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Trump to open pricey new public golf course in NYC



Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point — New York City’s first new course in 52 years — started booking tee times on Wednesday, and Donald Trump already has big plans for the venue.

Book a tee time here.

The $269 million collaboration between Trump and course designer Jack Nicklaus is the most expensive public golf facility ever built in the United States, according to Bloomberg Business.


Some holes on the course have views of the Manhattan skyline.

The course sits on the east side of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge that connects New York City’s Bronx and Queens Boroughs. It was expected to open in 2001, but was pushed back due to cost, landscape, environmental and legal issues.

Trump took over the project in 2011, and Ferry Point is now scheduled to open on April 1, 2015.


The links-style course sits on a 222-acre former landfill, with dunes that reach heights of 55 feet

As expected, greens fees are not cheap.

One round of golf ranges from $141 for New York City residents on weekdays, up to $215 on weekends for non-residents, with discounts for juniors and seniors.


Ferry Point is reportedly slated to host the The Barclays in 2017, an event that has held the first round of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs since 2007, and hopes to land a U.S. Open at the venue one day, as well.

Trump is no stranger to hosting professional tournaments at his 18 golf destinations across the world.

  • Trump National Doral has hosted the WGC-Cadillac Championship for the past two years.
  • Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles is set to host the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in October.
  • Trump National in Bedminster (New Jersey) is scheduled to host the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open.
  • Trump National in Bedminster is scheduled to host the 2022 PGA Championship.

Other notable courses in Trump’s stable include Trump International Golf Links in Scotland, Trump International Golf Club Doonbeg in Ireland, Trump Turnberry in Scotland, Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico and Trump National Golf Club in Washington D.C.

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.



  1. Jim

    Mar 27, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Why are some so concerned about garbage and riff raff on their course (snobs)? I think it is much more important to grow the game, such a wonderful game should not be for the rich and arrogant only. If you feel that way join a country club and shoot your 90 plus scores and have your caddy tell you how great you are, for a big tip.

    I just don’t get it.

  2. MyBluC4

    Mar 26, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Many years past due, many millions over budget. Taypayer money. No real taxpayer benefit.
    Stunning looking track and is probably a terrific golf experience that, because of price will be the domain of those willing and able to pay the fare. Too bad.
    Love the game and the fact that there are courses in NYC to play, but this one is too rich for my blood. I think the city counsel caved just to get the course done after many years of legal bickering.
    Not a good example of city governance or collective responsibility. Still wish I could play it.

  3. Robbie

    Mar 25, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    The cost keeps the garbage players off the course. Period. The reason garbage players don’t clog bethpage black as much is because the course is so tough and unplayable for bad players.

  4. Philip

    Mar 18, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Before I started reading the comments I was thinking – this looks like a landfill site – and voila, it is. I’ve seen the same happen north of Toronto, Canada. Closed the landfill and the next year a golf course was on it, two years after condos going in. The thing about landfills is that underneath this course is garbage (toxic too most likely). I used to live on a land fill without knowing (thousands of homes) and they had detectors for years until I guess the poisonous gas levels dropped enough and they pulled up the sensors and slapped on another thousand or so homes on the remaining vacant land. You would see some pretty interesting animals around the community. Imagine paying those prices to play on top of garbage – I just hope no one if unfortunate to fall into a sink hole, which I can see as a real risk.

  5. Brooklyngolfer

    Mar 18, 2015 at 11:35 am

    This is a disgrace! I think all NYC golfers have been waiting for this course to open. Now that it is, it’s not worth it. $215 for a weekend tee time! So for some reason Trump/NYC think it’s worth more than 3 times the amount than it is to play Bethpage Black?
    I think everyone should boycott this course until there are some HEAVY reductions for NYC locals….Oh, also, they conveniently placed the entrance just after the toll as well, so add $12 to your $215 round for that too. Trump and NYC officials should be ashamed of themselves!

    • BxTeacher

      Mar 20, 2015 at 8:37 am

      I was really looking forward to the opening of this course as I work about 5 minutes drive away. Unfortunately, since Trump got his fat meatpaws involved in the project the prices skyrocketed and now it’s a damn fortune to play. Originally, I read the fees were supposed to be $115-125 for the highest cost tee times (weekend, non-res). It’s a real shame that something that could have been really decent for the area has turned into a really shitty hand out to some rich, petrified wood-looking douche.

    • mike

      Mar 20, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      You (NYC golfer) makeup less than 1% of the population. The 99% don’t care about the cost of the greens fee since they will never play golf anyway. I hate Trump but there is no doubt this project is great for the city and the surrounding area.

