The single most striking aspect of long-awaited Trump Ferry Point is its location. Everyone knows it’s built on top of a landfill and that it cost the City of New York a gazillion dollars to build. We also know that Donald Trump apparently was the only guy able to get it finished. But what you don’t realize, until you stand on the first tee, is just how mind-bogglingly urban the site is. The Whitestone Bridge sets against the sky without dominating the vista, sort of like a citified version of a snow-capped mountain. The Freedom Tower, Empire State Building, and the rest of the full expanse of the Manhattan skyline are in glorious view from almost every hole. The Long Island Sound sparkles on the finishing holes, and jets are seen, but not heard, departing LaGuardia and JFK airports. Among all this urban splendor is a splendid golf course.
Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point is a challenging but fun track for daily fee duffers that also provides a spectacular test for professional championships Trump hopes to attract. Greens fees are $235 for non-New York City residents on weekend peak times.
The Jack Nicklaus design currently measures 7,407 yards from the tips, 6,867 from the gold tees, and 6,404 from the whites, which makes up more than enough golf course for the average player. The long holes are really, really long from the blue tees. Six of the par-fours are over 400 yards and will play significantly longer given the wind and elevated greens. The par-fives aren’t too bad, with the longest clocking in at 545 yards and the others right around 500 yards.
Nicklaus provided wide, playable fairways, many measuring more than 50 yards across in places. They’re full of bumps and swales, though, so there are plenty of irregular tee shot roll-outs in the tradition of links golf. Fairway bunkering is moderate on most holes, with placement to challenge the big-hitting pros without damaging the chances of a shorter hitter, even from the forward tees. Fairways and greens are separated by thousands of man-shaped moguls to accommodate New York-sized crowds of spectators.
Although Ferry Point has “links” in its name, you won’t see any brown fairways, which is too bad. Most golfers believe (erroneously) that green is good and brown is bad, so the turf here will be as green as hundreds of thousands of gallons of water can make it in order to appeal to the daily fee customer.
Playing conditions aside, the green fairways stand out in gorgeous contrast to the brown and yellow fescue in the rough. It will definitely look fabulous on television, but it remains to be seen if the course can play hard and fast with such lush fairways.
The design does include other links trademarks, however. Wind plays a major role in your strategy on every hole, since there are no trees or anything else to block it. The prevailing breeze is from the southwest, but it can swirl in from the northeast off the Sound in a heartbeat. Nicklaus did an excellent job of routing the course so that you will never play the same wind on two consecutive holes.
Small but nasty cross bunkers and chocolate-drop fescue-covered mounds dot many fairways and make the approaches to some greens more difficult. Many of the greens can be accessed with a bump-and-run or with a putter from the fairway, if you take the soft turf into account. The greens themselves are large enough to support the many pin positions needed for heavy daily fee play. They are well contoured but not fun house roller coasters.
What makes Ferry Point so significant? You can count on one hand the truly fine public golf courses within an hour of Manhattan, and on one finger those within 15 minutes. That finger points to Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point.
The Griffith E. Harris Golf Course in Greenwich, Connecticut, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a new appreciation for players who aren’t residents. While the only public course in the town is heavily used by locals, it is well worth the trip over the state line to enjoy the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design. Admission policies have been loosened considerably.
Course conditions at the Griff are typically excellent, and the layout is challenging but perfectly playable. It measures 6,512 yards from the blue tees and features an entertaining mix of long and short holes. The front side plays longer, but the back nine is a little less forgiving, so the course maintains your interest throughout the round.
The biggest challenge on the front is the sixth hole, a man-sized par-four at 451 yards with an uphill tee shot and a green that slopes slightly away from front to back. The second nine demands greater accuracy off the tee and has markedly smaller greens, too. Once you make the turn, you can leave the driver in the bag until the 14th hole, but don’t take the short holes for granted—they are tight and can damage your score pretty quickly. The 14th is lots of fun, with an S-shaped fairway that leads through trees to an elevated green 528 yards away.
The Griff features a range, short-game practice area, and multiple practice greens, so it’s also a great place to sharpen up your game. Joe Felder was named Met PGA Professional of the Year in 2013 and brings a can-do attitude to both course management and the lesson tee.
Mohansic Golf Course, the Westchester County-owned facility in Yorktown Heights, has a well-earned reputation as the most difficult of the six courses operated by the county. At 6,558 yards from the back tees, it’s not overly long, but the many elevation changes, scarcity of level lies, and typically quick greens can challenge even the best players.
The course, opened in 1925, was the first public course in the county. It was designed by Tom Winton, a Scot who must have felt quite at home laying out a course with numerous blind shots like those you face on the first three holes at Mohansic. Winton is also credited with most of the other public county courses as well as Mount Kisco Country Club.
Mohansic doesn’t wait to challenge you. The third hole is a 425-yard par-four that is followed by the 442-yard, uphill, dogleg fourth hole, which also plays to an elevated green. The ninth is a demanding par-five at 592 yards. The tee shot is over water, and your approach is to a slightly elevated green surrounded by bunkers, making it one of the toughest pars on the course.
The course plays to a par of 70, ending with a 191-yard uphill par-three. Smart players lay up to the front of the huge green and chip to the pin for safety.