Pound Ridge, located on the Connecticut/New York border, is the first Pete Dye course that I have played, and it left me wanting more. Some of his courses have always been high on the bucket list--especially Whistling, Kiawah, Pete Dye Golf Club, and the Golf Club--and my round at Pound Ridge only reinforced this sentiment. However, if I could only play one designer's courses for the rest of my life, I would not choose Pete Dye. As was quite apparent at Pound Ridge, a lot of the course feels artificial and tricked up. I tend to prefer the more natural feel that is often found at Coore & Crenshaw courses. Luckily, though, we need not choose and we can have them all! My lasting impression of the course is that it was unique and fun. Every shot required thoughtfulness, strategy, and a notion of where you definitely did not want to hit the ball. It felt like each hole had an area that you had to avoid, and if you failed, there was a possibility of a huge number.
Playing here was an occasion where you really noticed how paying attention, thinking through shots, and committing can make a difference. The course is so visually intimidating (whether it be deep bunkers, water, mounds, or sloped fairways) that you are afraid on most shots. If you let that fear in and do not commit to your shots, it will be a long day. You have to decide where the shot should go, decide where the shot should not go (and, knowing that, err on the safe side a bit), visualize the shot you want to hit, and then swing like an ocean of sand/water/mounding does not stand between you and the green.
We played the course in hard conditions--a near 20 mph sustained wind. This did not make playing the course for the first time any easier. In light of the conditions, this was certainly my best round of the year thus far.
It is a bit surprising I had not played here before given it is only an hour from where I grew up. It is also only an hour from NYC, so I hope to make my way back here this season.
Now onto some individual holes.
The first is a 380 yard par four. The drive is nice and open for the first tee shot, but the green complex is treacherous. There is a bunker that forms a horseshoe around the green with water behind the bunker (unless you hit your approach well long, it should not run the risk of finding water).
Green complex at the first.
Bunker extending behind the green.
The second is the hardest on the course at 413 yards. The green complex reminds me of the approach to 18 at Bay Hill (I have only seen it on TV). Again, the tee shot is not particularly noteworthy, but the approach requires you to carry water if you are going for the pin, but there is also ample bailout room to the left of the green.
Approach to second.
The third hole--a 369 yard par four--is fun from both the tee and on the approach. The drive has to carry water and avoid an enormous mound of bunkering on the right. The green complex is also protected by its fair share of bunkers.
Brother in the mounds at the third with a view of the green.
The fourth--a 139 yard par three--is another entertaining hole. Bunkers short, left, right, and water further right. Should be an easy hole, but a bad shot can easily lead to a real high number.
Brother out of the bunker at the fourth.
The fifth--a 290 yard par four--is the only hole where I did not manage the hole well. The entire hole is dotted with pot bunkers. My thinking was that I may as well hit driver because even a fairway would might find a bunker. Maybe true, but I did not consider the possibility of a twenty yard slice with my drier and finding the water (which I could not even see from the tee). Luckily, was able to recover for a five.
Approach to five.
The sixth is a 162 yard downhill par three to a crowned green. Hit the green and it is easy. Miss it and it may be a hard up and down.
Perched green at the sixth.
The seventh is a fairly easy par five measuring in at 480 yards. Not much trouble and a wide fairway.
Approach to seventh.
The eighth--a 374 yard par four--is one of the more boring holes on the course. Not much to the drive or approach, but it is a pretty hole nonetheless.
The ninth is a tough par five at 521 yards with a pretty narrow fairway on the second shot that ultimately leads to another crowned green.
Approach to nine.
The tenth--a 340 yard par four--is one of my favorites on the course. It is a slight dogleg left and you can challenge the hole by flirting with the woods on the left. If you try to bailout right to avoid the woods, there is a multi-layered mound with bunkers that is as dangerous as the woods.
Dad doing his best from the mounds. One of those situations where you wish it went into the bunker.
The eleventh is not an interesting or memorable hole, but also not easy given it is a 180 yard par three.
The twelfth--a 337 yard par four--is a scenic hole that requires an accurate drive to clear a fairway bunker. The second is to another crowned green.
Approach to twelve.
After having played the thirteenth, I think not knowing all the danger that was waiting for me was a big advantage. It is a 448 yard par five (even from the tips it is only 480). I decided to hit a fairway wood off the tee and for my second to leave me with a wedge in. The plan worked well. My birdie putt just missed and tapped in for a five. The hardest part of the hole is how narrow it is and how perched up the green is (with a cavernous bunker guarding the front).
Approach to thirteen.
The fourteenth is a 379 yard par four. The tee shot is picturesque and requires a fairly long carry, but the green complex is among the most simple on the entire course. Overall, not a memorable hole.
The fifteenth is, in my opinion, the signature hole on the course--a 144 yard par three. The tee shot is a complete carry over wetlands. The green is about 40 yards wide with a rock jutting out into the back middle portion. We took a few putts going from one side of the green to the other after completing the hole. Near certain three putts if the pin is all the way right and you hit all the way left.
The sixteenth is a 494 yard par five. It should be an easy hole as long as you do not hit a truly bad shot, but there are a lot of areas where you can get caught and make a huge number. Running along the left of the fairway is a steep bank leading down into sand. Then, pot bunkers dot the fairway leading up to an elevated green.
Sand trench running up the sixteenth hole.
Approach to sixteen--one of the most scenic shots on the course.
The seventeenth is one of the tougher holes--a 396 yard par four with, again, lots of bunkers.
Approach to seventeen.
The eighteenth is just waiting to ruin you round--415 yards uphill with bunkers on the left running up the whole fairway (they only stop when a lake comes into play on the left).
Approach to eighteen as the sun goes down.
I had such a fun time at this golf course. It's peacefully set in the NY/CT countryside, pretty, and strategic. I felt like the front and back nines differed insofar as the naturalness of the course. The front seemed quite man-made with lots of mounds that were clearly constructed and did not use the natural forest that existed on the property. The back had all the fun aspects of Pete Dye with crazy bunkers and mounding, but it was routed through the forest, so it felt a bit more authentic. The front gave you the impression that someone bulldozed a forest and then created obstacles. On the back, the enjoyable obstacles were still there, but the natural surroundings also played a role. Overall, I highly recommend the course and plan to go back at least one more time this year. Other than Bethpage and Ferry Point, I can't think of a public course in the NYC area I would rather play.