Review: Quaker Ridge Golf Club

Course Name: Quaker Ridge Golf Club

Designer: John Duncan Dunn (1915, 9 holes), A.W. Tillinghast (1918, 11 new holes and redesigned 7 original), Robert Trent Jones Sr./Frank Duane (1965, new tees), Rees Jones (1993, new tees and bunker restoration), Gil Hanse (2013, master renovation and tree removal)

Location: Scarsdale, New York

History: Quaker Ridge’s rich history began in 1916 when a group of local businessmen bought the struggling “Metropolitan Golf Links” and hired the venerable A.W. Tillinghast to redesign 7 holes and create 11 of his own.  The new course was immediately highly regarded, especially with PGA star Johnny Farrell becoming the first head pro. In the 1920s, Tillinghast continued to tinker with the fledgling course while the likes of Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, and Henry Vardon roamed the fairways in exhibition matches. The layout was essentially untouched until 1965 when the duo of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Frank Duane arrived to lengthen the course and restore bunkers. In 1993, Rees Jones followed in his father’s footsteps, further lengthening the course and renovating bunkers. Finally, beginning in 2008, Gil Hanse embarked on a master restoration including tree removal and bunker restorations.

Unlike its neighbor Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge has largely stayed out of the public’s eye, rarely hosting national tournaments. Notably, it hosted the 1997 Walker Cup won by the United States and 2018 Curtis Cup. It is one of many fine clubs in the New York City area and has hosted many Metropolitan Amateurs, Opens, and PGAs. I played shortly before the Curtis Cup and remember my host remarking on the irony that the only two national events held at Quaker Ridge are match play events and the course isn’t a great match play course. Birdies are few and far between and this course is much more akin to U.S. Open-style courses.

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Curtis Cup signs being set up

I’ll list the accolades for Quaker Ridge below, but even more revealing are some quotes from golf legends:

-“Quaker Ridge is the best golf course in the world” – Paul Runyan, 1936

-“Quaker Ridge is the most underrated golf course in the New York area, because it has never been host course to a major championship. I’d like to go on record as saying it would be a tough test of golf for any tournament – the U.S. Open and the PGA included.” – Jimmy Demaret, 1969

-“That might be, but there is quite a golf course down the street.” – Jack Nicklaus, 1974 after winning the U.S. Open when asked if Winged Foot was the best course in the world.

  • #153 Best Course in the World – Golf Digest (2018)
  • #78 Best Course in the World – Golf Magazine (2017)
  • #76 Best Course in America – Golf Digest (2017)
  • #40 Best Course in America – Golf Magazine (2017)
  • #32 Best Classic Course in America – Golfweek (2018)
  • #12 Best Course in New York – Golf Digest (2017)

Conditions: 9/10, As you’d expect from a course of this caliber in Westchester County, the conditioning at Quaker Ridge is world-class, characterized by thick rough, speedy poa annua greens, and well-manicured fairways and teeboxes.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                                 Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                             70            7008               74.8               143

Blue                              70            6456               72.2               137

White                            70            6163               70.8               134

Green                            70            5706               68.5               130

Gold                              73            5128               70.9               131

Hole Descriptions: Quaker Ridge is affectionately known as “Tillie’s Treasure,” a nickname that seems to hint at the fact that the Club keeps a relatively low profile, especially compared to neighboring Winged Foot. In fact, Quaker Ridge might be the least well-known Top 100 Courses in America, or at least in the golfing-rich New York City area. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that the course has never hosted a Major and likely never will due to the fact that it sits on a remarkable 127 acres. The only other famous course that even remotely compares acreage-wise is Wannamoisett, but even then, Quaker plays over 300 yards longer from the Tips. Both rarely feel cramped and are at the same time a delight to walk, a combination too often lost in today’s design.

I think the distinction “Tillie’s Treasure” also says something considering how prolific A.W. Tillinghast was. Designer of the likes of Bethpage Black, Newport, Winged Foot, and a host of other classics, Quaker Ridge clearly holds a special spot on his résumé. Having played several of Tillinghast’s gems already, Quaker Ridge furthered my love affair with his courses. Many of his characteristics – tremendous strategic bunkering, long, hard par fours, and subtly difficult greens certainly hold true at Quaker. I particularly enjoy how Tillinghast courses rarely feature blind shots and most of his holes are laid out fully in view on the teebox. Despite this, his courses (including Quaker) are formidable challenges that have endured as well as any classic courses to the modern game.

In addition to featuring twelve long, strong par fours, the defining feature of Quaker Ridge is the Out-of-Bounds that lines the right on the first 8 holes. If C.B. MacDonald was a slicer (Chicago’s infamous left OB), then I allege Tillinghast was a hooker, as anything even slightly right will be OB at Quaker Ridge. The first 8 holes line the property and the remaining 10 are more open, but by then the damage to the scorecard is often irreparable for those wild off the tee.

