Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ghetto Golf, volume 5: Van Cortlandt Park GC, The Bronx

This week, the LGNYCGT (Legitimategolf New York City Golf Tour) rolled into the oldest freakin' public course in North America, Van Cortlandt Park GC in northwest Bronx. Let's think about that. All the slow play, rules-flouting, all the terrible hacky muni golf we've all come to know and love... it all began here. Wow--humbling.

I'll be straight with you. I somehow hurt my back playing paddle tennis, reaching for a nothing little half-volley. So I can barely move around right now. Therefore this post will probably be a little light on substance, and heavy on bad attitude. And visuals. Sorry.

Far as I know there's just one way to get to Van Cortlandt on public transit and that's by taking the uptown 1 train...

...all the freakin way up to 242nd Street station, tip-ass end of the line. I realize that people just eat up this New York City slice of life shit, so here you go.

The one nice thing about the 1 train is that, once you get up into the ghetto, it's mostly an above-ground line. Unfortunately though, the views are pretty dismal.

Crossing the Harlem River into the Bronx.

Finally we're approaching the 242nd Street terminal. Whenever a train gets up near a terminal station though for whatever reason it slows down, to a literal crawl speed. So these last couple hundred yards are always agonizing.


Once off the train, the only option from here is to walk the rest of the way to the clubhouse.

Broadway near 242nd. It's a little rough around here but just up that hill and beyond are the Fieldston and Riverdale neighborhoods, which are actually somewhat upscale. We're way up high in the northern Bronx, by the way, practically Westchester County. Some of the most prestigious schools are here including Horace Mann which is up there just off the right side of the frame.

Fork in the road. I went right, along the path like a good citizen. Looking back, why wouldn't I just cut through the grass?

Not like any gives a damn about the condition of this lousy park. I'll be honest, seeing those upturned bins made me feel pretty crummy about coming here.

A lot of reviews of this course will chippily declare "You can walk from the subway!" Those people can suck it. It's a 700 yard walk, at least.

Finally arrive at the vaunted Van Cortlandt clubhouse. On this day though, it is closed for renovations. Too bad. It has seen some shit. A locker room scene from the movie "Wall Street" was inexplicably filmed upstairs here--it posed as some ritzy country club.

For today, we'll have to make do with this.

And this. Actually "SNACK TRAILER" was closed today.

Screw it, let's just go in and pay for the thing. This is easily one of the three saddest pro shops I've ever seen.

It's no secret that the Koreans are taking over golf, but I was still surprised to see this sign.

This body of water is known as "Van Cortlandt Lake". This golf course by the way, is a nightmare for walkers. Realistically speaking walking a round here is not do-able. Another fairly long trip around this lake to the first tee is the first of several roundabout slogs. Altogether pretty stupid considering this course predates the power cart by several generations.

Whatever. Here's the first tee.

I was last here several years ago and it seems since then they've made a concerted effort to capitalize on the history of the course. Here I discover that a bunch of holes have been named after famous people who've supposedly been here.

To give you an idea of the conditioning on the course.

#6, aka "Willie Mays". Nice looking par 4, not quite driveable from the back tee, but still a good little hole. For those who follow this blog, those are two of the people who were named "Creep of the Week" in an earlier post.

The tough 223 yard seventh hole, aptly named "Good Luck".

Passageway between the 9th and 10th holes. Apparently a good place, as the fellows in my group can attest, for smoking a little reefer.

In keeping with the odd routing of the course, the halfway house is located at the 12th tee. Trust me it is  way more charming looking from the outside. Inside was nothing but unappealing absurdly overpriced food-like items and one brokedown old ghetto woman running the place. I could've used a refreshment at that point but I had to pass, I just couldn't participate in that racket of hers. I'd make do with the few energy chews I had left in the bag, besides at this point the round's almost coming to a close anyways.

#12, a pretty hefty 572 yarder named for Joe Louis. Quality hole.

#13, another good hole, one of three named for the Three Stooges.

#14. Even though I dumped my tee ball in the tiny water hazard on the right, I'll say it's another good hole. The hazard is small but it juts into the fairway, creating a bottleneck at around 240 yards out, thereby forcing a decisive play from the tee.

The last four holes are practically a separate course. It's such a long trip uphill to get to 15th tee. Not surprisingly I've never actually seen anyone attempt to walk up there. Even if you did survive that slog, the last four holes are all insanely sloped. They'd probably do you in.

Get ready, it's a long trip.

That's the I-87 Major Deegan Expressway over there.

Really long trip.

I really have a hard time imagining the Babe, Joe Louis, the Three Stooges and various other Depression-era luminaries being subjected to such an ignominious walk just to play the last four lousy holes of this stupid course.

Finally back to the golf.

Here on #15, this is one of the steepest approaches I've ever seen. Playing about two clubs extra, I managed to perch one up there.

If you look closely to the left of the flag you can just make out my approach shot. Sadly I would three-putt from about ten feet.

Alright I've about had enough of this, let's wrap it up already. #18 is an extreme downward sloping par 4, really dramatic looking hole.

A parting shot looking back towards 18.
Ok, so let's attempt a bit of a recap.

The Good
  • There's some history here
  • There's a handful of neat holes scattered throughout the course
  • Holes lengths range from driveable to behemoth par 5s
The Bad
  • Sucks/impossible for walkers
  • Typically NYC shabby course conditions/general ugliness
  • Long routing, tiresome even in a cart
  • Indifferent staff
  • Poor atmosphere/low level of play
My round

Was a mild disaster. I played it well off the tee, avoiding driver all day but still setting up some easy approaches with 9 irons and LW's. But I got brutalized by greens that repelled approaches and chips like concrete, but somehow rolled slow when it came time to putt. I struggled just to ride the bogey train around, then on the 17th hole I blew up the round all to hell. My tee shot ended up nestled against some huge log, several botched attempts to extricate the ball later, I finished with a 9 on the par 3. Two good shots at the last capped off by--what else?--a three-putt for bogey and a miserable 93.

By the end I was glad to get the hell out of there. Looking back though, I had fun trying to manage the course. There are some good shotmaking opportunities to be had and surprisingly, I'll probably try again soon.


  1. There is something a bit disconcerting to have golf holes named "Moe", "Curly" and "Larry". In fact, much of the naming was done poorly. One should use a bit of vagueness. Rather than "Willie Mays" name the hole "Say Hey" and it should be "The Sultan" or just "Babe". Whatever.

    Once the real clubhouse re-opens, give us a 2nd look at this place.

  2. Looks pretty decent to me. The holes are framed well, though looks like some pretty thick junk if you're spraying it. Looks like a course that could grow on you.

  3. Aw, this used to be my home course. Fond memories. Thank god they're working on the clubhouse - it needed some help. But it was awesome seeing in its original state, with the old hand painted 'ladies' and 'mens' signs - and the wooden lockers in the locker room! So far for me though, the folks at Dyker are more caring about their course than VC ever was. Shame. There are some cool holes there.


Don't spam me bro.