Glens Falls Country Club
New York, United States of America

Eleventh hole, 435 yards; Given that the hole’s high point is in its middle, pressure is placed on the golfer to get away a good tee ball, least he suffer a lengthy, blind second.  Similar in key respects to the sixth, this longer version – mercifully – features more beneficial ground game options on the approach. It’s worth repeating: a plethora of downhill approach shots provides the course an uncommon abundance of ground game interest for a course so far removed from the sea. As such the course surely ranks high on Ross’s own list of places where you would like to learn the game as well as grow old. Add in the world-class holes sixth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, twelfth and seventeenth holes and behold a course  you want to play your entire adult life as well!

Playing a carom approach shot off the hillside would be fun for all skill sets, so the author hopes that this fairway can be expanded to better accommodate such.

Twelfth hole, 225 yards; What a thriller! On par with the breathtaking thirteenth at The Addington, the golfer delights in the task at hand despite the obvious difficulty. Brilliantly routed parallel and just below the dominant ridge line, quite a bit of dirt was required to bench the tee and enormous green pad against the hillside. It’s a testament to Ross and his crew how peacefully the hole rests upon the landscape. Similar to another famous twelve hole found in Georgia this one can be a card wrecker. It also anchors Glens Falls’s own three hole version of Amen Corner, where even the most talented struggle to keep up with Old Man Par.

This is a view from the 240 yard plus tee that Ross built in the early 1920s!

 

As seen from the 190 yard tee markers, note how Ross artfully benched the green into the hillside. The removal of evergreens along the right hillside has allowed the hole to regain its epic quality.

 

This view from behind better captures how uphill the tee ball actually plays. A back middle puff in the green helps feed  balls toward right hole locations.

Thirteenth hole, 455 yards; Another up and over hole capped off by the kind of approach the old trooper aches to play. Scooting an approach past the multiple hazards and watching the little white ball trundle all the way onto the putting green is sheer delight. From well back in the fairway, the golfer is afforded the ideal vantage to watch such a shot slowly unfold which surely beats the modern version of hoisting an aerial shot high and seeing the ball dully splat onto the green.

Lewis’s diagram above highlights the need to carry over the ring of hazards and then have one’s ball feed down the slope onto the open green.

 

The land and green follow the slope of the land, which is to say that they fall away from the player.

The land and green follow the slope of the land, which is to say that they fall away from the player.

Fourteenth hole, 370 yards; Golf historian David Normoyle, who lives in Saratoga Springs, some thirty minutes away, is a former member and has as keen an eye for architecture as anyone. He knows the course well and deems this hole his favorite: ‘Glens Falls is an attractive course because it has so many natural holes with thrilling topography. But my favorite hole is the fourteenth, primarily because it has more clever Ross architecture than any hole on the course. Relatively short, dead straight and only slightly uphill, the land is unimpressive. Classic hazards challenge off the tee, with bunkers staggered left and right. Taking on the more imposing left bunker sets up the preferred angle to a broad, subtly undulating green with a skyline backdrop. Open at the front, the green presents a simple target to hit but a challenge to get close due in part to the intimidating natural falloff behind. Ongoing green expansions have recaptured the most tempting corner hole locations and reconnected the deep greenside bunkers. As for the skyline, until recently there was no skyline feature only a dense wall of ill-considered trees that stripped the hole of its primary charm. Though there are still more trees to be removed along the playing corridor, this cunning hole makes the player think on every shot and is deeply satisfying to play in a way that suits one’s abilities and appetite. You could probably play it with a putter, if so inclined, but to score requires bold, thoughtful play. And, that endless backdrop is just awesome.’

Given the steep fall off behind, chasing after back hole locations is one of the day's tenser moments. The trees in the background are 300 yards away; in 2010, a row of trees formed a back drop just 10 yards behind! As the trees and mow lines improve, Glens Falls rise in fame has followed.

Given the steep fall off behind, chasing after back hole locations is one of the day’s tenser moments. The trees in the background are 300 yards away; in 2010, a row of trees formed a backdrop just 10 yards behind! As the trees and mow lines improve, Glens Falls rise in fame has followed.

Seventeenth hole, 400 yards; Though the author lives in the Southern Pines/Pinehurst area, even he acknowledges the overwhelmingly superior advantage and allure of the Northeast’s tumbling topography. The view from the tee here is one of those WOW moments that happens rarely in the Sand Hills of North Carolina. Brown leaves no doubt as to its merits: ‘There is no mistaking that this is by far the best two-shotter on the course and one of the best I have ever seen.’

A postcard perfect hole for the allure of golf in the Northeast.

The view afforded the golfer as he turns onto the club’s entrance road (seen above the green) informs the golfer that a special day lies ahead.

Restraint from the tee leaves the golfer with a relatively level stance for his approach to a green at the same height. Beware the false front.

Eighteenth hole, 150 yards; A course this charming deserves to end poetically. Essex County does, Mid Pines does and happily, the lyrical Home hole does so for Glens Falls. The tee frightfully close to the clubhouse patio points to an angled green that features a distinct rise.  Under the watchful eyes of the discriminating membership a shot that finds the proper plateau for the day’s hole location is tantamount to glory. Alternatively, a unfortunate mis-hit into the water can be mitigated by an immediate retreat to the bar (140 yards nearer than the green).

The Home hole players across the same finger of the lake that the first tee ball crosses.

 

No sure two putt!

No sure two putt!

So concludes the round, beneath the clubhouse and by the same enchanting lake upon which the round commenced. What a walk it is too! Some quibble about the 150 yard plus green-to-tee walks from fifteen to sixteen and again to seventeen. So be it. Their origin stems from when Ross’s straightaway 400 yard sixteenth was converted to a dogleg left par 5 due to increased automobile traffic on the country road that Ross’s hole crossed. The author likes the addition of a par 5 to the second nine, as well as the fact that it swings in the opposite direction to the par 5 first. Rather, the author’s prime concern is that the club stay on its present course of removing interior trees that block the views of the surrounding mountains. This romantically located valley course merits a keen sense of place, something that tall evergreens do little to encourage. Let Ross’s hazards dictate play, not decades of tree growth.

Happily, continued tree work remains a focal point. Andrew explains, ‘In 2015 Golf Superintendent Chris Freilinghaus and I marked out the last of the grassing line adjustments. Some were done this fall and the rest will be done next year. During that walk, we began to talk about future tree removal with the Greens Committee. We discussed opening up more views across the course, removing the conifers that have imposed themselves into play and returning the original scale of the design.’ This is good news indeed!

As seen from the high point of the course (the thirteenth tee), no reason for the evergreens to shield views of the Vermont mountains.

Andrew’s voice of reason is a perfect match with the club’s reticence to preserve what is already very good. Andrew notes, ‘The membership has the ideal mindset for this course. They are not in a rush to do anything. We meet to consider things and often let them sit for a year or two before talking them through one more time.’ If only more Golden Age courses had such good stewards! A club’s board is meant to look after the best interests of the club member. Happily, that continues to occur here and hopefully the fame that this course is now finding won’t alter that one iota.

The End