POUND RIDGE, NY (Aug. 5, 2017) – Even after all the things I’d heard about the brawling, Pete Dye-designed Pound Ridge Golf Club in the northern suburbs of New York City, I wasn’t sure what I would experience once I set foot on the gorgeous, rolling site.
After playing the course several times, I’ve settled on one sure thing – golfers had better put their big-boy pants on if they expect to have any semblance of success here.
By now you have likely heard a lot about Pound Ridge Golf Club, but let’s recap some of the facts about the place.
Pound Ridge, located about 15 minutes from Stamford, Conn., is an 18-hole daily-fee venue that plays to a par-72 and measures 7,165 yards from the tips.
Developed by the Wang family, the 172-acre course is Dye’s first design in the Empire State and is carved out of as much as 14,000 feet of rock walls, outcroppings and house-size boulders, with fairways interspersed with trees, streams, wetlands and water hazards as the layout snakes its way to the tops of ridges, through hardwood forest and open, rolling meadows.
The site features more than three miles of stone walls that run through the property and the knock-your-socks-off hazard called “Pete’s Rock,” a massive boulder that blocks the view of the fairway from the 13th tee, a 486-yard par 5.
Dye has been quoted as saying that the Pound Ridge site is “as difficult a piece of property to build a golf course on as I’ve ever seen.” If it was hard to build, it’s even tougher to play. Like a huge, intricate puzzle, the elements at Pound Ridge blend but are never transparent in the course’s plentiful package.
“The rocks here actually have become an asset, and you could not afford to do what we did on this course if we had to go buy the rock,” Dye said. “The things that made it hard to build make it beautiful.”
There are the rocks and trees and blind shots over mounds to well-protected and often elevated greens complexes. Most of all you have to be accurate at Pound Ridge. That task is mitigated somewhat by the course’s five sets of tees, which are classified by handicap ability, allowing players of all skills to enjoy the strategic layout and wide variety of shot-making options.
Mother Nature was in charge of providing the hills that dominate the course, and Dye added extensive mounding, bunkers, a variety of grasses (including fescue just off the fairway on several holes) and water hazards, several of which require carries of better than 250-plus yards from the tips.
Remember, too, there is water or wetlands on 17 of Pound Ridge’s 18 holes.
There are plenty of holes at Pound Ridge where you think you can bust the driver and attack the course – most of those that are in the meadow (which houses the majority of the front nine and hole Nos. 16-18).
But as usual with Dye layouts, even the holes where you think you might grab the upper hand can rein you in. Whether it’s on the approach (via an uneven lie, a mound or blind shot) or around the rolling greens, many defined by wicked and sloped collection areas, Pound Ridge demands your attention on every shot.
Perhaps the best stretch on the course is the trio at Nos. 13-15.
On the aforementioned 13th, the drive is over “Pete’s Rock” to a saddle-shaped landing area with danger both sides. The tiny green is guarded left by a deep ravine with a bunker in its deep floor, and along the right by woods. Take some personal advice: play this as a three-shotter and hope to make the par putt.
The 429-yard, par-4 No. 14 requires a long carry across a deep and elevated chasm fronted by a stone wall. Once across, the hole bends left and plays uphill to a semi-blind green set between two hummocks. Avoid the rock outcroppings that line the left side of the fairway.
You’ll be amazed at what awaits at the short and quirky par-3 15th, with its backdrop of a large white-rock outcropping. The hole is played entirely over wetlands fronting the green that obscure much of the diagonal putting surface from the tee. Once across, you’ll see that the green is actually quite roomy, and even if you play your shot off the rock it has a chance of finding the putting surface (just don’t bet on it).
The three closing holes – the uphill 564-yard par-5 16th and two testy par-4s in the 457-yard 17th and the 454-yard 18th (where your drive must be played over a stand of trees) – will make you take a deep breath. Success on this threesome will hinge on the state of your nerves and a great short game.
A generous practice area is available to golfers, and the property features some of the highest points in Westchester County, with a number of tees offering expansive vistas of the surrounding countryside.
Granted, Pound Ridge, with a rating of 76.0 and a slope of 150 from the tips, is a bear. But if you’re in the Big Apple or anywhere near, it’s a must-play. I liked the course and enjoyed my rounds there, but don’t think this is a track I could play every day.
Pound Ridge is one of those golf courses every golfer can and should experience at least once in their lifetime. The course has earned itself a spot among these American classics on every golfer’s bucket list.