  6. Homer

    Mar 17, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    What will The Donald sue NYC for during this venture? Miami was an airport, LA was an earthquake, will it maybe be a change in the skyline in NYC? Nothing like suing a municipality to help finance a golf course. Stayed tuned because you know it’s coming.

  7. Rich

    Mar 17, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Despite the price, the golf course looks amazing! I can understand why people might be a bit pissed off though. If NYC residents were promised a golf course that was reasonably priced, that’s not exactly the case.

  8. LI Golfer

    Mar 17, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    This course will quickly become the domain of the Asian golfer from Northern Queens. And the average round will be quite long. The gentlemen will play from only the Blue Tees and will not hit a fairway wood or a hybrid on a par 3 despite the length. There is considerable wagering and the putting will not include gimmees. That and drunk businessmen. And wait until NY Golf Shuttle gets into someone’s pocket for the best tee times, you wont be able to get on at all on the weekends unless you drop 500 bucks……..Might get them out of Bethpage’s pocket.

    PONY UP NY Golf Shuttle will secure your tee time and provide round-trip transport (assuming a Manhattan pickup) $500 per person (includes greens fee and round-trip transport from Manhattan) hassle-free, stress-free and well rested for some punishment sure to come.

    • nyc

      Mar 18, 2015 at 5:19 am

      So your basic complaints are Asian golfers and cost? I live/play near NYC and Asian golfers are no slower/faster than anyone else. It may seem like they play slow but that’s because they stick out to people like you (grumpy old white man who hate anyone different or new playing golf). As for the cost? It’s NYC!!! It’s Donal Trump!!! Did you see the pics? Did you read the building cost? What do you expect? If you’re looking for no asians and cheap golf, NYC is definitely not the right place for you.

      • LI Golfer

        Mar 19, 2015 at 10:17 am

        No complaints about Asian golfers local to that area, just an observation and prediction.

        As far as cost, I dont care, I dont have to play it and dont pay taxes in NYC. I personally think that an NYC golf facility, paid for with City money on City owned land should be made available to NYC residents at a reasonable cost. If you looked at the demographic of NYC, how many would realistically be able to afford 169.00 for a round of weekend golf???? And what about locally in the Bronx. I just dont think Trump and Municipal golf facility go together, unless he is buried somewhere on it. Oh but its sooo nice and its Donald Trump………..Then let Trump buy the land, at market value and he can charge what ever he wants and pay taxes on his “investment”

        How the f#@k could it cost $269 million to build a golf course on an empty field? Frankly, they should have put up some condos on this space to generate more income for NYC. And he should have had to fix the soccer fields and bathrooms on the west side of the bridge.

        • mike

          Mar 20, 2015 at 3:31 pm

          You don’t pay taxes in NYC… So why do you care? Since you mentioned the demographics of NYC. 99.9% of NYC residents are non regular golfers, so I don’t think they really care what the cost of the greens fee will be. All they care about is if the project will be good for the city. The course itself will definitely be profitable, the property values around the course will rise, and the course will bring major events to NYC. Don’t get me wrong, I hate Trump. But it’s not like he stole some exclusive piece of property from nyc, it was a toxic landfill with absolutely no value with a project that was going no where.

  9. Scud

    Mar 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Lido Beach Golf Club still has the best finishing 3 holes in NY 😉

  10. The90sAreHere

    Mar 17, 2015 at 2:49 am

    $269 Million dollar collaboration and yet they could not be bothered to spend even 1% ($2.69 Million) or less on a decent website?

    The levels of sadness this website exuberates would make even the happiest of felines bellow in agony.

    And no, this comment was not made by a spam bot 🙂

  11. Jordan

    Mar 16, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Unfortunately, when NYC handed over the keys to Trump, that was the sign that this course was not going to be for the same crowd that plays on the other NYC public courses. There was hope when it was rumored that greens fees would be roughly double those of the others, but peak time fees are nearly triple. I play at the other courses as a single mostly, so I have gotten paired up with a good sample of the public-golf-playing demographic in the area. They, and I, are not the types to shell out that kind of cash on a regular basis. Once in a while, sure, it will be fun to play. But the 6+ hour rounds are not going anywhere at the other courses.

