. Smart golfers decide how far they want to hit their third shot before they hit their second on this hole. The green has a false front, so a front pin can be very difficult to hit.
421 Yards,Par 4
This 90-degree dogleg requires a 225-yard play off the tee to leave a clear shot to the green, though if the player can hit a high draw farther than that, it’s possible to clear the corner and leave a short- or mid-iron approach. When it’s time for business, most players will need a long iron or hybrid to reach the two-tier green protected not just by water, but also by a pair of bunkers. “Then there are the putts,” Kennedy points out. “The green has two tiers and is very fast back to front, so two putts are never assured.”
296 Yards, Par 4
A good risk and reward hole can break your heart or award you a trophy. This hole has done both many times. At 296 yards, it’s driveable for the longer hitters on the LPGA tour. It’s also eminently missable, as Seve Ballesteros found when he tried to reach it during a playoff with J.C. Snead for the Westchester Classic Championship in 1987. The gallant Spaniard went for broke, but a little too much right hand, a slight restriction in his turn, maybe a flighty right elbow—something sent his drive sailing down the hill left of the green, the last place you want to be on this hole. Snead watched Ballesteros take the risk and miss, then put his own driver back in the bag, laid up, pitched on, and won the tournament.
424 Yards, Par 4
Smart players will be conservative on this difficult par four. It starts with a drive downhill to a deceptively wide landing area that ends with a stone-lined creek that crosses the fairway 240 yards out. What should they think of when they stand on the tee? “Ball placement,” according to Westchester Country Club member John Peterson. Even after a perfect drive, a long approach shot remains to a very tight, three-tiered green, which breaks from left to right.
492 Yards, Par 5
Members play this as a 430 yard par four. Either way, the hole is a long dogleg right, which means reaching the crook in the leg is the first test. “Even if you get it past the trees on the right,” Kennedy says, “you’ll have a long, long, shot up and over a hill. It’s not a bad idea to play to the landing area in front of the green rather than try to reach it in two, since the throat between the bunkers guarding the left and right side of the green is only eleven yards wide and misses are expensive.”
532 Yards, Par 5
Whether they play this par five with two bombs or three laser-guided missiles, the women will find this a great finishing hole. Really long hitters will bomb a 240-yard draw off the tee and around the corner of the dogleg. That leaves them with an uphill fairway wood that they will try to bend the other way to fade into the green to avoid the bunker complex guarding the right side. For most players, the strategy will be to hit a drive straight to the right half of the fairway, then a 200-yard second shot uphill to the neck of the fairway left of the bunkers, leaving a short pitch to the center of the green. Another hazard on this hole is the wind. Players will watch the flags conveniently flying over the clubhouse for a clue as to where the wind is going to push their ball.