POUND RIDGE, NEW YORK | At first glance, the most interesting thing about Pound Ridge Golf Club is the Pete Dye-designed course – the only one he crafted in the Empire State – with its rugged rock outcroppings, rolling hills, snake-like streams and devilish mounding.
But equally intriguing is the story of how the daily-fee course came to be constructed in this Westchester County community some 55 miles northeast of midtown Manhattan. Then, there is the man who drove the development of Pound Ridge, Ken Wang. The son of Chinese immigrants who came to the United Staes in the late 1940s as communists took control of the family’s homeland, Wang also happens to be the younger brother of fashion designer Vera Wang.
Now 70 years old, Ken Wang grew up in New York City and earned degrees at MIT and Harvard Business School after graduating from Friends Seminary, a Quaker day school in the East Village. In time, he began working for the family business, U.S. Summit Company. Started in part by his father C.C. (for Cheng Ching), it initially imported rattan furniture and silk, among other goods from East Asia, before evolving into the distribution of industrial, medical and consumer products in the Far East as well as oil refining.
In 2008, Wang opened Pound Ridge Golf Club. Its establishment is a testament to his passion for golf – and his determination to do something special with the property his father had purchased some three decades prior.
“Building this golf course has given me a lot of pleasure,” the younger Wang said.
His sister, Vera, was not involved in the development of Pound Ridge, a par-72 course that is routed on 172 acres of land and boasts five sets of tees. Nor does she have an ownership stake or any role in its operation. But she is just as smitten as her brother with the sport and derives great enjoyment from her rounds here.
“I like the sophistication of the golf, the range of shots from the tee box to the hole,” she said. “It is also a rare opportunity to commune with nature at its most beautiful.”
The slender, long-haired Vera plays Pound Ridge whenever she is able. “Pete and his wife Alice created a course unlike any other in the northeast,” she explained. “And as a fellow designer, I really appreciate the beauty of the design.”
Both Vera and Ken Wang received their introduction to golf when they were youngsters. “Early on, figure skating was our sport,” he said. “And Vera was quite good. But then my father started taking us to a driving range off Route 3 in New Jersey to hit balls. It was situated on land where the Meadowlands Sports Complex now exists.”
Even though Wang liked the game right away, it was not until college that he started to tee it with some regularity. “I went to work for the family business one summer in Singapore, helping to build an oil refinery,” he said. “And it was there that I started taking lessons from a Taiwanese professional. I was an OK player until I took up tennis, and that absolutely destroyed my golf swing. I never really played more than five or six rounds a year after that. But I found golf fascinating despite my ineptitude with it.”
Wang became even more enchanted with the game when his father, a chemist who earned a master’s degree at MIT after moving to the States, decided in 1979 to purchase that tract of land in Pound Ridge. “It was part of what had been a country club, with an 18-hole golf course,” he said. “Half the property was located in New York State, and the other half in Connecticut, and my father bought the part in New York. He liked land as an investment and thought about building a country home here.”
The elder Wang also liked that the parcel he had purchased had nine-and-a-half holes from the old golf course. So, they kept it going as a neighborhood public track. It also became a place where C.C. and his son banged around golf balls every now and then, just as they had at the old New Jersey driving range.
Not long after Tiger Woods burst upon the professional golf scene in the late 1990s and elevated both the profile and popularity of the sport, the Wangs started thinking about constructing a new 18-hole course on the Pound Ridge site.
“We talked about a real estate development,” Ken remembered. “But we loved the land and did not want to do anything to destroy it.”
Wang interviewed several architects, but admits hiring Dye was in the back of his mind the whole time. “I had played several of Pete’s courses,” he said. “I never scored well on them, but I loved the designs and the way his mind worked. He was like a physicist, calculating things down to the nearest yard and creating more challenges for better golfers playing from the back tees while making it somewhat easier for golfers like me to do well from more forward markers. I also liked the angles off the tees and into greens and the ways his courses flowed.”
Pound Ridge Golf Club came online in 2008. Vera, a member of Liberty National Golf Club in northern New Jersey and Atlantic Golf Club on the East End of Long Island, well remembers that opening day. “I managed to shoot a 90, playing in a group just behind Pete and Alice,” she said. “It is a treasured memory, and one I cling to lovingly.”
The only disappointment of the day was that C.C. Wang did not live long enough to see the Pound Ridge course built, having died two years earlier at age 87.
To say it has often been a challenge running Pound Ridge would be an understatement. “We missed the peak of the golf market by about a week in 2008, and the economy collapsed right after we opened,” said Ken. “Outings disappeared, and league play shut down. Friday afternoon play in the summers evaporated, too.”
Then came COVID-19, which has presented its own share of problems. “But to be honest, I have found it all to be a lot of fun and very stimulating from a business standpoint,” added Wang, who looks over operations at Pound Ridge with one of his three sons, Darren, as he now runs U.S. Summit from a head office that is located in the same town. “And I enjoy the economic challenges.”
He also relishes the times he gets to tee it up on the golf course that he and his father imagined all those years ago.
“I cannot think of one day that I wasn’t happy that we did this,” Wang concluded.
Top: No. 11 at Pound Ridge. Photos: Courtesy Pound Ridge Golf Club
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