  12. Brad

    Mar 16, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I didn’t see a SINGLE tree…. LOL

    • ken

      Mar 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      And you won’t…It’s a capped landfill….And despite the outrageous and exclusive price to play, one has to travel through a pretty dicey neighborhood to get to the course.
      Trump, who as a non nonsense business person, I admire, has this idea in his head at quote: “golf is an aspirational game”..What Trump means is only those who have achieved a certain level of financial success should be playing golf…Hence the reason why almost every golf property he owns or his company operates is either a private members only club or in the case of daily fees, the prices are out of reach for most golfers.
      I object to that.


        Mar 16, 2015 at 8:26 pm



      Mar 16, 2015 at 8:25 pm


      • Joe Golfer

        Mar 17, 2015 at 12:50 am

        Did you notice that the original post by Brad ended with the “LOL”.
        In other words, his post was meant as a joke, because, yes, he does know what a links course is.

      • Realisitic

        Mar 17, 2015 at 10:27 am

        do you know what a caps lock key is?

  13. mlamb

    Mar 16, 2015 at 11:48 am

    there are already plenty of cheap golf courses in the NY area. if anything, this will help regulate the outrageous (6+ hours) pace of play at most all public courses near the city.

    • ken

      Mar 16, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Actually ,you’re wrong. Every three or so years, Golf Digest rates access to public golf by price, pace of play, value, quality of facilities and other criteria. The ratings are divided by location using the top 3330 or so Metropolitan Statistical Areas ( MSA’s)…..In every survey, The NYC/Long Island MSA is rated LAST in access to public golf…The Bergen/Passaic/Hudson Counties MSA is right down there with NYC….The fact is that there are far more golfers than the public facilities can handle.
      As for your theory that exclusionary pricing will reduce crowded conditions at Ferry Pt…..Have fun trying to get a tee time at Bethpage, the most expensive state park golf in the NYS System….The courses, especially Black, are always packed….
      I think the Ferry pt course will get some play initially, but the novelty will wear of as will the patience of New Yorkers trying to find a round of golf for a reasonable fee. Quite frankly, any rack rate over $50 or $60 for public golf doesn’t cut it.
      And with golf participation in steady decline, the golf industry is flailing

      • mlamb

        Mar 16, 2015 at 1:58 pm

        ken – i live in ny and i can tell you firsthand that every nearby course is absolutely packed during the season. most these places are absolute dogtracks that charge $60+. the reason bethpage is so crowded is because it offers a very generous discount to those with an ny license.

        it’s honestly so bad that i had to join a private club


        Mar 16, 2015 at 8:30 pm


        • PT

          Mar 16, 2015 at 10:43 pm

          You have completely missed the point and lack of knowledge is arrogant. A $115 round is completely different from a $215 round. Also, this is not a resort it but rather an 18 hole golf course in the Bronx. Killer views yes but this was never meant to be a $300 novelty resort course. Let me fill you in – the whole purpose was to develop a course for residents of NYC to have a convenient and reasonable place to play. Original budget was only like $30 million and is now coming in close to $250 million. Oh yea, not to mention it has all been funded by NYC taxpayer dollars. So you can see why the average joe promised reasonably priced rounds would be a little pissed, he paid for the course. Budget is blown by 10 times so they need to make it up somewhere, luckily for Trump he doesn’t have to start paying rent back to the city for 2 years and can reap it in during the honeymoon period. At a $100, like ANY BETTER PUBLIC ACCESS COURSE, I would probably play it a few times a month. But at $215 plus NY tax plus $35 for a f$%cking cart for a course the public paid for you are out of your mind to think thats ok, and I’m a republican!

        • Realisitic

          Mar 17, 2015 at 10:28 am

          But golf in Florida is flat, boring, and you have to be in Florida to do it

          No thanks

        • gdb99

          Mar 17, 2015 at 6:27 pm

          I was in Florida to play golf the last week in February, in the Tampa area.
          I played some the better public courses, like Dunedin Country Club, where the PGA Headquarters used to be, and never paid over $50.

          I have enjoyed playing Bethpage a number of times, since I live in CT. I would like to play this course but, listening to these stories of who paid for the course, it’s original intent for an affordable place to play, I’m not so sure now.

          And Joel, your caps lock is on.

  14. HBL

    Mar 16, 2015 at 11:42 am

    According to Trump, in a Golf Digest interview, golf should be aspirational; in other words, played by very rich people. Since I don’t have an eight figure portfolio I don’t think I can (should or will) play this course, or any other of his other courses. I am looking forward to my fall trip to Bandon Dunes however.

    • Bogus

      Mar 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Lol Trump is an obnoxious insecure corporate fiend. Most of the field in his events then don’t deserve to play golf lol, I would say the majority came from families that wouldn’t be considered overly wealthy, some came from literally nothing. Trump sucks at golf, so do most of his business buddies. Golf should be played by everyone and anyone who loves the game, just like any other sport. We don’t need corporate rats like Trump telling us how to organize our hobbies.

