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Play Away: A Native New Yorker

As the first new municipal course in more than fifty years in the New York City suburb of Westchester County, Hudson Hills Golf Course may seem a long time coming—but in truth the tale of this welcome addition to Big Apple-area golf stretches back much further than that.

In 1926, on the land Hudson Hills now occupies in the town of New Castle, the Sunset Hills Golf Club was founded—and soon after, with the onset of the Depression, fell into disuse. In 1937, it was purchased after foreclosure by a consortium of African-Americans and renamed Rising Sun Golf and Country Club, generating such headlines in the local newspaper as "Disorder Feared Over Sale of Country Club to Negroes." That private club folded within a year, but in fits and starts, and under various names and owners, the course persevered until closing in 1984.

Seven years ago, the county bought the overgrown land and hired designer Mark Mungeam—best known for his reworking of Chicago's Olympia Fields for the 2003 U.S. Open—to redesign the defunct layout. Vestiges of the old course were retained, but some of the areas had reverted to wetlands, often impeding the routing of the new layout. Ultimately, what Mungeam, who calls his work more "reincarnation" than redesign, has begot is a true local blessing: a muni with the look and feel of a wellmanicured resort course. While Hudson Hills may not have the man-made, $7 million waterfall found just a few miles away at Trump National, it benefits from the same rolling Hudson River Valley terrain. And like the area's classic courses—built before the advent of earth-moving equipment—Mungeam's design leaves most of the topography intact. Indeed, much of the course's intrigue resides in what the changes in elevation conceal, like fairways that appear dauntingly narrow from the tee but whose landing areas turn out to be generous.

Hazards, though, are all defined and visible, and the challenge of Hudson Hills seems appropriate to the pace-of-play issues that will come with the anticipated traffic, which county officials will cap at 35,000 rounds per year: The bent-grass greens sport plenty of contour but will not be cut to pool-table texture. They are guarded mostly by chipping aprons rather than high rough or bunkering, much of which is deployed to keep balls in play as much as to punish. A par seventy-one, the course features four sets of tees that play as long as 6,935 yards and as short as 5,102.

As the instant flagship of the county's six-course public system, Hudson Hills is a much-needed comeback for the golf-starved tristate area—and proof, yet again, that it's hard to keep a New Yorker down.

Greens Fees: $85-$100 (Westchester Residents: $65-$75). Tee Times: 914-864-3000 or visit hudsonhillsgolf.com.

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