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Monday, November 5, 2012

Golf Club Shines On Lake Mahopac

It's not exactly a secret course, but Mahopac Golf Club in Mahopac, NY, may well be one of the most under-appreciated golf opportunities in the Hudson Valley. The course is short but tough, with small, fast greens and vicious bunkering, not to mention gnarly rough and tight landing areas on most holes. The club has been around since 1898 and I think it's about time it got its due.

Actually, the course has its roots in a 1,291 yard six-hole course laid out on the eastern shore of Lake Mahopac by Thomas Bendelow in 1893. It moved to the north shore in 1900 as a nine-hole layout that was later built out by Devereux Emmet to a full 18 holes in 1913. Extensive renovations guided by Ken Dye took place a few years ago to produce today's 6,514-yard track. Par is 70, course rating 72.5, and the slope is 133 from the tips.

Mahopac Golf Club
Tiny green at Mahopac Golf Club. Photo courtesy of the club.
Ask for advice in the pro shop, and the first words from head pro Terrence Hughes or assistant Billy Ashford will be "stay below the hole." In fact, they recommend landing your approach on the front (or even IN front) of nearly every green to avoid some really ugly downhill putting disasters-in-the-making.  Many of the greens--including the first four--actually slope from front to back, so great, great care is called for if you're in the mood to go pin hunting.

The total course yardage may not add up to today's supposedly necessary 7,000-plus yards, but there are more than enough long holes to keep your driver busy--and that may include one of the par threes!  There are five of them, with the shortest listed as 163 and the longest at 218 yards. That monster, the twelfth hole, plays solidly uphill and usually into the wind, though, so don't be ashamed to pull the big stick and hit it with conviction.

The par fives are challenges, too. Two of them, the 487-yard fifth and the 479-yard eighteenth, look like birdie push-overs. Both are heavily bunkered, however, and play uphill, so you can't take them for granted. The other par five, the seventh, is a brutal test at 601 yards with a fairway that slants big time right to left all the way to the hole. Even a center-aimed drive (and second and third shot) will likely end up in the left rough, which makes the hole play even longer.

Mahopac Golf Club
Tricky 15th hole at Mahopac. Photo courtesy of the club.
Most of the par fours offer something to think about. There are a couple of long ones, including the 460-yard sixteenth, a classic dogleg (the 390-yard ninth), and a four-putt possibility at the 403-yard thirteenth hole, which has a steeply-sloped green with several nearly-impossible pin positions. Even the short 330-yard fifteenth hole calls for a strategically-placed 200-yard tee shot and an approach pitch that must navigate around, over, but probably not through a big tree guarding the left side of the green.

There's a lot to appreciate at Mahopac Golf Club. The scenery is spectacular, particularly in the fall, and there's both a range and a short-game area to tone up your scoring potential. Members also enjoy a generous slice of beach on Mahopac Lake.  The club has a fairly small but very active membership that competes in as many as 60 club events every year.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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