  15. TK

    Mar 16, 2015 at 11:41 am

    It does look like a challenge but I would like to thank Mr Trump for putting his time and $$$ into this track that, without him, would still be in a state of disarray.

    For all those who complained about 7000+ yards, why don’t you try playing from the teebox that suits your game? I am sure that there are tees from 6500 / 5900/5200 yds for everyone to enjoy…I personally enjoy a tough track. I am a fairly long hitter, play to a 7 hdcp and enjoy a tough (but fair) challenge. I am sure there’s something for everyone out there.

    Finally, if it’s too hard to play, why would you go play Bethpage instead? Isn’t the Black (and from what I’ve heard – the Red) some of the toughest tracks around?

    I look forward to coming to NJ for my best friend’s 50th. Our 4some plans on playing Bethpage Black, Trump @ Fairy Point, Liberty National and Bayonne (I have friends in high places that can get us on these wonderful courses)…

    Cheers, TK

    • PT

      Mar 16, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      Trump didn’t have to dump loads of money into this. He leases the course from the city. Only had to put out $10 million in equity to build the clubhouse. Also, he has 2 or 3 years of rent abatement. Pretty sweet deal.

      • IJP

        Mar 16, 2015 at 9:54 pm

        dont forget the free water. irrigation is everything.

  16. adolfo

    Mar 16, 2015 at 10:58 am

    and then the powers at be wonder why its so damn difficult to play golf…… about you lower the prices and shorten the courses a little bit. I mean most of us cant last on a 7000 yd course for that amount of money. (sorry for the rant)

    • ken

      Mar 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Leave your ego in the car….Play from forward tees. Simple.
      Please do not be one of these dopes who slow down play because in spite of their 20+ handicap “paid to see the whole course”….

    • Steve

      Mar 16, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      And they make other tee boxes for people that can’t last on 7,000 yard courses…

  17. PT

    Mar 16, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I thought the goal of NYC was to keep this place affordable when they originally set out to build it. It will get play for the novelty but can’t see many people making regular trips to this place. I will play it once but then gladly keep playing Bethpage where I can basically play the Black 3 times for those green fees.

  18. yaisaidit

    Mar 16, 2015 at 12:25 am

    i get the ‘privilege’ to drive by this beauty on my way to paying tolls each morning for work. looks awesome from what i can tell but it’ll be too difficult for the avg. joe. i never get bored with bethpage!

  19. Guantanemo

    Mar 15, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    I’ve seen the course from the sky multiple times as I flew to and from JFK. I’d always wondered what it was, because it looked awesome. Hope to go play there someday.

  20. slider

    Mar 15, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    if trump keeps crying I am sure he will get a us open soon

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19th Hole

15 things to know before booking your Bandon Dunes golf trip



Bandon Dunes. Almost from the day it opened, the passion project on the Oregon coast by developers Michael Keiser and Howard McKee has been one of the most sought-after golf destinations in the world. Fast forward, and the resort now boasts 5 courses, three of which are rated in the top 10 public courses in America. It started with Bandon Dunes, arguably the first true links course in the United States. Designed by Scottish wunderkind David McLay Kidd. It is the embodiment of pure golf, a revolution and a revival at the same time. If you woke up on the first tee and didn’t know where you were, you would swear that you were on one of the great courses of the Emerald Isle or bonny Scotland.

After Bandon Dunes came Pacific Dunes, the Tom Doak masterpiece that debuted in 2001 with more ocean views than the QE2 and now ranks only behind Pebble Beach among public courses in the United States. Pacific Dunes is as stunningly beautiful as a Hollywood starlet and, when the prevailing North wind is blowing, about as difficult to approach.

Then came Old Macdonald, another links gem that ranks number 10 in the country but may have the most passionate following of all of the courses. Even though it’s only been around for about a decade, it has an old soul. Old Macdonald is a course completely without pretense; walking it is in so many ways like a walk through life, full of beauty and fraught with danger, moments of glory and of potential four-putt despair. Like all great links layouts, Old Macdonald can be successfully navigated by players of all abilities and styles.

And there is the classic parkland beauty of Bandon Trails by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the partnership that is dropping a trail of golf magic from coast to coast. The cherry on top is Bandon Preserve, the 13-hole short course that is a condensed version of the original and now ranks as the No. 1 short course in the U.S., just ahead of a 9-hole course in Augusta, Georgia that is reasonably difficult to book a tee time for.

