What’s the most memorable hole you played during your last round? Odds are it was either really, really long or really, really short—a hole, in other words, that made you stretch your game for distance or accuracy or both. We love them and hate them, but most of all, we remember the holes that stand out on the scorecard because of their length.
Golf architects today wouldn’t think of designing a course without at least one drivable par four. The same holds true for a monster par five that even Bubba can’t reach in two shots. But those aren’t just modern design ideas. A.W. Tillinghast laid out many local par threes that are so long, the golfer still needs a driver to reach the green today. In 1922, Walter Travis built a par four that you can reach with one shot from tee, the first hole at Westchester Country Club. The year before, Devereux Emmet stretched the first hole at Bonnie Briar to a whopping 468 yards, quite a par four in the days when a good drive traveled 185 yards.
Westchester is blessed with extreme holes. We chose 18 of them to make up our imaginary Long and Short course. On the scorecard, it measures 6,914 yards and plays par 72. You’ll start your round by playing 3,831 yards on the long front nine, then sharpen your aim for the short nine, a mere 3,083 yards. Which one do you think best suits your game?
Mount Kisco Country Club
Mount Kisco • Hole 16 • 466 yards • Par 4
One of golf’s simple pleasures is shaping a shot to curve in the direction that will produce the best chance to score. Players who can hit a solid draw (or fade, for lefties) will prosper at Mount Kisco’s 16th hole, a long par four where a well-aimed tee shot with moderate right-to-left curl can catch a fairway speed slot and leave them with a mid- or even short-iron approach to the green. Long and straight off the tee will fly through the fairway into the rough, as will a long fade, creating the probable need for a layup to the creek at the bottom of the hill, about 85 yards short of the green.
Pelham Country Club
Pelham • Hole 13 • 454 yards • Par 4
Distance control off the tee isn’t usually something most golfers worry about, but you’ll need it on this long dogleg par four. A booming, straight drive over 250 yards can run through the fairway on the 13th hole at Pelham, giving you a hybrid or so out of the rough that has to travel over 200 yards. A drive that’s too short, under about 225 yards, means you’ll need two more shots to put your ball on the green, one to layup left around the dogleg and the other to reach the putting surface. The green itself is guarded by bunkers on both sides. Watch out, though: It looks flat but breaks more than you think.
Hollow Brook Golf Club
Cortlandt • Hole 8 • 550 yards • Par 5
Even at 550 yards, the eighth hole at Hollow Brook isn’t the longest on the course. It has its own challenges, however, which require accuracy as well as length off the tee to make a par or better. Your first goal is to keep your drive out of the bunkers bordering the fairway. The Club made the ones on the right a little more forgiving recently, but you still don’t want to mess with them. Then you have to navigate over, around, or under the massive tree that stands directly in the best line for your second shot. Assuming you manage that task, a small, well-bunkered green awaits your third shot. The green has a lot of movement, too, so don’t take your putts for granted.
Winged Foot Golf Club, East Course
Mamaroneck • Hole 17 • 227 yards • Par 3
The toughest hole during last year’s Met Open played on Winged Foot’s East course was the brutal 17th hole, a long par three with a tiny green. It played to a stroke average of 3.7 during the tournament—extremely high, considering it’s the only hole on the course without a bunker. The difficulty is the target, which is small and protected by a massive grass depression on the left side, where you might expect a bunker to be. Ask most players, and they’d much rather play out of nicely predictable sand than have their ball snuggled down into grass where the outcome is in doubt. Putting on this green is no cinch either; Tillinghast named it “Lightnin’” for a reason.
Bonnie Briar Country Club
Larchmont • Hole 13 • 458 yards • Par 4
Like on many of the best holes at Bonnie Briar, rock formations play a big scenic role on the long 13th hole. Your ball sails over one on your drive, then lands (hopefully) in the fairway next to a high rock wall that runs along most of the right side of the landing area. All but the biggest hitters will have a long second shot to the green. It’s over water, too, so many players opt to lay up safely and try to stick a wedge next to the cup for their par.
Anglebrook Golf Club
Lincolndale • Hole 18 • 440 yards • Par 4
The closing hole at Anglebrook isn’t just long and hard; it’s controversial, too. Golfers either laugh at or curse the gigantic bunker placed in the middle of the fairway, 200 yards from the tee. They can love it or hate it, but what they can’t do is ignore it, since the only way to reach the elevated green in regulation is with a second shot from somewhere in the bunker’s vicinity. It’s about 235 yards to carry the sand monster, but a drive of 260 yards will send your ball into the hazard that bisects the fairway. There is some room on the fairway left and right of the bunker, though, and it’s not unusual for players to aim for the sand and hope for a lucky miss.
