GOLF COURSE REVIEW - THE APAWAMIS CLUB
Architects: Willie Dunn, Maturin Ballou (1890), George and Tom Fazio (1977),
Gil Hanse (2001)
Year Opened: 1890
Location: Rye, New York
Slope: 138. Rating: 75.3
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 372 Yds 10 - Par 5 528 Yds
2 - Par 4 345 Yds 11 - Par 4 362 Yds
3 - Par 4 347 Yds 12 - Par 3 207 Yds
4 - Par 4 326 Yds 13 - Par 4 356 Yds
5 - Par 3 143 Yds 14 - Par 4 446 Yds
6 - Par 4 333 Yds 15 - Par 4 412 Yds
7 - Par 4 409 Yds 16 - Par 3 186 Yds
8 - Par 4 362 Yds 17 - Par 5 501 Yds
9 - Par 5 586 Yds 18 - Par 4 326 Yds
Par 36 3,223 Yds Par 36 3,324 Yds
Events Held: U.S. Amateur Championship (1911),
U.S. Girls' Junior Championship (1970),
Curtis Cup (1978),
USGA Women's Senior Amateur Championship (2005).
Awards Won: One of the top-100 clubs established in the U.S.
HISTORY: The history of golf in the United States runs deep and it includes
The Apawamis Club. Dating back to 1890, Apawamis is among the oldest 100 golf
courses in America. Crafted by Willie Dunn, Jr. and the club's Chairman of
Golf, Maturin Ballou, Apawamis is virtually identical to its original design.
So few changes have been made over the years, that when Gil Hanse came in 2001
to bring the course up to standards, many thought it was a restoration than a
reconstruction. The original clubhouse was built in 1899 to accommodate almost
500 members. The design was quite basic, but complete with all of the
amenities. In February of 1907 however, a fire destroyed virtually the entire
structure, except the front of the building. Not to be deterred, the members
were able to pony up enough money to have a new facility open just nine months
later. The cornerstone included an authentic peace pipe of the Apawamis
Indians, a goose quill pen, and an oyster, the three symbols that make up the
Not only was golf a big part of Apawamis, but squash and tennis were equally
as important. 1904 saw the first squash house constructed with two courts,
believed to be one of just three sites in the country at that time. Tennis has
been very popular in the area as well dating back to 1902 when a pair of
courts were built.
Two of the most recognizable people from Apawamis were golf Hall-of-Famer Gene
Sarazen and television personality Ed Sullivan. Both began their careers as
caddies at Apawamis, as Sarazen was born in nearby Harrison and Sullivan in
Port Chester, walking distance from the club. Apawamis had over 100 caddies,
each given a number, with Sullivan 98 and Sarazen 99. According to Sarazen's
book, Thirty Years of Championship Golf, the caddies went out numerically,
with numbers one and two getting the first action and so on. Caddie master
George Hughes had a favorite and it was Sullivan, who received plenty of
action. Sarazen was not as fortunate, despite being a good caddie and of
course, needing the money. Sarazen and the other non-favored caddies would
make extra money by selling lost golf balls back to the members. Hughes was a
tough cookie and he would frisk the caddies to see if they were concealing
balls in their clothes. To get by, the caddies would bury the balls they had
found and retrieve them later after Hughes had left for the night. The pond on
the 14th was a breading ground from lost balls, so Hughes erected a sign,
"Beware of Snapping Turtles and Water Moccasins," trying to detract the
caddies from scouring the pond. Although the sign, according to Sarazen, "was
very pretty and well-lettered with no mistakes," it certainly failed to scare
them off, as the pond contained neither turtles nor snakes. Sarazen's
determination proved remarkable, both as a caddie and a golf professional, as
he became a favorite among the members and one of the greatest players of all
time. During the club's 50th anniversary, Sullivan wrote a recollection of his
caddie days. "Of the fifty years that Apawamis is celebrating this year, I go
back as far as 1911 - so I feel that I've traveled quite a good portion of the
way because 1911 to 1940 is twenty-nine years, unless my arithmetic is as bad
as my putting."
