The Sagamore in Upstate New York is a special place. Located on an island connected to the mainland by bridge with the incomparable Lake George and Adirondack Mountain’s sprawling out around it, the views will have you thinking you’ve arrived somewhere far, far away. And it is indeed another world you are stepping into when arriving at The Sagamore.
There’s no better way to marvel in the awe if its spectacular location than to take a dinner cruise of Lake George on the hotels yacht. From the water at sunset the beauty of the grand hotel and its perfectly maintained grounds unfold in various purple orange hues with the landscaped grounds stepping down towards the lake like layers of a sweet desert of which the hotel restaurant has plenty.
Over the last 100 years The Sagamore has hosted many a guest, none happier than us to be there. And though our reputations precede us, another gentleman held in much higher esteem graced these grounds long ago and left an undeniable mark, not only on The Sagamore, but on the east coast of the United States as a whole. His name was Donald Ross and he designed The Sagemore way back in 1928.
The golf course itself is located on a nearby mountaintop about 10 minutes away by hotel shuttle. You drive through the small town of Bolton’s Landing and slowly work your way up the mountain with more gorgeous views of Lake George behind you. The anticipation builds as you turn into the golf course with its driveway working up and along the 1st fairway, which is one of the most famous starting holes in golf.
Stepping on to the 1st tee, golfers are offered one of the most brilliant views on the eastern seaboard. The hole dives down in front of you with the prominent Lake George in the background — it’s jaw-dropping to say the least. It’s a fitting starting hole as the drama starts early and continues throughout the round with a routing that weaves its way strategically throughout the Adirondack woods in a way only Donald Ross could envision.
The Sagamore is a classic layout with plenty of elevation change and fairways that take great advantage of the tumbling topography. Ross was able to come up with the types of holes you would be more likely to discover at a private club than a mountain resort course — and it’s all the better for it. Holes like the par-4 7th, which doglegs hard to the left and works uphill the entire way, or the 13th, a long par-4 with a blind tee-shot over a hill, are holes with old-time charm unlikely to be built on a modern day golf course.
Surprisingly, for a mountain golf course, The Sagamore is a very walkable layout and a testament to Ross’s great ability to route a golf course. In a time when everything was done by hand and heavy machinery was unheard of, Ross presents golfers with greens and tees that sit very near to one another and an even rarer opportunity to walk a golf course built in a mountain setting. This is something you just don’t encounter often as most mountain courses are simply too severe to be walked.
We’d be remiss to speak of a Donald Ross golf course without mentioning the greens. As you would expect from the man famous for the likes of Pinehurst No. 2, Seminole, Plainfield, Oakland Hills and Oak Hill, the greens here feature exquisite variation and contours. During our visit we found the conditions of the greens to be some of the smoothest and quickest we’d putted on the entire season. They are bound to offer every golfer a day full of knee knockers turned tearjerkers.
Most who visit The Sagamore have heard of its reputation for having an idyllic setting and unmatched accommodations, indeed that is why many make the visit. But when it comes to golfers, more of us should be scheduling tee times on the golf course.
Because the course sits away from the main property, it doesn’t seem to receive the attention it otherwise deserves. Nonetheless it remains a must play on the east coast and will impress with both its quality of golf and its beautiful setting.
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