What a difference good management makes. The new owners at Brynwood Golf and Country Club in Armonk, NY, have taken a ragged, under-developed golf course (formerly the Canyon Club) and turned it into a fine example of the coming thing in club operation. As lead partner Jeff Mendel says, "Brynwood is not your father's country club."
Indeed it's not. The new owners originally wanted to name the club "Bushwood" in honor of the iconic setting for Caddyshack, but their lawyers pointed out that might cause some legal problems. To compensate, Mendell plans to play the movie on a continuous loop on a wall-mounted flat screen in the newly-renovated pro shop. That should give you some idea of just what kind of club this is going to be. A new fitness center, rock and hip-hop instead of elevator music on the sound system, and a gigantic fire pit for after-dark gatherings are just a few of the new features added by the new owners. The idea is to offer members a casual, relaxed, family-centric club experience. It's meant to be affordable, too, with non-equity memberships as low as $7500 per year and, for now at least, no initiation fee.
There's tennis, a pool, and other amenities, but the core of the experience is golf, of course. The new owners have made great progress in that regard already, having brought in Troon Golf to manage the facility and conducted initial interviews with several leading golf architects with an eye toward a major upgrade. Right now, the golf course is a 6,348 yard par 70 track with several excellent holes, a few adequate ones, and a couple that should probably be dynamited. Mendell and his partners are seriously committed to turning it into a course that can compete with the best in the metro market, however, and have started the process by whipping the course into near-perfect shape. The day I played, greens were running at a 12 on the Stimp and there wasn't a blade of grass out of place from tee to green.
There's a lot of potential in the property, which is notable for its elevation changes and spectacular views. The second hole, for example, is a 363-yard dog leg right that would be a forgettable par four if it weren't for the perfectly-framed view of the green set next to a lake that greets you as you make the turn down the fairway after your tee shot. It's worth stopping to enjoy before you proceed to hit your approach.
For the most part, there's little "back and forth" routing and fairways are inviting without being overly generous. The green complexes are actually pretty good, with well-planned bunkering protecting mostly elevated putting surfaces with plenty of contours and interesting pin position possibilities. When they are at speed, it's essential that you place your approach shot below the hole for any chance at making a putt. Mendell expects the redesign to lengthen the course to 6,800 yards. There's a good possiblity that more water will be brought into play on several holes and one of the five par-threes will probably become a short par four.
Brynwood's current layout has some challenging holes. The number one handicap hole is the fifth, a 441-yard dog leg right. You hit from an elevated tee down to a fairway that slopes to the left, but a good drive leaves a mid- to long-iron back up to an elevated green. The eighth hole is a 216-yard uphill par three. Plenty of players hit three-woods or even drivers to get up the hill to the rolling green that's guarded by two deep bunkers.
Brynwood has excellent potential. With new ownership dedicated to achieving it fully, Westchester is about to become home to yet another fine place to play the great game.
Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a romantic thriller about blood diamonds in the Congo.