The 10th at Winged Foot
I had a free day Friday and spent most of it at Winged Foot which appealed a lot more than seeing the Yankees.
I concentrated most of my time on the West, but did manage to get around the East Course as well. The West Course rightfully deserves all the praise that it receives, and I’ll concentrate on that in a minute, but the East Course is not that much of a drop of in quality from the West. The recent green recapturing program by the new architect has done wonders to bring some additional character.
The West Course is awesome and it’s because of three reasons. The course is built over some of the nastiest bedrock filled terrain that shows up all over the surface throughout the property. Considering this fact, the routing is even more impressive incredibly since Tillinghast’s holes sit wonderfully on the land from start to finish. The number of holes where a fabulous landform plays a key role in a landing or approach is impressive. I don’t think this routing has been given the credit that it so richly deserves.
The 9th green
The next reason is scale. I have always thought Tillinghast’s understood scale better than just about any other architect. The scale of his work at Winged Foot fits and fills the property beautifully. The roll of the land is quite significant throughout and the scale of everything around the property is large. It’s only through his bold features that he offers up a statement strong enough to match this site. Everything feels right and much of that has to do with scale.
The last reason is the greens. The greens at Winged Foot are an example of how really great contours and bold green sites can elevate a design. The contours are so big that you often stare open-mouthed at the undulation. The course can be set up friendly, but given a little extra speed and some tougher pins and all bets are off. The fact that he raised them so high above the native grade has placed an incredible premium on accuracy. I can’t think of a tougher test where you can’t lose a ball.
The 7th green, look at the flagstick compared to the bunker, it's that deep!
Winged Foot West is an outstanding golf course. The routing is worthy of study, the swings in the fairway around landforms and bunkering are brilliant, the scale of everything is a lesson in making big statements when presented with large areas or undulation, and those green sites teach you how far you can potentially push a design.
It teaches me that if you want to hit a home run, you must swing hard enough to carry the fence.
Extra note: I returned to play late in 2010 and played my best round of the year.