Beginning with a distant view of Long Island Sound and ending on a spray-soaked cliff beside the Pacific Ocean, this second nine of Sports Illustrated's Best 18 ranges across the continent. It is a watery closing nine that requires shots over a Pennsylvania brook, a Georgia pond (right), a South Carolina lagoon, a Colorado stream, a Michigan lake and an Oklahoma creek. The golfer who plays it may get his feet wet, but he will have seen nine holes, each in the position which it occupies on its own course, that—judged by standards of challenge, fairness, beauty and tradition—have no equal in America. Dan Jenkins took his 8-handicap and his waterproof shoes and tested them all. He describes what he saw—and how he did.
10 WINGED FOOT
Westchester County is a vast fresh-air factory just north of New York City. Populated primarily by commuting fathers and marching mothers, it consists of woods, hills, shopping centers, train platforms, station wagons and a variety of homes that range from Revolutionary War Ancient to Subdivision Modern. Stretching over an immense area between the Hudson River and Long Island Sound, it is America's most famous bedroom, one that is noted for towns like Rye, Scarsdale, Larchmont and New Rochelle, communities that have been made famous in both literature and lyric.
But even though many of its hills have been forested with television aerials and its forests have been paved, Westchester somehow retains a remarkable beauty and quiet. Contributing to this bucolic atmosphere are the numerous fine golf courses within its boundaries, more, no doubt, than in any other area of comparable size in the U.S. The most renowned of all these courses is Winged Foot.
Named after the Mercury emblem of the New York Athletic Club, some of whose members built Winged Foot's two 18s (West and East) in 1922, the club is located in Mamaroneck, one of Westchester's more popular and prosperous residential sections, yet it is not ultraexclusive by Westchester standards. To accommodate its large membership—650 active golfers—it has a clubhouse so vast that if the Duke of Windsor stopped by, which he has, the place would remind him of an old London home of his, circa 1936.
The worldwide attention that Winged Foot enjoys, and deserves, comes from the array of nationally known professionals who have peopled its golf shop—Claude Harmon, Craig Wood, Mike Souchak, Jack Burke, Shelley Mayfield and Dave Marr—and from the staging of two U.S. Open championships.
Winged Foot's West Course, which was the site of the 1929 U.S. Open (partly because the East Course did not get into shape in time), has those old-fashioned characteristics of raised greens, narrow openings, fast and severely contoured putting surfaces and bunkers with steep walls. Much of the course's toughness lies in its first and last three holes, which are simply long. It was on the 18th in the '29 Open that Bobby Jones holed one of his more critical putts, a 12-footer for a par 4 that salvaged a 79 and a tie with Al Espinosa. The next day Jones humiliated Espinosa, defeating him by 23 strokes in a 36-hole playoff. Thirty years later, when the Open returned to Winged Foot, Billy Casper sank putts of every conceivable length to win. In 72 holes he had but one three-putt green. This came at the 10th hole on the final round, and it was a fitting place, for it is the green at Winged Foot's 10th that makes the hole a most deceptive par-3.
Incorporated into the 10th is all of the real character that is Winged Foot. The green is rigidly flanked by bunkers, and the entrance to it is about as narrow as any hole on the course—only 15 feet. It rises sharply as it broadens, and there are heavy swells in the putting surface. "A lot of members say the green is slowly sinking in front," says Course Superintendent Sherwood Moore. "But it is only sinking in their minds."
Just hitting such a green is not enough. You can be on the precipitous front edge and, if the pin is in the back, you might be better off returning to the tee and hitting another three-iron at it. Or, if the pin is near the pinched front gate and you have been so foolish as to hit into the bunker on the left, forget it. Your explosion shot is going to roll right off the green.
Helped by a faint, trailing wind, my three-iron reached the lower right-hand edge of the green, and luckily the pin was there. I had a nasty 12-footer for a birdie, and I could not help remembering the old calendar that once hung in every golf shop in the country, the painting of Bobby Jones sinking a putt of about the same distance at Winged Foot in 1929. I posed for a similar sketch, but failed to hit the putt firmly. Short. Also wide. Artistically uninspiring, perhaps, but a safe par is a fine way to start the second nine at Winged Foot—and the second nine on America's Best 18.