Westchester Hills Perfects The Art Of Toughening Up The Short Course

Longer isn’t necessarily harder, as the White Plains club demonstrates.

You don’t need to make a course long to toughen it up. A prime example of a short course that’s found the way to challenge players is Westchester Hills in White Plains. The club uses several turf management strategies to make the 6,302-yard track challenging for players of all skill levels. How tough is it? For a clue, look at the course rating of 70.9. It’s higher than par, which is 70—a sure indication that it’s no pushover.

How does the club accomplish this? Fairways, for example, aren’t any wider than necessary to give players optional paths to the greens. They’re not US Open width, but they’re not extravagantly wide, either, which means a big bomber has to exercise some restraint unless he or she is extraordinarily accurate. Several holes have tree-lined fairways, although they’re not hallways. Dog legs and softer landform curves are generally protected by trees, too, to keep the big hitters at bay.

The rough at Westchester Hills isn’t particularly long, but it is thick. A ball that lands in it is going to settle down so that the odds of making solid contact without grass between the ball and your clubface are slim to none. You may not have to wedge every errant shot out, but you’re almost certain to need a higher-than-you-want-to-hit lofted club. Miraculous recoveries from the rough are just that—miracles.

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The rough around the greens is, if anything, even tougher to play, so a premium is put on accuracy of approach shots. Few of us have Phil Mickelson’s touch with the lob wedge, but that’s what it takes to get out of the greenside rough ringing the collars of Westchester Hills’ greens. You can be three inches off the green and still four shots from the bottom of the cup.

As you would expect, the greens are generally small, especially on the shorter holes where a long hitter might expect to have an advantage. Many of them slope away from the approaching fairway, so hitting through the green is an all-too-frequent occurrence. Even a conservative bump-and-run approach requires a deft touch.

Once you’re putting, be sure to follow the caddie’s instructions. The greens here have many deceptive breaks and more grain than you might encounter elsewhere in the area. Their small size also mean that your eyes will pick up lines in the background that appear to indicate a break that may be opposite from the actual one. When these greens are up to speed, they demand your full attention.

All too often these days, golfers dismiss short, classic courses like Westchester Hills as pushovers. When they tee it up here, though, their after-round dinner is often crow.

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