I often like starting with a nice par 5, as it gives the golfer a chance to begin with par or better. At Quaker Ridge, it’s absolutely imperative to take advantage of the 1st hole because you’ll have to wait thirteen more holes until the final par 5. The opener is a narrow 510 yard hole with OB lining the entire right side and sporadic trees on the left. At about 270 yards off the tee, there’s a bunker on the right and the fairway narrows to almost nothing. The fairway widens on the lay-up, but beware of a giant bunker about 50 yards short of the green. This elevated green slopes hard back-to-front and is lined by deep bunkers on both sides.

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The approach on the par 5 1st

Quaker Ridge has several quirks, the first being that you need to use specially-marked Pro-V1s on the 2nd hole due to an ongoing lawsuit with a neighbor on the right side of the hole. Apparently they are suing the course, grossly inflating the number of balls in their backyard. To help keep accurate stats for the lawsuit, a marker gives you the ball on the teebox and tracks the number of balls OB. The hole itself is a very tight 405 yard dogleg right with trees suffocating you on the right the entire way. Those who bail out left will find their ball, but won’t have a good angle into this green. This green slopes back-to-front with deep bunkers on either side.

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The intimidating view on the 2nd teebox
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The lovely green complex on the 2nd
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Recycling our balls on the way to the 3rd tee

The 3rd is perhaps the blandest hole on the course but nevertheless presents a challenge as a tight 424 yard par 4. OB again runs along the right side the entire way, while the left is lined by tall trees and swampy land. This green runs back-to-front and right-to-left and is lined by a deep bunker on the right and tiny pot bunker left.

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Approach on the 3rd

The 4th is a great hole and begins a stretch of eight consecutive world-class holes. At 408 yards, this par 4 is once again lined by OB on the right. The left side is more open, but a tall oak tree at about 210 yards hangs over the fairway and can knock down drives. My host told me that Quaker recently underwent a massive tree removal program, but this tree was spared. Another curious feature on this hole is a patch of rough running about 50 yards once the fairway starts. This is more an aesthetic feature than strategic, but I like the look of it from the teebox. As you near this green, the hole opens up with water on the left and a great view of the neighboring 5th. This slightly elevated green runs back-to-front with deep bunkers on either side that remind me of Raynor’s work.

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The view from the 4th teebox
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Walking towards the 4th green

The 5th is the first of a tremendous set of one-shotters playing 151 yards over water. You get a great view of this hole walking down the 4th and can clearly see the narrow green surrounded by three bunkers and water short. Needless to say, short is the worst miss here.

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The gorgeous par 3 5th

The number 1 handicap 6th is my favorite hole at Quaker Ridge and is included in George Peper’s The 500 Greatest Golf Holes as one of the 18 Most Challenging Holes in the World. This formidable 434 yard dogleg right is an extremely difficult driving hole with a creek running down the left, OB and trees right, and bunkers at the corner of the dogleg that require a 230 yard carry. There’s more room on the right than it appears, but this is still a very difficult hole. For those who need to lay-up here, two crossbunkers about 100 yards short of the green present a challenge. This green slopes right-to-left and is guarded by a bunker on the left.

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View from the 6th teebox

While the 6th holds the number 1 handicap, many members will tell you the hardest hole is actually the 7th. Another long hard par 4, this 416 yard dogleg right features a very awkward teeshot with OB again lining all down the right and the fairway turning right at only about 200 yards off the tee. Your options here are to hit hybrid or iron and leave a very long approach shot or try to cut the corner and bomb it over the trees. Even if you’re able to do this, a creek is in play that runs through the fairway about 120 yards short of the green. This approach features fantastic bunkering and an elevated back-to-front sloped green with a tricky false front. Pars here are very rare.

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The 7th teebox offers several options
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The picturesque approach on the 7th

The short 335 yard 8th is one of the easiest holes on the course and offers a much needed respite from a brutal onslaught of long par fours. This hole again features OB right, but is more generous off the tee than the preceding holes. Like the 4th, the defining characteristic of this hole is a knob of rough in the middle of the fairway that is absolutely in play between 180 to 230 yards. This green is large, flat, and guarded by bunkers short on either side.

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The par 4 8th – notice the rough in the fairway

The 9th is the shortest hole at 143 yards, but is arguably the most difficult par 3 with a minuscule pear-shaped green that slopes hard right-to-left. Like any great classic short par 3, numerous bunkers surround this green and leave a tough up-and-down.

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The tremendous short par 3 9th

As you make your way to the 10th, make sure to notice the “Suggestion Box” 20 feet up in a tree – another quirk that shows the membership has a sense of humor. At 186 yards, the 10th is another par 3 and a very strong one. This hole is essentially treeless and provides a nice contrast from the heavily tree-lined other holes. Apparently, this hole used to contain many trees, including one that George Washington slept under before battling the British in 1776. This green is large, relatively flat and surrounded by six bunkers.

