From the river to the grave, Garrison Golf Club a unique Hudson River Valley look
GARRISON, N.Y. -- The views of the Hudson River bring you to Garrison Golf Club. The graveyard just may be what brings you back.
It's found on No. 14. Or at least above No. 14. Tombstones -- old tombstones -- look down on the near island green of Garrison's 14. In fact, when you're on the tee, picking out a target on this 215-yard par 3, your gaze cannot help but drift up to the stonewall cordoning off the hill above the green and the graves behind it.
It's sort of creepy and atmospheric at the same time.
While it's doubtful that anyone who died in the 19th century gives a care about your golf game, there is no denying the old cemetery provides a reminder that this scenic course is surrounded by plenty of history.
This is why some hackers go on a Hudson River Valley golf trip. It's about going for birdies amidst ghost stories, mammoth old money mansions and the dinner delights of Culinary Institute schooled chefs.
Of course in the case of Garrison Golf Club's No. 14, the graves may serve a simpler purpose. This is where your round may go to die as well and it's hard to beat tombstones for that symbolism.
"I was doing all right till I saw the graves," visiting golfer Joe Izora said. "I think they spooked my driver or something."
More likely, course architect Dick Wilson's finishing stretch did the scaring. No. 14 starts a closing run of tricky, attention-grabbing holes. A few of which could make the Headless Horseman -- who's supposed to haunt the Hudson River Valley -- look like a pushover by comparison.
Take No. 15. It throws a sizeable lake clear (200-plus yards) at you right off the tee. Your target across the water is an old stone cabin.
The hole's only 346 yards from the championship tees, but it's a severe dogleg left with the green up on a hill behind a bunker. Simply clearing the lake isn't enough. You need to clear it with a plan for your second shot in mind.
This is the way it goes at Garrison Golf Club. Whipping out that new driver and just blasting away is not going to cut it Garrison. Not unless you want to leave with a scorecard with so many marks that it looks like something a sadistic schoolteacher corrected.
Garrison doesn't believe in a lot of 400-plus-yard par 4s. It does believe in making you sweat for your score.
There's good reason this course that maxes out at 6,497 yards carries a 134 slope rating. Garrison has you shooting up and down hills through the New York countryside. It's hard to believe that Manhattan is less than an hour away when you're battling tall trees and being distracted by majestic water views.
Garrison is a course that's easy to get lost in. And a course where it's easy to lose a lot of balls.
Some of the holes are inventively cruel. No. 2, a 380-yard par 4, has its high tee literally on the edge of a cliff. You must shoot across a yawning hole that's a good 150 yards down and a good 150 yards across. There are trees and a small road down there. And the drama's only aided by the fact the cart path literally ends here.
After teeing off on No. 2, you have to swing back around and take a winding, path back toward the first fairway that finally brings you into the valley and across to the second fairway. Once on the fairway, it's a good climb up a hill to the green.
Just another ho-hum 380-yard par 4? Yeah, right.
Garrison mostly advertises its Hudson views though. You get a good one right off the bat from the high tee at No. 1. Then, you don't really see the huge river and the colorful trees again until you're coming down No. 9 back toward the clubhouse and the white tent outdoor eating pavilion.
You'll want to putt out and finish this go-for-it 355-yard par 4 before looking to your left on the raised plateau green. For this is the best view of the Hudson yet, a clear-on shot of the water gleaming blue from this distance. This really is like putting in a postcard.
The look from the 10th tee is almost as good, but you'll soon be confounded by a green that's almost slanted from top to bottom. If you're approach doesn't land above the hole on No. 10, you might as well keep the wedge in your hands. For the ball's rolling all the way off that severe green.
This isn't a one-time torment at Garrison either. These greens are so tricky they put the most annoying prankster to shame. Watching your putt roll all the way back to your feet — and sometimes behind your original mark — is a semi frequent occurrence. It's easy to become convinced one of those spirits from the graveyard is enjoying a little fun at your expense.
"Those greens have a mind of their own," regular Hudson Valley golfer Phil Rogers said. "And it's an evil mind."
Garrison Golf Club: The verdict
Garrison Golf Club is a fun course with plenty of character. It's more than three decades old and while that's a relative pup in these historic parts, it's far enough back that it reminds of when how a course actually played mattered more than eye-popping numbers on a scorecard.
Garrison is better in person than it is in a brochure. That should still count for something.
While there is an attached resort, this is hardly a typical resort course. It's not designed to sooth your nerves or to make some of your bad shots good with some silly funneling. It's tough golf in an interesting setting.
With that said, don't get all caught up in the Hudson River talk and expect to be playing along the banks. Garrison's views of the Hudson are from a distance, relying on the vantage point of high plateaus. On a really cloudy day, they'd be almost nonexistent. On a beautiful early spring day, like this one, they're gorgeous, if brief.
May 24, 2006