I have been incredibly lucky in my Top 100 travels. It’s pretty hard to believe that I was more than 70% through my journey before I had my first rain out. A few years back I received a kind invitation to visit Hudson National Golf Club from a member and we made it through 9 1/2 holes before the skies opened up and began dumping rain on us. It was disappointing to have to go home without having seen the entire course, but I knew I would be back in the New York area and I would have other opportunities so I didn’t sweat it as much as I would have a rain out in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
After the rain out my host Geoff and I exchanged emails on a number of occasions over the next year or so to try and get something on the books, but it took us a little longer than expected. Finally our schedules lined up and we were able to find a date that worked for both of us.
I had been at Baltusrol the day before so it was a simple drive north from there for my next round at Hudson National. My best buddy Jay who now lives in London is a member at Westchester Country Club and he arranged for me to stay in the hotel there even though he was not there. I behaved very well and restrained from pulling an Irwin Fletcher on his charge account (“Put it on the Underhills!”) which is something I’m sure he is appreciative of.
The next morning I peeled out of Westchester CC at the crack of dawn for the 30 minute drive to Hudson National. Driving into the club there is a very steep uphill road which hints at the type of terrain that will be encountered on the golf course. The club actually sits on the second highest point in all of Westchester County and the site was used by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War to keep an eye on the British Fleet as they came up the Hudson River. Pretty cool.
Upon arrival I ran into Geoff by the caddie master stand and we headed into the locker room to get ready for our game. Despite Hudson National having opened in 1996 the clubhouse is a gorgeous old stone residence that was built in 1911 and gives the club a much older and historic vibe than one would expect for a modern club. Once we were ready for our game we headed outside where we met up with two of Geoff’s friends and headed to the 1st tee. We elected to play the Blue/White combo tees which are a distance of 6,676 yards and play to a par of 71. Once the group in front of us cleared the fairway we were off.
Hole 1 – 460 Yards – Par 4
The opening hole is a gorgeous view from an elevated tee box. Fortunately the hole does play downhill because at 460 yards this is a beast of a hole. The bunkers on the left are in play off the tee and a big drive that hits the fairway might get a little help from the hill and pick up some extra yards.
A view into the 1st green. Avoid the bunkers on the left. They are quite a bit deeper than this photo would indicate.
Hole 2 – 173 Yards – Par 3
Next we have a mid length one shot hole with a fairly good sized green. Playing to the center or right side of the putting surface is the safe shot.
Hole 3 – 431 Yards – Par 4
The 3rd hole is another long par 4 that plays downhill as well. The drive is to a blind landing zone and the caddies go out ahead to provide a good line for their players.
Below is the shot into the green from the left rough. Missing this green will make for a tough up and down. The left side of the green is a fairly severe drop off and those bunkers are quite a bit bigger and deeper than they appear in the photo.
Hole 4 – 356 Yards – Par 4
This short par 4 is a good opportunity to try and make a good score after the two long par 4s. Driver is not necessary here, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that distance will be lost to the incline so hitting driver may be necessary to have a wedge into the green.
A view of the green from about 60 yards out.
Hole 5 – 427 Yards – Par 4
Next to the tee box on the 5th hole we have an interesting feature. In the early 1900s the site was home of the Hessian Hills clubhouse which had a 9 hole course on the property. The clubhouse “accidentally” burned down during The Depression and all that is left is the foundation and chimneys. I thought it was pretty cool.
The 5th hole is another long par 4 that plays more than 400 yards, but again, it plays downhill so there is some bonus yardage available. The landing zone for the drive feels very tight from the tee box. Despite its length I actually hit a 3 wood off the tee just to be safe.
Here is a look at the approach shot into the green. As can be seen in the photo below the hole runs all the way downhill so it plays considerably shorter and my 3 wood off the tee didn’t really hurt me all that much.
Hole 6 – 530 Yards – Par 5
The first par 5 on the course is a fairly lengthy one and with the hole playing uphill I doubt this one gets hit in two shots very often. Note the pond on the right side of the hole. Its the only water on the entire course and only touches two holes. As can be seen here it is not really all that much in play.
A view into the green from about 120 yards out.
