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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is Spook Rock The Best Muni In Tri-State?

Spook Rock 13th Hole - photo courtesy of Ramapo Parks

Its name notwithstanding, there’s nothing scary about Spook Rock as long as you can shape your shots, manage your distance, and own a putter that never misses. Do all that and you have nothing to fear from this Rockland County course that’s regarded as one of the best layouts in the area—public or private.
“Spook Rock rewards the strategic player,” says Howie Munck, a regular user of the course since its opening in 1970 and former member of the course advisory board. “There are several holes like the first where you can cut the corner of the dogleg but have to be careful not to drive through the fairway. The 538-yard sixth is another thinking player’s hole. Some strong players who might get within reach after the tee shot generally lay up anyway in surrender to the pond fronting the green. Others play the hole with an iron off the tee to avoid the fairway bunkers pinching the fairway in the landing area. The par fives can all be reached in two under the right circumstances from the long tees by a strong (and straight) player. The 11th is the most tempting with the descending fairway in the landing area. Even if one stumbles into the billabong short left of the green, par is still possible with a good up and down.

"The course hosted the first four rounds of the PGA Tour School in 1980 where, in wet but calm conditons, a few 67's were posted. Their most troublesome holes for them were the par 4 third  and par 3 fourth. Patrick Pierson holds the competitive course record of 65, in winning the Rockland County Amateur a few years ago. The event was created by professional Ernie Clayton in 1975 and has been held here annually since then.

The basic layout has changed very little from Frank Duane's original tree-lined plan aside from shortening the back tee on No. 1, putting water into play on No. 3 and some bunkering changes ala Stephen Kay. It remains eminently walkable with moderate uphills on 9 and 17.  The pattern of 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 4 on each nine speaks to its evenness in regularly changing challenge. Its strong cadre of regular players are testament to the cliche, 'a course you can play every day.'"
Spook Rock underwent a major renovation in recent years, but it’s been a championship caliber course since its creation in 1969. Over the years it has hosted seven MGA competitions, most recently the MetLife Public Links Championship in 2010. The course is mostly flat, which makes it an easy walk, but the fairways are tree-lined and there are more than fifty bunkers to keep you honest. During the renovation, spearheaded by noted golf architect Stephen Kay, a new irrigation system and driving range were installed, trees were trimmed to improve air circulation and turf conditions, and bunkers were upgraded. New tees stretched the course to 6,806 from the tips and new bunkers and re-designed hazards brought the course into the 21st century. The result of the multi-year project is a golf course that will challenge scratch golfers while giving high handicappers a fun day on the links.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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