Almost a Thousand Ways to Play Golf in New York – Public Courses Include Undiscovered Gems and Some of the Best, Most Beautiful in America
Where is the birthplace of golf? Most people will tell you St. Andrews. But who knew that it’s in Yonkers, New York, not Scotland? In 1888, John Reid and his Apple Tree Gang of friends played three holes of golf in a cow pasture establishing what is now the Saint Andrews Country Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, the oldest golf club in continuous use in America.
Today, 124 years later, Empire State residents and visitors have almost 1,000 golf courses to choose from – everything from little known gems in small towns, magnificent rural landscapes, and some of America’s best known, toughest, and most scenic pitches.
Without taking a mulligan, let’s be clear: New York’s claim to the birthplace of American golf hinges on a technicality – Oakhurst Links in West Virginia opened in 1884 but has had an interrupted history of operations. But golf is a game of precise measurement so the trophy goes to Mr. Reid. And, in fact, Saint Andrews is only one of many illustrious, enduring links between New York and golf.
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, in the Town of Southampton on Long Island, which has since hosted one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments, the U.S. Open, at least five times, opened in 1892. This year, another New York course, Locust Hills Country Club just outside Rochester, will reflect the state’s golfing prominence by hosting the LPGA Championship tournament June 13-17. Many years earlier, in 1890, the country’s first resort golf club, Hotel Champlain, opened at Bluff Point, New York. And 1895 saw the opening of the first American public course, Van Courtland Park in the Bronx, which, with its subway stop, today has the distinction of being the most easily accessible golf course in America.
The Black Course at the Bethpage State Park Golf Club in Farmingdale, almost by itself, places New York among America’s great places to play golf. Not only has it been ranked in the top 10 best, most difficult, and most scenic courses in the country, it has earned top honor for individual holes. It has hosted the U.S. Open and other major tournaments and, most important, is a public course, open to everyone. In fact, two of Bethpage’s five courses, the Black and the Red, rank among the top public courses in the state, along with such other notables as three courses at the Turning Stone club in Verona; Montauk Downs on Long Island; Hiawatha Landing in Apalachin; Saratoga National in Saratoga Springs; Leatherstocking in Cooperstown; Branton Woods in Hopewell Junction; and The Sagamore in Bolton Landing. A complete list of New York’s public courses is available online at www.golf.com/courses-and-travel/best-public-golf-courses.
New York can also claim two of the world’s most famous golf course architects as native sons – Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. who together have created almost 1,000 championship courses around the world. Jones Sr. arrived from England at the turn of the 20th century and grew up in upstate New York, attended Cornell University, and began his career as a caddy. His son has followed in his footsteps.
For non-golfers, and those who manage to play the game and still maintain a sense of humor, golf is a funny game, and has been since its inception. New Yorkers used to take carriage rides out to the country to watch grown men “playing marbles with sticks.” Today, American golfers lose or throw away 300 million of those “marbles” a year, which may have driven a gentleman, dressed as a clown, to steal a golf cart from the Terry Hills Golf Course and drive it through the street of Batavia, New York last year. The clothes were later determined to be his regular golfing attire, suggesting he literally lost his “marbles.”
Golf may be the only game in the world, where the object is to have the lowest rather than the highest score. This may explain why so many amateurs don’t seem to mind a score above par; they want to take as many swings as possible in order to get their money’s worth. Luckily, for vacationers in New York, it is easy to get outstanding value for money spent playing golf in many regions of the state, particularly those areas at some distance from major metropolitan areas.
A good place to start finding great values in New York golf is The New York Golf Trail, which includes courses in seven geographical categories – the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Cooperstown, Saratoga, the Hudson Valley, Lake Placid, and “Off the Beaten Track”. The Trail’s website lists golf facilities, current golf packages and area lodgings as well as descriptions of the regions and things to do in each area. It is even possible to make bookings and arrange hard-to-get advance tee times. Visit www.nygolftrail.com or call 1-800-614-7450.
The following is a sampling of great public golfing opportunities throughout New York State:
Beekman Country Club, Hopewell Junction
Beekman Country Club has been selected as one of the 50 top golf courses for women in the United States, and is in the top four for the Northeast. The 2009 edition of the PGA Professional’s Guide to Travel published a national survey of PGA Professionals, who offered their choices for favorite golf facilities for women to play. This year, the 27-hole championship course is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Visit http://www.beekmangolf.com/ or call (845) 226-7700, ext. 1.
Bluff Point Golf Resort, Plattsburgh
From the moment you step onto Bluff Point, you’ll know you’re in for a memorable golf experience. This beautifully maintained is nestled on picturesque Lake Champlain, where you’ll see the inspiring Adirondack Mountains of New York. While the views are unsurpassed, the golfing is even better. Whether you choose to ride a cart or to walk this championship course designed by Albert W. Tillinghast (renowned for his courses throughout the world, such as Baltusrol Golf Club, Bethpage Black, and Winged Foot) you’ll be challenged and mystified at every turn. Visit http://www.bluffpoint.com/ or call (518)563-3420 or toll free at (800)438-0985.
