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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fenway Puts the "Class" in Classic

Fenway Golf Club
Third hole at Fenway Golf Club. Photo courtesy of the club.
Among all the doom and gloom about the supposedly inevitable decline of the sport of golf, it's always heartening to see a club that belies the tales of woe. Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY, one of the shining stars on the Westchester golf stage, is thriving. The reason? The Fenway membership didn't retreat into a bomb shelter during the tough times with their hands clamped on their wallets, but instead invested in the course, made adjustments to policies to fit modern lifestyles, and made a major commitment to improving the golf experience for new and existing members.

Gil Hanse was hired a couple of years ago to revisit the classic Tillinghast design and the completion of his work this spring really shows on the course. Numerous bunker complexes were expanded, a couple were added, and all of them were completely rebuilt to meet modern drainage and maintenance standards. In addition, some air-choking trees were selectively removed to improve circulation on a few greens with the additional benefit of opening some excellent vistas across several fairways.  Superstorm Sandy took care of a number of other monster trees that had out-grown their usefulness, resulting in improved play-ability on several holes.

Fenway is one of the most strategically complete golf courses in the area. At 6,714 yards, par 70, it truly tests every facet of your game. Eight of the par fours are over 400 yards (the #1 handicap fifth hole plays 480--uphill!), but there are some devilish short holes as well. The fairways are generous but extremely well-bunkered (see the picture of the third hole above). Greens vary in size according to the length of the approach shot, but all are strongly contoured and typically very slick. When I play Fenway, I literally use every club in my bag at least once.

Brand new this year is a fine new short game practice area designed by Hanse to help members hone specific shots that pester them on the course. Included in the complex is a huge kidney-shaped green complete with a false front on one lobe that would warm the cockles of Tilly's heart. There's also a nasty, narrow greenside bunker similar to the ones around the seventh green, an extra deep one just like the ones to the right of the ninth green, and a creatively designed bunker with a long tongue that allows practice of long bunker shots in one direction or holds up to six players at a time facing sideways for group lessons. Pitch and chip shots as long as 65 yards can be practiced from all sorts of lies in fairway or rough.

Membership has grown accordingly, including an influx of younger members with kids, which bodes well for the future of the game at Fenway. So does the attitude of the club's membership, which is dedicated to growing the game the right way: by providing an excellent golf experience.

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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