Hole 7 – 385 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a par 4 with a drive to a blind landing zone again. The bunkers on the right are in play so the fairway or left side of the hole is going to be preferable.
The downhill shot into the green.
Hole 8 – 161 Yards – Par 3
This nifty little one shotter is pretty straight forward and not an exceptionally long shot. The green is two tiered so gauging the correct distance on the tee shot is helpful to making par or better.
Hole 9 – 554 Yards – Par 5
I liked this hole a lot. I love a hole that calls for a shaped shot off the tee. I don’t typically have that kind of command over the ball so its particularly gratifying when it happens. Just in case you were wondering, it didn’t happen here.
Here is a look into the green which has a narrow entry for the elite players who try to reach this green in two. There is no rolling it up onto the putting surface here.
Hole 10 – 370 Yards – Par 4
To start off the back nine we have a nice par 4 with a bit of a dogleg right. There are lots of bunkers in play off the tee so something down the middle is going to be key here.
A look at the approach shot into the green. Shots that come up short from this angle will likely fall victim to the bunkers protecting the green.
Hole 11 – 174 Yards – Par 3
This shot looks quite a bit more intimidating than it actually is. It’s really just a mid iron to a fairly wide open green without much trouble around it. If you can get past the intimidation factor and swing smoothly it shouldn’t be much trouble.
Hole 12 – 503 Yards – Par 5
Here we have a shortish par 5 that is situated in a sea of fescue grass. Hitting driver will give many players a chance to reach the green in two, but getting off line and hitting into the fescue can mean a lost ball.
A look into the green from about 160 yards out. More nasty fescue on the left side of the green. This is stuff that should be avoided at all costs.
Hole 13 – 193 Yards – Par 3
Next we have a bit longer one shot hole than the previous ones that we have seen. There are a few bunkers up there so finding the putting surface with the tee shot is certainly helpful.
Hole 14 – 530 Yards – Par 5
Here we have a good sized par 5 that is going to take 3 shots for most players to reach the green. The hole disappears down the hill and then bends to the right a slight bit.
Here is a look into the green from the top of the hill. You have to be a seriously good player and a little crazy to attempt to reach this green in two.
Hole 15 – 443 Yards – Par 4
Three of the four closing holes are absolute beasts and this is the first of that group at 443 yards this par four is as demanding as they come. Hit it long and straight for a chance at par here.
The green is fronted by a gaggle of fescue covered bunkers. Don’t be short on the approach shot here!
Hole 16 – 224 Yards – Par 3
Wow, that flag looks like its a million miles away in the photo below. This hole requires a big shot to reach the green, but it should be noted that there is room to miss short.
Hole 17 – 325 Yards – Par 4
Next we have the one hole that offers a reprieve from the finishing grind. This short par 4 requires landing a drive on a fairly narrow fairway, but at only 325 yards hitting driver is not necessary at all.
Here is view into the green from about 90 yards out.
Hole 18 – 437 Yards – Par 4
The closing hole is one final shot at making a good score on a long par 4. Not only is this hole long, but the approach plays up hill so the yardage on the card is pretty true to what the hole plays. The bunkers are in play off the tee so something down the middle is going to be best.
A view into the green from the right rough about 120 yards out. Add a little club for the uphill.
After holing out we headed up to the clubhouse for a little lunch and a post mortem of the round. Although I never like having a rain out, it was nice to have played the front nine previously as you always get a better feel for a course when you see it more than once. My overwhelming impression of Hudson National is a very positive one. I think the course offers a variety of holes and also has a character that is not typical of a course built in the late 20th century. Its my understanding that a lot of work was done to the site in order to build the golf course, but it didn’t feel like it to me. By and large I thought the course had a great feel to it, a lot of fun and interesting holes and I would actually say that it is underrated on the current Golf Digest Top 100 list. All in all I’d say that Hudson National is an excellent course and worthy of its distinction among the best in the country.
Despite having a long drive back to Virginia I wasn’t in a real hurry to leave. Its hard to get excited about 8 hours of windshield time after spending a great day on a great golf course with a fun group of guys. Thats what this Top 100 thing is all about. 95 down and 5 to go. Next stop Canyata Golf Club in Marshall, Illinois.