Caveat: What you are about to read takes money to achieve.
Day three of our Adirondack journey took us to the eastern edge of the region, to Bolton’s Landing (more or less) and Glens Falls. Rounds 4 and 5 of the exchange teed us up at The Sagamore, a resort on an island in Lake George (with a golf course that sits up in the hills overlooking the water) and Glens Falls country club, a private course located behind the Great Escape amusement park. Both courses were designed close to a century ago, with their routing and construction overseen by Donald J. Ross. Both courses have a story to tell about recovery.
The Sagamore was closed and the golf course abandoned, in 1981. Five years later, the resort re-opened to new owners and the golf course was reclaimed from nature’s advancing arms. The golf course is a classic example of mountain golf , with holes teeing down from bluffs and up from hollows. A front-nine meadow (where four holes are housed) offers a respite from the vertical transitions but, hey flatlander, you came to the mountains for a reason.
All golf course architects from the early part of the 1900s were forced to utilize the land as they found it, since mechanized assistance was not yet developed to the state we know today. Perhaps we need machines now because all the good land is taken and we wish to imitate that good land as much as possible by moving earth around, but that story must be told elsewhere. What we know is this: Ross had a great piece of terrain and he used it very well. In my mind, the only failing of the course is the declaration of a signature hole. For those not in the loop, a signature hole is deemed by someone of lesser intelligence to be better than the other 17 holes on the property. Not only does it detract from its sisters and brothers, but it places undue expectations on the golfer. While we enjoyed The Sagamore’s signature hole, we found at least five other holes that rivaled it for beauty, challenge and integrity.
The Sagamore Photo Gallery
While Glens Falls country club was never abandoned, it fell into a state of arboreal overdose, not uncommon to private clubs. What happens is this: a golf course is built on an open piece of land and benefits from air exchange and sunlight. As a result, its turf and grasses are in a wonderful state. Then, committee members get the notion of tree-planting in their heads and all is lost. Corridors are clogged, greens and tees are umbrellaed and the golf course no longer resembles what was created. As with The Sagamore, Glens Falls was created by Ross and he was given a monumental piece of property to utilize. Over the decades, trees sprung up and putting surfaces shrunk.
In the 1990s, the club recognized that it had a treasure chest of golf holes in its possession and worked to improve conditions. Reputable golf course architects were called in to advise and a tree-removal program was instituted. The results are stunning. Panoramic views across fairways have returned and the golf course plays as the one unit it was intended to be. Although the 16th hole had to be re-routed a bit (the approach played over a public road, which offered a bit of drama, to say the least), the completed work preserves the integrity of the course that Ross designed.
Glens Falls Photo Gallery