Women have had a definite influence on Apawamis and none more important than
Mrs. Allison "Sis" Choate. One of the best amateurs of her time, Choate won
the Women's Club Championship at Apawamis an astonishing 22 times, covering a
span of 50 years. In fact, during the years 1938-54, she captured 14 of the 17
titles. Choate, who captured the 1963 USGA Senior Women's Amateur
Championship, served on the USGA's women's committee and was captain of the
1974 U.S. Curtis Cup squad. Choate, along with fellow member Jean Ashley
Crawford, were instrumental in getting Apawamis to host the Curtis Cup in
1978. Along with her husband Allison, Sis lived alongside the 18th hole until
her death in 1988.
The Apawamis Club has hosted four United States Golf Association
championships. The first was the 1911 U.S. Amateur won by two-time British
Open champion Harold Hilton. Medalist of 186 entries with a score of 150,
Hilton needed 37 holes to defeat Fred Herreshoff in the final. Cruising in
the 36-hole championship match, Hilton led by six after 22 holes, however
Herreshoff evened the match after 34 holes. Hilton's legendary second shot on
the first extra hole caught a slope and rolled on the green, as he two-putted
for par and the win. The opening hole at Apawamis is named in honor of the
1911 U.S. Amateur champion, "Hilton's Rock."
Fifty-nine years later, the USGA returned to Apawamis for the U.S. Girls'
Junior Championship. With only 85 players entered, Hollis Stacy became only
the second player to win back-to-back titles in this event, as she edged Janet
Aulisi, 1-up. An 18-time winner on the LPGA Tour, including three U.S. Women's
Opens, Stacy became the winningest player in Girls' Junior history, when she
titled the following year in her home state of Georgia.
The Curtis Cup made its second and last appearance in the state of New York at
Apawamis in 1978, as Beth Daniel led the United States to a 12-6 victory. The
LPGA Tour Hall-of-Famer, who totaled 33 wins in her career, posted a pair of
singles victories, as the United States won its 10th straight Curtis Cup
match. Daniel, 7-1 in Curtis Cup play, was a perfect 4-0 in singles in her two
appearances in Curtis Cup action (1976, 78).
When the 2005 USGA Senior Women's Amateur Championship came to Apawamis, four-
time champion Carol Semple Thompson and defending champ Carolyn Creekmore were
the leading candidates to capture the event. Thompson, who was competing in
her record 102nd USGA championship and looking for her eighth title, finished
the stroke-play portion as the medalist, at seven-over-par with rounds of
72-79. She advanced to the finals with a hard-fought, 1-up win over Cecilia
Mourgue D'Algue of France. In the lower half of the bracket, Creekmore reached
the quarterfinals, but was defeated by Diane Lang of Florida, who finished one
shot behind Thompson in stroke play. Lang continued her hot play, as she
cruised into the finals with an 8 & 6 thrashing of Annette Gaiotti. The
championship match was a see-saw affair, as Lang, who birdied the first hole,
increased her advantage to 2-up after four. Back-to-back bogies however had
the match back to even after the sixth. Thompson took advantage of Lang's
mistakes and jumped to a 2-up lead after the opening nine. With a par on the
10th, Lang closed to within one and drew all square with a birdie on the 14th.
Playing in just her second USGA event, Lang parred the next to take a 1-up
lead with just three to play. After halving the 16th, Thompson again drew even
with a birdie on the 17th, as she drained a 22-foot putt. Lang, playing before
Thompson, had a chance to win the event on the second-to-last hole, but her
eagle try was well short and her birdie try missed its mark. On the final
hole, Thompson, playing from the rough, hit her second shot on the green, but
some 70 feet from the hole, while Lang placed her second just 12 feet away.
Thompson's first putt was well short and her next slid past the left edge for
bogey. Lang followed with a routine two-putt for the championship.
REVIEW: The one thing that you'll learn through your round at Apawamis is that
the brain is needed more than brawn. Just 6,547 yards in length, the course
features many par fours, nine to be exact, under 400 yards and greens under 30
yards in depth.
You certainly don't have long to wait for either of these characteristics, as
the first hole is a straightaway, 372-yard par four. Driver can be used off
the tee, as you favor the left side of the fairway due to thick trees down the
entire right side. This will leave a short wedge approach to an uphill green
that slopes from back to front. The putting surface, just 26 yards in depth,
is trapped heavily on the right, while a large slope leading to the second tee
is on the left. A familiar tune at Apawamis, leave your shot into the green
below the hole, thus avoiding slick, downhill putts.
