POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – With the Turning Stone Resort Championship returning to Verona, N.Y., we get a chance to check out the brand new Pete Dye golf course nearby. If you can imagine an eccentric sculptor working feverishly, much like a child on a beach molding sand into high mounds, long moats and deep lakes, then adding massive rock constructions until the surface resembles a moonscape of pits and peaks, then you may get some idea of what Pete Dye created at the new Pound Ridge Golf Club in Westchester County.
In fact, the picture should be clear when you reach the bunker-strewn fifth hole, aptly named 'Temptation', a 317-yard par 4.
How much you like the course will largely depend on how well you play it on any particular day. If your target game was on and you were hitting the ball pure, then you might say it's great. If you were shanking and hitting wood and rock, then you would most likely grumble and groan and think it is one of the worst tracks on the planet. Either way, there is nothing ho-hum about this one.
A master of scary holes, Pete Dye has lived up to his moniker, creating yet another 'Dye-abolical' course with enough drama for the entire state.
Pound Ridge Golf Club was a long time coming. Seems the folks in this part of New York weren't sure they liked the idea of a fancy new course in their residential midst. Getting the required permits took about nine years, while construction took another two. The states's only Pete Dye-designed golf course finally opened in 2008.
'[The town] put us through the hoops,' said Ken Wang, owner of the venue's 172 rocky acres, originally the site of a nine-hole course. 'At the end of the day, we have a better product, but it damned near bankrupt the empire.'
More than $40 million was spent building Pound Ridge Golf Club, and if you ask Wang, $39.8 million of that went towards moving granite, marble and schist.
Constructed on the bones of another course, everything you can imagine - from wetlands, rock, steep elevation drops, water, carries and length (7,171 yards from the tips) – is wrapped up in this layout.
Greens are ferociously protected. For example on Pound Ridge Golf Club's fourth hole, a par-3 169-yard carry, you have sprawling and deep, high-lipped bunkers front, center and left, with water on the right. You just have to hit a perfect shot, that's all.
Pound Ridge Golf Club: Between rocks and hard places
It's the rocks that made it so difficult for Dye to get what he wanted and, at the end of the day, it's the rocks that created all the initial buzz.
Take the 15th hole, which features a behemoth boulder on the right side of the green.
'If you hit that rock and it bounces onto the green, you'll say this is a great hole. If it hits the rock and bounces into the swamp, you'll say this is the worst god-damned hole you've ever seen in your life,' Dye said.
The old-hand architect's son and co-designer, Perry Dye, also had a hand in things.
'When we started walking around, we encountered woods so thick it was hard to tell the high and low points. The land and topography of the woods pretty much dictated how it ran. We only changed it three times during construction,' Perry Dye said.
Michael Langkau, Dye's construction manager, said the terrain posed formidable challenge for his team.
'The holes here were the 18 toughest holes to shape in my 20-year career, because of the quantity of rock,' Langkau said.'The 14th hole definitely was the most challenging to build. 20 tons of dynamite and it came out perfect ... I think the blasters ran out of dynamite here.'
As you play around this hilly, very scenic golf course, you may do some blasting yourself - like on the 14th, one of the longer driving holes, requiring you to nail your shot over a ravine and rocks to reach the fairway.
According to Pound Ridge Golf Club superintendent Will Heintz, 'It will take a couple more years for grasses to grow in,' but already the fescue, blue grass, and bent grass on tees and fairways is giving the course its character. 106 bunkers add a tremendous feel to the course, while 14,000 feet of rock walls surround trees, wetlands and water hazards.
Pound Ridge Golf Club: The verdict
From the tips, the course measures a formidable 7,171 yards, but five sets of tees make it playable for higher handicappers.
Pound Ridge's tees are also classified by handicap. For example, the back 'Black' tees are recommended for those with handicaps of up to 4, while the forward 'Pine' tees, at 4,965 yards, are suggested for those with handicaps of 29 and more.
No housing developments are planned for this 7,085-yard track which, at $105 to $235 for the green fee with a cart, is more expensive than any other public course in the area (seasonal plans are available).
Still, Pound Ridge Golf Club fills an important niche for those seeking a high-end golf experience in northern Westchester without an initiation fee.
And what makes this one different from other Dye courses?
'It's the land,' said Dye. 'It's spectacular.'