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Friday, September 20, 2013

Sprain Lake Rewards Accurate Tee Shots

Sprain Lake, the Westchester County course in Yonkers, is unique in that your tee shot will likely determine your score on almost every hole. Most courses put greater emphasis on the approach shot, but this Tom Winton design rewards the player who puts the ball in the fairway on their first shot by allowing for simple approaches to the generally accessible greens.

That's not to say the 6,110-yard par 70 layout is a complete pushover. Those tee shots require more than just a good wallop with a driver. In fact, even when you do use the big stick off the tee, you need to shape your shot with a fair degree of finesse to keep the ball on the short grass.  Fairways are narrow, many of them are tree-lined, and most of them slope decisively. There are numerous doglegs and water hazards to navigate, too, and even on holes that seem straight, like the 346-yard eighth, it's easy to hit through the fairway if you don't put a gentle fade on your drive to hold it against the hill.

The seventh hole, a 399-yard par four, is a perfect example of the need for intelligent driving.  The hole turns strongly right about 225 yards from the tee, with water just a few yards beyond the outside turn. A moderately-long driver of the ball will end up with a ball in the hazard unless he or she can fade it precisely off the tee.  On the back, the 459-yard seventeenth hole, a par five, looks like it should be a birdie fest but a creek bisects the fairway at about 250 yards downhill, forcing most players to lay up off the tee and leaving a long, uphill second shot.

The back nine plays significantly longer than the front. At 3,270 yards (versus the front's 2,840), the incoming nine features a 530-yard uphill par five, a 400-yard water-carry par four, and the challenging 440-yard par four finishing hole.

Westchester county invested heavily in Sprain Lake in the past year, extending the fairway on the treacherous third hole, expanding tee boxes, re-routing and improving cart paths, and tweaking a couple of greens. Sprain Lake may be short, but its steep greens and tight fairways make it a fun test for the thinking golfer.

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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