Westchester Golf & Country Club, Boynton Beach – Florida Swing 2013

One of Westchester Golf Club's manicured holes.

One of Westchester Golf Club’s manicured holes.

When I think of residential golf course developments in South Florida, Westchester Golf & Country Club in Boynton Beach, FL is precisely what I envision.  The 1989 Karl Litten designed golf course contains 27 manicured holes nestled among a bustling development full of really nice houses, all of which included at least one Florida room back patio.  The entire golf property is completely flat by nature, with the only undulations and elevation changes being the occasional man-made mound or artificially elevated green.  Westchester’s tightly structured holes and orderly, if not cramped, course routing provided a stark contrast to the meandering natural beauty of Ironhorse Country Club’s golf course played just the day before.

It was a bright, sunny afternoon in Palm Beach County when I arrived at Westchester’s modest but classy clubhouse, and since the parking lot was fairly full I knew I was going to be paired up with another group of golfers.  We were being sent out on the Gold and Red courses, which playing from the blue tees played to 6,166 yards with a course rating and slope of 69.2 / 128.  The pro shop staff had paired me with a pair of gray-haired snowbirds who had retreated to South Florida from inside the Beltway surrounding Washington D.C.

Westchester was a very tidy golf course, with clean lines and hard angles.

Westchester was a very tidy golf course, with clean lines and hard angles.

I was initially skeptical of what to make of my playing partners, as they headed to the senior tees three tee boxes down the cart path while I hung back at the blue tees.  Luckily, my Congressional Country Club logo shirt that my in-laws had given me years earlier provided a nice conversation starter and proved enough common ground to make me an acceptable partner to them.  My apprehension was quickly assuaged by their quick wit, fast pace of play, and smart-assed ribbing of each other, and me, right from the first hole.  It quickly became apparent that this was going to be a fun round of golf.

Despite water being present and in play on literally every hole, Westchester may be the least visually intimidating golf course I’ve ever played.  The trouble on most holes was obvious from the tee box, and there generally wasn’t a lot of trouble if you kept the golf ball dry.  The bunkers, which received a fair bit of my attention, were in superb condition, full of fluffy, white, predictable sand, and generally weren’t much of a hazard at all.

Going out, the Gold Course played shorter and gentler than the Red Course did coming in.  The first two Gold Course holes provided a pretty straightforward warm up for the round.  The short par 5 fifth was the third of three consecutive doglegs to the right, an interesting, if novel, risk / reward hole.  The entire length of the fairway lies at a right angle to the tee box, with an enormous lake occupying the space in between.  The tee shot options are limited only by a player’s risk tolerance and ability to hit a target, with plenty of room to lay up to the back of the fairway or ample room on the far side of the lake from which to possibly reach the green in two.  After booming a drive to precisely where I aimed over the wide part of the lake, I managed to waste the reward with chunky approach shots and poor bunker play.

The sight of my biggest triumph of the Florida Swing - a great drive and a great approach lead to a kick-in birdie.

The sight of my biggest triumph of the Florida Swing – a great drive and a great approach lead to a kick-in birdie.

The par 4 sixth hole was the only hole on the day that actually turned left, and only slightly at that.  The tee shot fit both my eye and my draw, and a surprisingly well struck drive left me a mere gap wedge into an elevated green.  I spun the approach to within a foot of the hole and appreciated the commendatory harassment from my playing companions as they congratulated me on my triumph and my only birdie of the day.

The Red Course featured several more right angle corners that could be cut, a product of squeezing every inch of golf course possible out of the property that was abutted by busy streets and neighborhoods on all sides.  The perpetual right turns proved both exciting and challenging, as I struggled at times to keep my natural draw in position and in the fairway on most holes.

The closing three holes of the Red Course did prove memorable, as all three tee shots force a player to commit to a target with water clearly in the line of sight.  Though very short yardages, all three holes incorporated infinite risk / reward possibilities, where accurate shots would be rewarded, while wayward tee shots were severely penalized by trees, bunkers, and water.  I ended up reaping more risk than reward, limping in at three over par for that final stretch.

An example of one of the Red Course's hard right angle holes, which rewards an accurately executed aggressive tee shot.

An example of one of the Red Course’s hard right angle holes, which rewards an accurately executed aggressive tee shot.

The wind picked up slightly as the day drew on, which added to the scoring difficulty, though the fatigue of playing 45 holes over three consecutive days may have been the biggest determinant of my play.  I played bogey golf on the backside and was perfectly content, with my partners and the abundant sunshine keeping my spirits up.

Westchester Golf and Country Club is a perfectly enjoyable place to spend a sunny afternoon.  The course is prototypical of inland South Florida golf set in a residential development.  No one would mistake the tract for a position or shot-maker’s golf course. And nothing about the golf struck me as particularly remarkable.  However, the risk / reward character of a majority of the holes kept me engaged in my round.  I particularly enjoyed the closing few holes on each side and left Westchester with a smile, feeling as though I had gotten more than my money’s worth.

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