We've Moved

We've Moved!

Dave Donelson Tee To Green has an exciting new home at
Westchester Magazine.

We're still about all things golf, especially those pertinent to golfers in Westchester and the NY Metro, but now we're in a much bigger space!

Please visit our new home at

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Salem Golf Club Gets Better Every Year

Some people might find observing a golf course evolve about as interesting as watching paint dry, but I've always been fascinated by the way the playing fields of the sport change over time. One that I've watched for about ten years is Salem Golf Club in North Salem, NY, a non-equity club whose owners have continued to invest in and improve a fine layout.

photo courtesy of Salem Golf Club
In the last couple of years, Salem's managing partner Joel Berman has directed an aggressive program to remodel and re-position the bunkering on nearly every hole on the course. Sight lines (and strategic shot opportunities) have been opened up through selective tree removal in several places. Amenities have been added, too, including a new short game area to go with the range and putting green, new cart paths, and two sets of junior tee markers to help bring new players into the game. The result is a challenging but playable golf course with many striking holes.

Those familiar with the course will remember the 375-yard fifth hole, an extremely tight driving hole that was sort of a push-over if you kept your tee shot in the short grass. Some of the trees that squeezed the landing area have been removed, however, opening the hole to more aggressive play off the tee. New green-side bunkers make your approach to the potato-chip green even trickier. The eighth hole, a 396-yard uphill par four, has new fairway bunkers to force accuracy off the tee and deep new bunkers left and right of the green to keep you honest on your approach. The 426-yard ninth has two new bunker complexes, one off the left side of the fairway, the other about twenty yards short of the green on the right, that turned a so-so hole into a real tester.

On the back side, the already-excellent thirteenth hole, 407 yards that require three perfect shots (including a tough putt from anywhere on the green) to have a chance at par, got a completely new concept for the ladder of bunkers that climb the hill to the steeply elevated green. Originally, they were surrounded by fescue that drooped into the sand from the uphill side, making it sometimes necessary to play back down the hill just to escape them. The new bunkers, however, have smooth grass faces and flat sand bottoms, giving the player at least a chance to blast out to the putting surface. The hole is still the best on the course, however. As head pro Charlie Poole points out, "The tee shot is intimidating, the second shot for even the better player is difficult, and the green is hard, too. The hole never lets up."

Another major change comes on the fourteenth, a 595-yard par five with a sharp dogleg left that used to require a second shot over trees or a layup leaving a 200-yard approach over water from a downhill lie. The removal of several big trees opened an alley for the aggressive, accurate shot maker to place his second shot within wedge range of the green. It's still a monster three-shot hole, but now the player has some better options. New tees on the seventeenth hole lengthen it to 372 yards and new bunkers squeeze the landing area, making it a much more challenging hole. 

Salem currently has no initiation fee, no assessments and no tax on dues. Membership categories available include a special weekday-only option, which has proven popular.  The club has an active junior instruction program and children are welcome on the course--another big plus in my book.

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

No comments: