Wykagyl Country Club resides behind a long high hedge off the main drag in New Rochelle, NY. Jack Holden provides his memories and reviews.
There was a weak patch near the north-end of the hedge where caddies entered the club. As a young apprentice caddy in 1957, climbing through those hedges was like Dorothy leaving Kansas.
On the other side of them was a huge expanse of lush green grasses, and every square inch perfectly cut and manicured.
Between 1948 and 1957, Wykagyl hosted the Palm Beach Round Robin invitational for seven years. In 1949, the event was the first ever golf tournament televised on National television.
Sponsored by the Palm Beach clothing company (the Peter Millar of its day), 16 of the most prominent tour players competed in a unique round robin format.
Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Lloyd Mangrum, Byron Nelson, and Cary Middlecoff were matched with international stars Peter Thompson, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke and young up-and-comers like Ken Venturi and Gene Littler, who won it the last year it was played.
It was my first-year caddying and I skipped school for the opening round. Following Snead and en Hogan was well worth the fallout from my parents and teachers.
You could walk the fairways right behind the players in those days. I asked Hogan for his autograph in the middle of his round. A major faux pas, and he appropriately ignored me. At the award ceremony that year, Snead, though finishing in tenth place, was asked to speak.
“Small check. Small speech,” he said.
In 1978 the women’s tour discovered Wykagyl as a fitting venue for the growing LPGA Tour, and Wykagyl hosted the Golden Lights Championship through 1980, two of which were won by Nancy Lopez.
And from 1990-2006, the LPGA’s Big Apple Classic was played there. Betsy King, who won the first two Big Apple events, called it her “favorite course” on the women’s tour.
The Wykagyl Club Championship was an especially coveted prize due to the legendary T.V. Birmingham, whom Bobby Jones called the “greatest unknown golfer in the history of the game.”
TV won the event 20 times between 1905 and 1932. The other great club champion, – of my time and place – was Jimmy Fisher.
Jimmy never practiced. A natural swinger, he’d glide to the first tee, take a couple of practice swings, set his driver behind the ball, then, just before take away, twist the club face open in an odd manoeuvre, but followed by the smoothest, most rhythmic swing you ever saw, resulting in a consistent baby draw.
Almost always, right down the middle. The only thing prettier was his putting stroke, a long slow back-and-through with a singular long-bladed putter called the “Long-Horn,” which looked like a barber shop razor.
If you were playing against him, you’d shudder whenever he took it back. On long ones, he would often announce just before the take-way, “Ring a ding ding,” and often the ball would track relentlessly on its line, pausing at the rim of the cup just before plopping into the center.
Those long ones, he seemed to make as often as the tricky three-footers. Occasionally he’d enter a major amateur event, and one year he won both of Metropolitan New York’s major amateur events.
Jimmy didn’t win as many club championships as TV Birmingham, mostly because he didn’t enter the event that often.
I lost track of Jimmy over the years. However, I heard he won the senior club championship at Shinnecock Hills so many times that the club manager asked him not to enter the event.
All part of the lore of Wykagyl Country Club, and my coming of age. Fifty years later it still resonates. Introductions to this great game last forever.
RELATED: Best Rated Golf Courses in New York
Wykagyl Country Club Features & Layout
A hybrid design, like many courses designed early-century, both Donald Ross and AW Tillinghast redesigned the original layout and many of their unmistakable hallmarks remain.
But unique to Wykagyl’s hilly layout are the five par fives and five par threes.
The original 18th hole, known as “cardiac hill” due to its elevated green, was described by Harry Vardon as “one of the greatest golf holes I have ever tackled.”
Wykagyl Country Club Scorecard & Hole by Hole
Wykagyl Country Club Slope Rating
Wykagyl has a slope rating of 138 from the Blues tees and a course rating is 73.2. The White tees (71.8 / 136) and Red tees (73.7 / 139) are also available for play.
Wykagyl Country Club Membership Cost
Golf membership at Wykagyl Country Club is available in Regular Golf, Intermediate Golf, National and Dining & Social Memberships. Contact the club for more information.
Wykagyl Country Club Address
1195 North Avenue
Phone: +1 914 636-8700
Jack Holden retired from business and returned to writing full time about his lifelong passion for the game of golf. He was introduced to the game as a caddy in Westchester County, NY, where golf clubs and great golf courses proliferate. He provides unique golf course reviews, commentary, opinions, tales and other interesting tid-bits about the game he loves.