Most people rightly compare the Bandon experience to Ireland or Scotland; the golf is stellar no matter which course you play, it is surprisingly affordable, and the off-course amenities are as memorable as the courses themselves. Truth of the matter is that from the East Coast it’s easier to get to Dublin than it is to get to Bandon. But once you get to Ireland you’d have to spend days moving from hotel to hotel on roads the size of cart paths in order to get the level of golf that is available within a five minute shuttle ride of your hotel room at Bandon Dunes. With the golf, the food, and the camaraderie, you are almost guaranteed to have a memorable golf experience at Bandon Dunes. But there are a few ways that you can 100 percent guarantee that it will be extra special…for your consideration, I present some tips to assure a perfect Bandon Experience.

1) Be prepared to walk

With only the rare exception (two or three rounds a day), all of the courses at Bandon Dunes are walking courses and they are not an easy walk . One round takes you on a 5+ mile walk up and down the dunes, and if you plan to play 36 holes on at least one day (see below), it will take a toll on your body. Walk some rounds or get on a treadmill to prepare before you get to Oregon and bring plenty of your preferred pain medication.

2) Book during May or December

The weather on the Oregon coast can be unpredictable to say the least, even in the summer months when tee times are the most expensive and difficult to secure. Booking in the shoulder season means not only greater availability; it’s also about 30% cheaper. And Bandon veterans know that there are days in December when warm Southerly winds bring weather when you can play in shirtsleeves.

3) Bring the proper gear

As mentioned above, the weather at Bandon is predictable and unpredictable at the same time in that you know it’s going to rain but you just don’t know exactly when or how much. Bring quality rain gear and plenty of changes of shirts and socks.

4) Fly into Eugene and drive to Bandon

Coming from the East Coast you can fly into Portland (4-hour drive) or North Bend (30-minute drive), but the best option is Eugene, about a 2-hour drive to Bandon. It is a gorgeous drive that will have you stopping often to snap pictures of some of America’s most beautiful scenery.

5) Stop at the Sugar Shack in Reedsport and SharkBite’s Seafood Cafe in Coos Bay

Ok, it’s going to take more than 2 hours from Eugene because you will have to make a couple of stops. The Sugar Shack in Reedsport is an old-school bakery that has warm service, hot coffee and some of the best donuts you have ever tasted. If you are feeling lucky try the Bigfoot, a donut that is roughly the size of an Air Jordan. And just outside Bandon in the town of Coos Bay is the SharkBite’s Seafood Cafe, a relaxed little joint that offers hand-crafted cocktails and quesadillas the size of a boogie board.

6) Stay for at least 4 days and play every course at least once

This is especially true if you are from the East Coast. It is a long trip, maybe once in a lifetime, and there are multiple courses to play. There are some hardy souls that plan 2-3 day trips with 36 holes or more per day. That’s ambitious at best and potentially self-destructive. Plan for at least three days of 18 holes and at least one day of 36.

7) Play The Punchbowl

The Punchbowl is an 18-hole putting course that has become an end of day ritual for Bandon regulars. It’s a great place to have a drink (brought to you on the course from the clubhouse), smoke a stogie and make a friendly wager or two. I find watching a group of good friends play the Punchbowl, with the laughter and shouts of friendship as a soundtrack to the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, almost relaxing as playing.

8) Have the Lamb Stew at McKee’s Pub

Howard McKee, along with Mike Keiser, was the visionary developer who brought Bandon into being. A gifted architect and an exceptional human being, McKee passed away in 2007 at the age of 68. He is remembered by all who knew him and his spirit lives at McKees Pub. Located near the clubhouse for Bandon Dunes, McKees feels like stepping into a pub in Edinburgh, and tastes like it too. Everything on the menu is good but try the Lamb Stew, a big bowl of slow cooked goodness. You will gain the wonder and admiration of your friends of you finish it.

9) Play At Least One Solo Round

Bandon is all about spending time with old friends and making new ones. That said, I find the solitary round at either the beginning or end of the day to be like going to church. If you have time, book a late afternoon round at Old Macdonald. Walking alone with only your clubs and your thoughts will give you time to truly appreciate how wonderful our game truly is…and how lucky you are to be able to experience it.

10) Book a Massage

On some golf trips, many guys think of massage as something that the significant other goes for while they are out on the course. But after several days of navigating the ups and downs at Bandon the muscles will be screaming for relief. Book a massage at the on- property spa and you’ll get welcome relief.