St. Andrew’s Golf Club
Ardsley • Hole 8 • 449 yards • Par 4
A solid drive in the fairway brings you to the real difficulty on the long “Road Hole” at St. Andrew’s. Both distance and direction of your second shot have to be perfect to make par, since the green is a short-game nightmare. The green is a full 45 yards deep, so there can be as much as a four-club difference in the distance for your approach to the pin. The green is a classic Biarritz with a false front, a middle canyon, and a back tier. If your ball lands on the wrong level, you’ll have an interesting putt—or two or three. Just to keep you honest, the green is also rather narrow, and four bunkers lurk along the right side.
Westchester Hills Golf Club
White Plains • Hole 12 • 224 yards • Par 3
Expanded bunkers, part of Westchester Hills’ recent course-wide facelift, add to the difficulty of this long, long par three. The green is somewhat elevated and totally exposed to the wind, which all too often blows directly toward the tee box, so most golfers play at least one more club in an effort to reach it. Just hitting the green may not assure par, however, since the crowned green often repels even a seemingly perfect shot. There’s no easy way to score here without a little luck.
Salem Golf Club
North Salem • Hole 18 • 563 yards • Par 5
Wrapping up the long front nine is the longest hole on our imaginary course, the brutal but beautiful 18th hole at Salem Golf Club, a true three-shot par five. In addition to its length, optional playing strategies make this an exceptional golf hole. The tee shot is pretty straightforward—hit it as long and straight as you can, avoiding the rough along the left and the fairway bunkers on the right. Then, you get to make a choice about setting up your third shot. Aim straight toward the humongous bunker guarding the front of the green and leave yourself a blind wedge over it to the pin, or veer to the left edge of the fairway, which will give you a longer shot in but takes the bunker pretty much out of play.
Siwanoy Country Club
Bronxville • Hole 6 • 160 yards • Par 3
The short nine on our course begins with a short hole, the 160-yard newly renovated par three sixth hole at Siwanoy. The devilish one-shotter received a complete makeover as part of the grand restoration of the 115-year-old club’s Donald Ross course, by architect Mike DeVries, over the last couple of years. “Great greens make great golf,” DeVries says. “That’s where the majority of the game is played and the greens affect the angles and strategies of every shot.” That’s never been more true than on this gem, which requires pinpoint accuracy from an elevated tee to an elevated green to not only avoid the wicked bunkers but also to land your ball below the cup—a must for a chance at par on the slick, strongly contoured green.
Knollwood Country Club
Elmsford • Hole 7 • 383 yards • Par 4
This short par four plays downhill, but hit plenty of club off the tee, since you’ll want to leave as easy an approach shot as possible. A picturesque pond wraps from the front around the right side of the green to add character as well as scenic value to the hole, not to mention a little difficulty to your second shot. Resist the temptation to bump-and-run your approach onto the green, since the entire area in front of it actually tilts strongly toward the water. Once safely on, you’ll need a deft putt to navigate the green’s strong slopes.
Hudson National Golf Club
Croton-On-Hudson • Hole 5 • 395 yards • Par 4
There’s a lot going on around the tee at Hudson National’s fifth hole. The path to the tee goes through some of the scenic ruins of the old Hessian Hills clubhouse that stood on the site a hundred years ago. They compete for your attention with the panorama of the Hudson River over the new back tee on the hole. From the regular tee box itself, you’re confronted with a choice: bomb one over the trouble in the landing zone to a narrow strip of fairway and a steeply downhill lie or play it safe with a 200-yard shot to a level lie and a mid- to short-iron in. Either way, par is a good score.
Westchester Country Club, West Course
Rye • Hole 3 • 485 yards • Par 5
You really, really expect to pick up a stroke on this short par five, but it’s a tough birdie—and not that easy a par, either. Architect Walter Travis took full advantage of the topsy-turvy topography on this hole, which actually played as a par four for the Champions Tour. Your tee shot needs to thread the needle between bunkers that flank the fairway. A big drive past them will leave you hitting off a downhill lie to an elevated green—not a good omen for low scores when you’re probably swinging a fairway wood or hybrid. Most players will lay up to the bottom of the ravine, then pitch up blind to the green far, far above their heads.