Brookhaven Golf Club, Porter Corners
The 2012 Golf Season marks the 50th Anniversary of Brookhaven Golf Club. The 18-hole course in Porter Corners, New York features 6,570 yards of golf from the longest tees and is set amidst New York’s lush woodlands. Designed by George Pulver, Brookhaven golf course opened in 1963. http://www.brookhavengolfclub.com/ or call (518) 893-7458
Brookwoods Country Club, Ontario
Built in 1928, this championship course offers four sets of tees, making this great layout appealing to golfers of all skill levels. Traditionalists, avid golfers and novices will all be impressed by this spectacular course created by world renowned architect Geoffrey Cornish and known for its pristine greens and well maintained fairways. The Brookwoods offers a rich history, having hosted such prestigious events as a US Women’s Open Qualifier, US Public Links Qualifier, multiple RDGA Championships and all six New York State Amateur Championships. Visit www.brookwoodcc.com or call (315) 524-8495.
Chautauqua Golf Club, Chautauqua
Associated with the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua Golf Club features two 4-Star rated 18-hole courses and a Learning Center built in 2008. A complete teaching and practice facility, the Learning Center features a 300-yard driving range, two putting greens, a chipping green with fairway, rough, and bunker approaches, as well as three practice holes. The course was designed by Donald Ross. Visit www.chqgolf.com or call (716) 357-6211.
Chestnut Hill Country Club, Darien Center
Named the “best public greens in Western New York” by Niagara Golfer magazine, Chestnut Hill Country Club is set in the gently rolling hills 20 minutes east of Buffalo. Consistently rated among the top courses in the Western New York by Golf Digest, it is noted for its scenic and beautiful country setting, offering golfers a challenging and diverse course at a playable level. Visit http://www.chestnuthillcc.com/ or call (585) 547-3613.
Doral Arrowwood Golf Club at the Doral Arrowwood Hotel & Conference Center, Rye Brook
Doral Arrowwood, designed by Robert von Hagge, the creative mind behind the famed Blue Monster in Miami, offers nine spectacular holes of golf. Challenge yourself on the 3,200-yard, par-35 course, featuring von Hagge’s trademark shadows, bunkers, and water hazards. Just minutes from White Plains, the club offers engaging play to all skill levels, and the Mitchell Spearman Golf Academy offers instruction for all skill levels. Visit http://www.doralarrowwood.com/ or call (914) 323-4478 or 939-5500, ext. 4478.
Lazy Swan Golf and Country Club Village, Saugerties
Located just 5 minutes off of the New York State Thruway in Saugerties, The Lazy Swan Golf Course is a championship caliber nine-hole course designed by Golf Architect Barry Jordan. The course has been exquisitely crafted as “a series of linked passages of natural beauty” with each hole presenting its own unique character and challenges for players to overcome. Players will encounter several cascading and reflection ponds, rock outcroppings, dramatic elevation changes, an alpine garden, and beautiful views of the Catskill Mountains. Visit
http://www.thelazyswan.com/Golf_21e86288397434c66b9545e44fb.html or call (845) 247-0075.
Pheasant Hill Country Club, Owego
Tioga County’s newest golf course, Pheasant Hill’s 18-hole golf course was designed and built in 2008. The 19th century historic country club offers sweeping, beautiful views, rolling hills, valleys, ponds, and bent grass greens. Pheasant Hill’s golf course takes full advantage of the setting, providing challenges and scenic views at every turn. Visit www.pheasanthillcc.com or call (607) 687-0722.
Rock Hill Golf and Country Club, Manorville
Designed by renowned golf architect Frank Duane, Rock Hill Golf and Country Club, on Long Island, is a challenging and somewhat hilly course that plays longer than most courses on Long Island. Opening in 1965, the 18-hole golf course is always impeccably manicured and offers golfers challenging and exciting holes. There are a few water hazards and plenty of trees lining the fairways and several undulating greens that make putting interesting. Rock Hill is open every day, year round. Visithttp://www.rockhillgolf.com/ or call (631) 878-2250.
Seven Oaks Golf Course, Hamilton
Colgate University is the proud owner of “Seven Oaks Golf Club”, named after the ancestral home of the Colgate family. The flawless 18-hole course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, has garnered accolades from Golfweek, The Golf Channel, and Golf Magazine. Visit http://www.sevenoaksgolf.com/golf-course/course-information/course-history or call (315) 824-1432.
Thousand Islands Country Club, Wellesley Island
Situated on beautiful Wellesley Island, Thousand Islands Country Club was designed by George Boldt. It sits directly across from the resort village of Alexandria Bay in the heart of the fabled 1000 Islands, and features 36 holes of great golf, efficiency villa/suite lodging, Hacker’s restaurant, a 100 slip marina, pool, and a reputation for 1000 Islands hospitality that goes back over a hundred years. Visit http://www.ticountryclub.com/index.html or call (800) 928- 8422.