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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pound Ridge Accolade

Congratulations are in order for Ken Wang and Pete Dye--Golf Digest has named Pound Ridge Golf Club one of America's Best New Courses for 2009. The high-end daily fee course in Pound Ridge, New York, is ranked fourth in the listings to be published in the January, 2010 issue. Wang owns the course and Dye designed it. Another new Dye course, his track at the French Lick Resort in Indiana, was ranked number one in the listing. Pound Ridge is Dye's only design in the Northeast.

Pound Ridge opened in mid-2008 to general oohs and aahs both for its tight, drama-filled layout and its steep greens fee of $235. The price to play can be lowered somewhat if you take advantage of various packages and deals, but you'll still need a bucket full of balls to make it through the round if you can't hit 'em straight.

Owner Ken Wang says,
"Our rating is a distinction that validates the exceptional commitment that Pete gave us when he agreed to craft Pound Ridge. My goal in bringing Pete into the project was to create a golf course for the ages, and I believe our high ranking validates that we have created something very significant at Pound Ridge."
The course is truly unique for Westchester county, where more traditional designs by A.W. Tillinghast, C.B. Macdonald, Devereux Emmet, and Seth Raynor tend to dominate. Dye blasted thousands of tons of rock to carve the fairways, then used the debris to build walls buttressing the landscape. He also left the odd hillock, boulder, and hundred-year-old tree in the middle of a few fairways just to make things interesting. Pound Ridge is a visual and mental challenge.

I'm sure this past year's economic woes weren't kind to the cash flow of the club, but the well-deserved honor bestowed by Golf Digest is bound to help in 2010.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, December 18, 2009

Two Westchester Golfers Advance Careers

Andy Svoboda and Nan Hill took big steps forward in their professional golf careers this month with excellent finishes at Q School. Next year should be exciting for both of them.

Hill, a Pelham, NY, native I first interviewed when she was beating the boys in high school, finished in a tie for 22nd in the five-round LPGA Tour Q School tournament in Daytona Beach, FL. That's good enough to gain her Category 16 on the Priority list, which means she should be playing in several LPGA events next year. Combined with her planned stops on the Duramed Futures Tour, Hill will have a busy schedule.

Svoboda tied for 48th in the PGA Q School tournament at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach. That earns the Larchmont, NY, native thirteen starts next year on the Nationwide Tour, where he finished in the top 25 in three of the six events he played in 2009. Needless to say, he's looking forward to leaving the bag room at Old Oaks to compete full time. With any luck, he'll line up a couple of sponsors and play his way onto the big stage for 2011.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, December 11, 2009

LPGA Exits New York Market

Among the many sidelights and lowlights (there aren't any highlights) of the LPGA Tour schedule for 2010 is a big zero in the number of events to be held in New York. The Sybase Classic was unable to come to terms with Upper Montclair Country Club in New Jersey where it's been held for the last three years. The tournament organizer, Octagon Worldwide, tried but failed to make a deal with Essex County Country Club and the event is now officially off the tour.

From 1990 until it moved to Upper Montclair, the event was held at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, NY. The last LPGA event held there was the HSBC Match Play in 2007, which lasted only a year.

Octagon says it's diligently trying to find a venue, sponsors, and a date that works for the LPGA in hopes that 2011 will be a different story. If the 2011 LPGA schedule is anything like 2010's, finding an available date should be the least of their problems.

In the meantime, the ShopRite LPGA Classic will be held June 14-20 at the Seaview Resort in Galloway Township, marking a return to the Atlantic City area after a three-year absence. That's close, but it isn't New York.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another Bethpage Jewel

Can't get a tee time on the Black Course at Bethpage? Opt for the Red instead and I guarantee you won't be disappointed. It may not have the aura of the U.S. Open around it, but the Red Course is just about as long (6,555 vs. 6,684 yards from the white tees), a little tougher to score on (par 70 vs. 71), and every bit as much of a Tillinghast gem, with fluid, natural bunkering, several back-busting elevated greens, and enough dog legs to populate a greyhound track.

There are differences, of course, mainly because Rees Jones hasn't put his hand on the course. Most notably the greens are smaller and there are fewer bunkers, making the Red a little less punitive. It doesn't have quite as many dramatic elevation changes, either, although several of the holes, notably the first and eighteenth, will make you look around for the chairlift as you approach the green. One notable difference: the 18th on the Red is much more challenging than the closing hole on the Black. If they toughened up the fairway bunkers on the Red, it would be far and away a better hole.

Both courses have seven par fours of over 400 yards, and both total about the same yardage on them - just over 3,000 yards. The par threes on the Black are stronger and certainly more memorable in addition to being at least a full club longer. The best one-shotter on the Red is the fourth hole, 171 yards to a green protected by a moat-like bunker.

The opening hole on the Red is a 459 par four monster that's nearly impossible to reach in regulation without a gargantuan drive. The green sits atop the same hill as the Black's 18th and 16th tees, which gives you some idea of how elevated it is. The closing hole on the out-going side is another killer: 449 yards that bend left around trees and an expansive bunker complex off the tee. The green is surrounded by four very serious traps, too.

Perhaps the most interesting hole on the Red Course is the 13th, where a bunker stretches down the middle of the fairway from about 200 yards off the tee nearly to the green. You have to choose the route you want--right is a wider landing area than the left but leaves you with an approach shot over a huge greenside bunker--and hope for the best. The green is small and heavily contoured, too.

One final note: the Red Course is kept in just as good condition as the Black, with fast, true greens, near-perfect fairways, and clean but tough rough. Like all the courses at Bethpage, the Red is a testament to how good public golf can be.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the