Review: Split Rock Golf Course

Course Name: Split Rock Golf Course

Designer: John Van Kleek (1935)

Location: Bronx, New York

History: Split Rock is a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project that opened in 1935 along with the redesigned Pelham Bay, a sister course that had been 9 holes since 1898. John Van Kleek did both courses. Soon after opening, Bobby Jones played both and remarked, “I must admit that what I saw, particularly at Split Rock, was exceedingly gratifying and entirely worth the visit.” Both courses are managed by New York City’s municipal golf system.

Conditions: 6/10, Typical of many NYC munis, Split Rock is in decent shape but a bit rough around the edges with greens on the slower side.

Value: 7/10, Split Rock offers fairly good value between $35 and $55 depending on the day and time. There are discounts for seniors and juniors as well.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                        70           6682              72.0              129

White                      70           6304              70.4              124

Gray                        70           5249              70.3              117

Hole Descriptions: New York’s municipal golf scene is much maligned, but there are some hidden gems and I would certainly classify Split Rock in this category. Quite possibly the best of the group (excluding Trump Ferry Point), Split Rock is a classic design featuring a hilly terrain and strong green complexes. This is among the most challenging courses in New York City as well, with numerous lengthy par fours and excellent bunkering. The course is not without its flaws (especially tree overgrowth), but is well-worth a play for visitors and those who appreciate classic architecture.

Split Rock’s opening hole is a 432 yard par 4 playing straightaway with a generous tree-lined fairway. This green is fairly flat but lined by bunkers left and long.

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The par 4 1st

The 2nd is a tough hole from the Blue Tees playing as a semi-blind slight dogleg right through a chute of trees. This fairway isn’t tight, but you’ll need an 190 yard carry to reach it. Bunkers guard either side of a wonderful back-to-front sloped green containing numerous plateaus.

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The par 4 2nd features an intimidating teeshot
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The approach at 2

The 3rd hole is another longer par 4 playing 410 yards as a slight dogleg left. There are no greenside bunkers here but length is needed to reach this flat green in two.

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The par 4 3rd
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The approach at 3

At 133 yards, the 4th hole is Split Rock’s first par 3 and the shortest hole on the course. A pretty one-shotter with apartments in the background to remind you you’re in the Bronx, this hole features a back-to-front sloped green defended by bunkers on either side and a crossbunker well-short.

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The par 3 4th

The 5th hole is one of two par fives on the course and the longest at 515 yards. Playing straightaway and tight the entire way with OB left, this hole is most notable for an elevated, two-tiered, back-to-front sloped green defended by a steep slope right.

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The par 5 5th
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A closer look at the 5th green

The 6th hole is a lengthy par 3 at 220 yards playing longer uphill. The lone hazard is a bunker well-short right of a back-to-front sloped green.

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The par 3 6th

At 447 yards, the 7th hole is a tough, long par 4 and a fitting number 1 handicap. Playing straightaway, this right-to-left sloped fairway is tightly lined by trees and could benefit from some tree removal. This hole is most notable for a small and difficult double plateau green with front left and back right plateaus defended by bunkers on either side. Par is a very strong score here.

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The tough par 4 7th

At 441 yards, the 8th hole is another difficult par 4 as a tight dogleg left. This teeshot is initially blind to a fairway that bends left at about 220 yards with large bunkers on either side at this point. From here, the hole runs downhill over a hazard towards a back-to-front sloped green defended by a large, moat-like bunker right.  There’s lots of danger on this hole and big numbers must not be uncommon.

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The par 4 8th
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The approach at 8

The 9th hole is a rather straightforward 392 yard par 4 playing straightaway with trees on either side. This hole is most notable for its elevated, two-tiered, left-to-right sloped green.

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The par 4 9th

The 10th hole is another fairly bland hole running straightaway and uphill as a 412 yard par 4. While not short, there’s really no danger here besides bunkers guarding left and long of a subtle green.

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The par 4 10th

The 11th is undoubtedly one of Split Rock’s finest holes and my favorite as a downhill 439 yard par 4. A pretty hole, this fairway features a speed slot and runs out around 310 yards with a large crossbunker at this point. Your approach must carry this bunker to a wonderful, back-to-front sloped green containing several large knobs. This hole (especially the green) feels like something you’d see on a Macdonald or Raynor course.

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The par 4 11th
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The gorgeous approach at 11

The 12th hole is a solid 169 yard par 3 featuring large bunkers well-short and left of a relatively flat green.

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The par 3 12th

At 496 yards, the 13th hole is a reachable par 5 playing along the edge of the property and Route 95. Playing very tight with OB on both sides, this fairway is further lined by bunkers on either side at 300 yards. This narrow green is also lined by bunkers on either side and runs back-to-front.

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The semi-blind par 5 13th
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The approach at 13

The 372 yard 14th hole is a slight dogleg left featuring OB left the entire way and a prominent right bunker at 240 yards. This green runs pretty severely back-to-front and is lined by a bunker left.

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The par 4 14th

At 347 yards, the 15th hole is the shortest par 4 at Split Rock as a slight dogleg right. I distinctly remember trees overhanging this teebox forcing you to keep it low from the Blue Tees. Driver isn’t necessary here but there’s no real danger besides trees down both sides. This green is another excellent one with a large knob on the front left and deep bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 15th
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The approach at 15

The 16th hole is the final par 3 at Split Rock playing slightly downhill at 176 yards. Bunkers line both sides of this two-tiered, back-to-front sloped green that appears somewhat like an infinity green from the teebox.

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The par 3 16th

Split Rock concludes with two more lengthy par fours beginning with the 448 yard 17th. Playing straightaway and slightly uphill, this hole is memorable for an immediate forced carry over water for the first 150 yards and a severely right-to-left sloping fairway yielding some difficult lies. This green is another excellent design, running right-to-left with numerous mounds and defended by a right bunker.

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The par 4 17th

The closing hole is another tough hole as a 420 yard par 4. This hole is extremely narrow and claustrophobic with OB on both sides for its entire length. Besides its tightness, this hole is notable for a memorable, three-tiered, back-to-front sloped wavy green that spans almost 40 yards front-to-back with bunkers on either side. Par is a good score here.

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The par 4 18th

General Comments: Split Rock and Pelham Bay share a beautiful Greek revival clubhouse but practice facilities are limited on the two courses. As is the case with most NYC munis, pace of play can be quite poor here.

Verdict: One of New York City’s best municipal courses, Bronx’s Split Rock is a challenging and tight layout featuring excellent greens and a classic design. I recommend it and its sister course Pelham Bay to visitors.


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