As Hudson Valley natives, it was a real treat for my brother and I to play Hudson National. We have traveled far and wide seeking out the best golf courses and the most beautiful vistas, but we haven't forgotten that we grew up in one of the most scenic places in the world. Playing such a great golf course in our backyard was pretty special.
I thought this course had a few defining features--elevation change, golden fescue, and awesome views of the Hudson River. I particularly like courses where there is elevation change (who doesn't love sprawling downhill shots), but, at Hudson National, I did not notice the uphill too much. I think the design accomplishes this by fully utilizing the elevation loss (i.e. downhill) in the course of play. By contrast, after finishing a hole, you will often find yourself walking uphill to a tee. The walk to the tee might be tough, but it minimizes the need to play an uphill hole because most of the elevation loss is offset with walks to tees, rather than uphill holes. This is the first course where I really noticed this feature and I really like it. Like I said, I love having downhill shots, and this provides a way to get that without the countervailing uphill holes that are less popular. That being said, it is a pretty tough walk, so prepare yourself.
Luckily, though, you will have caddies carrying your bags and that was a great part of the experience at the course. Having a knowledgeable caddy saved me a bunch of strokes on the greens and it is always a blast to share golf stories with people who have made the rounds. Overall, the entire day was fantastic. Fun hosts, two great caddies, a beautiful golf course, and perfect weather--can't ask for much else. Thanks to our host for letting us have such a memorable day.
Now, onto the holes.
1st--435 yard par four.
Donald Ross courses are known to greet you with a firm handshake. Tom Fazio took a page out of his book with this opener. From the tips, it is 488 yards with a fairly narrow fairway and a tree that blocks out any shots that veer to the right.
2nd--173 yard par three.
There is a pretty intimidating bunker on the left that will make you want to bail out right, but, if you miss too far right, you will be left with a chip where it is nearly impossible to hold the green. I was left with that very chip and I thought I played it perfectly by landing it in the rough and letting it plop onto the green. It still ran fifty feet by the hole. The putt lipped out coming back, otherwise it would have been the up and down of the year.
3rd-410 yard par four.
This is the first example of an uphill walk between the second green and third tee (in fact there was a cart waiting to bring us up to the third tee). The tee shot is level, but the approach to the green goes down hill. The green is fairly large, so you should be able to hit it with the 150-160 yard club you have left into the green. Don't go left, as it is pretty deadly over there.
Approach to third.
4th-356 yard par four.
Playing a hole through ruins is always fun. The green is adjacent to the clubhouse of a golf course that used to sit on the property. The clubhouse burned down, but the remnants remain and serve as good aiming points on this hole.
Fourth tee. Aim at the stone chimney to the left of the tree.
Approach to four.
Chimney to left of fourth green.
5th--412 yard par four.
This hole recently underwent a change. Currently, it is a dogleg right with trees on the right. Cut off as much as you like by challenging the trees. Then, the approach is down a steep hill to the green. Previously, the hole was straight, which, I would imagine, made it a bit less interesting. Now it is a less straightforward hole with some good risk reward.
Approach to five.
Looking back up the fifth hole with the fourth green near the chimney in the background.
6th--530 yard par five.
I am a bit disappointed I did not get a good photo of this tee shot, which is really the defining feature of the hole. On the tee shot, water juts out into the fairway, which you should carry if you hit it well, but if you mishit it, there is a chance you will find the hazard. If you try to avoid the water entirely, there are bunkers on the left waiting to collect your ball.
7th--366 yard par four.
Big fan of this hole. The tee shot is intimidating because you can barely see the fairway--all you can see are the bunkers on the right (i.e. where you do not want to be). Hit the fairway and you are left with a downhill shot to a green surrounded by bunkers. As you can see, the fog was starting to lift on our morning.
Looking back up the slope of the seventh fairway.
8th--161 yard par three.
This was by far the easiest hole on the course. Really not much to it. Sure, there are some bunkers surrounding this huge green, but, if you are aiming at the middle of the green, it should not be too difficult to hit the green. Everyone in our group hit the green. I was closest to the pin and the only one who did not make par.
9th--520 yard par five.
This course was not full of abrupt doglegs, but this was one of them. A dogleg left that is a true three shot hole except for the longest of hitters given the bunkers protecting the green. It should not be too hard--avoid the left bunker off the tee, hit a 150 club, and leave yourself 100-120 into the green.
