Feature Interview
with
Mark Chalfant
December, 2017

From thirty years of playing, caddying and evaluating architecture for Golfweek Magazine and the Metropolitan Golf Association in the greater New York area I knew that Emmet was an unsung talent. Daniel Wexler’s book Lost Links was an eye opener because he stressed the exceptional variety of holes and idiosyncratic sequence so prevalent in Emmet’s layouts. Even though Women’s National (now known as Glen Head Country Club) was cramped with trees when I caddied there two decades ago I could tell it was a superb layout with nicely paced elevation changes When I read Geoff Shackelford’s February 2001 article in Golfdom Magazine outlining Huntington Country Club’s restoration I became even more intrigued with Emmet. Wexler also stressed the architect’s fondness for short par fours.

The most important source for me over the past five years have been visiting twenty six of Emmet’s existing courses. Also poring over aerial photos usually dated between 1924 to1959. While working on the book I made ninety round trip pilgrimages to these Golden Age layouts. But it was two trips, first to Huntington, Long Island on a raw November morning and a few months later to Bonnie Briar up in Larchmont that made an unforgettable impression and compelled me to write about this imaginative pioneer. At both Huntington and Bonnie Briar built two works of art that play just over 6,300 yards and these rugged layouts have a spellbinding assortment of par fours

Bonnie Briar’s Undulating Eighth

Old magazine articles were essential tools. The Los Angeles Athletic Club website LA84 had several articles that provided essential historical context. Some articles by Marion Hollins were especially helpful. I am grateful to dozens of Emmet fans but Joe Bausch , Jim Kennedy ,Tim Martin and Ian Andrew were especially helpful. Professor Bausch sent me scores of articles from the Brooklyn Eagle and course diagrams in New York World Telegram that were very helpful. Joe’s faithfulness kept me focused when my body and soul were yearning for a binge of rounds at Seth Raynor and Donald Ross courses far afield

Hob Nob Hill Sixth, NLE 549 yards one of Emmet’s greatest 3 shot holes

 

Glen Head’s Third: many fine greens at Marion Hollins’ retreat

Rockville Links

When Emmet first laid eyes on potential site it was a compact and slender 97 acre meadow that had virtually no movement in the ground. Emmet countered with a scintillating bunkering program overflowing with tactical puzzles. The hazards have stunning variety in shape, size and orientation.

Secondly the fill pads and interior contours of the greens are constructed with exceptional nuance. Architect Jim Urbina, Jeff Stein and greens keeper Luke Knutson have done a superb job of recapturing Emmet’s original intent. Emmet’s architecture at Rockville passes a key litmus test: what can be created from a featureless site. Great architects are able to elevate mundane sites. For a student of the game or a prospective golf architect Rockville is an essential destination for pilgrimage.

Hungry bunkers patrol Rockville’s second and third holes.

 

Rockville’s fifteenth: seamless inter play between fairway and hazard shaped by George Waters

Why did Travis go on a bunkering binge at Garden City Golf Club?
From its 1897 nine hole beginning as Island Golf Links Garden City had a solid routing. After the 1902 Open and some other tourneys Walter Travis felt the course played too easy. He rallied members to invest in a bold bunkering plan. In subsequent twenty years there was a lot of back and forth between Travis and Emmet. Emmet outlived Travis by seven years so he had the last word. I like much of the Travis bunkering. It is certainly high in quality, but perhaps a bit overdone in quantity. The brilliant angles via echelons that edify Garden City’s brilliant sixteenth are Emmet’s handiwork

Memorable fairways

Pelham’s Ninth,

Pelham’s ninth, and McGregor’s long sixth spring immediately to mind. All these fairways have a powerful wave like quality. This Bonnie Briar hole is pure Emmet because of the manner its quirky mounding conspires with some tilt that sets up difficult stances. Willow Ridge in Harrison lies only six miles east of Winged Foot, has several holes rising and descending near the clubhouse that are blessed with a combination of elevation change and robust ground movement. One, nine and eighteen are especially strong, even though 7their fairway corridors are parallel.

Willow Ridge: climbing home

His routings demonstrate an inspired integration of native topography and sensitivity to scale which creates procession of unpredictable challenges. This skill holds true whether it was intimate or monumental. The Rockville Links and Bonnie Briar are perfect example of intimate. While McGregor, Wee Burn, and Glen Head are all striking for their broad- shouldered monumentality. Finally Garden City’s ground movement, not bold in the least, has some of my favorite quiet fairways that melt into many greens seamlessly at fairway grade. The tenth and fifteenth, both low profile, are especially well- conceived. The putting surfaces these two holes rely on expansive tilting ground, front to back or side to side for their character.

The Virtues of Huntington Country Club Bunkers:
Several of the hazards are breathtaking, starting with number ten, eleven, fifteen, and sixteen .Golf Architect Ian Andrew considers the bunkering here exemplary
Eleven is a short par four that has mine field protecting the fairway’s right hand side. up ahead, some punishing g traps protect the green. The exuberant plan on sixteen includes eccentric shapes that invade the gently rising fairway. The otherworldly/alien bunker can snare wayward shots on number eleven that which bordersthe sixteenth

Huntington 16: Because of Emmet’s fertile imagination he rarely embraced templates

Candidates for Restoration
The Powelton Club in Balmville, New York twists and turns over rugged terrain. A few refreshed bunkers and prudent tree management, to open picturesque vistas , would elevate this 6,189 yard course into Emmet’s upper echelon. Ridgewood in Danbury, Connecticut with a hilly routing features precarious green sites, a winding brook, plus side hill approaches to small targets. Retooling the ponderous twenty first century bunkers, to their proper size and configuration will add authenticity and coherence to this scenic golf course.

Wee Burn is a well preserved masterpiece with a fine ensemble of par fours, and stretch form eleven through fourteen ,winding around near a creek, is one of his finest. It would be fabulous if a few of the original centerline bunkers were restored .Pelham Country Club is beautifully presented by greens keeper Jeff Wentworth. It’s a sporty course with many good holes and vintage greens. The long and flat third fairway originally had a looping stream that crossed this hole twice. There was also a well- placed fairway bunker. The stream beds are still intact!. Properly restored Pelham’s Third would become one of the best par fives in Westchester County.

Powelton

Was St. George’s” Emmet’s own National Golf Links of America and did he spend the most time working there than any other layout?

The National Golf Links of America is Macdonald’s personal version of St. Georges- Not really !
Emmet owned a wonderful estate near Saint George’s but he also had a home in Cooperstown. He took extended trips to Europe nearly every year when even when his business was thriving. He was an accomplished golfer, cultural patron, and expert huntsman. St. Georges is a superb golf course that he lavished great attention on but he also did the same at Meadow Brook, McGregor and Garden City. Perhaps the lull of construction between Meadow Brook (1916) and the second nine holes at Leatherstocking (1919) caused by World War One provided some extra investment of time at the Setauket masterpiece

The sixth green at St Georges ( from behind left ) slides away from the golfer

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