Review for Glens Falls

Reviewer Score:


In the past several years, Glens Falls has received recognition as being the best golf course between Rochester and Westchester County of New York. The famous architect Tom Doak included it in his top ten designs of Mr. Ross. I would not include it in my top ten despite its many wonderful attributes. There are ten-twenty highly rated designs by Mr. Ross that I have yet to play or see so I cannot determine where it might wind up on my personal list, but I would be surprised if it was not in my top twenty five of his 400 golf courses. I hope this provides an indication of my high regard for Glens Falls.

It is easy to see why Mr. Doak rated the course so highly. The routing had to navigate a central hill with numerous valleys and small rises surrounding it. Instead of playing parallel alongside the central hill, the course goes up, over and down the hill resulting in more interesting holes. These holes offer character and interest. The greens are small with a mix of numerous undulations, slopes, smaller mounds and humps. In sum, the surfaces of the greens are a mix of terrifying and intriguing. The surrounds of the greens offer fall-offs, false fronts, mounds, and shelves. The fairway bunkering is never overdone, sometimes offering defense and other times a guideline.

The negatives to the course are primarily due to its lack of length, with many short par 4’s. The par fives are all reachable in two for the longer hitters. The course ends on a par 3 when it could easily begin with this hole. The club owns land surrounding a lake yet there are no holes that take advantage of playing alongside it. I assume Mr. Ross was not given permission to lay out holes here.

Yet if there were a top 100 simply based on fun and enjoyment, Glens Falls would easily be included. This is due to the many visually appealing fairways due to the change in terrain combined with the ever-interesting greens. Although described as a difficult walk, I found the walk not to be as difficult as many other courses such as Pikewood National. Maybe that is because I constantly found myself wondering what the next hole would look like and offer.

From the back tees, the course is 6505 yards, par 71 rated 71.5/138. The white tees are 6118 yards, rated 70.0/132. There is a combination tee of 6262 yards.

1. Par 5 - 497/484. As we walked to the first tee, I noticed the eighteenth par 3 to the right and immediately wondered why that is the finishing hole as it plays from in front of the clubhouse away from it resulting in a walk back to the clubhouse rather than directly to the first tee. The first hole plays sharply uphill with the longer hitters knowing that they can go over the trees down the right to shorten this sharp dogleg right. After cresting the high point of the hill the hole falls to a plateau followed by a sharp drop of higher grass of about 25 yards after which the fairway begins again. The higher ground continues down the right. The land rises and falls with only a single bunker on the left well short of the green in play for the shorter hitters. The green has a slight false front with two flanking bunkers and micro contouring around the green. The interesting feature of the green are the emerald green trees planted close to the green on the left side to prevent balls from going onto route 17, built after the golf course was established. The green seems to have a second tier with a break to the left and front. This should be a par hole if one hits a decent tee shot.

2. Par 4 - 399/379. You cross the road to an elevated tee with a thick line of trees down the right. The land falls away with a higher left side and a somewhat bowl to the fairway. A center-line bunker is out of reach for all but the longest hitters, serving more as a guide. The green is elevated with a sizable false front and a sharp break to the right. The green features a bunker off the front right corner with a five feet ridge going down the entirety of the left side. It is a visual delight from the tee to the green.

3. Par 3 - 172/155. From an elevated tee one sees the green nestled between higher ground on three sides. There is a large bunker 10 yards short of the green on the right with additional bunkers on the corners and one off the left. Go long and you could end up on a sharp slope with a very difficult uneven stance. As compelling as the hole looks from the tee, the green itself is much more interesting with a defined plateau middle to back right although even the plateau slants to the left. Balls not finding this plateau will feed toward the front left of the green. It’s a terrific green.

4. Par 5 - 550/526. The back tee offers a view of the of the fairway while the white tee has a blind uphill shot. The fairway is wide but balls landing right will kick farther right. The four fairway bunkers begin about 100 yards from the green. Three more bunkers are at the tree with two on the left. The green has a false front for 75% of the green with a remaining shelf on the left even with the green. The green runs away from you so any ball with pace will go through the green where a four feet fall off awaits. The green goes right but with both subtle breaks and larger movement. We’ve played four holes with four very good greens.

5. Par 4 - 341/329. Two fairway bunkers are down the left but should not be in play followed by a unfortunately placed cart path crossing. The green complex is unique with a tiny green with a small plateau on the right. The green features a sharp 3 feet fall off on its right side to a sliver of green. This is one of the most unique greens I have played - very cool.

