‘From my first day of walking the land, I felt a dramatic and spectacular golf course would evolve.’ Tom Fazio
Located high within the rocky hills of northern Westchester County, the Hudson National Golf Club occupies an historic tract of land in Croton-on-Hudson, approximately 45 minutes from Manhattan. Designed by Tom Fazio, the course opened in 1996 but construction started two years earlier with much of that period spent blasting more than 100,000 cubic yards of rock from the site and levelling the hillside to enable holes to be routed across its steep terrain.
Set more than 400 feet above the Hudson River, with spectacular views from many of its holes, this remarkable property had actually housed a nine-hole course during the 1920s. The remains of its old stone clubhouse, apparently torched by arsonists during the Depression, was integrated into the design by Fazio, who also used an established forest and some unique rock-outcroppings cleverly within his layout.
Although Fazio’s approach to the design here is undoubtedly contemporary, his gently rolling fairways and use of off-color native vegetation and golden fescues has successfully given the course a classical appearance. The elevation changes are generally used to create scenic rather than strategic holes but the bunkering is attractively sculpted and the greens feature plenty of sideways movement, in places even being built with tightly mowed chipping areas that make up and downs less repetitive.
While the opening and closing holes are routed along an elevated ridge close to the clubhouse, the majority of the course is set down within a broad valley where most of the earthworks were carried out. The crucial hole in this process was the 5th, a transitional par four that drops steeply from the upper area down into the valley below. Better holes within this lower section include the mid-length 7th, with its rolling fairway and perched green, and the long par three 8th, which demands an all-carry tee shot across a wetland. The twisting 10th fairway, a double dogleg for those unwilling to take on the driving hazards, and the strong par four 15th, which bends around and then heads into a rocky ledge, are also very good. As is the short, uphill par four 17th, which narrows and gets progressively easier to birdie the farther and more dangerous you can drive from the tee. The holes most likely to live longest in the memory, however, are the gently bending 4th, framed by the ruins of an old stone chimney, and the 250-yard par three 16th, with its picture postcard views of the Hudson River.
Despite its obvious golfing qualities, the overriding appeal of Hudson National has less to do with great golf and is more about its beautiful setting and long-range outlook across the river and stone ruins. The quality of the hand-cut bentgrass fairways will also keep many players coming back for more. Thankfully, the best holes here, though a distance behind Fazio’s finest creations, are mostly fun, challenging and very pleasant to play, and there are more than enough of them to please the majority of discerning golfers.