The Itinerant Golfer

The Itinerant Golfer's Take on Westchester Country Club (South)

Westchester Country Club (South)

Architect: Walter Travis
Year: 1922

99 Biltmore Avenue, Rye, New York 10580
(914) 967-6000

driving range available
motorized golf carts and caddies available
on-site accommodations

In 2009 I started a little tournament with three of my friends that we call the Fred Ridley Cup. It’s pretty ridiculous how seriously we take it, but there’s a trophy and a lot of bragging rights at stake so no one really wants to lose. In 2009 through 2011 we held the 72 hole Ryder Cup inspired tournament at my club in Virginia, but in 2012 we decided to take the show on the road and visit Westchester Country Club in Rye, NY. My very good friend Jay, who I have often mentioned on this site is a member there and would be our host.

Westchester Country Club was the vision of John McEntee Bowman. Mr. Bowman was a Canadian who came to New York as a 17 year old kid and used his entrepreneurial skills to become wildly successful in the hotel business. As the founding president of the Biltmore hotel group, one of the largest and most luxurious hotel chains in the world at the beginning of the 20th century, Mr. Bowman intended for Westchester Country Club to be his flagship hotel project.

The original plan was for members of the club to live in the hotel and in homes that would be scattered around the club’s property. The club would provide meal delivery, maids, gardeners, auto mechanics and any other services that the members might need. Mr. Bowman secured the land and set into the motion his plan by building the hotel, two 18 hole golf courses, a 9 hole par 3 course, tennis (including grass courts), squash, polo, swimming, boating, shooting, winter sports and just about anything else imaginable.

Mr. Bowman hired the great amateur golfer and golf course architect Walter Travis to route the two golf courses and the Philadelphia firm of Toomey & Flynn to actually build the course. In May of 1922 the courses both ready for play and the club officially opened. With almost 1500 members joining immediately the club was off to a great start!

Today, the club may look a little different than the one Mr. Bowman envisioned, but all of the world class facilities are still there and available to the members. I’m not sure if any members actually live in the hotel, but the club does still run a full service hotel and members have the option of putting their guests up there if they wish. I should also mention that the beach club is located a few miles away from the main club and all of the water based activities take place there. It’s an incredible facility and a great place to hang out on a nice summer night.

Ok, Back to the Ridley Cup. Every year we have the same teams which are Jay and Rob versus Steve and me. We play one alternate shot match, one fourball match and four singles matches for a total of 6 points in play. This year we started off with the alternate match and which was to be played over the South Course. Let me tell you there are few things in golf more nerve wracking than watching your partner for an alternate shot match arrive directly from the airport and walk straight onto the 1st tee. It could be a long round today hitting his shots!!! We decided to play the blue tees which are 6,566 yards and play to a par of 71.

