Bronx New Deal - Photo #72 - Split Rock and Pelham Bay Golf Courses

Split Rock Golf Course, Bronx, NY, built by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935-36. Photo: Anthony Pioppi, used by permission. He points out that the course was designed by John Van Kleek (Robert Moses didn't credit designers by name). In the 1920s and 30s, Van Kleek designed golf courses all over the world and during the New Deal he was the supervising architect for New York City Parks Department in charge of golf courses, including Split Rock, Van Cortlandt, Clearview, and Dyker Beach[2]. Pioppi says[1]:

Split Rock path Split Rock has one of the most enjoyable pre-round walks I've encountered. The distance from the clubhouse to the first tee is probably a half-mile along a sand path that runs under a rusting railroad bridge that is supported by massive gray stone blocks and then through a heavily wooded area. Horses and their riders also frequent the trail, as stables are part of the facility. (Can you imagine being a horse living in the Bronx?) By the time you have made your way to the course your Split Rock path surroundings have been transformed from city to country. Split Rock in no uncertain terms is a joy to play and most likely qualifies as a genuine diamond in the rough. In June of 2011 the conditions were excellent, thanks in part to a few weeks of ideal growing con­di­tions and a superintendent who knows what he's doing. There was plenty of grass on fairways and greens, the putting surfaces were smooth and rolled true while the bunkers had the right amount of sand and were consistent from one to the next. It appears that Van Kleek's goal at Split Rock was to create a stellar layout for the daily fee player.


  1. Anthony Pioppi, Great Municipal Golf Part 2: Split Rock, The A Position, accessed May 20, 2017.
  2. Pennington, Bill, Forgotten Architects, Timeless Courses, New York Times, August 4, 2008.
  3. Labbance, Bob, and Kevin Mendik, The Life and Work of Wayne Stiles, Notown (2008).
  4. Britton, A.D., Taking Mental Hazard out of City Golf, New York Times Magazine, June 2, 1935, p.11: “The [new course] at Split Rock, carved out of a tract in Pelham Bay Park, probably is the department's star job. As a test of golf its 6,624 yards will be the equal of any course in the metropolitan area.”
  5. NYC Parks Department Press Release of September 30, 1934. “The yardage for the separate four nine hole courses which constitute this thirty-six hole layout, will vary from 3,000 to 3,300 yards each. In combination, both nines at the Split Rock Course will measure better than 6,600 yards from the back of the tees, and 6,200 yards from the front of the tees. The Pelham Course from the back of the tees will play less than 6,500 yards, and approximately 6,100 yards from the front. With these lengths of holes, and with this design of fairways and greens, there will be provided all types and all kinds of play. In addition to two eighteen hole courses, there will be a larger practice fairway and practice putting green within easy access. Spacious parking areas will be provided adjacent to both courses. Provision has also been made for a caddy house. … All labor and materials for the whole project will be paid for from Work Relief Funds.”
  6. Owen, David, “ Playing Out of the Snow”, The New Yorker, March 28, 2005, pp.26-32.