The county-owned courses are not only fun and challenging; they offer all the amenities you could want, including driving ranges, short-game areas, and putting greens. You’ll also find well-stocked pro shops, locker rooms, restaurants, and halfway houses. Golf at every county course is under the direction of a PGA professional, who offers individual lessons, clinics, and even junior golf camps. The quality of the golf? Excellent!
You may not get to play the exquisite and very private Quaker Ridge, but you can experience very similar topography nearby, across the Hutchinson River Parkway, at Saxon Woods, which many consider the most interesting all-around golf challenge of the six county courses. From the iron-off-the-tee 1st hole to the bomb-and-gouge finisher, Saxon Woods provides a round combining long and short, straightforward, and think-before-you-hit golf holes. A.W. Tillinghast, the Golden Age designer of Quaker Ridge, put his mark on Saxon Woods, as well, although Tom Winton, a Scot who was the official golf architect for the Westchester Parks Commission, receives credit for the course. The 152-yard 16th hole is one of the best par 3s around, with a steep, narrow green surrounded by bunkers and fronted by a stream. Check your alignment on the tee, though, because the box points not at the green but to the right of it.
By course rating, Hudson Hills is the most difficult of the six county-owned courses. It’s the longest course in the collection and rewards big drivers of the ball accordingly, although five sets of tees make it playable by anyone. The rugged terrain creates several forced carries and more than a few blind shots, so be sure to play the right tees for your game. From the tips, Hudson Hills carries a strong 74 rating, with a slope of 136. The greens at Hudson Hills are well-contoured and generally large. Insiders will tell you to always remember that putts break away from the huge white water tower, in view from just about everywhere on the course.
Bombers can have fun, but accurate golfers will prevail at Dunwoodie, the shortest of the six county-owned courses. Its location at the top of Dunwoodie Heights in Yonkers produces some steep slopes and dramatic topography, as well as many narrow, twisting fairways and small greens that reward deft approaches. Dunwoodie features five par 3s, including the 154-yard 7th hole, with its very fine view of the Manhattan skyline. Longer hitters will appreciate the 17th hole: 419 yards on the scorecard that seem like 450. The green is small and narrow, too, and many pars are one-putts made after you miss the green and chip close to the hole.
Golfers at Maple Moor come off the course drier and happier now that the county has finished its multimillion-dollar drainage-and-irrigation project. Course conditions are the best they’ve ever been thanks to the creation of three retention ponds along the eighth fairway and elevation of portions of the ninth fairway by a full five feet above the previous waterlogged level. The improvements helped playing conditions but didn’t change the character of the short-but-tight course, which traditionally receives more play than any of the other five. The 6th hole, for example, is still a tough par 5 even though it’s only 470 yards long. A drive anywhere right of center on the fairway will block the second shot approach and force a lay-up to the elevated green.
Sprain Lake offers a better golf experience than you might expect if you haven’t played the course since its major renovation four years ago. The course has always been quirky yet fun, but the significant recontouring of five greens, reshaping of some of the fairways, and general upgrade of course amenities make it a must-play. Sprain Lake has always called for a strategic approach to the game, and one of the many holes demanding some serious thought is the 15th, a 414-yard par 4 that plays downhill to a blind landing area where the fairway narrows and tilts to pitch everything to the right. Long hitters also need to dial back some to keep their drives out of the creek that cuts across the fairway at about 270 yards.
Regular players at Mohansic swear it is the hardest of the six county courses, and they may well be correct. The tight fairways, numerous blind shots, and small, severe greens make Mohansic a real challenge. The course opens with four progressively longer par 4s, culminating in the No. 1 handicap hole, the 442-yard 4th, an uphill dogleg left that demands a draw around the corner from the tee. Faders beware: The fairway slopes left to right, and the right rough is not where you want to be. Your approach shot is to an elevated green, protected by bunkers on both sides.