Hole 1 – 392 yards – Par 4
The opening hole is a modest par 4 that makes a slight turn to the left. The photo below was taken from the fairway.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Here is a look at the green. Note the swale on the right side of the flag. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but balls that roll into that area can make for a dicey putt.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Hole 2 – 458 yards – Par 4
This long par 4 is fairly straightforward. there is a bunker on the right side of the fairway and out of bounds on the left so hitting the fairway is definitely the best way to make par here.
Westchester Country Club South Course
With the hole being so long its nice that the front of the green is open so there is a chance to roll a ball onto the green. The front of the green is a little uphill but with a hybrid or fairway wood shot balls that come up short may be able to still reach the putting surface.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Hole 3 – 496 yards – Par 5
I really like this par 5. The tee ball is best played down the middle or the right side of the fairway. the hole drops off and turns left, so a well positioned drive will leave the best angle into the green. It is reachable in two for many players.
Westchester Country Club South Course
This is a look at the green from the top of the hill where it starts turning left. Note the bunkers on the right side of the photo. They are positioned perfectly to catch balls that are not quite the on the best line to reach the green. Also note that shots that come up short will have a chance of reaching the putting surface with a good bounce on the downhills slope.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Hole 4 – 176 yards – Par 3
This par 3 is what I would call a hero shot. With the water to carry in front it is pretty much a do or die sort of shot. I did play one club less than the yardage to account for the downhill. That was a bit of a nerve wracking decision to make when the flag is at the front and being short is an automatic penalty stroke.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Here is a little more zoomed in look at the green.
Westchester Country Club South Course
And here is a look back up the hill from the green.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Hole 5 – 477 yards – Par 5
With this hole we have a short par 5 that is going to be reachable for a lot of players. The landing area for the tee shot is blind and the hole bends around to the right. For the shortest shot into the green drives should favor the right side of the fairway. Not too far or the tree will cause problems.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Here is a look at the 5th green. It’s not visible in this photo but there is a huge hump in the middle which makes for some very difficult putts for players who have to go over it to reach the hole.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Hole 6 – 424 yards – Par 4
We have another long par 4 at the 6th hole and just about anything in the fairway will set up a good look into the green. Too far to the left can be problematic and the tee box sort of points left so its a good idea to pay close attention to alignment for this drive.
Westchester Country Club South Course
The approach into this hole is a downhill one and doesn’t require quite as much club as the yardage will say. Again, shots that come up short may have a chance of rolling onto the green if the ground is hard enough to provide a good bounce.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Hole 7 – 408 yards – Par 4
I really liked this hole which has a handicap rating that makes it the most difficult hole on the course. A little unusual that I would like the hole so much . . . I usually like the easy holes the best! The fairway tilts from the left to the right so its important to hit the tee shot far enough to the left that the ball will stay in the fairway once it comes to rest. The tree on the right is definitely in play off the tee and it is quite possible to be blocked out on the approach shot by the tree.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Below is a look at the 7th green which runs from back to front.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Hole 8 – 178 yards – Par 3
This testy little one shot hole is a bit of a knee knocker for someone like me who tends to miss with a slice. With a flag on the right side of the green and the water so dangerously in play I did the only thing I thought I could which was intentionally hit a cut and start it out on the left side of the green and hope it worked its way over to the flag.
Westchester Country Club South Course
Unfortunately, this is where the photo tour ends. The Ridley Cup did not start off well for my team with my partner and me down 5 after 5 holes! We just couldn’t get any momentum going. Between the 5th green and 6th tee we had a little pep talk with ourselves and somehow and managed to stop the bleeding. Steve started loosening up from his flight and I started making every putt that I looked at which helped us dig out from the hole we were in. I was having so much fun with our match that I completely forgot to take another photo after the 8th hole. The good news for us was that we managed to come back from that 5 down deficit to win 2 and 1. It was the most epic comeback in Ridley Cup history!

The South Course was the first of the two courses that we played and I really liked it. Originally it had been built as a shorter course that would be more playable for ladies and high handicappers, but back in 2000 the club brought in Ken Dye to add some length and make the South Course a little more appealing to the more proficient golfers. I’d say he succeeded in spades. At 6,566 yards from the back tees the course clearly is not likely to host a significant tournament, but as a members course it’s fantastic. The terrain is great, the variety of holes excellent and I could easily enjoy playing there on a regular basis. The South Course is a fun course that really had me looking forward to seeing the West Course the next day!

  • Rob Graham

    One of the best rounds I have seen you play.

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      Thanks Rob. It was a ton of fun beating you guys in that match. Wish we had been able to keep it up!

  • Gregory

    That’s a great looking course. Is there a plaque on the 18th where Bob Gilder holed the 3 wood from 250 yards for a double eagle?

    • The Itinerant Golfer

      The 18th on the South Course is a par 4. You’re thinking of the West Course which ends with a par 5. That profile will be up next week. 🙂

  • Brad

    I’ve only played the other course. It was amongst the very best I’ve ever played. It makes this course look like a sad and ugly brother.

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