Whiteface Club Golf Course: A Lake Placid queen gets her regal dress

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Tell a local that you're going to play Whiteface Club Golf Course and they'll let you know how much better shape it's in these days. This doesn't just come from one or two people either. Everyone you talk to echoes the same theme.

Whiteface's No. 14
Whiteface's No. 14 and its narrow tee box opening over a pond clear may be the most difficult par 3 in all of New York
Whiteface's No. 14The wood bridge on No. 14Whiteface's sixth holeWhiteface
If you go

It's like you've stumbled upon a golf course version of a community weight loss project. Subway Jared, meet Whiteface. Oh, we're so proud of them!

J. Peter Martin, the longtime head professional at Whiteface, is frank about the transformation.

"They've dressed up the queen the way she should be dressed," Martin said. "Regally."

For a first-time Lake Placid visitor, the end result is all that matters. Back stories are nice, but it's the back stretch that's likely to win Whiteface fans. This is one entertaining closing run of golf, one that can redefine your round in a hurry.

Posting a good score on the first 13 holes at Whiteface ain't no thing. Four of the top five handicap-rated holes are in the last five holes. It's almost as if course architect John VanKleek and consultant/legend Walter Hagen decided that all the danger should be crammed into the finish when they redesigned and lengthened Whiteface in 1930.

Even the "easy" hole in the last five is ninth-rated handicap hole on the entire course (No. 16).

The stretch starts one of the most arresting and perplexing holes in upstate New York. No. 14, a 218-yard par 3, has a forced pond clear off the tee. And the tee itself happens to be scrunched by a big leafy tree creeping into the box on the right and another tree and a long wood bridge on the left. You don't have to be Woody Allen to feel claustrophobic on this tee box.

Hitting a straight shot through the dramatic opening is only part of the battle. You also have to get it to a green that's tucked back near the trees with a big bunker left.

"I think 14 is the toughest par 3 in all of New York state," Martin said.

He won't get much argument from golfers who send a shot screaming into the thick trees on either side. There are plenty of balls on No. 14 that only the squirrels find.

On No. 15, you may think a gopher's playing with your ball on the green. This green plays like a marble countertop. Hit a ball on the top side and it's liable to roll all the way down and off.

This is all just warm up to Whiteface's par 5-par 5 finish. The 17th and 18th holes are the No. 2 and No. 1 handicap-rated holes respectively. Forget the cold one on the 19th hole. You may want to pop a few beers open on the 17th tee. This is a close that demands some artificially fueled nerves.

"I told my sons that this is where they have to carry the old man home," golfer Marvin Robinson said, laughing.

It certainly helps to have plenty of carry on the lake curving 18th. It's 200 yards just to reach the lake and then it's on to shooting up to a tucked in green.

Hey, Whiteface gave you a chance to relax early. Whiteface's first five fairways are fairly wide open, but as the round goes on, things narrow considerably on this 6,451-yard track. It's the things you don't notice that send your score creeping up at Whiteface.

Course conditions could be one of the things you miss. Whiteface is in fine shape, so much so that the course's maintenance never even enters your mind. Everyone told you so.

Whiteface Club Golf Course: The Verdict

Whiteface is the rare course in Lake Placid that actually has a view of Lake Placid (though it's mostly to the back of the course). The actual town is on Mirror Lake and most of the courses feature those vistas.

Whiteface is different in the prevalence of houses too. While there are plenty of trees, bugs and green, you'll never forget you're in a development.

Homes are visible on most holes. On this day, one of the clubhouse attendants heads out on a call to shoo kids staying in a house right on the third hole off the tee box. When you're worried about people sneaking onto the course, you're not exactly in the boondocks.

That doesn't stop Whiteface from bringing the challenge. With a number of long par 3s — apparently, an Adirondack specialty — this doesn't play like anyone's little course.

The $55 green fees is in line with the other courses in the area and with that you get a pace of play that's pretty good. One of the charming things about Whiteface is the number of moms and dads playing with 10- to 15-year-old kids. This isn't a course that's heavy on intimidation.

Whiteface is best enjoyed on foot and no one in the clubhouse is going to try and convince you to take out a cart. There's a definite respect for the game's traditions here, including a good walk of a round.

Lake Placid Dining

If you're looking for a special meal in the area, you're not going to do better than the Mirror Lake Inn's The View (518-523-2544) in downtown Lake Placid. This is sophisticated food with a warm staff that dotes in service. Ask for a table on the covered outdoor terrace for a great view over Mirror Lake and a rustling creek practically right under your feet.

Northwoods Inn, right on Main Street, has the best burger in town.

Stay and play

The Mirror Lake Inn and Crown Plaza Resort are top choices for in-town lodging.

Mirror Lake gives you vaulted ceilings, an old inn atmosphere and modern comforts. The Crown Plaza's new Adirondack wing gives the resort a real luxury kick. Both places put you in easy walking distance of everything.

Fast fact

Whiteface's original nine holes were built in 1898. Guests at the Whiteface Inn used to be brought to the course by horse and carriage.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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