Scarsdale Golf Club
Hartsdale • Hole 9 • 325 yards • Par 4
The tee shot pretty much determines your score on this scenic, hazardous par four. Bite off as much lake as you dare from the tee but keep in mind that a drive aimed straight at the heart of the green will need to carry—not roll out—280 yards to reach dry land, so plan your shot accordingly. A line of bunkers along the right side of the fairway start about 225 yards from the tee and make good aiming points—or score wreckers, depending on your accuracy and distance control.
Brae Burn Country Club
Purchase • Hole 13 • 344 yards • Par 4
You don’t need to shape your drive on this tough little uphill hole, but it doesn’t hurt. The fairway bunkers that guard the left corner of the slight dogleg are closer than you think, so you can carry them with a decent drive. It’s not necessary to risk that, though, since a straight tee shot along the right edge of the bunkers will find a generous landing area and actually give you a better angle into the steeply elevated green. A word of advice on putting: Check your line twice because the breaks here are subtly devastating.
Leewood Golf Club
Eastchester • Hole 11 • 136 yards • Par 3
If you don’t love the 11th hole at Leewood, you don’t have a soul. Take a moment to enjoy the view from the tee high above the green. Admire the picture-perfect stone-wall-bordered pond you’ll have to carry when you swing away. Let your eye wander to the line of colorful ornamental trees behind the green, then note that they’re also behind two of the three bunkers surrounding it—bunkers you don’t want to blast out of too often, since the green slopes steeply from back to front toward the water. The 11th hole got a new tee box during the recent renovation at Leewood, one that just adds to the exquisite pleasures of this short par three.
Elmwood Country Club
White Plains • Hole 9 • 493 yards • Par 5
For a short par five, the ninth hole at Elmwood plays long—maybe another 50 yards worth, depending on the wind. It’s all uphill and begins with a bit of psychological warfare as the golfer tries to ignore the water in front of the tee. It’s not really in play, but it’s there. A solid drive to the center of the narrow fairway will leave what would be an easy approach if it weren’t for the substantial elevation and false front on the green. The target is small, too, one of the smallest greens on the course, so double-check your aim for that second (or third) shot.
GlenArbor Golf Club
Bedford Hills • Hole 10 • 362 yards • Par 4
Your second shot makes or breaks your score on this short, downhill par four, so play the odds and hit something safe off the tee to set up a good approach. Then double-check the pin position and ask your caddie where to land the ball to get it close. From the fairway, you see some of the breaks but not nearly all of them, and the caddie’s advice will be crucial to a good result.
More Short vs. Long
Ardsley Country Club
Ardsley-On-Hudson • Hole 2 • 248 yards • Par 3
Not just long, this bruiser features a huge green with more peaks and valleys than the Catskills.
Sunningdale Country Club
Scarsdale • Hole 11 • 300 yards • Par 4
Looks like a pushover until you notice the crossbunker in the landing area off the tee and the severe slope of the green.
Rye • Hole 9 • 600 yards • Par 5
Aside from the out-of-bounds wall on the right, the left-to-right tilt of the fairway, and the fact that every shot plays uphill, this hole is a piece of cake.
Fenway Golf Club
White Plains • Hole 1 • 285 yards • Par 4
Drive it if you can, but bring along your bunker game, just in case you miss short, long, right, or left.
Quaker Ridge Golf Club
Scarsdale • Hole 9 • 143 yards • Par 3
With a green the shape—and size—of a pear, this little one-shotter can make even the pros cry.
Bedford Golf & Tennis Club
Bedford Hole • 4 • 472 yards • Par 5
A booming drive will put you in the “go zone” at the bottom of the hill. Anything less will send you there, too, but only after your layup second shot.
Wykagyl Country Club
New Rochelle • Hole 3 • 456 yards • Par 4
Two long shots can get you to the green, but bogey or worse is in your future if the second one ends up above the hole.
Sleepy Hollow Country Club
Briarcliff Manor • Hole 7 • 217 yards • Par 3
It plays downhill, so this one-shotter isn’t as long as it looks. The difficulty is hitting the huge green in just the right spot, so your ball ends up below the hole.
Armonk • Hole 16 • 551 yards • Par 5
You’ll play your approach to a green that is so uphill, it’s practically blind, so take a club or two or three extra to get there.