Accuracy rules supreme on the next few holes at Apawamis. The second, just 345
yards from the tips, requires a fairway metal or long iron off the tee. Tall
trees run down the left side of the r-shaped fairway, so right-center is the
play. This will set up a short iron approach to an uphill, two-tiered green
that's just 23 yards in depth, but quite wide. A front-left pin could be
tricky, as a small bunker could capture a slightly pulled approach.
The third is equally as demanding, playing uphill to the top of the fairway
and then downhill to the green. Missing the fairway on either side will spell
disaster due to the flanking trees. The prudent play is another long iron or
fairway metal, which will leave a blind shot of 100 yards to the putting
surface. A bold blast from the tee must split the tree line, but can be
rewarded if it lands in a 20-yard strip of fairway just above the green.
Getting back to reality, your second shot must be precise, as the putting
surface is only 19 yards in depth, with three traps strategically place, left,
right and back.
Once again, your tee shot is the key on the short, signature hole, fourth.
With trees looming large on both sides of the fairway, the use of a long iron
or fairway metal from the tee will leave just a short pitch to the green.
Which brings us to why this is the featured hole at Apawamis. Sand, sand and
more sand. Fifteen bunkers in all dot the front and side of the green. Called
"Eleanor's Teeth," the bunkers protect the four-tiered putting surface that
narrows toward the back.
The first par three on the course, the fifth, is also the shortest at 143
yards. Club selection is very important here, as any shot that comes up short
or long will spell bogey. The putting surface is 28 yards in depth and slopes
from right to left and back to front with numerous traps in front and on the
sides, not to mention a boomerang bunker in the rear. Any shot off target will
produce a difficult up-and-down.
Short and narrow is the call on the sixth, a par four of just 333 yards in
length. A successful hybrid or iron off the tee will leave a slightly uphill
second to a tight green, protected smartly by eight traps around the putting
surface. Fairway is key from the start, as trees guard the left and a 20-yard
trap in the landing area protects the right. This hole exemplifies the rocky
and hilly terrain at Apawamis.
The seventh is certainly an attention grabber. Not only is it the longest par
four on the front side, but it's also the number one handicap hole on the
course. This awkward dogleg left, despite its length, necessitates only a 3-
wood from the tee, as the fairway bends sharply and narrows at the landing
area. A tee ball through the fairway will leave a tree-blocked second, as will
a pulled shot left. Your approach, with a mid-iron, must dissect the trees on
both sides of the fairway. The putting surface is fairly flat with a pair of
bunkers well short of the green on either side. Making birdie is like finding
a brand-new Pro V1x in the rough.
Although rated one of the easier holes on the course, the dogleg left eighth
can be quite a handful. First of all, club selection off the tee is critical.
Driver can be used to negate the large mound in the center of the fairway,
thus leaving a clear view of the green. The other options are a long iron or
fairway metal short of the hill. The problem with the big stick is that it
brings three traps down the right side of the landing area into play and a
possible downhill approach to the green, whereas a shorter tee shot will avoid
those obstacles, unless of course you miss left and then find the tall trees.
The putting surface, just 23 yards in depth, slopes from back to front and
right to left, so below the hole will be your best shot at birdie. One final
note: do not miss left, as a deep bunker green-high will be difficult to
The closing hole on the outward nine is the first of back-to-back par fives,
not to mention the longest hole on the course. This is a three-shot hole, as
trees and out-of-bounds protect the entire right side and a pair of cleverly-
positioned bunkers guard the left landing area off the tee and on your second.
Although missing right will result in out-of-bounds, your ball will most
likely still be on a golf course. Unfortunately, it will be Willow Ridge
Country Club, which resides in between Apawamis and famed Westchester Country
Club. The putting surface, with a pair of bunkers right, is the largest on the
course at 30 yards in depth and slopes from left to right. This is not a hole
to be disappointed in with making par.
In contrast to the ninth, the 10th is a reachable par five of 528 yards in
length. That being said, there are plenty of obstacles to avoid. A big drive
will leave a little over 210 yards to the hole, however the fairway pinches in
towards the end of the landing area and trees and out-of-bounds guard the
right. Options remain for your second -- either go for it or lay up. Trying to
reach the green with your next shot is a two-fold problem: first, clearing the
trio of traps that lay 60 yards short of the green and second, staying clear
of the hanging trees and OB right. Laying up is no simple chore either, as a
small pond is situated just 100 yards or so from glory on the left. This hole
can be had, but the key is the tee ball.