11) Budget for the Pro Shops

Five courses, five logos and thousands of great gift options await at Bandon. If you are a collector of shirts you might want to bring an extra suitcase for the gear you are going to bring back. Like Vegas, set a limit before you go in the door and walk away when that number is spent.

12) Collect Cheap Souvenirs

Like I said souvenirs can be a costly business, especially if you are buying for friends as well as yourself. Scorecards, ball markers and even empty water bottles are frugal ways to score some memorabilia for your buddies back home.

13) Have a Cigar in The Bunker Bar

As the name suggests, The Bunker Bar is located on the lower floor of the Bandon Dunes clubhouse. There isn’t a lot of signage for it and on the stairs down it seems like you are going to end up in a storage room. But what you find is a cozy retreat that features poker tables, pool tables and a bar with a skilled bartender and a first-class collection of spirits. And since you can smoke indoors there, feel free to channel your inner Don Draper and try one of the fine choices offered at the bar or bring one of your own.

14) Bring a Phone Battery Charger or a Camera on the Course

The courses at Bandon are one big photo op, and you don’t have to be a pro to take snapshots that are magazine worthy. Taking all those snaps will drain your phone battery faster than a pony keg at a frat party so bring a battery pack or a dedicated camera so that you won’t be cameraless when you find yourself standing in front of the perfect sunset.

15) Hit The Boat for Fish and Chips

On the drive home, stop at The Boat Restaurant in Coos Bay. This little gem is packed with locals munching on the some of the best fish and chips in the area. While you wait for your grub you can take a quick stroll through the train museum next door.

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You’ve never played anything like Sweetens Cove



What do you say about a 3,300-yard, nine-hole course in rural Tennessee with a prefabricated shed for a clubhouse, a port-a-john for a locker room, and a practice green the size of a coffee table? For starters, it’s the most enjoyable golf experience I’ve had in years.

Sweetens Cove isn’t the kind of course where you can say, “Well, it’s like a little bit of this course and that one put together.” It will never be called “a classic so-and-so design.” I’ve played everything from munis to tour stops all the way to the Old Course, and I can promise you it’s not like anything else you’ve ever played.

Picture a world-class, challenging, and ridiculously fun golf course. Now strip off the 15,000-square-foot clubhouse, the pro shop, the driving range, the short game area, and even the superfluous nine holes you can’t remember anyway. Now, go ahead and shave another 300 yards off the tips. That may sound sacrilegious, but once you’ve distilled the experience into only what is necessary, you’re left with something that takes you back to when you first fell in love with golf. Maybe even something that takes you back to the birth of golf itself.

A view of the sixth green at Sweetens Cove looking back toward the tee box. Photo Credit: Rob Collins

Rob Collins is the man behind the course’s creation. When he started the project, it was May 2011 and golf was in a full recession. Courses were closing their doors, companies were struggling to make ends meet, and Rob was betting everything he had on his brand new company (King Collins Golf Course Design, a partnership with Tad King) and their first project of turning a forgettable muni called Sequatchie Valley G&CC into something memorable.

I was inspired by my favorite courses in Great Britain and Ireland along with Pinehurst No. 2 and Tobacco Road, to name a few domestic courses that provided inspiration,” Rob said.  “Additionally, the 1932 version of Augusta National was a huge inspiration for the architecture. The overall goal was to create a great strategic course that places a premium on approach and recovery shots. Hazards, angles, and green contours all work in concert with one another, laying the foundation for a course where there are no weak or indifferent shots during one’s round.” 

Happily, Rob and Tad’s endeavor fared much better than many of their contemporaries’ projects in the wake of the 2008 recession, though it did have many twists and turns along the way. Chief among them was in 2013, roughly a year after construction was completed, when the ownership group disbanded and left the course for dead.

I was desperate to do anything that I could to get the course open,” Rob said.  “The course was my baby, and I believed that what we had created out there was architecturally significant and deserved to see the light of day. As it turned out, my client [the original ownership] approached me and asked if I would like to take the course over on a long-term lease. I said yes to that proposition and set about trying to find a partner for the venture. I was introduced to Ari Techner through the former superintendent at Lookout Mountain, Mark Stovall. Ari and I hit it off and partnered in a venture to take over operations of the course.  Since that time, our partnership has expanded and includes Patrick Boyd as General Manager as well as a few others.” 

Once securing new ownership, Sweetens Cove took off on a consistent upward trajectory that even has it ranked above some major championship venues in certain publications.

