For New Englanders making the trek to Saratoga, New York this summer to catch the horse racing at the town’s historic track, there’s a side trip you’ve simply got to take.
Saratoga National Golf Club in Saratoga Springs offers a stunning golf course and is more than worth the trip. The club opened in 2001 and has won immediate rave reviews for its routing and skillful use of the natural terrain, ponds and wetlands to create a challenging yet very playable course. The track is considered one of Roger Rulewich’s best designs and has been listed among the top 100 public courses in the United States by Golf Digest magazine.
The large and undulating greens are receptive to all types of approach shots and roll true, the tee boxes large and level, and the fairways mown tight so as to allow for crisp iron shots on the par-fours and sweeping long irons and metal woods to the par-fives. The rough areas, which were all sodded, were a bit punishing but not so deep as to forbid a well played shot from reaching the putting surface. The fescue grasses that line many of the fairways grow tall in the summer, further imbuing the track with a sense of links golf.
Said Peter Tavares, director of golf for the facility, “Being in such a desirable location as Saratoga Springs, with its history and attractions, is a major plus for us.”
The club undertook a several-million-dollar addition to its clubhouse that now accommodates a 260-person banquet hall featuring a tasteful interior and majestic views of the property and course.
“Many people look at our clubhouse and the course and think we are private,” said Tavares. “We are lucky to have an ownership that does what it takes to make our club and course better every year. We have become a destination for many people and we want to continue to build upon that.”
You can stretch the track to beyond 7,000 yards from the back tees, which have a slope of over 140. But there are four other sets of tees to meet the playing ability of all visitors, and it is wise to play one or two horseshoe markers down from the back the first time you tee it up here.
Water comes into play on a number of holes and there are 16 forced carries on the course, but none so daunting as to discourage the average player.
One of the best holes on the front side is the 438-yard par-four third that bends dramatically from left to right. Big hitters can take their tee shots over the rough and bunkers that guard the right side of the fairway and shorten the hole.
The back side has two super par-fives. The 10th is a 552-yarder that calls for a skillfully placed tee shot and a second shot to a position near a stream that runs in front of the green.
The 590-yard 13th is a real gem. Water guards the left side of fairway starting about 230 yards out from the tees all the way to the green. Pull your drive or second shot left and you are in the drink.
Saratoga’s National’s “signature hole” is the 195-yard 15th. It’s a par-three that plays over water with a wetlands area behind the green to gobble up too forceful a shot. When the wind blows, club selection is made even more difficult.
Saratoga National also offers a comprehensive natural grass practice area and a putting green, while Mulligan’s at the Turn offers up a wide array of food and beverages between the ninth green and the 10th tee.
Saratoga National Golf Club
Saratoga, New York