By Mark Schmetzer
If you haven’t been to Hyde Park Country Club for the past, oh, couple of years, well, you might not recognize the place. Located on Erie Avenue, Hyde Park completed in February a $12 million renovation that included the women’s clubhouse, the kitchen, the swimming pool, the outdoor dining area, the golf practice area and moving the six tennis courts while adding pickleball and paddleball courts.
“The last major renovation was in 1998,” general manager Eric O’Bryan said. “In order to do the practice area, we had to move the tennis courts. “We’ve been busy,” added O’Bryan, who’s been Hyde Park general manager for 14-1/2 years. “That’s pretty much it on major renovations.’
Hyde Park superintendent Pat O’Brien – not to be confused with Eric O’Bryan – was the point man for the renovations. His effort was laudable enough to be named one of five finalists across the nation for Turfnet’s 2018 Superintendent of the Year Award.
“He did not get the award, but he’s done an amazing job with the golf course,” O’Bryan said. So far, the renovations have been a hit with members, O’Bryan said. “Some would say our membership list is full,” he pointed out.
Left unchanged was the 18-hole golf course, the site of this year’s 104th Metropolitan Women’s Championship July 22-23. The course, originally designed as a nine-hole layout by Thomas Bendelow the same year the club was incorporated in 1909 and redesigned by noted course architect Donald Ross in a two-year project completed in 1922, features classic Ross elements such as elevated greens and what Jack Nicklaus described as “naturalness,” stemming from Ross’s reluctance to move much earth when designing a course. Ross preferred to design a course around the grounds, not move ground to accommodate his design.
Those are two distinctions of O’Bryan’s favorite Hyde Park hole – the par-3 No. 15, nicknamed “Devil’s Own,” according to the club website. “It’s set up on a hill with a valley in between,” O’Bryan said. “There’s wood all around and a bunker front and a bunker front-left and right. You’ve got to be pretty good with your shot to get it to stick.
“The most challenging aspect of the whole course is the undulations in the greens. They are very characteristic of the designer and the course.” Ross’s respect for nature is one of the aspects that makes Hyde Park enjoyable.
“I think, No. 1, is the setting,” said O’Bryan, who pointed out that he has limited experience on the course. “No. 2, it is a challenging course. Depending on how Pat sets it up, it’s very challenging, but I think the members enjoy coming out and playing something different.”
Larry Drehs – who’s become intimate with Hyde Park’s course in his 37 years with the club, the last 35 as head pro – has his own favorite. “The 14th hole is a great risk/reward hole,” he wrote in an email. “It is a drivable par 4 which gives the golfer an excellent opportunity to make a low score. In an effort to drive it on or close to the green there is risk involved as hazardous areas pinch in the closer you get to the green. The errant tee shot can produce a very high score. This hole has been played in as few as one shot and as many as a double digit score.”
Drehs considers No. 4 to be Hyde Park’s most challenging hole, for precisely the same reasons that O’Bryan lists No. 15. “The fourth hole is a par four that requires an accurate tee shot followed by a precise second shot up a steep hill to a green surface which features a false front not visible to the golfer in the fairway down below,” Drehs wrote. “The entire right rough is a steep hillside with healthy rough grass making a second shot to the green very difficult. A penalty area runs along the entire left side until it crosses the fairway requiring a club less then driver to be used for the tee shot.”
No. 4 typifies what makes Hyde Park challenging. “There are many steep hillsides and deep gullies that come into play for the mishit shot,” Drehs wrote. “They are both very difficult to play from. Golfers must avoid these areas to post a good score.” Drehs adds that Hyde Park also has some forgiving holes. “The golf course features many scoring holes with much character,” he said. “These holes, while being most enjoyable to play, allow the golfer opportunities to make up ground against par.”
This will be the fifth time Hyde Park has hosted the Met since the GCWGA started listing Met sites in its records in 1961. The club also hosted in 1967, 1979, 1990 and 2007. Hyde Park has been the home course for two Met champions – Virginia Jones in 1933 and Mary Ann Plunkett in 2004.
O’Bryan considers Hyde Park to be among the area’s standout country clubs. “There are so many great clubs in close proximity to Hyde Park,” he pointed out. “Every one offers something different. We are family oriented. We have a great golf course and great amenities.
“Hyde Park is an incredible club, filled with 110 years of exceptional history, that offers members and guests an exquisite setting to establish lasting friendships and wonderful memories, whether on the impressive golf course, paddle tennis, pool, bowling, pickle ball, tennis or attending social functions. Hyde Park’s recent renovation, touching all aspects of the facility and as exceedingly supported by its members, establishes success for generations to come, remaining a premier private club offering first class amenities and service.”