The best news out of Ulster County last year was the opening of nine new holes at the Lazy Swan Golf and Country Club Village in Saugerties. Architect Barry Jordan designed the new holes and tweaked some of the existing ones to create a challenging, scenic layout. The new Lazy Swan plays to par 70 at 6,184 yards. It’s a player-friendly layout, but no pushover, with water, elevation changes, and well-contoured greens to keep you on your toes.
The opening three holes are among the most interesting on the course. Number one is a 310-yard dogleg where a smart player will hit a mid-iron 185 yards off the tee rather than try the 230-yards-as-the-crow-flies carry over the pond between the tee and the green. The second hole is a 155-yard one-shotter to a Biarritz green bisected by a deep swale. Complicating your strategy is the fact that the shot is blind from the tee. The third hole, a 485-yard par 5, is the signature hole on the course. Be sure to stop to enjoy the views from the tee of Kaaterskill High Peak on the horizon.
Each of the par 3s at Lazy Swan is different. In addition to the unique second hole, there are five others ranging from 155 to 203 yards. The fourth is over water; the sixth, 203 yards up an intimidating hill; the 10th, 197 yards over water; the 12th has a long, deep green; and the 16th is a downhill tester with a potato-chip green that makes recovery chips and pitches particularly fun.
The Lazy Swan is a bit of a drive from lower Westchester, but it’s worth the trip. The Country Club Village has good food and drink options, so you can make a great day of it.
The crown jewel of the six golf courses operated by Westchester County is Hudson Hills, nearly 7,000 yards of impeccably maintained fairways and greens woven into rugged hilltop terrain in Ossining. From the stone pillars marking the entrance to the cheerful attendant who greets you at the bag drop to the smooth and fast-rolling greens, your experience at Hudson Hills resembles nothing so much as a round at one of the county’s many top-notch private clubs.
The quality of play ranks up there, too. Hudson Hills stretches 6,935 yards from the tips, although the green tees at 6,323 with a 71.0 rating and 129 slope provide plenty of challenge. There are two other sets of tees to make the course enjoyable for players of all levels. The course is laid out up, down, around, and about one of the highest hills in the county, making your travels around the course an exercise in distance control through elevation management as well as shot direction. And here’s a tip if in doubt about the line of your putt: It will always break away from the huge white water tower in view from just about everywhere.
Hudson Hills offers a steady diet of risk and reward, although you’ll want to bring an extra sleeve of balls if you’re an aggressive player, because the rough can be gnarly, and there are more than a few blind shots where it comes into play. The five par-3s range from 127 to 174 yards, and elevation, as you might expect, plays a big role in club selection. Five of the nine par-4s are 400 yards or more. Most of them offer generous fairways, although the short 4s demand high precision off the tee.
Osiris Country Club in Walden has a quite pleasant split personality. The bifurcation occurs on the golf course itself, which was designed by Francis Duane on two distinct topographies. The front nine plays much like a golfer-friendly resort course, with flat terrain and small but moderately contoured greens; as long as you don’t insist on hitting a driver off every tee, it’s not too much trouble. The biggest problem you’ll face is if you hit a hook—seven of the holes on the front have out-of-bounds left.
Make your birdies while you can on the front: the back nine has some teeth. As soon as you make the turn, you’re in a different world. The 10th hole is a short (368-yard) dogleg right, where the blind tee shot plays downhill and the second is up a steep climb. Whatever you do, keep your approach below the hole—a theme that plays throughout the back side. Both the 10th and 11th holes have wicked greens where putting off the edge of the green carpet is entirely possible.
The signature hole on Osiris is the 15th—a strong dogleg left that features the only water on the course, which happens to be a picturesque pond in front of the green. Stay in the right half of the fairway, off the tee, or you’ll be forced to lay up.
Everything you’ve heard about the Monster is true. It’s longer than long. It’s hard. It will test every part of your game and make you cry for your mama. It’s one of those courses you need to play at least once in your life.
Course conditions are excellent, and the layout hasn’t changed since the day Gene Sarazen walked off the course and declared it a monster while warning the owner not to change a thing. The moniker was well earned. From the tips, the Monster plays an astonishing 7,650 yards with a course rating of 76.8 and slope of 137. Move up to the blue tees and you’re playing 7,471. The whites are almost manageable at 6,989. Two shorter tees (green at 6,068 and red at 5,442) are available for sane golfers. Length notwithstanding, the layout itself is challenging and fun.
Water is in play on half the holes, there is a good mix of short(er) and long holes at all three pars, and you’ll see enough elevation changes, bunkers, and contoured greens to keep you from being bored. There are even a couple of reachable par 5s—depending on which tees you play. The front-side par 3s are all killers. The back nine on the Monster is a little shorter than the front, but plays tighter and rewards good strategy.
A big part of the fun of playing the Monster is imagining what it would have been like to take it on using a persimmon driver, forged blades, and a balata ball like the golfers who tackled it in 1963 when it opened. The legendary course has gone through some rough times, but the current owners have preserved the most important part of the facility—the golf course itself— and are preparing a major overhaul of the amenities and other attractions to reestablish the property as a major golf destination.