Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Woodmere Club Centennial

The Woodmere Club on Long Island's south shore sets the mark for classic style both in the club facilities and the surprisingly challenging golf course. Just a short drive from Manhattan, the club has a gorgeous Georgian clubhouse with a fitness center and dining venue, tennis, swimming, and a links-like Robert Trent Jones golf course that's both enjoyable and a fine test of shot-making golf. This year, Woodmere celebrates its 100th anniversary, a testament to the fact that class never goes out of style. The club was also chosen as the Club of the Year by the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association.

At first glance, the course looks like a bit of a pushover. It's only 6316 yards from the tips and not weighted with extreme elevation changes or heavy forestation. What it does have--narrow fairways, demanding greens, perfectly-placed bunkering, and water in all the right (or wrong) places--more than makes up for any shortcomings in the yardage department. And then there is the wind, which is the course's real secret weapon when it comes to protecting par. Hitting onto a par three that's all carry over water into the teeth of an Atlantic breeze is a heck of a lot harder than whaling away with a driver on a 450-yard par four.

Above all, Woodmere is a thinking golfer's course. The double dog-leg fourth hole is a prime example of how important precise shot-making is to the game. It's "only" 358 yards, but the fairway snakes around trees on the left and then on the right, meaning you have to hit first a perfect draw and then a fade if you want to reach the green in regulation. Straight shots will get you in nothing but trouble on this hole!

Big hitters will drool on the seventh tee. At 293 straight-away yards, it's perfectly driveable. You'll see some cross bunkers, but they're really not in play. What is a danger, though, is a bunker 200 yards out on the right, not to mention the trees lining that side of the fairway. And whatever you do, don't get your ball above the cup on this funky two-tiered green.

The back nine is notable for a pair of 185-yard par threes, the eleventh and sixteenth holes, that play side by side. Both are fully exposed to the ocean winds and both greens are fronted by water. In match play, it's not unusual for competitors to lay up and play for a four, especially on the sixteenth.

The seventeenth presents a host of challenges. It's 370 yards and usually plays directly into the wind. Your tee shot has to carry the water, avoid the fescue rough, and stay out of the bunkers squeezing the fairway in the landing area. Even into the wind, it's not unusual for better players to hit something less than a driver off the tee. That leaves a tough iron shot into a small, well-bunkered green. A long bump-and-run isn't a bad play for the second shot if the wind is up.

Woodmere has hosted three Met Opens as well as numerous other events in its proud 100-year history. It was also the playground of many notables like "Diamond Jim" Brady, 20th Century Fox owner William Fox, Henry Zeigler of Steinway Pianos, and actress-singer Lillian Russell.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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