Cooperstown is a town better known by Americans for hosting the Hall of Fame of their national game: baseball. That said, those looking for Scotland’s national sport (in a more American style, of course) while visiting the museums here will find it at Leatherstocking, the course affiliated with the Otesaga Resort.
Hopefully there will be many birdies on your scorecard during the round, but if not you’ll probably find your highlight at Blackbird(-ie) Bay, the outlet of Otsego Lake that the final two holes will come into close contact with. No. 17 is a daunting par three, requiring a carry of 200 yards straight across a marsh to a green (that, thankfully, is long). The final hole is the one you’ll write home about. You’ll follow a long bridge into the lake, where you’ll tee off from an island. The rest is a remarkable resemblance to No. 18 at Pebble Beach, with 500 yards of fairway wrapping around the lake. The only thing keeping it from being the Clambake closer is the Pacific Ocean’s more aggressive tides.
For action away from the lake, consider No. 12, another par three. Although Devereaux Emmet was certainly known for some quirky bunkers, his approach to this green was thorough, circling it with no less than 10 hazards.
Charles Blair Macdonald, the father of golf course architecture, had a couple pithy thoughts that I would apply to Leatherstocking:
“Golf greens are to golf courses as faces are to portraits.” and…..
“Don’t confuse the painting with the canvas.”
The course’s canvas is quite spectacular, with dramatic views of the lake and bordering hillside from many points, the finest being the finishing hole, whose beauty is enhanced by the sweet Otesaga hotel sitting behind the green. Though there are some interesting holes, particularly the four on the hillside across Lake Street, I was less impressed with the rest of the golf course. Half the greens were dull and flat, bringing MacDonald’s first quote into play. Every hole runs either north or south, giving a repetitive feel and there were few strategic challenges—an OK painting on a very lovely canvas.
Leatherstocking is located in bucolic Cooperstown, NY. The Leatherstocking name comes from writings by James Fenimore Cooper called “The Leatherstocking Tales”. He is best known for “The Last of the Mohicans”. Cooperstown is not named after him, but rather his father. Cooperstown is best known for being home The Baseball Hall of Fame. Back to the course, Leatherstocking is a Devereux Emmet design.
The first hole is welcoming a short par four that leans slightly right. The green is protected by five bunkers, three eft and two right. Two is a bit tougher, a bit longer with two crossing bunkers about 60 yards in front of the green and 3 greenside, one left and two back. The third is a 200 yard S shaped par 3 and I think much tougher than 2. There is fairway that lingers left and the green is behind 7 bunkers. The first par 5 is reachable, good birdie hole but OB right. While there is only one fairway bunker in the driver landing area, if you are playing it as a 3 shotter there are five more with a cross bunker. Get your yardage correct. The 5th heads back to the clubhouse and has two crossing bunkers about 50 yards short of the green as well as left and right greenside. The 6th leans right with a fairway bunker right. The green is a protected by 5 bunkers. The 7th is a tough par four, the longest one on the course. There is a bunker left of this elevated green. The 8th leans right and the closer you get to green the tighter the fairway. The green has 3 bunkers short right, 2 right and one long. The 9th is a mid-distance par 3 with an elevated green. Not sure how it is considered the 7th toughest hole on the course.
The back starts with the number two handicap hole. It is not long but does have a cross bunker about 90 yards from the green. The green is protected by 6 bunkers which certainly adds to the level of difficulty. The 11th-15th are thescoring holes. The 11th is a reachable par five with fairway bunkers left and one right. The 12th is a short fun par three. Downhill to a raised green surrounded by 10 bunker, a classic island green. The 13th leans left and the left cross bunker will grab your attention on the tee, but it is only 165 to clear it. Be more concerned about the right fairway bunker. Bomb it right over the center of the cross bunker to set up your flip wedge. The 14th is even shorter at 285 from the tips. You gotta go for it. The 15th is a very reachable par 5. Favor the right off the tee. Things start to get interesting the last 3 holes. The 16th leans right with a couple of fairway bunkers left and a water hazard sliding in on the left. Straight drive is fine but left or right you will be looking at a bogey. The green is protected with a bunker left and water front and right. The 17th is a mid-yardage par 3 all carry over the lake. The finishing hole is awesome. A par five with a man-made tee box in the lake. The tee box is not that big, so I would not come out of your shoes. It is a dogleg left with water all the way down the left side. It is a definite, “how much you gonna chew off” hole. Big hitters can get home in two. Fun hole, aren’t better finishing holes. No matter how it ends, great or not so, you will be talking about what happened on 18 well after the round is over.
Short, throwback, fun course