New York’s Westchester County, just a short train ride from Manhattan, offers an embarrassment of riches. Much of the county is quiet, suburban, even rural. But getting into the city via public transportation can be a breeze — easy access to the center of finance, fashion, fine dining and live theater. Times Square, Wall Street, Lincoln Center, the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty are all well within range.
Amidst this cornucopia of sights, sounds and experiences in the city is the fact that Westchester is home to more superb private golf clubs than almost anywhere else in the nation. Space constraints preclude a comprehensive list, but just a smattering of these top-notch venues would include Winged Foot, with its 36 holes of championship golf. Also Quaker Ridge, Sleepy Hollow, Scarsdale, Sunningdale, Century, Old Oaks and Wykagyl. Suffice it to say that there are many other clubs of nearly equal stature in the vicinity.
High-quality public playing fields are fewer and further between, but there are some options. Leading the way is Pound Ridge Golf Club, located in the eponymous town of the same name, about 45 minutes from Manhattan. A much newer venue than many of the near-centenarians listed earlier, Pound Ridge is a Pete-and-Perry Dye creation little more than a decade old.
Despite its lack of antiquity, Pound Ridge has gained a following due in large part to its unique location amidst 170 dramatic acres. Imposing cliffs, bubbling streams and wooded hillsides delineate the playing fields. Dramatic rock formations have been left onsite, creating an eye-catching setting for golf, with more than 14,000-linear-feet of rock wall surrounding trees, wetlands and water hazards.
Many large boulders have remained on the property, adding to its distinctive character. Nowhere is this more evident than on the par-5 13th, where the focal point off the tee is a cottage-sized boulder between the tee and the landing area. The short over-wetlands 15th is another example. This par-3 green has been literally carved into a hillside, with a broad expanse of exposed rock acting as a backboard for any tee shot too boldly struck. “It looks like marble,” states Perry Dye, son of the World Golf Hall of Fame inductee, and a prominent architect in his own right. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The best way to describe this land is a combination of woods, wetlands and rock. While it was very difficult to build (the finished product), fortunately a course that has no housing component provides an unforgettable day of golf.” Rarely have daily-fee golfers around Westchester County or neighboring Fairfield County, Connecticut, seen anything quite like Pound Ridge.
Almost as interesting as the topography is the course’s back-story. It was conceived and built by an M.I.T. graduate named Ken Wang, a mathematician by training, and brother to iconic fashion designer Vera Wang. It took nearly a decade to obtain the proper permits and please the environmentalists and homeowners in the surrounding neighborhoods before they actually began renovating and expanding what had been a simple neighborhood nine-hole track into the showpiece golf course that exists today.
There are other worthy options in Westchester County, including Hudson Hills. About twenty miles due west of Pound Ridge is this parkland gem, close by the Hudson River. Golfers are treated to the view from on high as they prepare to tee off; half-a-dozen holes are visible from the opening tee box. The course is enrolled in Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program, and helps to protect the local environment, conserve natural resources, and provide wildlife habitats.
Another viable option is Maple Moor, in the city of White Plains. Named for the abundance of maple trees on site, the rolling pastureland was originally part of the Griffen family farm dating from 1879. Finally, there are two reasonable options in the city of Yonkers, closer to Manhattan than the other courses under discussion. Dunwoodie Golf Course, not even 6,000 yards from the tips, is in an area of the city called ‘Dunwoodie Heights.’ The dramatic topography features plenty of steep slopes, and a good mixture of narrow and widening fairways. Sprain Lake showcases tiny greens, rolling terrain and a number of challenging holes, due mostly to an abundance of water hazards.
The cornucopia of fine restaurants in the area is mind-boggling. Leaving ‘The City’ out of the equation, with its tens of thousands of eateries of every ethnicity, neighborhood, trend barometer and price range, just Westchester alone has thousands of worthy options. Bistro 12 in Tarrytown wins raves for its Italian cuisine with Mediterranean influence. In Yonkers, Xaviars on the Hudson offers expansive river views, and a menu featuring classic French technique with Italian and Spanish influences. Finally, pub food is the watchword at Bridge View Tavern in the town of Sleepy Hollow. A dazzling beer selection, both bottle and draft, along with great wings, burgers, calamari, mussels, ribs, fish and chips, etc, make this a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.