By Charlene S. Mixa
Dramatic and Dynamic Mountain Golf
The gilded age brought the wealthy to the Adirondack Mountains with their Great Camps and famous hotels. At the turn of the century, golf was the sport of the elite and numerous courses were built in these picturesque mountains. Even after the rise and fall of the gilded age, Lake Placid continues to attract visitors of all walks of life to its beautiful mountains, glacier formed lakes and alpine village. With its rich history of golf, Lake Placid has a variety of golf venues and many of the courses are over 100 years old. Its scenic mountains and comfortable temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s are a magnificent setting for golf. On our summer vacation to Lake Placid we play the links on four exciting golf courses. This is the Part IV of our Adirondack Journey.
Craig Wood Golf Course offers a challenging course where each hole has its own distinct personality. Named for a native son of Lake Placid, Craig Wood won 21 PGA tour titles including a U.S. Open and the Masters. Initially designed in 1925 by the renowned Scottish pro and architect, Seymour Dunn, the course’s front nine is more open while the back nine plays among the woodlands with several dramatic holes. Fantastic views of the scenic Adirondack Mountains create a phenomenal backdrop of this par-72 municipal course.
The gentleman we pair with gives terrific suggestions for playing this exciting course. The greens are very challenging and we quickly learn to stay below the hole to avoid three-putt greens. Don’t be fooled by the meadow-like front nine, as the back nine starts off with a downhill fairway to a hidden green. Knowing your distance and believing it is crucial or you fly the green. Many of the holes are memorable with their slopping fairways and uphill or downhill shots. The eighteenth hole requires a precise drive over a ravine. Its elevated green is backed by mounds and a huge valley in front for a memorable finishing hole. The course has some of the areas most awesome scenery of the Adirondack High Peaks. Enjoying drinks afterward on the upstairs deck, we delight in the panoramic views of the course, Whiteface Mountain and the Olympic Ski Jumps.
Saranac Inn Golf & Country Club is located on Upper Saranac Lake in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Previously part of the famous Saranac Inn Resort it was designed by Seymour Dunn around the turn of the century in the classic Scottish fashion. In fact Dunn considered the course his “masterpiece” and it continues to meet and exceed the expectations of golfers of all levels. The well maintained par-72 course follows the natural terrain and its spectacular mountain views create a great golf experience.
Be prepared for tight, lush fairways with some elevation changes featuring major uphill and downhill holes. The well bunkered greens are undulating and fast, requiring a soft touch. Yet, the greens run true. Ranked 4 ½ Stars in 2010 Golf Digest Best Places to Play the course is a golfer’s delight. Some holes are long while others are short and unique challenges are tossed in to keep golfers alert. The seventh hole, a par-3, has a huge mound in front of the green, the sixteenth is from an elevated tee over a pond to an elevated green and one hole has a three tiered undulating green. We really enjoyed the course and it was in very good condition. Before golf we had a tasty lunch in the snack shop. There is even a 10 room inn adjacent to the course where avid golfers can stay. One group was enjoying a picnic in the parking lot after their day of golf. A fun place for golfers to stay and play!
The Lake Placid Club offers 45 holes of spectacular Championship Golf. The resort was founded in 1895 by Melvil Dewey, of the Dewey Decimal System fame. Its Mountain Course was designed in 1901 by Alex Findlay, a legendary Scots émigré, and was remodeled in 1931 by Alister MacKenzie, famous for the Cypress Point and Augusta National courses. Representing the Scottish links style, the Links Course was designed by renowned Seymour Dunn, with traditional features of bunker-laden fairways, native fescue, and large undulating greens. The Club also has “Pristine 9” an Executive Course. All courses are located on the edge of the Village of Lake Placid and are part of the Crown Plaza Resort & Golf Club.
True to the links style, the course is basically flat and plays to a par 71. From the first tee we have a good view of both the first and eighteenth holes. The course is terrific and being from “flat” Florida, we delight in a day of golf without uphill, downhill and side hill lies. Of course we still find ample challenges and the need to keep shots in the fairway or lose it in the fescue. Even if we do find our ball it is impossible to hit out of the thick grass. Plenty of bunkers snatch bad shots and the undulating and often huge greens test our putting skills. Ranked 4-stars by Golf Digest Places to Play, it is an absolutely fantastic course. We each have a great round! Superb views of the Adirondacks are visible from each hole with dramatic views of Whiteface Mountain and even the Ski Jumps. At the Pro Shop we visit the photo gallery of the numerous famous celebrities who have played these legendary courses including former President Bill Clinton. The first hole on the Mountain Course is on the hilltop by the Pro Shop and has a fantastic view of the mountains with the Ski Jumps soaring above the treetops.
Whiteface Club & Resort was originally built in 1898 with a later redesign by Walter Hagen along with John Van Kleek. It is beautifully carved through the woods of the Adirondack forest. A par-72 the course has unique and interesting hole layouts. Some holes are short, others seem long and several are just “funky”. With a recent renovation the course is in pristine condition. Ranked #6 in New York State by Golf Week in March, 2005, we immediately recognize the uniqueness of the course with its 100 years of rich history. The course curves along the hillside and valley with dynamic greens. Its trademark cloverleaf design greens are large while others are small and several have a lot of undulation. Not a mountain course, the fairways are open and level but a few feature elevation changes. The sixth hole, a par-5 named “Whiteface”, has an elevated green to a fairway below that curves around the base of a hillside then it finishes with a very elevated green. Only on the eighteenth hole does water into play. A fabulous course it is in excellent condition and with plenty of challenge for all levels of golfers.
In the Pro Shop, we chat with the Pro J. Peter Martin
about golf in the Adirondacks. Peter wrote Andirondack Golf Courses…Past and Present, a fascinating chronology and history of the 65 golf courses built in the Adirdondacks from 1895 to present. After lunch at the Adirondack Café and watching golfers finishing on the eighteenth hole, we take a cart down to the Moose Lodge and Boathouse Restaurant. Located on the west shores of Lake Placid, it is closed this afternoon, but we enjoy scenic views of Lake Placid (the lake) and the Adirondack High Peaks.
Golfers of all levels will delight in the variety of golf courses in the Lake Placid area. Each course brings its own set of challenges, unique terrain, history, scenic beauty and personality. The Adirondacks offer a wealth of things to do to keep tourists busy. Be sure to include a round or two of golf at one of these dynamic and memorable courses.
If you go:
Craig Wood Golf Course, 141 Country Club Lane, Lake Placid, NY 12946 518 523-9811 www.craigwoodgolfclub.com
Crowne Plaza Resort & Golf Club, 1 Olympic Drive, Lake Placid, NY 12946 800.874.1980 www.lakeplacidcp.com
Saranac Inn Golf and Country Club, 125 County Road 46, Saranac Lake, NY 12983 518.891.1402 www.saranacinn.com
Whiteface Club and Resort, 373 Whiteface Inn Lane, Lake Placid, NY 12946 581.523.2551 www.whitefaceclubresort.com