Winged Foot has been ranked as one of the top courses in the U.S. and the World by Golf Magazine's panel of experts.
In 1921, a group within the New York Athletic Club wanted the club to build a golf course. When the vernable club decided not to make the investment, the members struck out on their own and in May of 1922, they acquired 280 acres of land in Mamaronack, New York. They then gave A.W. Tillinghast a mandate: Give us a man-sized golf course. After removing over 7,800 trees from the site, and moving an estimated 7,200 tons of rock, Tillinghast delivered the founders of Winged Foot Golf Club just that in June, 1923. Each course is a masterpiece, and together they are regarded as two of the finest layouts from golf's Golden Age of architecture.
The fairway bunkering defines the correct side of the fairway on nearly every hole at Winged Foot on each course. In order to attack the severely undulating greens and avoid the deep bunkers that guard them, a player must approach from the ideal side of the landing area. Fail to do that and you risk scoring a big number.
Several of the greens are pear-shaped--narrow in the front and wide in the rear, and many slope sharply from back to front. A prime example of this can be seen on the West Course's 10th hole, which Tillinghast regarded as the finest par 3 he ever built. From an elevated tee, players must hit a mid- or long-iron shot between two gargantuan bunkers on the left and right of the green. The putting surface tilts toward the front of the green, so players closing to cautiously go with a stronger club must then contend with an ultra-fast downhill putt.
The 18th on the West Course is a classic example of Tillinghast's design style. A dogleg left, players must hit the fairway in order to hit an approach shot that stays on the green-- anything landing short of the putting surface will roll back into the fairway and leave the player with a challenging up-and-down for par.
The East Course does not get as much attention as the West Course because it has not hosted six major championships won by player like Bobby Jones (1929), Hale Irwin (1974), and most recently, Geoff Ogilvy (2006 U.S. Open). But many locals and members feel it is an equally stern test of golf.
The 4th hole is a tough par-5, requiring two strong shots in order to reach the green. The uphill tee shot must carry over a pond, and the second shot must clear another small pond that sits on the right-corner of the dogleg. The wiser play is to lay-up on the second shot because the green is set off to the right an nearly a right angle to the fairway.
Winged Foot is known as a "players' club" and it has had notable teaching professionals call its practice area home. Craig Wood, winner of the Masters and U.S. Open in 1941, was the club's professional from 1939 to 1945. Then, Claude Harmon, winner of the 1948 Masters took over. Harmon, father of famous instructors Butch Harmon, was the last active teaching professional to win a major title.