Approach to nine.
10th--370 yard par four.
In retrospect, knowing very little about this hole helped me. I took a driver and hit it as straight as I could and as far as I could. Stupidly, it never crossed my mind that the cross bunkers would come into play. Luckily, my brother and I landed one foot apart directly in the middle of the two cross bunkers. Now knowing how the hole plays, it is a challenging hole. If you want to play driver to leave a wedge into this difficult green, then you have to go left to a tight fairway. If you hit your 200 yard club to come up short of the bunkers, you are left with a longer shot into the green.
Plush lie between those fairway bunkers on ten.
11th--145 yard par three.
As easy as the par three at eight was, the eleventh makes up for it. It is a double tiered green surrounded by steep embankments. Right finds a bunker, while left or short will filter into collection areas.
12th--503 yard par five.
One of my favorites on the course. A dogleg left par five with some beautiful bunkering that must be contended with on every shot. The green is also quite diabolical if you go above the hole. I think it is a great hole because it is not terribly difficult if you hit smart, precise shots. You could certainly play this hole with a 200 yard club off the tee, 150 yard club layup, and then have 150 into the green. Sounds easy enough, but if you miss anywhere there is a lot of trouble and, even though you may have a short shot into the green, your position on the green has to be precise.
Second on twelve.
Approach to twelve. If you look closely directly behind the pin, you can see the ridge that makes this green so tough.
13th hole--170 yard par three.
This is a visually uncomfortable hole. The green is cut into the hill on the left and protected by a front, left bunker. The natural tendency is to err to the right, but if you miss that line a tad, the hole will repel balls into a collection area on the right side.
14th--530 yard par five.
One of the best holes I played all year. It is a dogleg right that just gets narrower and narrower. There is an enormous pond on the right that comes into play on both your second and third shots. One of the people I was playing with hit an average second shot that went a bit right, but I thought it was safe. Wrong. Hit the fairway, but still funneled into the water. So, the pond certainly comes into play on the second and if you miss your third short or right, water ball. Not only is there this menacing water hazard, but the green is so tight, protected on both sides by bunkers. Very good, very tough hole.
Brother on fourteenth tee.
Second on fourteen. Reminds me a little bit of the 18th at Bayhill.
Approach to fourteen.
Fourteenth fairway from another vantage point.
15th--407 yard par four.
This hole has some of the best bunkering on the course. Fairway bunker on the right and a clustering of bunkers in the middle of the fairway that will catch a drive that goes too long and also serves to mess with your sight lines a bit on the approach.
Approach to fifteen green.
16th--224 yard par three.
This is the iconic hole at Hudson National--downhill par three with the Hudson River serving as a backdrop. No doubt a gorgeous hole...I just wish it was a bit easier! I want a good memory from a signature hole, not a bogey! Parred 16th at Cypress a few times, lipped out for birdie at Somerset's 2nd redan green, birdied 12th at Somerset, parred 7th at Pebble. I relieve those constantly. But, can't say I played this hole well, though I have nobody to blame for that but myself.
17th--301 yard par four.
This is a fun hole. The smart play is your 180 yard club to leave a wedge into the green. The fun play is to smack it out there and then leave yourself an uncomfortable 50 yarder into the green.
Approach to seventeen.
Looking back on seventeen.
Between the 17th green and 18th tee, you can see the driving range. Not a bad view.
18th--437 yard par four.
The eighteenth is an easy hole to make bogey on, but hard to par. The fairway is a thin ribbon of a landing area. If you are fortunate enough to hit it, you are left with a long, uphill shot to a green that is fairly well protected by bunkers. I barely missed the fairway, chipped out to 100 yards, and put my wedge into the middle of the green. If you need a bogey to maintain a good score, you can get it. If you need a par to close out a match, you will need to muster all you got.
Approach to eighteen.
No question that I loved this golf course and it will certainly provide a few memorable holes that will go into the golf memory bank--namely the 14th with the pond and the downhill par three 16th. I love courses that not only leave you with holes that will stick with you, but also otherwise strong holes. It is one thing to have a few memorable holes, but the others can't be throwaways. Hudson National does not have much in the way of throw away holes. Of the three Fazio courses I have played, this is certainly at the top of the list.
Thanks again to our host and our great caddies. We've been fortunate to have a lot of great golf days this year and this was among the best.