119. Piping Rock Club
C.B. Macdonald (1913) / Pete Dye (1985-1987) / Tom Doak (2008-2010) / Bruce Hepner (2015)
C.B. Macdonald designed Piping Rock right after he completed No. 8-ranked National Golf Links, and just as he did there, Macdonald peppered Piping Rock with versions of his favorite design concepts, including a canted Redan green and a Road Hole based on the 17th at St. Andrews. But it was at Piping Rock, not National, where Macdonald first introduced what has become his most imitated hole, the Biarritz. It’s the eighth hole at Piping Rock, with a green 60-yards-deep, bisected two-thirds of the way back by a 6-foot-deep trench. Designer Bruce Hepner recently enhanced the course by removing trees, reinstating old cross-bunkers, recapturing green sizes and adding tightly mown areas green surrounds to some holes. But he didn’t change the design. Piping Rock had great bones to begin with.
100 Greatest/Second 100 Greatest History: First time ranked.
The nuance, creativity and genius of these greens are special. You can spend all day putting on these putting surfaces and appreciating the engineering marvel found at these greensites. The club does a great job keeping conditioning firm and fast to let the subtleties of the greens show themselves. The Redan third hole might be the best Redan I’ve seen in the United States—perhaps only second to National Golf Links.
Memorability truly stands out at Piping Rock, true individuality on all 18 holes with outstanding continuity form the very first tee to the last green. Rare to find a course with no redundancy and true uniqueness 18 times in a round. One would be hard pressed to argue that the individuality at Piping Rock is not special and that there is clear continuity in spite of the individuality. Rare to find that great of a balance.
Remarkably it has a links-like feel despite the fact that the course is inland surrounded by trees (although the trees rarely affect play, after significant tree removal post-renovation). This is attributable to the firm rolling land and the seemingly haphazard but really strategic bunkering present throughout.
Outstanding variety throughout the back nine with a mix of short holes requiring precision and finesse, and longer holes requiring accuracy combined with power. There are outstanding templates—the Eden, the Biarritz, the Short, the Redan, plus the Principal’s Nose. National Golf Links is rightfully regarded as Macdonald’s principal contribution to American architecture. But every course design fan should also study Piping Rock.
The entire property oozes of traditional golf and the club intends to keep it that way—an oasis reminiscent of golf’s golden age. It is a trip back in time and the course is just fun to play and has loads of charm. The old polo ground as the driving range amplifies the effect of this property being hollowed ground.