This fall, if you’re looking for a quiet respite following business in New York City, head north to what locals refer to as Upstate. And if you’re seeking an idyllic day on a golf course, three old-school venues beckon in the Adirondack Mountains.
Hit Cooperstown first, to admire the autumn foliage as well as the treasures at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, after which a brisk round on the Leatherstocking Golf Course should satisfy like an opposite-field base hit. Designed in 1909 by Devereux Emmet on the shores of Lake Otsego, the parkland course tucks in amid forested hills. Several sharply contoured blind greens toughen the otherwise easygoing layout. Leatherstocking saves the best two holes for last—17 is a par three with a long carry over a marsh, and 18 departs from an island green reached by a long wooden bridge and ends backdropped by the brick facade and colonnaded white porch of the historic Otesaga hotel.
Farther north is the beloved Sagamore Resort on Lake George, featuring a grand, 137-room Victorian hotel stretching languidly across its own island. The classic 1928 par-70 Donald Ross golf course plays short but is long on character, in the form of elevation changes, bordering woodlands, water hazards and thick-cut rough defining slender fairways. The course doesn’t awe with brazen modern design elements but charms with polite subtlety that will delight golf architecture connoisseurs.
From the first tee, gaze out upon Lake George and the rounded peaks of the mountains. Hit a decent drive and watch your ball float down into a valley, which you’ll eventually have to escape. Most of the greens are elevated, and many feature a hump that sounds like Ross snickering. The back nine is both more scenic and more secluded. I’m almost certain that I spotted a small piece of flat ground there, but it might have been a trick of perception.
Continuing toward Canada you’ll reach Lake Placid, where you can view the old Olympic bobsled run and ski jump before embarking on a placid run of your own on the Whiteface Club & Resort golf course, originally opened in 1898 and redesigned by John van Kleek with the help of champion Walter Hagen in the 1930s. Whiteface offers a wild backcountry golf experience with holes winding through forests of pine, maple, fir and birch, revealing occasional views of Adirondack peaks. If you can track down former head professional J. Peter Martin, his mystical take on the game may not just help with the yips and shanks, but also bring you closer to enlightenment.