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I’m sure it would be empty even at eye-level!
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The par 3 10th

At 372 yards, the par 4 11th is another world-class hole and one of my favorites at Quaker Ridge. This is an interesting hole with a wide fairway lined by a creek on the left and a trio of bunkers on the right at 230 yards. A poplar tree on the left about 80 yards short of the green is a fine example of a tree that should never be removed, as it blocks out shots from the left side of the fairway and narrows the hole more than it appears. For the final 75 yards of this hole, the fairway turns sharply left, culminating in a tiny back-to-front sloped green guarded by bunkers left and long and a creek short and right. A false front here means the creek is readily in play for those who spin their ball off the green.

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Notice the tree just left of the 11th fairway
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Just short of the 11th green

The 12th is a strong, straightaway par 4 that plays longer than its yardage of 403 yards uphill. While there’s no OB here, this is an intimidating teeshot with tall trees lining both sides of a tight fairway and a bunker on the right at 240 yards. This elevated green runs hard back-to-front with bunkers left, short, and a grass bunker on the right.

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The par 4 12th

The 13th is both the longest and final par 3 at Quaker Ridge playing 209 yards. Although this hole runs downhill, my host emphasized that it does not play downhill. From the teebox, it appears as if the left short bunker is just short of the green, but is actually about 50 yards short. This is a tremendous visual illusion. This challenging green features a ridge running horizontally and is guarded by two bunkers on the right.

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The par 3 13th
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You have more room between the bunker and green than it appears

By the time you reach the 517 yard 14th, you haven’t played a par 5 in what seems like forever. You are in for a real treat, however, as this is one of the best par fives I’ve played. This dogleg left suits my eye extremely well from an elevated teebox with a generous fairway lined by bunkers on both sides at 210 yards and church-pew like bunkers down the left for the next 100 yards. This hole runs uphill and features a “Great Hazard” of bunkers and rough bisecting the fairway about 150 yards short of the green. This is a feature I’ve noticed on several of Tillinghast’s courses and one I really enjoy. This green is guarded by several bunkers on either side and features several humps and undulations, leaving for some very interesting putts.

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The sweeping dogleg left 14th is terrific

After a brief but intense storm passed, we made our way to the 15th. In fitting fashion, the final four holes at Quaker Ridge are strong par fours, beginning with the 375 yard 15th. This straightaway hole plays downhill with tall trees on either side and a creek running through the fairway about 250 yards from the tee, forcing many golfers to hit less than driver. This approach plays slightly uphill to a large, heavily undulating green flanked by bunkers.

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The downhill 15th
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Just short of the 15th creek

The 16th is a beautiful yet straightforward hole playing back towards the clubhouse. At 414 yards, this hole features a generous landing area with bunkers on the right at 255 yards and left at 330 yards. This green slopes back-to-front and is guarded by bunkers long, left, and right.

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The 16th is one of the easier driving holes
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The clubhouse and back bunker on the 16th

At just 344 yards, the penultimate hole is a short par 4 that requires some strategy. This fairway is very generous up until about 220 yards, when bunkers and trees come into play on the right. Do you hit long iron or try to bomb it over the danger, leaving only a pitch in? This green is the second smallest on the course and runs hard back-to-front surrounded by four bunkers. I found out the hard way that getting up-and-down here is no easy task.

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The par 4 17th doubles as the range
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Notice the tiny table-top 17th green

The closing hole is a slender 410 yard par 4 featuring a narrow fairway lined by tall trees. While there’s no serious trouble off the tee, this approach runs uphill with a deep bunker on the right 60 yards short of the green. This undulating green is guarded on both sides by bunkers.

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The approach on 18

General Comments: As mentioned above, Quaker Ridge only sits on 127 acres, so there isn’t room for a full driving range. Members use the 16th and 17th holes as a makeshift range during certain hours. The short game facilities at Quaker Ridge are impressive, with a large practice green. Quaker Ridge’s clubhouse was built in 1925 and is truly magnificent. I didn’t get a chance to fully explore it, but the locker room is tremendous. In addition to golf, the Club features tennis and swimming pools. Pace of play was fantastic when I played on a Saturday afternoon.

Verdict: Although Quaker Ridge keeps a low-profile, those who have been fortunate to experience it firsthand know it is very well-deserving of its Top 100 status and is undoubtedly one of the best parkland designs in America. Characterized by numerous strong par fours, impeccable conditioning, and several unique quirks, I can’t say enough positive things about Quaker Ridge. This is a course I could play for the rest of my life and never tire of.


3 thoughts on “Review: Quaker Ridge Golf Club

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