Sleepy Hollow Country Club
New York, United States of America

Eleventh hole, 435 yards, Ichabod’s Elbow; One characteristic that Macdonald and Tillinghast both shared as architects is the uncanny ability to build up a green pad and yet have it fit naturally into its immediate environs. Issues like where the fill came from are never pondered because the green rises so seamlessly from the fairway.

Once bland and void of interest, the greenside bunkering at the eleventh is among the deepest on the course. In actuality, the bunkers are at grade with the surrounding land and their depth is created by the built-up green pad. Tillinghast built this one, though Macdonald could easily have been its architect too.

Give Green Keeper Tom Leahy and his crew enormous credit for maintaining the area between holes nine and eleven in such a manner as to highlight the property’s rugged charm.

Twelfth hole, 535 yards, Double Plateau; Over two hundred yards in length was added to the course as a part of the work carried out from 2005 through 2007. Amazingly, the overall green to tee walk was actually reduced in this process. One way Hanse and Bahto accomplished that feat was here, where they created an entirely new green complex, nearly one hundred yards closer to the next tee than how Tillinghast had the holes configured. In their re-design, the twelfth became a par five that sweeps to the left as opposed to Tillinghast’s long, straight par four. Afforded the opportunity to build a new green, Hanse and Bahto built one of Macdonald’s favorites, a Double Plateau. In addition to shortening the green to tee walk, another benefit of converting the par four twelfth into a par five was that it broke up the series of tough par fours found at holes eight, nine, eleven, and thirteen. In the process, the new twelfth with its call for a finesse approach to a classically fun Macdonald green adds to the course’s variety.

The back plateau is visible behind George Bahto, with the other plateau being front right on the newly created elevated, 6,200 square foot twelfth green.
Thirteenth hole, 410 yards, Sleepy Hollow; Of the eighteen fairway bunkers added during the redesign, none were impaled upon the landscape. Rather, Bahto spent days upon days walking the course, getting to know the subtle rolls and ground permutations. A case in point is here at the thirteenth, where he cut a long cross hazard into a ridge line. Much to the Club’s credit, they allowed Bahto total access to the property throughout the scope of this project, thus allowing him to capitalize on the site’s natural attributes.
Note the ridge line coming into the photograph from the left and how…

…Hanse and Bahto cut a fifteen yard wide bunker into this existing landform.

Fourteenth hole, 415 yards, Spines; It’s a sad day when a hole that now measures over 400 yards can be considered a short par four but that’s the mess we find ourselves in with technology. Nonetheless, this clever placement hole is made by its little green, which is much longer than it is wide. Hence, hitting the tee ball directly in line with the spine of the green is the play; otherwise, as you approach the narrow green from an angle, the shot gets progressively difficult.

The fourteenth green represents one of the smallest – and hardest to hit – targets on the course. At its widest, the green is only seventeen yards across.

Fifteenth hole, 500 yards, Punchbowl; Not a single modern architect would build this hole today; more is the pity as it is a fantastic Alps hole. Sometime after World War II, this hole was converted to a par five of 520 yards with a tee well back up the hill from the fourteenth green. The vast majority of the members were left with a pitching wedge into the punchbowl green, a terrible waste as such a shot takes out the fun of using the downward slope of the land prior to the green to feed their approach shots onto it. By moving the tee much closer to the fourteenth tee, not only was another long green to tee walk greatly reduced but the fifteenth was returned to a par four as Macdonald originally had it. Once again, the golfer must finely gauge how to play his long approach shot and how to best use the land. Such a design attribute, though most admirable, is sadly all but gone from most modern designs.

The short right and long left bunkers sit perfectly upon the sloping land. At over fifty yards in width, the fairway is appropriately one of the widest on the course. Though the approach is blind, perhaps aimed at the tall tree in the distance, the thrill of…

…scampering to the crest of the hill to see where the ball lies within the punchbowl green is undeniable. Once again, the land before the green is crucial to playing the hole well.

Sixteenth hole, 150 yards, Short; One of the most photographed holes in the northeast of the United States has been returned to its original glory. Just a few years ago, the green surrounds suffered from artificial mounds and small bunkers, totally out of place with the grandeur of its setting. The hole looked fussy, but mercifully, Hanse and Bahto’s work has been done in a manner to compliment, as opposed to compete, with nature. Coupled with the wind and some of the best interior green contours on the course, this is far from just a glamour hole.

No hype required when a hole enjoys a setting like this. The task on this Short hole is clear as the tee and green are located along two ridges, which are separated by a deep gorge.


This pre-restoration photograph shows a more cluttered hole, with small bunkers and mounds adding little golf value while distracting one’s eye from the glorious setting.

The shadowing on the green showing its contours helps explain why this hole location is quite difficult to which to get close.

Seventeenth hole, 445 yards, Hudson; Giving a hole that falls this sharply downhill good golfing qualities is difficult. Hanse and Bahto worked well with what the terrain offered, focusing their attention on the green site and building a long serpentine right bunker to frustrate golfers that stray right off the tee.

The view from the tee and the long, right greenside bunker are the highlights of the seventeenth.

Eighteenth hole, 425 yards, Woodlea; The Home hole plays nearly forty yards longer than its yardage suggests as both the tee ball and approach are played uphill and are guaranteed to get little roll. A monstrous amount of time and effort was spent on the greenside bunkers and site drainage in giving the golfer more of a fairway area to land their second shot. So good is the work done here that no one would ever guess that nearly one thousand cubic yards of fill was brought in.

Uphill all the way, the eighteenth is the toughest hole to par on the course. Vanderbilt’s estate house provides the backdrop.

Though the above course description may sound perfect, work still remains. The tenth is now out-of-place with its all-water carry to a rock-lined green. Perhaps the tenth at Chicago Golf Club, which also plays over a pond, can serve as a model. C.B. Macdonald first built the hole at Chicago in 1892 and it is one of the few holes that his protege Seth Raynor elected to keep when he re-did the course in 1922. Ben Crenshaw calls it ‘one of the most fun to play’ because its imaginative green contours of two shallow bowls divided by a ridge create so many interesting hole locations. Indeed, such a move by the Club would solve the only other remaining weakness of the course, which is that the interior green contours are presently good without being great. Added character to a few greens such as the tenth in keeping with Macdonald’s style would complete the course’s return to the upper echelon of the small, select family of Macdonald courses.

Even as Sleepy Hollow presses ahead with getting such detail work right, the thing most golfers will appreciate is the wonderful variety of its holes in a setting devoid of outside interference. In particular, its three holes along the ridge line (i.e. the fifth, fifteenth, and sixteenth) are as exhilarating as can be found in inland golf.

As more people get to enjoy the work that has been completed here, Sleepy Hollow’s reputation will grow and grow, even in the golf rich area surrounding New York City. Though it will never be the toughest or the most famous course in Westchester County, it may perhaps become viewed as the most inspiring course for a game, with traditionalists delighting in heading straight here whenever possible.

The End