When it comes to first-class golf, New York is more than just NYC
To the average golfer, New York’s reputation for possessing perhaps the finest selection of courses in the country rests on two downstate regions: Long Island and Westchester County, home to major championship icons (Shinnecock Hills, Winged Foot, Bethpage Black), Golden Age legends (National Golf Links of America, Fishers Island, Quaker Ridge) and modern marvels (Friar’s Head). The Empire State currently has more Top 100 Courses in the U.S. (13) than any other state, and that’s only its crème de la crème. You could do a Top 50 Courses of Long Island and Westchester alone and barely see a dropoff in quality from top to bottom.
The 2023 PGA Championship’s arrival at Oak Hill CC (East) in Rochester — No. 37 on GOLF’s Top 100 in the U.S. — is a timely reminder that excellent New York golf goes far beyond the suburbs and exurbs of Manhattan. Venture upstate to Albany (hello, Donald Ross’ Glens Falls CC, No. 83) and then west on I-90 to Syracuse, Rochester and, finally, Buffalo, and architecture buffs will find a sterling array of classic layouts with serious pedigree, even if their names are unfamiliar to all but locals and hardcore cognoscenti.
While most of the dozen golf courses that follow are private, they’re generally more accessible to outside play than their downstate siblings if you’re at least somewhat connected, polite, charming and/or resourceful, according to GOLF Course Rater panelists familiar with the area.
New York, New York: It’s a heaven of a golf state.
1. Country Club of Troy
TROY, NY / ARCHITECT: WALTER J. TRAVIS
Set on 325 beautiful acres, this 1925 Travis — the final course in his storied oeuvre — bears all the designer’s hallmarks: meaningful fairway bunkers, spectacular undulating greens and blind tee shots and approaches aplenty throughout its 6,600 yards. countrycluboftroy.com; 518-274-4207
2. McGregor Links Country Club
WILTON, NY / ARCHITECT: DEVEREUX EMMET
A semiprivate course and thus readily accessible (and heavily wooded, despite its name) from the underappreciated designer who built Garden City GC and Congressional, among other notables. Its par-3 18th, with the clubhouse as backdrop, provides a memorable closer. mcgregorlinks.com; 518-584-6664
3. Glens Falls Country Club
QUEENSBURY, NY / ARCHITECT: DONALD ROSS
The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses asks, “How has such a fine course escaped attention this long?” No longer, as its place in the U.S. Top 100 ranking attests. The “Volcano” green par-3 9th is among Ross’ most dramatic one-shotters. glensfallscountryclub. com; 518-792-1186
4. Yahnundasis Golf Club
NEW HARTFORD, NY / ARCHITECT: WALTER J. TRAVIS
In 1897, 65 prominent local citizens founded Yahnundasis (“around the hill”), though the course didn’t open until 1924. The layout’s muscular topography, small but nuanced greens and strategic demands create considerable challenges despite maxing out just under 6,800 yards. yahnundasis.org; 315-732-6123
5. Teugega Country Club
ROME, NY / ARCHITECT: DONALD ROSS
Dating to 1920, this is that rare, largely untouched Ross original — also exceptional for the fact that the prolific Ross spent considerable time on this design owing to personal relationships in the area. It is notable, too, for its exceptional, fan-shaped routing. teugega.com; 315-337-7150
6. Onondaga Golf & Country Club
FAYETTEVILLE, NY / ARCHITECT: WALTER J. TRAVIS
A par 71 playing just a shade under 6,600 yards, Onondaga’s 1917 Travis layout included parts of three holes from its original 1901 course. The legendary Canadian architect Stanley Thompson later rebuilt four greens and remodeled several bunkers. ogcc1898.com; 315-446-1630
7. Monroe Golf Club
PITTSFORD, NY / ARCHITECT: DONALD ROSS
Street cred: Monroe has hosted an LPGA major (the 2014 Wegman’s LPGA Championship, won by Inbee Park), the New York State Men’s Amateur and the long-running Monroe Invitational Amateur Tournament, won by Dustin Johnson in 2007 and Thomas Pieters in 2012. monroegolfclub.com; 585-586-3440
8. Oak Hill Country Club (West)
ROCHESTER, NY / ARCHITECT: DONALD ROSS
The East gets all the attention, given its unparalleled major championship pedigree, but the West is another wonderful, if somewhat less stressful, Ross test, particularly of one’s approach play, thanks in no small measure to the Scot’s typically tricky putting surfaces. oakhillcc.com; 585-586-1660
9. Stafford Country Club
STAFFORD, NY / ARCHITECT: WALTER J. TRAVIS
Walter Hagen called this 1921 design “second to none.” Tweaked in the 1930s by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Stanley Thompson, it still retains all its Travis-ness. The risk-reward 271-yard, par-4 18th ends a compelling round in front of eager spectators on the clubhouse patio. staffordcc.com; 585-343-9281
10. Crag Burn Golf Club
EAST AURORA, NY / ARCHITECT: ROBERT TRENT JONES SR.
Opened in 1972 and built on what were polo fields, the design features two distinct nines: a well-wooded parkland-style front side and a links-style inward half to best use the more open terrain. Ensuing tweaks by RTJ Sr. and son Rees Jones have only added further gloss. cragburn.com; 716-655-0000
11. Country Club of Buffalo
WILLIAMSVILLE, NY / ARCHITECT: DONALD ROSS
Though its Walter J. Travis-upgraded course hosted the 1912 U.S. Open, club members soon wanted more space. The club relocated and hired Ross, with the new layout opening in 1926. Six holes memorably wind through a pair of excavated limestone quarries. ccofbuffalo.org; 716-632-1100
12. Park Country Club
WILLIAMSVILLE, NY / ARCHITECTS: H.S. COLT & C.H. ALISON
Not only is the course by the legendary Colt & Alison, Clifford C. Wendehack designed its clubhouse, following his Tudor masterpiece at Winged Foot. PCC hosted the 1934 PGA Championship, won by Paul Runyan. Now stretching to 7,000 yards, it remains a legit test. parkclub.org; 716-632-2121