A charming private members club in Scarsdale, New York, the Sunningdale Country Club was originally designed in 1918 by legendary course architect Seth Raynor, but altered almost beyond recognition in the years and decades that followed. What’s curious about this course, is that within two years of opening the club had engaged Walter Travis to make some modifications to Raynor’s holes, and then shortly after they called in AW Tillinghast to further change a course that one suspects was too difficult for the members in its early days.
The Raynor/Travis/Tillinghast hybrid at Sunningdale still has much appeal, despite various club committees continuing to tinker and removing much of its golden age look and feel. The blindness of the original course has largely been removed and a number of green sites are far less severe today than we imagine they were back in the 1920s.
In response to ongoing deteriorations and competition from newer clubs, Sunningdale engaged architect Mike DeVries a few years back to both investigate the lost design features but also advise on areas where new ideas could improve the layout. DeVries has worked predominantly on the early holes, restoring fairway shape on the long par four 6th and creating an all-new green complex at the mid-length 5th. There remains much work for DeVries to complete, and no doubt given the standard of what’s been done so far that when his program is finished the course will be greatly improved.
Of the current holes at Sunningdale, those with most appeal include the formidable front nine par threes and longer holes like the sideslope 2nd and the slowly rising par five 7th. The rest of the course is fairly solid, with narrow tree-lined holes routed across an attractive forested property with plenty of gentle golf undulations.
What’s exciting about Sunningdale, is that of the old private courses in Westchester County it probably has the most improvement in it. With the removal of key trees, the widening of fairways and the restoration of some golden age design features there is no doubt that the layout could become one of the region’s star attractions.