It was late October of 1776, in the early stages of the Revolutionary War. Sir William Howe, Commander-in-Chief of the British armies, marched his troops up Weaver Street on his way to White Plains. Howe and his troops camped for the night on land owned by Quakers, resting for battle the next day.
As lore has it, a mile and a half away, through the woods, George Washington slumbered (near his beleaguered Continental troops) under a great oak – the same oak that grows to the right of Quaker Ridge's 10th hole.
The next morning, October 28th, Washington marched to Chatterton Hill in nearby White Plains, where he met Howe in battle. The British outnumbered the Colonials, and Howe emerged bloodied but victorious. However, he hesitated to pursue them, and Washington escaped across the Hudson into New Jersey. Howe had squandered a chance to quash the young rebellion.That was the first international encounter to involve Quaker Ridge. More than 200 years later, Great Britain, this time with the help of the Irish, returned to the area to again battle the Continentals, now known as Americans, in a much friendlier encounter – the 75th Walker Cup.
The 1997 Walker Cup marks only the second "major" golf competition hosted by Quaker Ridge. The first was the 1936 Metropolitan Open, in which a young man named Byron Nelson achieved his first significant professional victory. The field for the Open included such greats as Gene Sarazen, Paul Runyan, and Tommy Armour. The golf course over which it was played remains basically unchanged today. The trees are taller and more plentiful, but the layout has not been significantly altered.
The par-70, 7,008-yard A. W. Tillinghast design – often called "Tillie's Treasure" – is frequently mentioned when accomplished golfers are asked to name the best course in the Metropolitan New York area. In March 1989, for example, Quaker Ridge was voted the number one course in the Met Area by The Met Golfer magazine. The course is also highly regarded on both National and international levels. In its 2017 rankings, Golf Digest rated Quaker Ridge #76 in the United States.
Development of the Course
The "Metropolitan Golf Links" was formed in 1915 with the purchase of 125 acres of Quaker Ridge property, on which John Duncan Dunn designed and built a nine-hole golf course. In 1916, the "Golf Links" was beset by financial problems, and a small group of businessmen formed "Quaker Ridge Golf Club" and purchased the existing property. Tillinghast was commissioned to redesign 7 holes and build 11 new ones. The new course opened in 1918.
For the next few years, a white clapboard house served as the clubhouse. In 1923, a new Tudor-styled clubhouse was constructed and opened with a testimonial dinner for the Club's first president, William Rice Hochster. Hochster, who served as president from 1916-1928, lived just to the right of the first hole, where he could watch over golfers and provide surprise lessons in golf etiquette.
Recognizable Members & Players
Between the 1920s and 1940s, many prominent business leaders became Quaker Ridge members. The list included Louis Gimbel and Samuel Bloomingdale, founders of the department stores that bear their names, and Alfred Knopf. Perhaps the best known member was Great American Songbook composer George Gershwin. Gershwin often entertained members of the theatrical community at the Club. Not only was he one of the nation's most famous composers, but a fairly talented golfer who carried a 10 handicap.
Quaker Ridge has hosted 3 Met Opens, 3 Met Amateurs, and 3 Met PGA Championships. The club has always promoted the game of golf, and supported its traditions.
Several famous golfers played exhibitions at the Club during its early years. In 1920, Englishmen Henry Vardon and Ted Ray defeated Walter Hagen and Johnny Farrell (Quaker Ridge's head golf professional from 1919–1930). In 1922, Farrell and Gene Sarazen played an exhibition against two other Englishmen, Abe Mitchell and George Duncan.
The Course Evolves
At the time of those early matches, the golf course was slightly different than today's layout. In 1925, the purchase of additional land at the northern corner of the property prompted the Club to bring Tillinghast back to change a few holes. Since then, there has been very little change, Robert Trent Jones added some new tees and removed some outdated bunkers in 1965. From 1991 to 1993, Rees Jones assisted Quaker Ridge in restoring all bunkers and adding five new championship and four new forward tees.
The golf course continues to stand the test of time. During the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Jack Nicklaus, was asked whether he thought that Winged Foot was the greatest course in the world. Nicklaus replied: "That may be, but there is quite a golf course down the street." In 1969, Jimmy Demaret described "Quaker Ridge as the most underrated Golf Course in the New York Area, because it has never been host course to a major championship." Demaret stated: "I'd like to go on record as saying it would be a tough test of golf for any tournament – the U.S. Open and the PGA included." Two-time PGA Champion Paul Runyon, who played the 1936 Metropolitan Open at Quaker, described Quaker Ridge as, , "the greatest golf course in the world."
Finally, two-time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw, said of Quaker Ridge: "It is so much of a treat to play. There is such a beautiful mix of holes at Quaker Ridge; it is truly a Tillinghast gem. I am sure the membership is very proud of their course."