The Takeaway: Grade A-
Accolades: Ranked 13th in New York on Golf Course Gurus Best in State list.
What to Expect: Few courses have as rich of a history as the Tillinghast 36 hole offering at Winged Foot in New York. The storied East and West courses combined have hosted the U.S. Open five times (1929, 1959, 1974, 1984 and 2006), U.S. Amateur twice, Women’s U.S. Open twice, Senior U.S. Open once, and a PGA Championship (1997). The 2006 U.S. Open went down in history for two major reasons; it was the first time Tiger Woods had missed the cut at a major in his professional career and it was Phil Mickelson's worst eternally haunting 72nd hole of his career. Winged Foot is located on a mostly flat piece of property with tons of trees lining every hole. To add character and challenge to the course, Tillinghast raised virtually every green site and surrounded the putting surfaces with bunkers. These green sites are the brilliance behind the Winged Foot design especially since the fairways leave little distinguishment. The collection of par threes on the West course paired with the 13th from the East course are Winged Foot’s greatest pride; particularly the 10th hole that Tillinghast claimed was the best par three he ever built. In terms of stature and amenities, Winged Foot is tough to trump given the two story locker room and maybe the most attractive clubhouse in the country with an exterior that was built from the stone and rock found on the property. Ultimately, you won’t find a more dedicated group of members to the game of golf than those at Winged Foot. Players walk the course with a caddie carrying their clubs and the historic roots of the game are celebrated. The tree lined fairways and slight doglegs that appear on so many holes make the course a bit unmemorable off the tee but the green complexes are as good as anything you’ll ever encounter.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 10th Hole – 190 Yard Par 3 – In describing the shot required at Winged Foot's signature 10th hole, Ben Hogan said, "It is a 3-iron into some guy's bedroom window." Hogan was referencing the house that sits directly behind this marvelous green. The putting surface is protected by four bunkers and Tillinghast considered it the best par three that he ever built.
Best Par 3: 10th Hole – 190 Yards – Since famed course designed considered this hole the best par three he ever built, we better have a great argument of why there is another one-shotter on the property that is better; and we can't identify one. So we agree with Tilly on the greatness of this hole that kick starts the back nine. The tee is slightly elevated to make the shot more level to this pushed up green and requires great precision to avoid all the bunkers and find the correct portion of this undulated green.
Best Par 4: 18th Hole – 452 Yards – The final par four at Winged Foot's West course is a great hole, but it will forever now be known as Phil Mickelson's disaster hole. With a one stroke lead in the 2006 U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson sliced his tee shot way left. On his second shot he attempted to hit a hard cut around a tree, but hit the tree instead. With his third stroke he hit his ball into a greenside bunker and was left with a fried egg lie on a downhill shot with no chance of creating spin and leaving it close. His fourth shot traveled through the green and he was left with a chip from the rough to try and force a playoff; he was unsuccessful. As devastating of a moment as that created for Phil Mickelson, it is indeed a great finishing hole. The fairway doglegs left with a bunker resting on the far side of the corner. The approach shot plays uphill and will likely require at least a mid-iron to reach the elevated green that slopes severely from back to front. It is a very strong finishing hole and one of the strongest tests in the world.
Best Par 5: 12th Hole – 630 Yards – The lengthened par five 12th hole plays to a staggering 630 yards and features some natural rock formations along the journey. The hole gently turns to the left the entire way home and is virtually impossible to reach in two. The majority of fairway bunkers are found along the right side of the hole while the left side is lined with trees. The approach shot plays slightly uphill to the green where birdies rarely occur.
Birdie Time: 6th Hole – 321 Yard Par 4 – Very few holes at Winged Foot offer a chance for a breather, but the 6th hole is one to take advantage of. At just 321 yards, the hole is driveable and features a nice opening to the green through the left side. Other than the two greenside bunkers, little trouble is found on this straight away hole and thus is an opportunity to swing away with confidence. Birdie is very attainable, par is a bit disappointing but acceptable, and anything worse than that is a huge mistake.
Bogey Beware: 1st Hole – 450 Yard Par 4 – Having a nice little warmup is generally the philosophy for the opening hole at most courses; but Winged Foot West isn't most courses. The membership is very serious about their golf, and the golf course is very serious about a challenge right off the bat. This 450 yard par four doglegs left and features a tight, firm fairway to hit and with long rough and trees on both sides. The green is protected more heavily on the left side with a collection of bunkers, so hitting an approach from the right side will bring less trouble into play. It is a stout hole to hit right out of the gate and will likely result in a bogey for most golfers.