“It’s called a ‘something’ cat,” says my host, Jason Ekaireb, at Pound Ridge Golf Club. “It has the face of a bear and the body of an otter.”
Jason can’t remember the name of the cat.
We are walking over a bridge between the 12th and 13th holes at Pound Ridge, where this ‘something’ cat lives, and I am secretly hoping that the ‘something’ cat rises from the depths and takes me with its claws. See, I’ve just made double bogey at the gorgeous and perilous Pete Dye design, and I know there will be others. (And, very likely, ‘Others.’)
This is my second spin around this splendid public course, which is nestled into the hills of the New York-Connecticut border about an hour from New York City, and I am falling in love with it all over again, even as it tries to break me.
It is a cloudless and warm April day, a gift after the winter just past, and our group is playing from the granite tees (6,261 yards, 70.4 rating, 140 slope), and I am trying to hold my round together, and it just isn’t happening. Pete Dye makes you work for every shot, and he’s got me grinding overtime.
It wasn’t always so. The day couldn’t have started any better. Scraping away ball after ball from one of the driving range’s sparkling pyramid stacks. Hitting chips and pitches in the practice area. Eating a delicious fish sandwich in the clubhouse. Downing a Diet Coke.
Even my golf was good, at the beginning anyway. I split the fairway on the first three holes, with a driver, a 3-wood and a 6-iron. (On the fourth hole, a pretty par-3 guarded by water right, I made double). A gutsy par from the left rough on the little uphill par-4 fifth hole had me in a great mood, especially when I walked off the green and saw several holes shimmering before me like a carpet of emeralds.
The downhill, par-3 sixth has a Scottish heathland feel to it. From the back tees, it plays 216 yards to a green that looks smaller than it actually is. (Ah, Pete, you devil!) Bunkers guard the green short right for those who bail out, and long left for those who get a little too amped.
The par-5 seventh is another beauty, and I would have reached it in two had my approach shot not clipped a tree guarding the right of the green (Pete, can we talk?).
The seventh has several lovely architectural features, including a stone staircase that Dye built that ferries golfers into a long fairway bunker which, thankfully, I did not visit.
If the railroad tie is Dye’s signature elsewhere, it is the stone wall at Pound Ridge.
When Dye built the golf course, which opened in 2008, he kept digging and coming up with huge slabs of granite and stone. Instead of getting rid of them, he made them part of the golf course, framing the tees on the par-3 11th, bisecting the par-4 12th hole, adding character (and horror) to the narrow par-5 13th.
This is the area of the course where Jason mentions the “something” cat and also where my already shaky confidence begins to slip.
I manage to carry the pair of stone walls on the challenging par-4 14th and I do the same on the itty-bitty par-3 15th, but the highlights from my round are over. Still, I manage to enjoy the rest of the walk and Dye’s handiwork, including the beautiful bunkering along the left side of 18 that looks like waves of sand about to crash onto the tee.
Our group is out on the patio now, watching the sun go down, sipping Yuengling.
“A fisher cat!” Jason says suddenly. “It’s called a fisher cat.”
And so a mystery of Pound Ridge has been solved.
I’ll be back, fisher cat.