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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Trump Triumphs at Ferry Point

Trump Ferry Point photo by Dave Donelson
Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point
The countdown to the opening of the most significant new course in New York--if not the country--is moving into single digits.  Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point will open next spring and accolades are already rolling in.  I had a private personal tour last week and I'll add my praise to the heap right now.

The single most striking aspect of Ferry Point is its location.  Everyone knows it's built on top of a landfill and that it cost the city of New York a gazillion dollars to build.  We also know that Donald Trump was apparently the only guy with the know-how and cajones to get it finished. What you don't realize until you stand on the first tee, however, is just how mind-bogglingly urban the site is.  You drive under the Whitestone Bridge to get there--something most New Yorkers don't even know you can do!  The bridge itself sets against the sky without dominating the vista, sort of like a citified version of a snow-capped mountain.  The Freedom Tower, Empire State Building, and the rest of the full expanse of the Manhattan skyline is in glorious view on almost every hole.  The Long Island Sound sparkles on the finishing holes and jets are seen but not heard departing LGA and JFK airports. Amid all this urban splendor is a splendid golf course.

Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point will be a challenging but fun track for daily fee duffers while providing a spectacular test for professional championships like the Barclay's, which is strongly rumored to be coming in 2017.  The Jack Nicklaus design currently measures 7,407 yards from the tips, which will probably be longer once the final measurements are in. There are a few details still to be worked out on the course and a temporary clubhouse/grill will be completed this fall, but the golf course is in the final stages of growing in and should be in perfect shape next spring.

Nicklaus provided wide, playable fairways for the daily fee player, with many measuring easily over 50 yards across in places.  They're full of bumps and swales, though, so there will be plenty of irregular tee shot roll-outs in the tradition of links golf.  Fairway bunkering is moderate on most holes, with placement to challenge the big-hitting pros without damaging the chances of a shorter hitter, even from the forward tees.  Fairways and greens are surrounded and separated by thousands of man-shaped moguls to accommodate NY-sized crowds of spectators.

photo by Dave Donelson
The current temporary scorecard lists 6,824 yards as the length from the blue tees.  There is a short par four on each nine (298-yard #7 and 335-yard #11) and the par threes meet my criterion for maximum variety and shot values (#3 is 226 yards, #8 170, #12 139, and #17 142).  Donald Trump made the first-ever hole-in-one on the course, believe it or not, during the first round ever played at Ferry Point. A plaque marks the spot and I love it!

The long holes are really, really long from the blue tees.  Most of the par fours approach 450 yards and will play significantly longer given the wind and green fairways.  The par fives aren't too bad, with the longest clocking in at 570 and the shortest at 466 yards, although it hasn't really been decided whether that hole will play as a par four or five.  I'll be highlighting individual holes from my tour in future posts.

Another decision in the works is creation of a set of tees between the blues and the current whites, which are only 6,071 yards.  While that would be fine for most of us, a length in the 6,200-6,400 yard range would have more appeal.  I also believe there should be a course shorter than the currently-listed 5,278-yard red tees.  The addition of some tees in the 4,000-yard neighborhood would make the course more accessible for youngsters, seniors, and very-occasional golfers.  That's a trend in the industry that's gaining a well-deserved toehold and the Trump organization would make a natural leader in bringing more players into the game.  Where are the stairs? I need to step off my soap box.

Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point photo by Dave Donelson

Although Ferry Point has "links" in it's name, you won't see any brown fairways a la Pinehurst No. 2.  Most golfers believe (erroneously) that green is good and brown is bad, so the turf here will be as green as hundreds of thousands of gallons of water can make it in order to appeal to the daily fee customer.  Playing conditions aside, the green fairways stand out in gorgeous contrast to the brown and yellow fescue in the rough.  It will definitely look fabulous on television (much better than Pinehurst did during the U.S. Open), but it remains to be seen if the course can play hard and fast with fairways that lush.

The design does include other links trademarks, however.  Wind will play a major role in your strategy on every hole since there are no trees or anything else to block it.  The prevailing breeze is from the southwest, but it can swirl in from the northeast off the Sound in a heartbeat.  Nicklaus did a great job on routing the course so that you will never play the same wind on two consecutive holes.

Small but nasty cross bunkers and chocolate drop fescue-covered mounds dot many fairways and make the approaches to some greens a bit more interesting. Many of the greens can be accessed with a bump-and-run or with a putter from the fairway if you take the soft turf into account.   The greens themselves are large enough to support the many pin positions needed for heavy daily fee play.  They are well-contoured but not fun house roller coasters.

Donald Trump threw out the initial permanent clubhouse designs because they didn't meet his high standards, but the facility is expected to be finished next year and promises to have magnificent views of the course, Long Island Sound, the Whitestone Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline, not to mention many of the first class amenities that are standard at Trump's private clubs.

One thing Ferry Point will also have is a practice facility to rival anything in the NY market, public or private.  There's a small warm-up green next to the first tee, but the real practice green is 15,000 square feet. It's next to a 65-yard short game area and not far from the 400-yard driving range that's 120 yards wide.

What makes Ferry Point so significant?  It will be far and away the best daily fee golf experience in the New York market when it opens.  You can count on one hand the truly fine public golf courses within an hour of Manhattan, and on one finger those within fifteen minutes.  That finger points to Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point.

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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