For the last three years I have made an annual pilgrimage to New York for a summer golf trip. The first year I played one Top 100 course, the next year I played two and this year I was going to try for three. Quaker Ridge was one of the places I really wanted to play but I didn’t have any contacts. Unlike some of the other New York area Top 100 courses, Quaker Ridge keeps a very low profile. There have been no majors contested there and it is considered a bit of a hidden treasure – so much so that the course’s nickname is “Tillie’s Treasure” after the architect A.W. Tillinghast. Because the course flies under the radar I was having some trouble with it. I ended up contacting a golf friend in New Jersey and he put me in touch with Matt, a member at Quaker Ridge. Matt and I exchanged email and he very kindly agreed to host my New York compadre, Jay, and me for a game there.
When the day arrived that we were to play Jay and I made a short drive from his house in Harrison over to Scarsdale where Quaker Ridge is located. After parking the car we were directed to the locker room where we quickly changed into our golf shoes. Around the clubhouse Quaker Ridge has the feel of a club with an active membership. There were people coming and going, the parking lot was full, groups were eating in the dining room and in general there was a lively feel to the place. I like that. Once we were finished in the locker room we headed over to the pro shop to meet up with Matt and his father Steve, also a member, who was joining us as our 4th player. Once we were all together we went straight to the first tee box and started the game.
The first thing that Matt and Steve warned us about was the out of bounds (O.B.). The first eight holes of the course run along the perimeter of the property and drives hit right will more often than not result in a reload and hitting the third shot off the tee. It doesn’t come into play much on the 1st and 5th holes but on 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 OB is a very real threat. I didn’t know it yet, but I was soon to find out that while I had been sleeping the night before something must have gone terribly wrong with my golf swing because for the entire day I fought a severe slice.
After knocking my drives O.B. on the 2nd and 3rd holes I was determined not to do so on the 4th which we played as a 384 yard par 4. As shown in the photo below the hole falls from left to right so with the ball flight I experienced on the previous two holes I was in serious jeopardy of yet another OB tee shot. After contact my drive started careening wildly to the right and for a moment threatened OB before nestling itself deep down into the rough. At least I was in play!
The approach shot on this hole is a bit intimidating. Shots missed to the left will result in a very difficult third shot. You can’t see it in the photo below but there is a seriously deep drop off on the left side with a bunker at the bottom that is not very fun to hit out of.
In the photo below of the 4th green you can see the bunker that I was referring to above. Not only did I mange to hit my ball in there but it cozied up right under the lip. Splendid!
The 5th hole is a nice little par 3 over water that we played at 151 yards. Note the stone wall fronting the green in the photo below. Westchester County is full of stone walls, so it only makes sense that a golf course here should have a few of its own.
The 6th hole which we played from 434 yards is the toughest on the course and also one of the best. This is a great hole that doglegs right, plays slightly downhill and has a creek along the left side waiting to gobble up wayward drives. A lateral hazard on the left? That doesn’t scare me! When I can get a stroke AND distance penalty on the right why on Earth would I want to hit it on the left? That would be just plain foolish. Of course I hit it right, but my trusty caddie was onto me by this point and had strategically positioned himself on the right side and quickly found my ball as it dropped near the out of bounds markers. The photo below was taken walking up to the 6th green.
I also loved the 7th hole also which is a dogleg right that we played from 419 yards. As you can see in the photo below of the approach shot below, my bag is on the right side of the fairway. Despite my ball’s valiant effort to fly off the reservation I did just barely manage to keep it on the property this time. This is a great hole and the third most difficult on the course. Note that this approach shot plays uphill making it a bit longer than what the scorecard says. Lots of bunkers on this hole.
Speaking of bunkering, one of the things Matt told us is that Quaker Ridge is undergoing a fairly significant restoration. Note I’m saying restoration and not renovation. The club is using historic documents and information to bring back many of the bunkers that have been removed and filled in over the years. They are not trying to update or change the course but bring it back to its original glory instead. This is great and will result in fantastic course being even better.
