This month’s column is unique, as it was written while I was participating in the Jumeirah Cup — a Ryder Cup-formatted championship in which Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts’ clients from the United States and the United Kingdom battled on the greens of Scarsdale Golf Club. As if that wasn’t enough for an exciting and challenging weekend, Jumeirah’s Ambassador, championship golfer Rory McIlroy, played a few holes with each foursome, offering tips on our game. Rory was in New York to play the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
Coincidentally, the same individual, Albert Warren Tillinghast, designed both Bethpage Black and Scarsdale Golf Club. Tillinghast must have been an interesting character. “Tilly,” as he was known, was the son of a wealthy Philadelphian — and a rudderless youth until his father took him to St. Andrews, where he found his inspiration.
Tillinghast was a hard-drinking,lavishly spending and pistol-flourishing son of the Roaring Twenties. At the same time, he was a gentleman with impeccable taste and dress and was an artful pianist. He visited more than 400 courses in the United States, offering his ideas on golf course management and maintenance. He influenced the design of Pine Valley and made the first birdie when the course opened. He hobnobbed with the likes of Old Tom Morris and other golf greats and became known as the “Creator of Golf Courses.”
Scarsdale is no exception to the Tillinghast tradition of great courses. The course was built to offer sport to the growing families around the area and to encourage development of the region. The Clubhouse, built in 1921 and fully renovated in 2004, is a spectacular example of the lavish spending in the time before the Great Depression, an era that saw the creation of courses like Winged Foot, Merion, Baltusrol, Rolling Green and Bethpage Black. Willie Dunn of Musselburgh, Scotland — the professional at Shinnecock Hills and winner of the unofficial U.S. Open in 1894 — designed the first nine holes. In the 1920s Tillinghast designed the back nine and redesigned the rest of the course. Holes 5 and 7 were redesigned in the 2004 renovation and have added to the course appeal.
Tillinghast would have been proud of our use of the facilities for the Jumeirah Cup, a competition designed to showcase all the course has to offer — and beautifully organized by Frank van der Post, COO; Thomas Civiatano, vice president of sales and marketing; and David Sparrow, vice president of sales and marketing U.K. for Jumeirah International.
Rory McIlroy, who has been a Jumeirah Ambassador for two years, started playing golf when he was about 3 years old; he played his first 18 when he was about 6, shooting well over 100. Born in Holywood, Northern Ireland, outside of Belfast, Rory is destined for a Hollywood-like career on the PGA tour. Many an Irish lad comes to the United States in search of the gold at the end of the rainbow, and it appears Rory will find it.
Rory’s home course is Holywood Golf Club, where he trained with Michael Bannon, the former golf professional of the club. Rory showed his colors early on the 2004 Junior Ryder Cup team. In 2005 he became the youngest player to win both the West of Ireland Championship and the Irish Close Championship. After many more European wins, he caught the eye of Jumeirah at the 2007 Dubai Desert Classic. More victories followed once he became a professional in September 2007. His most recent was in February 2009 at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Between rounds at the Jumeirah Cup, Rory offered tips in a clinic and played several holes with the team, joking and laughing as we enjoyed a few lucky days between the rains in New York.
Hole 1 (360 yards, par 4)
This is an intimidating first hole for golfers, with water on the left and a large hill with trees and rough on the right. The large pond on the left is quite beautiful and filled with lily pads, which have to be cleared nearly every year as their roots choke the pond. It was particularly intimidating as the entire Jumeirah entourage and the U.S. and U.K. teams stood on the 10th tee box watching the first player of the first group of the first day — yours truly.
A ball left center will offer you the best approach to the green, which has a little bit of the pond coming in just before the green on the left, with a bunker on the right.
Hole 2 (175 yards, par 3)
This is a tricky hole; many balls off the tee make the bunker in the front of the green. Shots over the green (we saw a few during the round) find themselves in thick fescue grass. I made a “sandy” (par from the trap), which was not enough to beat Team U.K. with two birdies!
Hole 6 (545 yards, par 5)
This is a challenging hole — you must have an accurate drive so you can place your second shot. The fairway slopes right to left; try to aim your ball on the right side. I over-stirred my ball and landed in the rough. From here, caddy Justin instructed me to either place my ball left of the tree grouping for a 200-yard shot to the green or plant an 8-iron on the right side of the fairway about 130 yards from the green. I tried the latter but landed left of the tree. I was still okay and able to make a “golf shot” to the green with my new TaylorMade 3-wood. The shot was playing about 220–230 yards with the wind. I 2-putted for par, which was sufficient to win the hole.
Hole 9 (325 yards, par 4)
Drives need to clear the water and stay straight to the center of the fairway. Easy advice, as water continues up the left side and balls on the left rough will be muddy and difficult to play. On the right side is a pair of traps that tends to catch balls. If you accomplish a smashed drive, your approach should be only a 9-iron or a pitching wedge to the green. It is a beautiful hole with the Scarsdale Clubhouse as the backdrop.
Hole 11 (160 yards, par 3)
Club selection is key on this uphill par 3; many shots were coming up short or finding the sand trap on the right side of the green. I took one club extra and still came up short in the high rough front left of the green. Fortunately, I had a nice lie and was able to chip within putting distance.
Hole 14 (455 yards, par 4)
This is an extremely difficult hole, as both length and a blind second shot make it a hit-or-miss situation. First, you need a near-perfect long drive up the left side of the fairway. This dogleg right will block balls landing right out. Thick trees on the right will force you to punch out of lay-up, losing a stroke. From your drive, you have 200 yards to the green, which is a blind shot. You will need to trust your caddie or ride closer to the green so you can position your shot.
Hole 18 (527 yards, par 5)
This is a wonderful finishing hole, with the clubhouse at the green. You will need a powerful drive straight as can be to avoid the trees on the left and right. There is far more trouble and an out-of-bounds on the right as well. Team U.S.A. brought their “A” game and hit two solid drives slightly right, landing in the first cut, but very playable. Rory McIlroy drove past us about 100–150 yards slightly right of center — perfect.
From here you need another good strong shot. I used my new TaylorMade R7 3-wood. It did the trick, leaving me with a 90-yard sand wedge to the green. Our solid U.K. teammates could not keep up, and at least for that particular match, Team U.S.A. won.
Scarsdale Golf Club
Hartsdale, NY 10530
tel 914 723 2840
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