out of 4 GT logo rating...
plus a hubcap.
"da Bronx Course", Van Cortlandt, a/k/a "Vanny." (Review submitted Summer, 2007 by the Tracker known in some social circles as Dr. Bunsen Honeydew)
"A Bronx Tale, or How I Learned to Love to Ride the New York Subway System at 4:30 a.m."
To provide some context, the person who lined up our tee times lived in Riverdale, which was a fairly short walk to Vanny. As a "family guy", the result was some ungodly tee times made to avoid infringing on his family time. "Ungodly" was seasonally adjusted, but generally fell in the range of 6 to 6:45 a.m.
Making matters worse was the fact that the "temporal-minded staff" at Van Cortlandt required all golfers to arrive a half hour before tee time. Allowing for a typical hour-long subway ride from 34th to 242nd Street, plus fifteen minutes of hoofing time each to and from the subway stations, I would leave home around 4:30 a.m. Posing the obvious and fairly rhetorical question, "What good goes on in the New York subways at 4:30 a.m.?", the equally obvious answer is "None, whatsoever." I'll qualify that by saying that there is a laudable segment of the population that rides the subways at that hour for perfectly honorable reasons (e.g. those in the medical, wait staff, and security guard professions), but let me tell you, those folks are in the minority. Most who ride the subways at that hour are late-night partiers, vagrants, or criminals (any similarity to John Rocker's infamous diatribe about the 7 train is unintended). As an aside, just to provide the readers a better frame of reference, many a Vanny venture was preceded by "Friday Night Libations" which only added to the fogginess of waking up at 4 a.m.
While there were numerous memorable (or is that forgettable/regrettable?) early morning subway trips, the most memorable was one of the times that I was running late and barely made the train. I got on as the door closed, dragging my K-mart-issue Wilsons behind me. I saw a rare stretch of empty seats to my left. While I should've instinctively known better, I went for a seat. As I was sitting, I saw two inebriated fellows, presumably of Celtic descent (based on their brogues) watching my every move. I put my golf bag between my legs and sat. I no sooner planted my feet and golf bag when I felt them sliding on what was a hot, squishy, putrid-smelling pink vomit. The two Irish guys looked at me and laughed (thanks, guys). Not exactly the best foot to get off on, so to speak, with everyone in the subway car looking and laughing at me. Then there was the time that I almost got my ass kicked for wearing what two acutely intoxicated and less than amiable lads called "tube socks"...
The walk from the 242nd Street stop involved a Frogger-like street crossing (even at that hour) and a "short cut" through Van Cortland Park, which was generally safe at that hour. The clubhouse was no better or worse than most municipal golf clubhouses; sparse, but functional ambience, complete with a framed "Wall Street" poster leading up the stairs to the locker space.
As a rule, the employees of the pro shop ran things with Teutonic efficiency; woe to the group that showed up late for check-in time thirty minutes before tee time. When tee time approached, we boarded our "electric battlewagons" and took the two-minute ride to the starter box. The ride overblessed us with a picturesque view of goose shit-laden Van Cortlandt lake. Once at the starter box, the starter, of such an age that he may have carried a flag for the Grand Army, ran things with the same Germanic efficiency as the pro shop folks.
As for general observations on the course, the City put millions of dollars into the course in the late 90's making it respectable; par 70, moderate yardage, little sand, fair amount of water, and some nasty hills, with three par 5's of beastly length.
My Tracking experiences were shared with hundreds of my best golfing buddies on an average weekend day, by mid-afternoon golf carts were routinely stacked up like so many cars on the L.A. Freeway. Although I'm not a huge fan of carts, they're essential at Vanny in order to keep your round under six hours and to navigate the logistical clusterfuck between holes. Also, it's not a bad idea to have a set of wheels in case a gang fight breaks out on the 14th hole. Granted, during my golfing tenure there, gang fights had lost their cachet, but one perhaps apocryphal account of the old Vanny mentioned a gang fight taking place on one of the fairways, replete with burned out cars in the background.
Obviously this Track is all about ambience, but some observations on the holes one encounters at Vanny:
#4: Difficult par 4 with no room to the left, but playable from the next fairway to the right, which tends to be in the wheelhouse of most Trackers. By August, the fairway resembles the pock-marked surface of the moon, which of course helps those of us prone to the occasional worm burner off the tee.
#7: To the left, the Saw Mill Expressway. As a lefty with a wicked slice, I more than once wincingly awaited the wail of car brakes and the sickening screech of metal hitting metal as some unlucky soul caught my errant slice through the windshield and careened into the guardrail at an ungodly speed, but alas, it never happened (phew!); a difficult par three based on length and the gnarly weeping willow guarding the green.
#12: Toughest hole on the course in my opinion, an interminably long par 5 with water everywhere, placing a premium on course management and/or Track acumen. This hole gets progressively worse as the season progresses, reminiscent of No Man's Land on the Western Front during the First World War, albeit sans the riga-mortified horse carcasses.
#15 thru 18 are the more "Goat Track-esque" holes, in terms of terrain; steep uphill & downhill holes. Most notable is #16, which plays downhill, but an errant tee shot may send hand ball players in the adjacent housing scrambling for cover. As an aside, the tee box affords a view of the beauty and splendor that is Riverdale.
#19: While there is opportunity for a cold one back at the "clubhouse," the best bets to dip your beak and exchange war stories are Dorney's or Fenwicks in Riverdale.
Based on Dr. Honeydew's review, we're giving Vanny a...