The New York state parks system of golf courses is enormous. The golfing world knows of the five, splendid courses on Long Island at Bethpage. Farther out on Long Island, Montauk Downs represents the last vestige of golfing turf until you reach Europe. Unfortunately for our area, not much can be said for western New York’s Beaver Island, as it occupies flat, uninspired land and never touches the Niagara River that lurks nearby. In addition, that wretched old house declared a landmark robbed the course of some longer holes along the back nine.
But I digress…from Green Lakes near Syracuse to James Baird in Poughkeepsie, New York state owns a great run of courses. Each year, the Catholic State High School Athletic Association holds its state golf championships at the James Baird course. Opened in 1948, the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, sr., and possesses a healthy handful of challenging and memorable holes. The most demanding of the lot are the par threes. There are five in total, ranging from the 110-yard third hole to the 230-yard 12th. None is flat and each demands a different sort of shot into the green. The par fours are highlighted by the beguiling 11th and the intimidating 7th. If RTJ had a weakness, it was his par five holes. The longest holes at James Baird are the least memorable, with the exception of the unfortunate 13th. An awful drive, followed by a second shot to a non-existent layup area, then an approach to an unreceptive green, make this treacherous hole as unlucky as its eponymous number.
If only one hole is bad, then the course is worth a play. James Baird state park golf course is a visually-attractive track, boasts a varied and interesting topography and welcomes golfers of all playing abilities with equal generosity.