The 8th hole is the last one with a real threat of OB on the right. My extreme determination to keep my ball on the course and fly the bunker in the middle of the fairway did nothing for me in the way of actually accomplishing this task. Of course the second ball (my third shot) I piped down the fairway and had a wedge into the green. Why is it that the second guy is always so much better than the first?? Short par 4s are my favorite type of holes in golf and I really liked the 8th hole here at Quaker Ridge. We played it from 335 yards and it was straight up hill. In the photo below you can see how the green is slightly tucked away. Being on the right side of the fairway results in a much more friendly approach shot.
For me, one of the things that gives golf courses personality are their unique quirks. Maybe the halfway hut is after the 10th hole instead of the 9th or maybe there are more par 3s or par 5s than are standard. It could be back to back short par 4s, back to back par 5s or in Quaker Ridge’s case back to back par 3s.
The 9th hole and the 10th hole are both par 3s at Quaker Ridge with the former being a shortish shot of 143 yards from the middle tees and the latter being 186 yards from the middle tees. In the photo below taken from the 9th tee you can see that the green is pushed up a bit and is surrounded by deep bunkers. In other words, plenty of trouble for tee shots that don’t find the very small putting surface.
By the way, if you have any suggestions for the club you are welcome to put them in the suggestion box located near the halfway hut between the 9th and 10th holes. Good luck!
In the photo below of the 10th hole you can see that it is a healthy shot of nearly 190 yards to get to the green. Amazingly all four of us managed to hit the green with our tee shots. Steve who has been a member here for quite some time couldn’t ever recall playing in a group where that had happened. After hitting three balls OB on the first nine holes I hoped that this was a sign of better things to come for me.
Walking from the 10th tee to green you can’t help but notice a very old looking and craggly oak tree. This tree is an important part of the history of the property. The tale goes that George Washington slept under this tree in October of 1776 while General Howe and his troops were camped about a mile and a half away on land owned by Quakers. The next day Washington and his troops marched to White Plains where they were outnumbered and ultimately defeated by Howe. Luckily for those of us residing in the U.S. Washington narrowly managed to escape into New Jersey which in effect kept the rebellion alive. Thank goodness! I’m not really big on afternoon tea and crumpets (though I do enjoy calling people governor) so I’m quite glad that old George managed to avoid capture. As you can see in the photo below, the tree is dead today but I don’t think it will be coming down anytime soon with a history like that.
The 11th hole is a slight dogleg left par 4 that we played from 372 yards. This is a really fantastic hole that I did not get a chance to photograph very well. I was having some problems during the round and ended up not getting near as many photos as I usually do. The photo below was taken walking up to the green. Another example of the great stone work here.
The 14th hole is a great par 5 that we played from 508 yards. It is all up hill and has a treacherous bunker complex on the left hand side where I spent a little time. It was on this hole that I really noticed how well suited the topography here is for golf. There is a lot of variety to the land and Tillinghast really routed a great course through the property. The photo below is the 14th green which has a very interesting ridge running through the middle of it meaning that a three putt is a very strong possibility if your approach shot ends up on the opposite side of the green from the hole.
The 15th hole is a mid length par 4 that played 375 yards from our tees. There is a creek that cuts diagonally across the fairway and can cause some trouble on this hole. It does play slightly downhill on the drive so you can pick up a couple of extra yards from that.
Below is a picture of the approach shot to the 15th green. Although the drive played downhill the approach plays slightly uphill you a little extra club is needed here.
The 17th hole is a fun short par 4 that we played from 344 yards. The photo below is of the approach shot which is just a wedge in, but can be trouble if you miss the green.
At the time of this writing A.W. Tillinghast has seven courses in the Top 100 and I have now played 6 of them – all of the ones on the East Coast. Each one is a little different with its own strengths and weaknesses. Quaker Ridge really shines for the routing and the land. There are a bunch of interesting and fun holes that can challenge golfers of all skill levels. I’m a little surprised that the course has not hosted a major or a modern PGA event. It would have no trouble giving a good test to the PGA Tour pros. I suspect that the membership likes to keep their little hidden treasure just that – a hidden treasure. If you get a chance to play here definitely don’t pass it up. Its easy to see why this is a Top 100 course and I’m certain that when the restoration project is finished it is going to be even greater than the course that I saw.