The pot bunker to the left of Sweetens Cove’s fifth green, appropriately nicknamed “The Devil’s A**hole.” Photo credit: Kevin Livingood

Admittedly, arriving at Sweetens Cove for the first time can be a disorienting experience for the recovering country clubber. Meandering through a town of 3,000 people in the East Tennessee foothills, you find a wooden sign marking the entrance that guides you to a gravel parking lot with no marked spaces. Stumbling out of the car, you find a curious hunter green shed for a clubhouse that might lead you to question all the buzz you’ve seen on social media. The walk from your car to the clubhouse, though, provides the perfect perch to gaze out on the King Collins creation… and you start to realize that maybe there’s really something to this place.

When you embark on your journey, you encounter absolutely no resemblance to the mechanical, formulaic assembly of a typical, rubber-stamped golf course design. Instead, you’ll find massive waste areas, perfectly placed pot bunkers, and a movement to the land that captures the imagination. The greens are equally receptive to flop shots and bump-and-runs, but they demand a precise execution of either choice.

The bermudagrass fairways are relatively firm and generously-sized, but uneven lies are a common occurrence. Should you find yourself outside those fairways, prepare to take your medicine. Waiting for you there are those waste areas, as well as tall fescue and even clover and thistle in some areas. While some may scoff at such a notion, this is a microcosm of Sweetens Cove’s ethos. It’s a palace for the golfing purist: a minimalist, essential experience that harkens back to when golf geniuses like Old Tom Morris knew exactly where (and where not) to focus their energy. If something adds to the golfing experience, Sweetens Cove has it in spades. If it doesn’t add to the golfing experience, the folks at Sweetens Cove don’t bother.

Sweetens Cove course layout designed by Tom Young at Ballpark Blueprints. Image property of Ballpark Blueprints, Ltd.

The opening hole (pictured to the far left of the above image) is a par-5 of 563 yards. It’s a three-shot hole for most mortals, but your best chance of getting home in two is to start by carrying the bunker on the left about 270 yards off the tee. Be very careful about how you approach the green. It’s guarded by a gnarly pot bunker bordered by vertical railroad ties. The green on this hole is a foreshadowing of what’s to come on the next eight with bounding ridges and multiple potential pin locations that each provide a totally different perspective.

The greenside bunker at Sweetens Cove’s first hole, nicknamed “The Mitre” after its resemblance to the Pope’s hat. Photo credit: Kevin Livingood

The second hole is a par-4 of 375 yards, and the star of the show is the nastiest little pot bunker. It’s placed squarely in the middle of the fairway about 260 yards from the tee. If you miss it, you’re likely fine, but if you don’t… well, good luck. The smart play is hybrid off the tee to stay short of the bunker, leaving yourself a short iron into the green.

No. 3 is a par-5 of 582 yards. Feel free to let fly with the driver off the tee, but beware how you approach the green. The green is perched high above the fairway and guarded by a massive tree in front and a waste area to the left. If the pin is located on the left side of the green, you’re in for a surprise when you walk up to the flag. The ideal landing area isn’t much larger than a couple hundred square feet.

No. 4, King, is the only hole with a name. It’s a 169-yard par-3 according to the card, but the green is 90 yards long. The shot can play anywhere from 120-200 yards depending on pin location and the direction of the swirling winds. And did I mention the tee shot is blind from the tips?

View of the fourth hole, King, from the tee box. Photo credit: Rob Collins

No. 5 is a 293-yard par-4. For longer hitters, it’s reachable from the tee with the right wind, but be careful where you miss. Short right of the green is all waste area that is relatively escapable, though your second shot will likely be to a blind pin. Short left is another nasty pot bunker.

No. 6 is a massive 456-yard par-4 with a sweeping dogleg left that tempts you to hit a hard draw. What you are likely to find out after the fact is that a good portion of the fairway slopes to the left and into a water hazard that runs the length of the hole. This will be one of the hardest holes on the course for most golfers. The only way to miss this green and still be in play is to be short and/or right of it, but getting up and down from there will definitely test your nerves, skill, and imagination.

No. 7 is a 328-yard par-4. It’s all about what club you select off the tee. Driver straight at the flag (which must carry a bunker on the right) is aggressive but likely safe. A driver left will leave you with that dreaded 60-yard bunker shot, and driver right could be behind a tree. Be smart and hit a hybrid. If you miss the green left or right, you may waste a shot or two going back and forth due to the steep drop off on either side.

No. 8 was my personal nemesis. It’s a 387-yard par-4 that, in retrospect, places an emphasis on an accurately planned tee shot (notice a theme here?). By that I mean at the tee, you need to evaluate where the pin is and pick the club and line that will give you the best angle — while keeping in mind the location of the bunkers and trees that could impact your intended path.