Another demanding short par four, the 11th features a creek down the left side
and in front, trees and OB right, sand to the right of the green and a pond to
the left of the putting surface. In a nutshell, hit it straight. Fairway metal
off the tee must travel at least 220 yards to leave a clear look to the green,
as a 100-yard long mound protrudes on the right. At just 25 yards long, the
green is a tough target to hit, as the pond runs right up to the putting
surface and the trap right is 15 yards long. Bailout is long, but that will
leave a difficult pitch to a green running towards the water.
One of this writer's favorite holes at Apawamis, the 12th is the longest of
the trio of par threes. Stretching 207 yards from the back tees, the hole
plays uphill through the green which is 27 yards in length. With the extra
elevation, the hole plays at least one club longer. Any shot that misses
short-right will result in a very difficult, uphill, blind bunker shot. Making
par here could be the highlight of your round.
Next up is the dogleg right, par four 13th. Just 356 yards, a long iron or
fairway metal will set up a simple wedge to a difficult green. The key off the
tee is avoiding the bunker down the right side of the landing area. Water
fronts the two-tiered putting surface, making a front-right pin position quite
The longest par four on the course, the 14th is a dandy, not to mention the
second-hardest hole at Apawamis. The elevated tee shot shows the player
exactly what's needed: a long, straight drive center-cut. Trees flank both
sides of the bunkerless fairway, making your mission difficult. A mid-to-long
iron will remain to a slightly downhill putting surface. A little creek, 50-60
yards short of the green, can come into play if your opening shot fails to
find the fairway. The putting surface is slick and slopes from back to front
with a bunker on either side.
A decision must be made on the 15th tee, driver or three-wood. The problem
with driver is the fairway, although wider than most, runs out at 265 yards,
which means three-wood will leave a longer second shot. Your second shot, with
a mid to long iron, is slightly downhill to a very difficult, two-tiered
green. A back-right flag is quite challenging, due mainly to the pair of traps
that guard the green. Don't be misled, missing this green left is no bargain
either, as the deepest trap on the course flanks that side.
Featuring one of the smallest greens on the course, the 16th is an outstanding
par three of 186 yards. Playing uphill, a long iron will be required to gain
entrance to the putting surface, which is protected sternly on the right with
three traps and a pot bunker, front-left. The green slopes quickly from back
to front, so if you're going to err, short would be the correct miss.
Matches could be won and lost on the reachable par-five 17th. Just 501 yards,
this hole must be played strategically, as OB looms right and sand left off
the tee. A successful big drive can leave a 200-225-yard, blind shot to the
downhill green. A layup for your second must be played to the top of the hill,
thus leaving just a 100-yard pitch to the green. The putting surface is quite
accessible with two bunkers right and one left. Birdie is a definite
possibility, and par is no problem.
Not the longest or most difficult of closing holes, the 18th still presents a
firm finish. A directional stone and marker guide your blind tee shot on this
326-yard par four. With OB right and a pair of traps on the left side of the
fairway, the play would be a fairway metal, which will leave a 100-110-yard,
uphill shot to a trap-surrounded green. Nine bunkers circle the entire green,
the second-longest on the course, which features a raised front, a swale in
the middle and a raised, back section. Most will find this hole to be one of
the hardest holes.
FINAL WORD: When the so-called experts talk about the great courses in the
metropolitan New York area, Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge and Westchester come to
mind. Let's not leave out The Apawamis Club. Ben Hogan called Apawamis "the
toughest short course I have ever played," and the course will test even the
best of players. This is a kind of venue that requires every club in your bag.
Not so much the big dog, but three-wood to three-iron off the tee and an
accurate wedge game. Don't forget the flat stick. The greens at Apawamis are
slick and undulating and require a precise touch. A course that you need to
play on numerous occasions to understand the nuances of the layout. The
clubhouse is historic and inviting. The lone drawback, the driving range, is
shared with the first fairway, but if it is a slight, it's minimal at best.
The staff is quite accommodating and friendly, which goes a long way in my
book. The bottom line: The Apawamis Club is a gem and should not be
overlooked. I just hope I get the chance for a second visit.