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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tillinghast at Saxon Woods

A.W. Tillinghast is renowned as the creator of dozens of world-class golf courses. I was delighted to learn that he also designed my favorite local muni course, Saxon Woods in Scarsdale, NY. It's not likely I'll ever become a member at Winged Foot (although hope springs eternal), but for $25, I can tee it up at Saxon Woods whenever I want.

I'd heard rumors about Tilly's involvement with the Westchester County-owned course, but had poo-pooed them along with everyone else until a friend, Ken Sojka, brought me a copy of Philip Young's limited edition book, A.W. Tillinghast, Creator of Golf Courses. Saxon Woods is mentioned several times and listed as one of Tilly's original designs. The year was 1930, and it was apparent the great man needed the work as depression gripped the country.

Many of the holes at Saxon have been altered, of course, but there are clear marks of Tillinghast's genius throughout the course. The third hole, a long "three-shotter" as he would have called it, has an obviously artificial mound cramping the fairway at the landing area for the second shot as well as two steep-faced bunkers squeezing the green. The fifth hole, my favorite on the course, is a dog-leg par four that offers two strategies off the tee--a well-placed straight drive to the left half of the fairway that leaves a mid iron over another mound, or a long fade to a narrow alley next to the mound that rewards the perfect tee shot with a wedge. The green, too, is highly contoured and protected by a bunker on the right. The 17th hole is one of the best par 3's around, with a steep narrow green set at an angle, surrounded by bunkers, and fronted by a stream. The real Tilly touch is the tee box, which points not at the green but to the right of it.

Another interesting fact is that a well-struck three-wood (or two) would carry your ball from Saxon Woods over the Hutchinson River Parkway to Quaker Ridge. From there, a seven-iron over Griffen Avenue would get it to Winged Foot. I love playing golf in good company.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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