By: Drew McAnulty
All golf groups have at least one – the organizer.
He, or she, is that one person who takes on the often-thankless job of pulling together the getaway, whether it be for few days of respite or a full-blown week of all-out golf and bonding.
In Rod Christian’s particular circle, he was the man. Christian was responsible for setting up golf trips in Upstate New York for his old college buddies – finding just the right courses, accommodations and booking all the tee times.
“It was just a lot of work,” Christian recalls.
Why, he thought, couldn’t Upstate New York have one-stop shopping like they do in Myrtle Beach, or a golf trail similar to that in Alabama?
So in 2008, Christian grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and, drawing from his own experiences with his pals and a grant from the state tourism board, set about creating the New York Golf Trail.
Drawing a triangle bordered by the Lake Placid region to the north, Finger Lakes to the west, and Saratoga in the east, the trail was born with 16 courses on board for the inaugural ride.
Today, that number has grown to 21 courses in 6 regions of the State, including courses around the Rochester area, and as far east as the Hudson Valley.
“New York golf is great, and affordable,” says Christian, who has a deep-seated need to get that message out to the world.
To that end, Christian offers both pre-set package deals starting from two-rounds, two-night stay with breakfast from $245 a player, to a “Quick Quote” in which players customize their own trips.
Helping the cause is the quality and diversity of courses Christian has managed to sign on, boasting such architects as Donald Ross, Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones Sr., who have designed tracks in some of the most picturesque regions of the state.
Among those stunners is Leatherstocking in Cooperstown. Built in 1909, this course on the shores of LakeOtsego has all the grace and charm of the town that is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Stepping onto Leatherstocking is like taking a step back in time, a course that follows all the natural contours of the land that goes from gently rolling fairways that suddenly climb in elevation to provide stunning views of the lake.
And don’t be surprised if after playing a single round on this gem that earned 41/2 stars from Golf Digest, you walk away with memories of up to a half dozen spectacular holes, none more so than the 505-yard par 5 18th, a dogleg that starts from an island tee box and ends at the footsteps of The Otesaga resort veranda.
Golf Digest, in fact, has fallen hard for quite a few of the courses on the Trail.
Ravenwood, in Rochester, was named the “5th Best New Upscale Course” when it opened in 2003, considered one of that city’s premiere courses, it has played host to a U.S. Open qualifier.
Greystone Golf Club, in the Finger Lakes region, isn’t just another 41/2-star recipient, this Scottish-style layout also gets the nod from Rochester golfers as the local favourite. Maybe it has something to do with the natural beauty of the area, the stunning vistas, or how it finishes – fittingly, at a pub.
Saratoga National is ranked among the Top 100 Best Public Courses in the U.S., and nearby The Sagamore was named 5th Best Public Course in New YorkState.
Sagamore, for the uninitiated, is part of the resort by the same name at Bolton Landing, a luxury getaway that opened in 1883 and still plays host to New York City folk looking to decompress in the sparkling cool waters of Lake George.
The opening hole of The Sagamore boasts a breathtaking view not only of the first green 430 yards away, but also of the lake and Adirondack Mountains that serve as the backdrop. The start to this Donald Ross course is among the most impressive you’ll ever experience.
If it’s pure challenge you’re looking for, Timberbanks in Baldwinsville just outside Syracuse has it in spades. The only Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Upstate New York, it measures a bicep-busting 7,331 yards from the tips, but even from the forward tees at just over 5,100 yards, it still offers plenty of golf.
In true Nicklaus fashion, the fairways are all heavily bunkered, the par 4s muscular to the point of exhausting, and greens that demand a deft putting touch.
On the flip side, pure fun can be found less than a 10-minute drive away at Foxfire at Village Green, a parkland-style course designed by Hal Purdy that meanders from rip-and-grip open holes to tree-lined fairways that require near dart-like precision. Together, Foxfire and Timberbanks offer a great taste of how different two courses can be, and yet still deliver the same reward.
Away from the courses, the nearby cities, towns and villages offer a wide array of distractions. Catch a world-class thoroughbred horse race while in Saratoga, a football or basketball game in Syracuse, hit a night club in Rochester, tour the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, or rent a boat and spend some time relaxing on Lake Placid.
It’s your trip, your call. And just like one of Christian’s old college buddies, enjoy yourself while someone else does all the work.
For more information or to get a Quick Quote for your New York golf get-a-way visit www.NYGolfTrail.com