The eighth green at Sweetens Cove. Photo credit: Rob Collins

No. 9 is an uphill, 148-yard par-3 with a massive waste area in front, another bunker beyond, and a back-right to front-left sloping green. Matt Cardis’ photo below from his @golfinyourstate Instagram account is taken from the No. 9 tee box.

A course with virtually no excess is a challenging proposition. Everything has to be in exactly the right place, as there’s nothing to divert your attention away from anything that doesn’t meet expectations. Sweetens Cove is definitely up to the task, forcing you to constantly zoom in and out mentally to evaluate the macro and micro of every single shot. There are no less than three shots that can be played from any given situation on the course, but you had better commit to the strategy you’ve chosen and execute or you will pay the price.

The entire journey is spent on the razor-thin edge between heroism and disappointment. Sure, there are elements of this designer and that designer; of links golf and American golf, but Sweetens Cove is truly a golf course without a parallel. It’s a place that serves as a refreshing counter-culture to the vast majority of 21st-century golf courses and, frankly, to the American lifestyle in general. In a world with so much excess, Sweetens Cove will remind you that if all you had left was just a fantastic golf course, all would still be very much right with the world.

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The Winds of Change At Shinnecock Hills



Two-hundred and seventy-six. That’s the number of strokes it took for Retief Goosen to secure his second U.S. Open Title in 2004, but the number of strokes is the last thing anyone would remember from that year’s toughest test in golf. Take this article from ESPN’s David Kraft and Peter Lawrence-Riddell summing up the final round of Goosen’s triumph:

“The seventh green at Shinnecock Hills was so hard to play for the first two groups Sunday morning that USGA officials decided to water it between every pairing for the final round of the U.S. Open.”

Just as with the 1974 “Massacre at Winged Foot,” the 2004 U.S. Open will forever be remembered as the day the USGA dropped the ball. The USGA claimed that the seventh had been “inadvertently rolled” on Saturday. Walter Driver, chairman of the USGA Championship Committee at the time, told reporters on Saturday, “I found out after play was completed today that, for some reason, a different person on the grounds staff rolled that green today despite the orders that we had given not to roll the green.” Even a typically mild-mannered Jerry Kelly had harsh words, according to the same ESPN piece, “They lied [Saturday],” said Jerry Kelly, who finished with an 81 after shooting 71 Saturday. “Talked to the superintendent. Superintendent said, ‘Hey, I’m not getting in the middle of this. They told me to roll it.’”

Whether the grounds crew was told to roll the seventh green or not, it gave up three triple bogies in the first two groups, so the USGA watered it between each group for the rest of the day. As the 2018 U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since that fateful day, the USGA looks to redeem itself this year. With some subtle changes, maybe they can.

In 2004, Shinnecock played 6,996 yards at par 70. In the past 14 years, there have been no major renovations to the course, but once the decision was made to bring the Open back to one of the founding clubs of the USGA, the American Governing body was determined to ensure Shinnecock was presented with its best foot forward. According to a Golfweek report from October of 2017, the following changes have been made to accommodate not only the tournament but the redemption of a reputation:

  • There are 17 new back tees that will stretch the course from the previous 6,996 yards to a total length of 7,445 yards.
  • The par-4 14th hole has been extended 76 yards and will now play 519 yards. The par-5 16th will now play 616 yards.
  • While the fairways will still be more generous than most U.S. Opens, they have been narrowed by Shinnecock’s standard. They will play between 28-32 yards on average.
  • The greens have not been recontoured, but on the greens with the “most severe contouring,” an extended collar of rough has been added between the edge of the greens and the greenside bunkers.

With the course is still expected to play at a par of 70, it will likely be a tougher test than 2017’s expose at Erin Hills, even if there is little wind. In 2004, all eyes were on the par-3 seventh on Sunday. From the time the first minute of Live From The U.S. Open airs on TV, all eyes will be on the same hole: 189 yards with a raised green that runs away from the players and to the right… but so much more.

As there always is with the U.S. Open, the course will be a character in the story more so than any other championship. Hale Irwin won his first of three majors (all U.S. Opens) at the “Massacre at Winged” with a score of seven over par, and 32 years after that championship Peter McCleery of ESPN was still writing about it. And with Shinnecock hosting the U.S. Open the year after Brooks Koepka swept the field with a 16-under par victory at a helpless Erin Hills, who knows what will happen as the horses are released from the gates on Sunday of this year’s U.S. Open?

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19th Hole