always nice when local government has the foresight to undertake a project that will benefit residents now and for years to come.
So hats off to Westchester County officials for their wisdom in creating Hudson Hills Golf Course, one of the finest municipal tracks built in the Northeast during the past decade.
Opened four years ago Hudson Hills Golf Course (designed by the renowned architect Mark Mungeam) in New Castle, N.Y. is drawing visitors from miles around and is well worth an hour or so drive north from the Garden State. The county-owned course, managed by Billy Casper Golf, offers a superb routing. The holes here vary from open, or “links style,” to those that are woodland and parkland in nature.
“We are starting to draw quite a few golfers from the New York City area and Bergin County in New Jersey,” Mike Marvin, head pro and assistant general manager told me during a recent visit. “The course is filling in nicely and we’re always working on it to improve conditions and playability.”
The staff has planted a number of new trees to help frame some of the more open fairways on this delightfully quirky layout, and there are plans to fill in a large waste area on the brutal par-five 15th hole. Turf conditions are very good, especially considering the amount of play the course receives and the challenging, hilly topography.
Marvin told me that Hudson Hills hosted around 32,000 rounds last year and is about two percent ahead of that total this season. County residents pay extremely reasonable greens fees and non-county residents can enjoy this unique routing for modest fees.
In fact, the course will be offering a twilight rate of $65 (1 p.m. and after) Monday through Thursday beginning Oct. 1 and $75 Friday through Sunday. You can access a senior special of $65 for 18, a cart, danish and coffee Monday through Thursday any time of the year.
Hudson Hills is not your dumbed down municipal course. A number of holes are on the tight side and there are plenty of bunkers, forced carries and high rough areas to cause trouble for stray shots. The track can best be described as a shot maker’s paradise. You have to think out club selection and shot placement on almost every hole, both from the tee and on approaches to the modest-sized, undulating greens. A number of the putting surfaces are elevated, which further complicates matters. Water comes into play on several holes.
There are a number of great holes at Hudson Hills, which measures almost 7,000 yards from the tips with three other sets of tees.
The second hole, a 530-yard par-five, looks daunting from the tee. The drive must clear a natural area the stretches about 100 yards out from the tee box and be played to the right to avoid wetlands to the left of the fairway. The second shot needs to be struck accurately to a lay up area in front of a small pond that guards the front and right of the green.
Number four, a 456-yard par four, starts from a severely elevated tee box and winds down to a sloping green that is well guarded by bunkers.
Number six, a 155-yard par-three, is a really sweet short hole. The tee shot is from an elevated tee box with the green sitting in a swale and protected by a pond to the left and bunkers. Don’t let your attention wander or an easy par can turn into bogey or worse.
The 564-yard seventh is a great par-five that demands a strong tee shot down the right side of a hill and a determined second shot over wetlands to a rather small landing area. The second shot is made more difficult by the fairway that slopes severely from right to left. An uneven lie caused my seemingly well-struck approach to drift slightly off to the right and into some very dense grass. The ball was never seen again.
Better have eaten your Wheaties if you are playing the tips when the back nine comes around for this is where Hudson Hills picks up in distance. Four par fours play over 400 yards and three, the 13th, 17th and 18th, are over 450 yards in length from the back tees.
Number 10 is a funky par-five that measures 521 yards from the black tees. You can cut the corner to the right of this dogleg that bends severely downhill to the green. But push it right and you’re lost. The safe play is a fairway wood to the top of the landing area and then a lay up in front of a stream or a strong three-wood over the trouble to the green.
Another example of Hudson Hills’ cool quirkiness is the 458-yard par-four 17th. You’ll need a strong tee ball to get to the approach area. You will want to take at least one more club to find a dramatically elevated green that is hidden from sight from the fairway.
The 18th, at 453 yards, is a tough finishing hole and calls for a lusty tee shot followed by a mid- or long-iron to a slightly elevated green.
The course has a rating of 73.3 and a slope of 129 from the back markers, both of which seem too low for the overall difficulty of the course. Especially on the first visit it may be wiser to play the second set of tees down, which measure 6,323 yards. After walking off the layout you’ll want to come back for more, as this is a course that must be played several times before you can dial in the ideal club for each shot you face.
“It’s a playable course if you manage your game,” said Marvin. “But there are a lot of penalties out there if you hit the ball in the wrong place. And the rough has been grown pretty high which can cause problems. It’s a challenging but fun course to play.”
I couldn’t agree more. Hudson Hills Golf Course is a short drive to a very memorable round.For more information: 914-864-3000 or visit www.hudsonhillsgolf.com.