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Monday, July 29, 2013

Wiltwyck Lights Up The Catskills

There's almost nothing I like better than "discovering" a new golf course, especially when it's a gem like the Wiltwyck GC in Kingston, NY. With wonderful views of the Catskills and twisting fairways leading to devilish greens, Wiltwyck offers succor for the soul and challenge for golfer at every level.

photo courtesy of Wiltwyck GC
Wiltwyck is a Robert Trent Jones design that opened at its current location in 1954, although the club itself was founded in 1933 and was forced to move by the construction of the NYS Thruway. Stephen Kay updated the course in 2001, giving it a little more length and plenty more challenge around the greens. Kay didn't lose the Jones "feel" for the routing and shot values, though, so you really get the best of both worlds when you take it on.

The course measures 6,877 yards from the tips, with a stout 74.3 rating and 134 slope that seems a little light given how much trouble a bogey golfer can encounter on several holes. I played from the blues, which at 6,578 yards was enough golf course for me given the number of elevation changes and tough greens.  There are two other sets of tees, including a strong set of reds that measure 5,675.

Unlike many courses in the Hudson Valley, Wiltwyck doesn't ease you into the round with an easy opening hole. Instead, you're faced with a 407-yard (from the blues) test with a bunker cutting into the fairway on the left to devil those who draw the ball and a fairway that slopes right for the faders in the group. If you navigate those delights, you have a long uphill approach to a punchbowl green. Make a par here and you're off to the races.

The second hole, a 491-yard par five, has a typically convulted fairway that slopes left to right off the tee then switches to right to left once you get around the right dog leg. This is the shortest of the par fives on the course. All of them except the 553-yard seventh hole are reachable birdie opportunities for the better player. The seventh, the #1 handicap hole, demands extreme accuracy off the tee since the fairway is essentially crowned, punishing drivers hitting either left or right.

The par threes at Wiltwyck are on the short side by today's standards (144 to 190 yards) but require a well-handled putter to capitalize on their lack of length.

If there is a theme to the playing advice on the par fours, it's "drive straight." Unlike many courses in the area, Wiltwyck still has an over-abundance of trees. When you couple those mature green monsters with lateral hazards to the right of several landing areas and greens that require approaches from the correct angle to leave a make-able two-putt, most players will want to hit the straightest club in their bag, not necessarily the longest.

Golf services include a driving range and large practice green, clinics and lessons from Chad Maes, PGA, and his staff, and reciprocal privileges at most of the finest private clubs in the Hudson Valley. As a casual but well-appointed country club, Wiltwyck offers nice family amenities including a pool and tennis, not to mention dining facilities that equal anything in the region and attract functions ranging from intimate dinners to weddings for several hundred guests.

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

1 comment:

Doug said...

Great review. I have just discovered this course and was amazed to find the near complete absence of reviews online.

What a beautiful course it is and your review reveals it with clarity.