Our History

Colonial Times

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.

Professional Competitions

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.

Recognition

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."

"...it is truly a Tillinghast gem. I am sure the membership is very proud of their course."

-Ben Crenshaw

Gil Hanse Conducts an Extensive, Sympathetic Restoration

At the beginning of this century, Quaker Ridge’s Green Committee decided to rebuild the first green, so it would adhere to USGA green specifications as a test for the rest of the greens. That was partly an effort to eliminate most or all of the poa annua grass so it would be nearly 100 percent bent grass. The green was ripped up and reconstructed, but within two days, members of the Green Committee realized it wasn’t right. The undulations were off, and the new grass wasn’t taking. They insisted it be redone. Again, it still wasn’t right. The Club didn’t have a suitable green there for two to three years. In 2002, they asked golf course architect Gil Hanse to remediate. “Please, just give us back what we had before,” they said. Today, all of Quaker Ridge’s putting surfaces are almost purely poa, and they roll as true, fast and smooth as ever before.

Hanse signed on the next year to redesign the pond wall on the fifth hole, making it more aesthetic and running it farther around the water’s edge and increasing the water capacity. He also moved the bridge. In 2008, the club initiated a three-year program, charging Hanse with the course restoration. To be precise the project was properly termed a sympathetic restoration in that it would be counter-productive to restore the course to precisely the way it was at the time of Tillie’s redesign.  Although the restoration of all of the bunkers to the way Tillinghast designed them was highly desirable, restoring the course to the length it was in 1924 was a nonstarter given the modern game.

So a decision was made to first restore all of the greens as closely as possible to the shape and configuration they were in around 1924 and, second, to restore virtually all of the bunkers (most within 80 or so yards of the green) that were then in place, and, third, to lengthen the course where possible and appropriate to fit the modern, longer game, keeping the emphasis on the heart of the course—the largely heroic set of 12 truly magnificent par 4s. As it turned out, the course was lengthened to 7,008 yards from the back tees (from 6,850) and par stayed at 70 with four par 3s and the two original par 5s. In doing so, a few of the fairway bunkers were moved into the driving area for a modern golf professional or world-class amateur, such as on No. 3. In the day of the original design, these fairway bunkers were 220 yards from the front edge of the bunker closest to the tee extending out to about 240 to 260 yards from the front edge closest to the green. In essence these fairway bunkers were moved forward (closer to the green) in the exact size, shape and configuration as the original, so as to have the course play the way Tillinghast designed it with the 1924 redo, but adjusted to accommodate the modern game with the ball traveling farther. Bunkers were added on Nos. 11 and 17 as well.

Indeed, Hanse has become one of the most-in-demand architects of the 21st century, working on many redesign and design projects throughout the world, including nearby Century Country Club, the Golf Club of Boston, The Vineyard Club on Martha’s Vineyard, Winged Foot (East), Castle Stuart in Scotland, four of Doral’s courses in Miami for Donald Trump and, perhaps most significantly, the brand-new Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games, where golf will be played as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904.

The Quaker Ridge restoration has been deemed a success. Hanse brought the course back to it’s original Tillinghast luster, restoring and recreating most of the bunkers and green configurations by meticulously studying old aerial photographs from the 1916 and 1924 configurations because the original blueprints had long been lost.

Says Tom Ashfield, Quaker Ridge’s Head Superintendent, who is in his ninth year at the Club and helped Hanse on the project: “Gil would rough out the redesign based on the old photos. When we dug down, we found a lot of old drainage tiles, which helped us establish the base of the bunkers. It was the same on the green expansion. We found the old drainage and soil and pushed the boundaries back out to where they had been originally. It was like investigative archeology.”

Ashfield, in keeping with the restoration process, started maintaining the course as it was originally intended. “We have found a happy medium on the fescues by trial and error,” he says. “We maintain the bunker edges a little rough but playable. And we’ll redo the faces every two to three years. Gil is fantastic—so knowledgeable and humble.”

Today’s course—though much longer than the original design, but so closely resembling the 1924 version around the greens and fairway landing areas it’s uncanny—is maintained at an extremely high level of playability. Ashfield worked with Hanse to create beautiful pebble sand paths, screening the sand that came from Pennsylvania. They upgraded the aesthetics of the entrance and driveway into the Club. And they started following strict guidelines for mowing heights and course watering. Ashfield maintains the bluegrass rough at three inches and waters it separately from the fairways, which are 60 percent poa and 40 percent Penncross bent grass, mown at .350 to .400 of an inch. “We’re trying to promote more bent grass on the fairways, and we try to keep it firm and dry,” Ashfield says, “so we don’t use as many chemicals.” He maintains the greens at .100 to .110 of an inch, mowing and rolling them six days a week in season, which translates to a 10.5 to 11 on the Stimpmeter (12.5 to 13.5 for the Hochster). Finally, the bunker sand, imported from West Virginia, is a manufactured product called X-Firm. It’s extremely white and its grains are very consistent, so it compacts and drains well.

Today’s majestic and strikingly beautiful course at Quaker Ridge feels and plays like the world-class championship venue that it is, yet through a 100-year evolution it once again bears the unmistakable imprimatur of its true and original designer, A.W. Tillinghast. So the seemingly inconsistent twin goals of capturing the best of both worlds—Tillinghast’s original design and a thoroughly modern championship course—has been achieved.

And it’s safe to say, the membership couldn’t be more proud of its completely restored and modernized Tillinghast design, often referred to as “Tillie’s Treasure.”