SUNNINGDALE COUNTRY CLUB was organized in November, 1913 and was named after the renowned British golf club. The club’s founders were committed to establishing a preeminent club in the region and it was an immediate success as the membership roll quickly filled.
Initially the club leased a nine hole golf course in Mount Vernon which had been occupied by Siwanoy Country Club. In 1916 it was decided to purchase the Overlook Golf Course which occupied 149 acres at the club’s current location in Scarsdale. The sight is historically noteworthy as it was an encampment for French forces when they joined the American colonials in their fight against the British in 1781. The Site Committee of the club’s Board of Directors observed at the time: “as far as desirability, practicality and beauty, there are few locations in Westchester County superior to the proposed site”. They went on to say: “that land can be turned into one of the finest courses in the Metropolitan region.”
The course on that location was indifferent and Seth Raynor was hired in 1916 to redesign the course and bring it to it’s potential. A stunning clubhouse was built by leading architect Robert Kohn, highlighted by a vaulted living room ceiling with a large fireplace and expansive West facing terrace dramatically overlooking the golf course and setting sun. These prominent features remain today. The new club opened on Memorial Day 1918 and 100 additional members were brought in.
From the outset, the club was blessed with an active and outstanding membership and remarkable, long serving staff which helped engender a warm, family atmosphere. For instance, we have been most fortunate to have had several outstanding golf professionals over the years. The tradition was set by Elmer (Whitey) Voight who became the Golf Professional at Sunningdale for almost 50 years beginning shortly after the club opened . In addition to being an excellent teacher, Whitey was a wonderful person and classy presence around the first tee who set the standard for all around him.
Another example was the head tennis professional Elwood Cooke who was at Sunningdale for twenty years beginning in 1961. Elwood was an outstanding teacher who earlier in his playing days reached the finals at Wimbledon before losing to Bobby Riggs . That same year he did win the doubles competition with Riggs. The tradition of excellence represented here by Whitey and Elwood continue to this day.
Over the years, Sunningdale has been successful in retaining these early established characteristics and building upon them. The club has distinguished itself by fostering a low-key, family centric culture, offering attractive features like early twosome tee times on weekends and pool counselors to provide supervised child care while parents slip away for a lesson or game of tennis.
However as we approached our one hundred year anniversary, in the early 2000s, it was determined that an effort had to be undertaken to bring the facilities up to date to meet the standards of its membership. In the spring of 2004, the club completed work on a major upgrade of the clubhouse, including an enlarged kitchen and renovation of the living room, dining room and locker rooms. In 2009, the club completed work on a new swimming pool complex including new pools for adults and children, playground and enhanced eating facilities and locker rooms.
Most recently, in the spring of 2017, the club completed construction of a new tennis shop, creation of a new, elegant entrance way and major renovation of the golf course under the direction of architect Mike DeVries. The project included installation of a new irrigation system, updating of all greens and bunkers, some rerouting and upgrade of practice facilities – while retaining the classical style of the original Raynor design. In common with the club’s approach since it’s outset, the goal of the renovation was to create a course that would provide a high level of enjoyment for all members. Reaction from the golf course architecture world and, most importantly, our members would seem to indicate that our goals were achieved.
In all, as we open our second century of operation, Sunningdale is well positioned with a strong membership, welcoming atmosphere and attractive, up to date facilities.