“My game would be great if I could just play three or four times a week.” How many times have you said something similar? You can play three or four — or more — times every week if you set your sights on nine holes instead of 18. Is it the same game? Sure! It just doesn’t consume half your day. Most nine-hole rounds are two hours or less, which means you can easily squeeze in a quick nine after work — or even before if you tee off early and don’t dawdle. You also tend to be more focused on your game when you play only nine, which is a sure path to lower scores.
Rye Brook; www.doralarrowwood.com
Greens fees: Mon.-Thurs. $50; Fri.-Sun. $65
Doral has everything its longer Westchester brethren have: a variety of playing challenges, spectacular views and picturesque layouts, fabulous bunkering, and greens that will break your heart with their strong contouring and slick conditioning. It was designed by Robert von Hagge, the master who created the original Blue Monster at the Doral in Miami. Hagge not only took full advantage of the naturally rolling terrain, but sculpted the fairways for maximum visual appeal. The shadows in the morning and late afternoon are wondrous. Hagge also makes you play over water on seven of the nine holes, so bring plenty of ammunition.
As you might expect for a course that tips out at 3,200 yards (par 35), precision counts more than length, but there are certainly opportunities when you can pull the driver and let ’er fly. The first hole, in fact, is 392 yards and rewards a long, straight drive with a short approach to a really small, difficult green. If you can hit a 20-yard-wide landing area, you may also want to let the big dog hunt on the 440-yard par-four third hole, and certainly on the 493-yard par-four fifth.
To score on Doral, though, you really need accurate iron play. A prime example comes at the sixth hole, a visually stunning 345 yards with an approach over water to a wide but very shallow green. Short is wet, long is dead, and if your ball doesn’t land on the same side of the green as the cup, you’ll have an impossible putt. The 340-yard eighth hole really requires two accurate irons — one off the tee to avoid the pond pinching the fairway at 150 yards, and the second to place your ball on the right tier of the large, strongly contoured green.
The par threes at Doral are truly delightful. The fourth hole plays at 140 yards, but pin positions can add or subtract 15 yards from that number — and it’s all carry over water, so check the wind, too. The seventh hole, at 190 yards, is the easiest of the three, even though the green is set in a virtual bowl of bunkers.
A real challenge at Doral is the 211-yard second hole, one of the most visually intimidating par threes you’ll find anywhere. From the tee, all you see is water — there is about 180 yards of it to carry before you reach dry land! There is no bailout area, either, so hitch up your britches, take a deep breath, and aim for that pin.
While the course is a fine test of golf that you can enjoy round after round, the Doral offers a host of other amenities. There’s an excellent practice facility with both a full range and short game area. And what would any good golf course be without a 19th hole? Mulligan’s, an excellent outdoor bar and grill, overlooks the ninth green at Doral.
Greens fees: Weekdays $19; weekends $24
For a quick nine in Northern Westchester, head for the “the Peke,” as it’s more commonly known, a fun nine-holer where there are plenty of serious players struggling to break par on the 2,012-yard par-34 course on any given day. One of the best features of the semiprivate club is that golf there is — as it should be everywhere — a family affair. Unaccompanied juniors older than 12 are welcome, making it a great place (and one of the few) where they can learn the game. Kids seven to 12 can play with an adult.
Opened in 1923, the course has plenty of elevation changes and two sets of tees, so you can actually play it twice without repeating a shot (more or less).
While you can always play a regulation 18-hole course and quit after the first nine, county Parks Pass holders who tee off before 9 a.m. can save a few bucks — and a lot of time — when they play the back nine at Dunwoodie, Maple Moor, Mohansic, Saxon Woods, and Sprain Lake for $29 on weekends and $26 on weekdays. Twilight rates, which go into effect at varying times during the year, are $26 at these courses and $40 for Hudson Hills.