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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Manhattan Woods Rewards The Thinker

Manhattan Woods Golf Club
Call me a golf snob, but I like strategic courses. Tracks where you have to use your brain more than your brawn to make a par. That's probably why I've always felt refreshed rather than depleted after a round at Manhattan Woods, the Gary Player signature course in West Nyack, NY, which celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year.

Every hole presents a different challenge from the one before it. A few holes reward a long drive off the tee; most others demand precision. Bomb and gouge won't get you very far here. In fact, most players should hit a driver on only about half the holes if they want to stay out of the fescue, bunkers, or water that pinch many landing areas. Greens are invitingly spacious but yield low scores only to the player who lands his or her approach in the perfect spot. In other words, you have to think your way around the course.

While you're doing all that cogitating, though, don't forget to enjoy the full Manhattan Woods visual experience. Player fit the course into 200 breath-taking acres, which gives plenty of room to make each hole a world of its own. Mature trees, brilliant bunkering, and fescue rough define the route to the green on nearly every hole and water is used judiciously to both challenge your game and please your eye. As the name implies, the Manhattan skyline is visible from several spots on the course, a reminder that the club is just 20 minutes from the George Washington Bridge.

Manhattan Woods offers five sets of tees, well-spaced from 5,090 to 7,109 yards (par 72) so that players of every level can find significant challenge. The slope is high--141 from the blue tees at 6,381 yards--so matches should be carefully handicapped to avoid blowouts. On the other hand, the way Manhattan Woods punishes a blind bomber can give a thoughtfully patient shorter hitter a distinct advantage. Maybe that's why I like the course so well!

Head pro Dick Smith, Jr., points to the fifth hole as an example of a thinking player's hole at Manhattan Woods. It's 384 from the blue tees and still the number one handicap hole. Why? Because there are so many ways to go wrong on the hole. The perfect tee shot is a fade over the yawning bunker that guards the gentle dog leg right. A driver pounded without the proper shot shape, however, will put you in a bunker through the fairway or worse, in the woods behind it. Only a perfect tee shot gives you the right approach line up the hill to the two-tiered green.

The amenities of the club perfectly complement the golf course. Locker rooms are spacious and well-attended. The caddie program provides excellent, experienced loopers whose advice should be heeded even by players with their own solid knowledge of the course. The Grille Room, Oak Bar, and other dining facilities are well-appointed with attentive servers and fabulous cuisine well above the usual boring country club fare.

In need of a lesson or two? How about a few tips from the Golf Channel's own Michael Breed? He opened the Michael Breed Golf Academy at Manhattan Woods this year, so even non-members can book a private session with the energetic, enthusiastic 2012 PGA of America Teacher of the Year right at the club's excellent practice facilities.

Manhattan Woods draws a significant number of members from New York City, but it's just a stone's throw from the Tappan Zee, so it's convenient to Westchester golfers as well. Given the quality of the experience and ease of access, it's no wonder the club continues to grow.

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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