Ridgewood Country Club

Ridgewood Country Club LogoTillinghast gave Ridgewood three outstanding nine-hole courses in 1929, compilations of which have combined for tournament play over the last century. Although the greens are not exceptionally large, averaging 5,000 to 6,000 square feet, many bear the original Tillinghast touch – severely sloping, typically from back to front, and protected by deep bunkers at the front corners. These features are overshadowed by the century-old trees that line the fairways and frame many of the greens, making position off the tee such a key ingredient for scoring well, often forcing the better players to club down for accuracy. The trees also serve to isolate each hole from those nearby, creating a scene of splendid tranquility. The challenges are one after another-there are really no let up holes-good scoring demands consistent and creative execution.

The clubhouse sets the classic tone for this place

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The old brick and stone European country style club house is a signature of the time this club was built . The club house interiors, locker room, and grill room are classic period designs without a hint of pretentiousness-they speak a quiet confidence of the history of this place. Plaques on the staging patio remind you that the course has been the site of major national golf events from 1935 to today-they include The Ryder Cup (1935), U.S. Senior Amateur (1957), U.S. Amateur (1974), U.S. Senior Open (1990), Senior PGA (2001), and The Barclays Championship (2008-10-14)-winners include well know players like Kathy Whitworth, Jerry Pate, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, and Matt Kuchar.

Trees frame the shots required throughout the three nines

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The club had been the home of one of the most famous club pros of his era, George Jacobus and he mentored Byron Nelson as his summer assistant back in the 1930’s. Byron credits the development time spent at Ridgewood under the eye of George Jacobus as the most important in his career. There remains a plaque on the end of a patio commemorating a shot Byron hit as part of a bet with some caddies-they threw down three balls and bet him he could not hit the flagpole about 150 yards away. With a three iron in hand Byron plunked the flagpole on his second try to collect the winnings.

View of Byron’s patio to flagpole challenge

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The first thing you notice is the segmentation of the holes created by the towering trees. The spacing of the trees is generous so wayward shots still allow a path to recovery-but the thickness of the rough makes you pay the price for being off line with your tee ball. The center nine is built on the highest part of the property so the holes there have the greatest bit of topographical influence-the east and west nines fall to the sides of this high ground and provide lots elevation change and side slope stances and rolls. The combination of the trees dictating shot line and positioning along with the tactical fairway and greenside bunkering make you engage the trouble for the most aggressive shot lines.

Typical Tillinghast’s green complex…a small hole with a big challenge

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The creative nature of the green complexes means you will miss greens and have many pitch and chip opportunities to save pars-it will take good short game skills to be successful around here. One nuance is that, in spite of the fact that most greens have open front access, most have a gentle lip on the front of the green which makes pitching and chipping to front and middle pin placements very challenging. We are not talking false fronts but just enough lip to the green to make the player very indecisive as to whether to keep the shot on low to the ground or force it over the front edge of the green in the air. Fast greens just complicate this decision.

Challenges throughout can shock the system like a cold ice bath

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One of the most dominant features to negotiate is the grain on these greens-it generally runs across the property toward the highway-everything breaks toward the traffic noise-now that is different. With the slope in these greens and the dominant grain fast green speeds can make this a real test of patience and discretion.

For all of the difficulty articulated the course is very playable for the average player-the challenges are obvious and doable for someone with discretion. Score can be protected when the challenge is too steep and there are scoring opportunities to be seized at the appropriate time. Tillinghast knows how to challenge a player without overwhelming them-it is always a pleasure to play his courses because they have the visuals to wow you but plenty of opportunities to succeed if you play with good judgment.

Paramus, New Jersey

Architect: A.W. Tillinghast (1929)
Rees Jones (restoration 1986)



Tees      Par      Rating       Slope       Yardage

Blue       71        71.6          136            6453

White     71        69.4          126            6023


Tees      Par      Rating       Slope       Yardage

Blue       72        71.8          136            6563

White     72        69.3          126            6016


Tees      Par      Rating       Slope       Yardage

Blue       71        72             137            6578

White     71        69.1          127            6013

(Click here to review Ridgewood Country Club hole-by-hole descriptions)

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