What I learned playing Winged Foot’s West course for the first time

August 10, 2019
Winged Foot clubhouse

A member asked if I was interested in playing Winged Foot. I said yes before he even finished explaining what day and time the round would take place. That’s how excited I was for the opportunity to play this renowned course I only knew from afar, watching it host the ’06 U.S. Open on TV. For several reasons, my day at Winged Foot was one of my favorite all-around golf experiences to date.

Course: Winged Foot West Course

My tee time: Friday, June 28, 2019; 3:10 p.m.

Course type: Private

How I got on: A friend of a friend happens to be a member at Winged Foot.

Difficulty: The greens are some of the most challenging putting surfaces I’ve ever come across. My caddie made the mistake of telling me to hit my first 4-foot putt firm into the back of the cup on the first green. 5 feet past the cup later, he didn’t instruct me to strike a putt firm again. The rolls are pure but lightning quick.

What I learned: Don’t. Miss. The. Fairway. I can’t stress that point enough. Just a few yards off the fairway almost guarantees you a punch-out shot that gives you a glimpse of what U.S. Open rough means.

How to get there: I took an hour-long train (Metro-North) ride north of New York City. The club is conveniently located just a few miles from a nearby station in Westchester. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride from there. If you’re driving, Winged Foot is located in a suburban neighborhood that is easily accessible from nearby highways.

Fun Facts: Famed golf architect A.W. Tillinghast designed both the West and East courses at Winged Foot. The West course ranks 27th on GOLF’s Top 100 Courses list. It has hosted the U.S. Amateur twice, U.S. Women’s Open twice and the U.S. Open five times. The U.S. Open will once again return in 2020.

One of my favorite course tidbits is that every hole has a nickname on the scorecard.

Notable/Favorite Holes: I enjoyed the par-5 16th hole, otherwise known as “Hells-Bells.” The fact that I made my lone birdie of the day there might have something to do with my choice. Aside from that, walking the 18th and taking note of where it all fell apart for Phil Mickelson at the ’06 U.S. Open was a bit surreal and upsetting for someone who grew up a Lefty fan.

A view from the bottom of the challenging 18th green.
Tim Reilly

I loved: I would’ve been content just hanging out in the clubhouse bar all day. This place is stuck in time with its old, untouched wood decor. There’s a certain vibe in there that you just can’t build today, it’s something that comes from years of members gathering and conversing over drinks. It only took one afternoon for me to recognize how tight-knight the membership is. Winged Foot is as much as a social club as it is a golf club. I was full of envy by the comradery that surrounded me.

I didn’t love: No phones! You have to keep your phone tucked away on the majority of the property. One on hand I love the idea of unplugging. On the other, it’s 2019! I’m at one of the top clubs in the world and I want to take photos to show the world I’m there.

Winged Foot came with expectations and it surpassed them all. The course is pristine, the clubhouse is nostalgic, and I wish I could do it all over again. Winged Foot is a bucket list course that comes with a bucket list golf experience.

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