Small, slick greens and challenging tree-lined fairways are the hallmarks of Mahopac Golf Club. The Devereux Emmet layout has perhaps the perfect mix of long and short holes to test every club in your bag and greens that will test every nerve in your body. It’s one of those classic “short” courses that can quickly deliver a dose of humility to a long-but-wild golfer who thinks the course can be overpowered.
The challenges come early in the round. The 2nd hole, a par 4, measures 438 yards but rewards accuracy more than length. The 5th, a 487-yard par 5, is reachable in two, but fairway bunkers on both sides of the landing area will make that a moot option if your drive doesn’t split the center. The 7th hole is a monster, measuring 601 yards and ending with a severely undulating green.
The back nine doesn’t let up, either. Perhaps the toughest hole on the course is the 371-yard 11th, which features a creek across the fairway at 200 yards from the tee to give players a true risk-and-reward play option. It’s immediately followed by a 218-yard par 3 with water right and bunkers left. The closing hole is a 479-yard par 5 that’s easily reachable by longer hitters who can successfully avoid the many greenside bunkers.
One of the club’s unique amenities is its facility on the sandy beach of Lake Mahopac. It not only gives the family a place to sun and swim but provides easy access to the lake for boating and fishing. The Mahopac membership last year appointed Kemper Sports to manage the club, a forward-looking solution to improving the membership experience.
Continual improvement has been Donald Trump’s mantra since he bought the Dutchess County course that bears his name in 2009. New tees lengthened the track to a tour-ready 7,693 yards, while tree removal opened up great vistas of the rolling landscape and created some fascinating risk-and-reward options, as well. The dowdy clubhouse got a complete makeover, along with the addition of enclosed patio dining and new locker rooms with sumptuous Trump touches like rainfall shower heads and marble as far as the eye can see. A new swimming complex and fitness center were built a couple years ago, and last year saw a complete overhaul of the course’s 69 bunkers.
What hasn’t changed is the quality of the golf course. Trump Hudson Valley has a great mix of long and short holes where you need a complete game to post an acceptable score. From the 6,514-yard blue tees, the course is rated at 72.1, with a slope of 134 — not huge, perhaps, but certainly tough enough. There are plenty of notable holes on the course, including the 515-yard par-5 4th. It looks like a pushover birdie on the scorecard, but the fairway snakes through a double dogleg to a steeply elevated green fronted by a massive bunker.
The closing four holes can create plenty of memories — good and bad. The 555-yard par-5 15th plays around a small lake that intrudes deeper into your line of flight the closer you get to the green. The 16th hole, a 366-yard par 4, continues your trip around the lake and leads you to the 17th tee, a mere 200 yards — all carry over water — from the wide but shallow green. Bunkers pinch the landing area on the 395-yard finishing hole, which also plays slightly uphill.
Another major Trump improvement is the practice facility. The all-grass range can be used from either end and a new short game area has a 15,000 sq ft green complex with pitching and chipping areas as well as a practice bunker. There’s a separate 3,000 sq ft putting/chipping green, as well as one near the first tee.
One of the best amenities that goes along with membership at Trump Hudson Valley is the reciprocity feature. That means members can also play at 13 other Trump-owned clubs, including those in Bedminster,
West Palm Beach, and even Ireland, Scotland, and England.
Strategic golf is good golf, which is one big reason Manhattan Woods is consistently rated one of the best courses in the New York Metro area. The Gary Player design rewards tactical thinking and shot-making rather than brute strength, even though, at 7,109 yards, a little brawn will help on several holes. The course treks through 200 spacious acres and uses mature trees, wetlands, and elevation changes to make nearly every hole a unique test of the golfer’s ability to visualize a path to par and then execute it.
The 384-yard 5th hole, the number-one handicap hole, is a prime example of where it pays to think before you hit. From the blue tees, it’s a gentle dogleg right that rewards a perfectly struck fade that carries 225 yards over a fairway bunker but punishes severely a slight draw that rolls 250 yards through the fairway into another bunker.
One improvement made to the course last year was a new tee box for the 409-yard 10th hole. It’s set a bit farther to the left, so it rewards a well-struck draw rather than punishing the shot shape by forcing the drive off the slanted hillside into the left rough.
The golfer with a sharp iron game can take full advantage of it on the 352-yard par-4 11th hole. It has a nasty bunker on the right side of the fairway and a waste area stretching all the way across the fairway just 240 yards from the tee. A smart layup will leave a short iron into a well-bunkered green. Then there is the 126-yard par-3 12th, where a tiny windswept green is surrounded by sand.
As you may have guessed, few holes at Manhattan Woods reward a long drive off the tee. In fact, most players should hit a driver on only about half the holes if they want to stay out of the fescue, bunkers, or water that pinch many landing areas. Greens are invitingly spacious but run very, very fast most of the year, and the grain often directs your ball’s roll as much as the undulating contours do.