September 17, 2014
Every so often in life, you get information that catches you by surprise and it takes several minutes to process. You want to make sure what you were just told was what you were told. That is what happened when I received a note that I would get a chance to play the West Course of Winged Foot Golf Club during my New York trip. I was aware there was going to be some fairly special courses during the New York trip, but I hadn't even considered Winged Foot.
Winged Foot Golf Club was founded in 1921, by a consortium consisting mainly of members of The New York Athletic Club. The club gets its name and logo from the NYAC's logo, but the two have never had any direct affiliation. Opened in June 1923, application for membership to Winged Foot G.C. is by invitation only. To receive an invitation to play as a guest is extremely difficult. So, when I was offered an invitation to play a round, I cleared my entire day, mapped out three different routes from my hotel in case traffic was bad, and purchased a dozen new golf balls. When you receive an invitation to one of the historic, super-exclusive clubs in the U.S., the feeling is just hard to describe. The best words I can think of is, that for a golfer, it is one of those life changing and memory making experiences you will never forget.
Winged Foot Golf Club has hosted 12 major championships since its founding. They include five U.S. Opens (1929, 1959, 1974, 1984, and 2006, with a sixth scheduled in 2020), the 1997 PGA Championship, two U.S. Women's Opens (1957 and 1972), the 1980 U.S. Senior Open in 1980, and two U.S. Amateur Championships (1940 and 2004). A storied history is an understatement.
The morning of my round, I was awake five hours before tee off. It's a good thing I built in the extra time because traffic was abysmal crossing from New Jersey into New York and it took nearly two hours to drive 17 miles. But, I arrived ahead of my tee time with some time left over to hit balls on the range. The golf gods were also smiling on me. They had worked with Mother Nature to provide me a nearly cloudless, very blue sky and temperatures in the mid-70s.
Upon arriving at Winged Foot GC, you have to watch for the entrance or you may miss it. It is set back off the road and is only marked by double gates that are adorned with plaques of the club's logo.
|A look towards the gates of Winged Foot from the man road.|
|A closer look at the gates leading to the property.|
|A closer look at the club logo plaque.|
|The Winged Foot Golf Club clubhouse.|
|The entrance to the clubhouse|
|Awning above the entryway.|
|The club's flag is located to the left of the clubhouse.|
|A look into the gentlemen's locker room from the entrance.|
|The flags found on each hole of the West Course.|
The West Course at Winged Foot appears in The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes and receives quite a few accolades. Among them are:
- Hole 10 is listed as one of the top 100 holes in the world.
- Hole 18 is listed as one of the top 500 holes in the world.
- Hole 10 is listed as one of the top 18 best holes with a bunker in the world.
- Hole 10 is listed as one of the hardest 18 holes to putt in the world.
- Hole 10 is listed as one of the best 18 greensites in the world.
- Hole 10 is listed as one of the 18 best holes in America.
- Holes 10 and 18 are listed as two of the top 18 holes designed by A.W. Tillinghast.
- Hole 18 is listed as one of the 18 holes that have produced the greatest moments in golf (In 1929, Bobby Jones sunk a twistng 12-foot putt to reach a U.S. Open playoff with Al Espinosa, whom he trounced the next day).
While standing on the first tee box waiting to get the round underway, Terrance shared an interesting bit of golf trivia with me. He asked me did I know where the term Mulligan came from. After advising that I had heard rumors but nothing really substantial, he advised that one of the early members at Winged Foot had the last name of Mulligan. It was that member that started the tradition of allowing a guest a second shot from the first tee, which later became affectionately known as a mulligan shot. During the course of the round, Terrance shared many numerous historical facts about each hole, such as which pro played the hole particularly well or where another one choked, which made it more special and made me more appreciative that he had invited us to share a round with him.
|The clock located next to the 1st tee box.|
The first hole, named Genesis, is a par 4 that plays to 440 yards. The ideal spot to place the opening tee shot is to the right center of the fairway. As the fairway turns left towards the green around 150 yards in, a drive to the right side gives a fairly clear look into the green.
There is a sand trap to the right of the fairway that catches a drive of less than 200 yards so you want to make sure you don't hit too far right. There is long grass and several traps located along the left side of the fairway on this hole as well. The green is flanked on multiple sides with bunkers.
|A look down the fairway from the 1st tee box.|
|A look into the 1st green from 75 yards out.|
the short approach after a long drive down the left. Holding the green after a pushed drive down the
right is not easy as I found out first hand. A sharp faced bunker cutting into the green makes this second shot a test of accuracy. This green, like most of those at Winged Foot, does not punish the
player who goes over.
|A look down the fairway from the 2nd tee box.|
|A look into the 2nd green from 100 yards out.|
|A look into the green from the 3rd tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.|
|A look towards the 4th green from 170 yards out.|
|A look into the 4th green from 100 yards out.|
|A look onto the 4th green from just behind the bunker.|
|A look down the fairway from the 5th tee box.|
|A look into the 5th green from 100 yards out.|
the left of the fairway close to the trap to have a better look into the green on the second shot. A large trap on the right makes a tight lofted approach necessary from that angle. It is possible for a long hitter to drive the green as the fairway is slightly downhill. The unusually small green has bunkers placed at the very edge.
|A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.|
|A look into the 6th green from 100 yards out.|
|A straight look into the green from the left side.|
|A look into the green from the 7th tee box.|
|A closer look at the 7th green.|
|A look down the fairway from the 8th tee box.|
|A look into the 8th green from 120 yards out.|
|A closer look at the 8th green.|
|A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.|
|A look into the 9th green from 100 yards out.|
|A look into the green from the 10th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 11th tee box.|
|A look into the 11th green from 110 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.|
|A look into the 12th green from 100 yards out.|
|A look into the green from the 13th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 14th tee box.|
|A look into the 14th green from 120 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 15th tee box.|
|A look into the 15th green from 130 yards out.|
front and on both sides of the green.
|A look down the fairway from the 16th tee box.|
|A look towards the 16th green from the turn in the fairway.|
|A look into the 16th green from 150 yards out.|
the green is narrow with bunkers on either side.
|A look down the fairway from the 17th tee box.|
|Two very cool trees visible from the 17th fairway.|
|A look into the 17th green from 75 yards.|
right will find bunkers. From the fairway swale, a long iron should find the contoured green on a slight elevation. Missing this green with the second will likely make for a difficult third shot. Just ask Mickelson, who lost the U.S. Open on this hole.
|A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.|
|A look into the 18th green from 120 yards out.|
Playing Winged Foot's West Course was a true treat and a memory I will cherish for a lifetime. I could not have asked for a better host and I am sending my sincerest appreciations yet again for allowing me to come out and share a round with him. I hope that one day I am lucky enough to go back and play the East Course (which I am advised is the favored course of the members).