6. Par 4 - 420/392. You play gently uphill between trees on both sides. Three bunkers are down the left with a single one on the right. The fairway rolls with various humps until it ends for about seventy yards in a 50 feet drop. The green has a slight false front with a defined higher left side of about three feet. If the pin is left and you don’t quite make it, you will likely have a putt from the right of 40-50 feet. I loved the view from where the fairway ends and the green far below as well as the very cool green.

7. Par 4 - 292/261. This hole plays downhill with bigger hitters likely trying to drive the green. The key is to play slightly right of the three staggered bunkers from the left center to the left front of the green beginning about 40 yards out. A single long bunker is down the right front corner. The green is quick to the front with subtle movement. It might be the most fun hole on the course.

8. Par 4 - 362/351. This hole plays longer as it is uphill. We had a hole location about as far back as it could be placed. The only two bunkers are off the left. The green is very sloped to the front as well as moving left and one should always try to be below the hole. This hole is not visually in the same class as holes 1-3 or 6-7, but again it requires a well judged approach shot.

9. Par 3 - 150/138. From an elevated tee the hole plays slightly downhill to an almost volcano green with falloffs of about 30 feet. This so another small green with a single bunker right and trees behind it. The green slopes speedily to the front and right. This hole is likely either a par or a double bogey.

10. Par 4 - 367/352. I neglected to ask my hosts the line off the tee on this sharp uphill tee shot. I choose the middle but the line is off the right. There are two fairway bunkers down the left which I avoided but I drew a bad lie in the left rough. The green is tiny with 5 bunkers fronting the green, the first about 20 yards out. This green does not hold shots so a ball needs to land either just on or just short.

11. Par 4 - 436/409. This hole somewhat mirrors the sixth as it parallels it although the drop to the green is much more gradual. The hole features three staggered bunkers down the left and a single one on the right along with a line of trees. The fairway has an inner narrow channel to it before the decline which falls like a gradual waterfall. A single bunker is on the left about 50 yards from the green. The green appears to have a defined higher back half and a little less movement left or right. This hole has a lot of character.

12. Par 3 - 223/186. This hole plays uphill adding to its length. The right side has a defined false front. This is the rare green that is slightly angled, here to the right. It another quick green running to the right. To the least visually interesting par 3 on the course, but it’s a difficult hole.

13. Par 4 - 454/447. The tee shot is to a generous fairway with flanking bunkers. As you near the green there are two bunkers left side, one more central and another off to the right, all three well short of the green acting as a disguise as to the length of the hole. A fourth fairway bunker is on the right almost hidden under a tree. The green has bunkers on the front corners with another small green that runs away from the approach shot. It’s another confusing green as I thought the front moved left and it moved right. The left side of the greens has two tall mounds on the front left and two smaller mounds on the back left. One wonders why the mounds didn’t continue and connect. I thought this was one of the best greens on the course.

14. Par 4 - 368/360. I hit a poor tee shot down the left into a bunker that should be easily carried. The fairway bunker a little farther up on the right is more in play. I went from bunker to bunker finding another one on the left about 65 yards short of the green. There is yet another bunker short of the green on the right. Deeper flanking bunkers go down both sides. I thought this to be the simplest green on the course but everyone told me it’s the most perplexing. Indeed, a four feet putt that we guessed went left instead went seven inches to the right.

15. Par 4 - 394/380. There is a large collection of bunkers down the left side, shared also with the eleventh fairway very much in play with two bunkers on the right much earlier and not in play. There is a central bunker likely not in play about 120 yards out. Two bunkers are down the left with a single one on the right. It’s another small green with micro contouring off the right back. It’s also another green where a ball releases to the back.

16. Par 5 - 530/488. The hole features a short valley about where the hole begins to turn left. The three bunkers are near the green which sits on higher ground with a back to front tilt. This hole used to be straight before the road was built. The hole was both longer and the green also was on higher ground even better than the current location. It’s now used for a short game practice area. The hole was definitely better before the road changed it.

17. Par 4 - 401/338. It’s a very good hole from the back tee but not as compelling from the white tee. The fairway runs downhill before ending in a valley with the green sitting atop the other side. There are two bunkers left of the green and one well off to the right. The green is very tiny once again going to the front.

18. Par 3 - 149/143. It’s a terrific par 3 seemingly playing off to the right of the tee. Two bunkers are off the front left somewhat eliminating a bailout area. A single bunker is on the right making a right pin location difficult to hit to. The green is quick to the front. Nonetheless, after playing it I still thought it should be the opening hole.

Glens Falls is a gem of a golf course, quirky in spots but artfully designed consistently with the land movement. I very much liked the routing but the star of this course are definitely the greens. The members an be justifiably proud to play one of Donald Ross’s best designs.

Date: July 11, 2022

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