Hudson Hills Golf Course – Ossining, New York Guru's Rating: 7.5
Non-Resident Weekend Rate (with cart): $115
Ossining may best be known as the home of Don and Betty Draper, when their facade of a marriage was in full effect. If Don was a golfer, he likely would have entertained Lee Garner Jr. and the Lucky Strike suits a few minutes from the Draper abode at a place called “Hudson Hills Golf Club.” At some point during the round, Don may even have mentioned that his wife was embroiled in a campaign against water tower construction in the area, although he definitely could not have foreseen that one of those towers would be built in the Hudson Hills parking lot (and he certainly wouldn’t realize that Betty would meet a mensch of a politician named Henry in the process).
Unfortunately, the Draper/Ossining connection will have to exist only on AMC, but Hudson Hills (after initially ceasing operations in 1982) lives on. The course (now Hudson Hills “Golf Course”) was reincarnated in 2003, and is the best in the Westchester County public golf system. That’s a bit like being known as the world’s tallest midget. But “The Hills” takes first prize by a landslide – the layout and natural beauty are simply far better than any of County’s other five courses.
Hudson Hills boasts 7000 yard precision playability from the longest tees amidst a gorgeous country setting. Don’t mind those hideous power lines (and Betty’s water tower) when you first roll up; after that moment, you’ll enjoy a day of pretty scenery and challenging golf.
There are, however, three major flaws in Hudson Hills’ game which compromise its rating.
1) The Price. Currently $115 on peak hours during weekends for non residents and $85 for residents, nearly double the rates at Westchester’s other courses. County lawmakers initially insisted that Hudson Hills would not be financed with taxpayer money, and that its higher price tag (justified by a higher quality of golf), would make up for the difference. In addition, the course is managed privately by Billy Casper Golf, not the county. As mentioned, the caliber of golf is significantly higher than that of others in the Westchester system, but the big markup is worth noting.
2) The annoyingness of holes 2, 7, and 10, all par 5’s. Two (530 yards from the tips) and ten (521) start with blind tee shots that result in lost balls and exhausted patience. It’s just about impossible to determine where to aim, since your drives on each hole will be smacked around by side hills and swallowed up by deep rough, none of which you can see or account for. Lots of backups exist at two and ten as golfers wait to hit while the group in front of them stomps around the rough, searching for tiny white objects embedded deep in the grass. It might be more efficient to enlist one member of your group to serve as a lookout. #7 (564 yards) is just a ridiculously designed hole; impossible to reach in two because drives of more than 250 yards are in danger of dropping into a 50-60 yards deep wetlands area. If you’re super human and have the ability to carry 300, then you’re golden. But for the rest of us, it’s three shots to the green. In my humble opinion, par 5’s should always dangle the carrot of an eagle putt after a great drive. Here, the reward is a trip to the dreaded drop zone (pictured above).
3) Lack of an adequate practice facility, specifically a driving range. You can loosen up with a couple of swings into an ad hoc net located behind the putting green, but with the site’s vast amount of unused land and a pricey ticket, there really should be a full range.
Three bad holes, a high price, and no real warm up area knock Hudson Hills down a notch, but don’t take away from a strong overall presentation. The layout is fun and unique, the views often extraordinary. Fairways, greens, and tee boxes were in great shape as of mid-June, pace of play was acceptable (4.5 hour round on a Sunday afternoon), and the restaurant and patio provide terrific food options and a peaceful setting for lunch and/or a post-round beer.
Most Memorable Hole: Hudson Hills truly makes its mark with a picturesque trio of closing holes. From the elevated tee box at 16 (421 yards), a short donwhill par 4, you get a stunning nature scene – rolling hills, forest, and a panoramic view of the course. The finishing hole is a gorgeous, straightaway par 4, featuring a tight fairway squeezed in by sand traps. To your left are beautiful mountains, while the clubhouse sits directly ahead.
Most Challenging Hole: The silliness of 2, 7, and 10 are noted above – each is difficult for all the wrong reasons. But 17 is a true toughy, a par 4 that plays 458 from the tips. It’s not how you start, but how you finish here – even with a good drive, your adventure is just beginning. The green is elevated about about fifty feet higher than the fairway; hit it up there and pray that it’ll hold. If you’re short on your approach, you will find yourself in an obnoxiously deep greenside bunker. This is also most slick, devlish green on the property, so two-putts (and pars) are rare.
The Bottom Line: A few quirks, but Hudson Hills is heads-and-shoulders your best public option in Westchester County’s system.
Guru’s Tip: Golfnow.com provides opportunities for non-residents to pay the resident rate ($85) at Hudson Hills with non-refundable, pay in advance tee-times.