Pete Dye’s courses have induced plenty of different states among golfers, from the frustration of hitting multiple shots into the water at TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole to the elation of hitting a career drive toward the lighthouse at Harbour Town Golf Links’ 18th hole.
But until now, there was one state Dye had never explored: New York. That all changes with this week’s opening of the daily-fee Pound Ridge Golf Club, not only Dye’s first layout in the Empire State but also in the New York City metropolitan area, the cradle of American golf and a region teeming with Golden Age masterpieces like Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills and Ridgewood.
Located in the eponymous town northeast of the city, Pound Ridge sits on a 172-acre tract just across the border from Stamford, Connecticut, which happens to be the hometown of former Dye protege and architecture man of the moment Tom Doak.
It’s unclear what Doak may have done with Pound Ridge, which occupies a hilly site dominated by forest, rock outcroppings and wetlands. But to this already challenging landscape, Dye added extensive mounding, bunkers, a variety of grasses, including fescue just off the fairway on several holes, and demanding water hazards, a couple of which require carries of 250-plus yards from the back tees, which measure 7,171 yards.
The various elements come together in a visually stunning package, accentuated by a Trump-like attention to detail, like the nearly three miles of stone walls that run through the property or “Pete’s Rock,” a large boulder that blocks the view of the fairway from the 13th tee, a 486-yard par 5. Another rock feature prominently in play is an outcropping behind the green of the 174-yard 15th.
The wetlands fronting the green obscure much of the putting surface from the tee, which seems to make the hole a nearly literal embodiment of the cliche “between a rock and a hard place.” But after seeing the ball bounce and approaching with putter in hand, players are surprised to see that the green is actually quite roomy, save for the tiny back left shelf-one of the touches with which Dye revels in tantalizing players.
Dye has made a career of challenging golfers beyond their abilities, and Pound Ridge is no different. He sometimes seems to build difficult holes for no reason other than he could, and after losing balls in the fescue along the fairway and facing blind shots over mounds from the middle of the fairway, you are faced with perhaps the most quixotic Dye feature of all: From the back tee, the drive on the 477-yard 18th hole must play over a stand of trees. Standing on the tee, my “I have no idea what to make of this hole” reaction must have been similar to those of tour pros at the first Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, after which many likened the experience to “Star Wars golf.”
Of course, Sawgrass has come to be regarded as a classic, and Pound Ridge may be destined for a similar fate. Because there are several excellent holes-the driveable 317-yard 5th; the downhill 404-yard 10th, which requires a well-placed fairway wood off the tee; the reachable 13th, which can be as little as a short iron for long hitters; and the 426-yard 14th, which runs uphill all the way to an elusive green.
Although a course-rich area, New York always has been a private-golf town. Pound Ridge should help tip the balance slightly toward the public side.