Wykagyl Country Club
New Rochelle, New York
United States of America

Thirteenth hole, 210 yards; One-shotters are a particularly effective design tool for getting a golfer from one side of a valley to the other. Three of Wykagyl’s five one-shotters (four, seven and here) do just that with this being the most dramatic. Similar to the 7th, the green features a sharp back to front tilt. At tournament speeds, Green Keeper Dan Rogers is loath to use the front two thirds (!) of the green as balls can roll from the green’s middle thirty yards off. More than wicked interior contours, the greens at Wykagyl challenge via pitch and cant. In general, the eye can determine the proper play from well back by studying the green surrounds. Some modern architects get too fanciful with multi-tiered greens whose movements are detached from their surrounds and the game devolves into one of hit and hope. Not at Wykagyl.

This green follows the slope of the land and tee balls that aren’t fifteen paces into the twenty eight yard deep green can be funneled down and off.

Fourteenth hole, 400 yards; Van Etten’s feel for the land was exemplary and is seen throughout many of his remaining holes (and even his defunct par 5 18th). Here, he pointed the tees toward the perimeter and turned the fairway to run alongside. By so doing, he captured a ‘saddle’ in the fairway that subtlety but substantially impacts play. That’s what talented architects do – find minute features and embed them into play. This hole is another reminder of how fortunate the original members were that he laid out their course.

The tiger tries to carry the last bunker on the right. If successful, he is granted a view of the flag and maybe the green. A more cautious line off the tee leaves the golfer low in a saddle with less encouraging prospects.

Another false front puts strain on the nerves as does a central ‘puff’ that Coore floated into the green. This green joins 4, 7, and 18 for having received the most attention from Coore & Crenshaw.

Coore & Crenshaw’s deep bunkers cut into the green’s base are better aligned to the green than their predecessors.

Fifteenth hole, 340 yards; Managing greed is central to a successful round at Wykagyl. In 1998 this hole was 362 yards on a course that measured 6,702 yards. Today, the layout is just under 6,700 yards, largely, because the club board was shrewd enough to agree with Coore & Crenshaw’s plan to shorten this hole by 20 yards. Sadly, not many architects and not many clubs are savvy enough to subtract length in this age. As Coore notes, ‘The hole that we encountered was one that required two completely defensive shots, one from the tee and one to the green. Trees hung over the left and acted to steer the golfer toward safety. We thought the hole would be better presented if it was allowed to lure the player into more trouble by enticing him to drive on or close to the green. Hence, we thought the reduced length would add character.’ Coore & Crenshaw changed this hole more than any other on the course, taking it from one of the three or four worst to one of the three or four best. Indeed, some folks compare it favorably to Tillinghast’s famed little beauty, fifteen at nearby Fenway Country Club.

Today’s fifteenth features a sea of short grass right and a flag left.

As seen from high right, the green’s axis aligns with the fairway’s left center.

The green’s false front and false side make the sight of a right front hole location one of dread. Today’s one on the ever narrowing back plateau isn’t comforting either.

A pull or hook with a driver is an unwanted outcome. Like all top notch architecture, the golfer is now wooed on the 15th into bad decisions despite the copious amount of room provided to play prudently. It’s Coore & Crenshaw at their irritating best.

Sixteenth hole, 225 yards; A muscular hole with everything laid before the golfer but none the easier for it. A rock ledge provides clear optics to the green at the base of a second outcropping. Sixteen begs the golfer to manufacture some sort of low running shot as the fairway gradually and seamlessly turns into a putting surface, where puffs, bowls and plateaus  await. These features rather than length made it play the hardest hole in relation to par during the 2013 Ike Championship.

Looking back toward the elevated tee, the long sixteenth is one of the most interesting shots to watch play out …

… along the ground. Talk about a great course to be a member – every green save for the 18th is open in front. Golfers can learn the game as well as finish playing here with equal delight.

Seventeenth hole, 355 yards; Just when you think you might have seen it all comes the course’s other most unique hole. Like the 9th, the author is quite taken by how two unconventional holes come late on each side. Both provide a sense of the rambunctious land and offer something more interesting than a straightforward, text book examination (yawn). Tillinghast moved Van Etten’s green some 60 yards left and snuggled it against the property’s boundary. A perfectly executed bullet draw turns the corner and scampers downhill as much as 60 (!) yards. Accomplished players seek a spot ~70 yards short left of the green from where they are afforded a reasonably level stance. Any course with five reachable par fives favors the golfer who can move his tee ball. At Wykagyl the man that can construct the perfect tee ball is amply rewarded but here it is because he is crafty rather than prodigiously long.

The 17th starts off peacefully for the first two hundred yards before …

… plunging left and carreening downhill to a green 40 feet below. Coore & Crenshaw reconfigured the deep greenside bunkers so that the none-too-big 17th green is a surprisingly elusive target for a hole of such modest length.

The Home hole is nobody’s favorite on the course. Featuring a level fairway between two water hazards and a daunting uphill approach that requires perfection, the hole isn’t in keeping with the attributes spread across the other seventeen holes. Less than 3,500 sq. ft. in size, the target is not only the smallest on the course but it is the only one that doesn’t offer ground access. While the out-of-character nature of the Home is regrettable, most matches end before the final hole anyway. Indeed, the disproportionate emphasis placed by some Americans on the Home hole is not something to which the author subscribes.

Coore & Crenshaw’s work lends the course continuity with a single voice that any course would benefit from. Though many other architects worked here, notably Robert White who deserves credit for the location of the 8th and 12th greens in the 1920s, it is Van Etten’s backbone and Ross and Tillinghast’s modifications that give the course its flavor. Its overall design appears Golden Age without reminding one of a particular architect. And that’s very neat.

For Coore’s part, the only course with valleys that flow in and out of one another in a remotely similar fashion is the West Course at Yokohama in Japan. As for the design, Coore thinks it enjoys hints of Perry Maxwell’s Old Town in Winston Salem. Coore sums up Wykagyl as follows, ‘A great routing has emerged over time with holes weaving over hills, through valleys, and across creeks. How they got all the holes in there is amazing and it is one of the most interesting designs I have ever seen on severe property. When I think of Wykagyl, the word ‘interesting’ always springs to mind – interesting land, interesting hazards and interesting holes. It is easy to make a course hard; it is a far greater challenge to make a course interesting and that’s what they have done at Wykagyl.’

The End