The New Monster: Kaluhyat at Turning Stone
During the halcyon years of Eisenhower, Joe Finger was commissioned to build the most difficult course in the world. He succeeded, and the Monster course at the Concord (Kiamesha Lake, New York) stands as a living monument to an era of excess. The Monster is incredibly difficult from all sets of tees, with many forced carries that are often unattainable. Until recently, it stood apart from most other courses (save The Reserve at Thunderhill, near Cleveland).
Two years ago, the Robert Trent Jones II course opened at Turning Stone resort, between Syracuse and Albany in New York. Kaluhyat means “the other side of the sky” in Oneida, which must be where the monsters currently reside. Good thing we cannot see them, for if this course is any indication, they are pretty frightening.
In 2004, a friend and I traveled overnight from Long Island to Verona, New York. Rather than watch the final round of the US Open at Shinnecock, we elected to play Kaluhyat. A groggy RonMon stepped onto the first tee, topped a ball into the water, and watched the round turn downhill from there. Each shot that I followed with my eyes seemed destined for sand, trees, water, or nether regions (more about those later.) Limping off the rather benign 18th hole, I declared that Kaluhyat was the hardest course that I had ever played, the Monster included.
Kind of like a bad first impression, I wanted to give the other side of the sky another chance, so following my round at Atunyote, I felt sufficiently warmed up as to chase Kaluhyat again. Much less groggy and much more focused, I began the round with three bogies, although my partners were not quite so fortunate (I should mention that we were playing the tips.) What the second coming of Jones has wrought here is a course that combines fairly diabolical greens with carries over 80-yard patches of marshland, enormous ponds, and clusters of the bunkers that make Hell bunker look merely like heck and the Principal’s Nose look like, well, a nostril.
There are enough generous holes at Kaluhyat so as to provide reminders that we can still play the game. Then we get to a hole like eleven, a 621 yard par five that requires gigantic carries over the Devil’s Rug not once, but twice! The drive must thread the needle between stands of tall, thick, mature trees, AS WELL AS carry about 230 yards to find the fairway. The second shot (unless you can rip a 250-yard three wood) must be laid up as close to the second briar patch as possible, to leave a short or mid-iron to a fast, elevated green. Chances are you’ll lay up too far back, leaving a five iron or worse for a third shot. Make par here and you deserve a steak.
Or how about 14, a medium par four dogleg right? Drive too far left and you careen down a slope into trees. Go too far right and you hit water. The green sits a mid-iron away from a solid drive, but is a half-Biarritz. If you haven’t studied classic golf course architecture, a Biarritz (named for the resort in France) is two greens serving as one with a ditch in the middle. A putt struck from the front of the green would roll down two or three feet, then ascend up four or five more to the back tier. It’s a cool anachronism, but hell on the mowers of today (can you say bare spot?) 14 green is a Biarritz on the right, and a ledge on the left. Two putts from anywhere to anywhere on the green is an accomplishment. I parred the hole but my partner, who drove to within 120 yards of the putting surface, took a five after a three-jack.
Having made my confession, let me assure you that every hole at Kaluhyat is memorable. Trent Two might have etched in stone on each tee the question “are you SURE that you are playing the proper tee box?” as a reminder. Don’t bite off more than you can digest, or you’ll not extract the proper experience. And never play the tips on less than a full night of sleep!
It finally struck me that Kaluhyat is somewhat like the bully that might have picked on you in school. If you play it with the immaturity and short-sightedness of youth, you’ll end up on the bottom of the pile, devoid of golf balls as if they were lunch money. If you pick your battles, take an occasional risk, and peek around the corner before going to your next class, err, hole, the bully won’t seem so tough anymore. I came away with an 85 on a course rated 75.6, with a 146 slope. If not for the 9 I took on 11, I’d have come away with a score similar to the one I posted at Atunyote.
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BTW-> The only forced carries on the monster are at par-3s or approaches...the tee boxes are all straight away. The trouble off the tee is on the sides.
Oh...and why nottell people how much Atunyote costs too?...oh yeah...$175...kinda high...
Thanks for posting a comment. Here are my thoughts.
1) I despise "oh yeah." It's kind of cowardly, so I suggest eliminating it from your idiolect, and replacing it with something a bit more intellectual.
2) There are a few par fours and fives where you are force to go over water. If you really want, I can find out which ones and get back to you.
3) If you have to ask, you can't afford it. Golf fees are high everywhere. You either play your local muni, or you pony up once a year for the big golf trip, and don't worry about the cash. Pebble Beach is "kinda high." Harbour Town is "kinda high." Bandon is "kinda high." If it's under two bennies, it ain't "kinda high."
This is golf we're talking about isn't it?