The Sagamore Golf Course, part of The Sagamore, a private island resort on Lake George in Bolton Landing, NY, is a testament to the very best of Adirondack golf. The par 70 18-hole championship course, designed by Donald Ross, the patron saint of golf architecture, is set on 190 acres of pristine Adirondack upland meadow and a ridge that looks back over Lake George.
White birch, tall pines, hemlock and ponds surround the course - even heather that Ross brought from his native Scotland when he built the course in 1928 is still in bloom. The Sagamore Golf Course which is 2 1/2 miles from the resort, was Ross's first major course in which he employed his signature elements - hog-backed greens, cross bunkers and deep greenside bunkers - elements that became the standard for golf courses in America. Golf course design was seen as an engineering job before Ross redefined it and turned it into an art form.
Born in Dornoch Scotland in 1872, he studied every aspect of this great game, from playing golf to greens keeping to course design. He went on to use these skills at Royal Dornoch Golf Club where he was a professional for seven years. Ross came to America in 1899 at the suggestion of Robert Wilson, a Harvard professor who visited Dornoch with news of America's burgeoning interest in golf. Ross arrived with nothing more than his clubs and by 1900, he created America's first indoor golf school and was beginning a career as a prolific golf course designer. He also went on to become a tour player, finishing in the top ten of four US Opens. Before his death in 1948, Ross had designed over 400 courses - many of these he did not have a chance to personally supervise - but the Sagamore Golf Course was one he did and that's one of the reasons why this course has a special aura to it.
The Sagamore was the first course that Ross broke his cardinal rule of never having the first hole face the east's rising run. Hole 1 (IN PHOTO ABOVE 435 yards/par 4) overlooks a spectacular view of Lake George and the surrounding Adirondacks. In 1985, the course was completely restored using Ross's original blueprints and a new irrigation system was installed that now keeps the greens and fairways in velvet condition. The course is tight, making golfers choose whether they should hit their drivers or fairway woods. As with most Ross courses, just getting it up on the green doesn't guarantee an automatic 2-putt. The greens are undulating, but not as difficult as another famed Ross course - Pinehurst No. 2. So if you are a golf aficionado, playing the top Donald Ross courses in your lifetime is something you can strive to do and the Sagamore Golf Course should be at the top of your list.
The Sagamore Golf Course is open to the public with advance reservations. Many of the club's 200 memberships are comprised of year round residents who have second homes around the Lake George area. Guests of the Sagamore may play the course for a reduced greens fee and those attending conferences at the Sagamore can attend 60-90 minute golf clinics taught by golf pros. The golf clinics are offered inside during the off-season with groups of 6-7 people and focus on such skills as proper grip and stance, full swing and fundamentals of chipping and putting. Also, meeting-goers can play in special tournaments arranged by meeting planners that include closest to pin and longest drive contests.
While the greens are in country club condition and are suitable for professional events, there is not enough galley space to hold spectators around the holes. While challenging, the Sagamore GC is very playable for the average golfer. The back nine has more narrow fairways and a few blind holes make it challenging where ball position is essential. The Sagamore Golf Course is host to other important tournaments of the charity variety - Paul Newman's Hole in the Woods Camp is beneficiary of a charity event that raises money for a camp in Lake Luzerne for seriously ill children and an adaptive ski program.
Make sure you stop into English Tudor-style clubhouse which has a painting of Ross above the fireplace. Photos of golfers who played the Sagamore Golf Course from the 1920's through the 1950's decorate the wall - (Glenna Collett, Walter Hagen, Craig Wood and Gene Sarazen). The ambiance is truly special - you feel as if one of these great golfers will walk into the clubhouse at any moment after they finish their round. The Club Grill at the Sagamore offers a variety of American-style food at very reasonable prices from delicious chicken and seafood wraps to burgers and soups (try the oyster leek soup when available -it's out of this world) and a golfer's express lunch that consists of soup and sandwich for only $10.
For a tee time or more info, please contact The Sagamore Golf Course, Federal Hill Road, Bolton Landing, NY 12815, 518-743-6380; www.thesagamore.com.