LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - It doesn't take long to figure out what he-man thumping golfers are thought of at Lake Placid Club's Mountain Course. Just step up to the first tee.
No, really, step up. Mountain's back tee on No. 1 is up on a cramped-in ridge overlooking the cart return. That's right, you're shooting your first drive over a fleet of carts. Just don't duff one and nail some unsuspecting kid working his way through college in the back of the head.
This scenario makes for a unique, intimidating open for King Kong mashers. And it's fitting. Long hitters are going to feel hemmed in on this 96-year-old, 6,294-yard design. Which is just what makes it a woman golfer's best friend.
Mountain Course is not exactly diamonds, but it could be a diamond in the rough for
shorter hitters and iron-game buffs.
At 4,985 yards from the forward tees, it gives those unblessed with booming drives (a good portion of golfers, thank you very much) a chance to play without being distance battered.
"The Mountain Course is the best course for ladies in Lake Placid," said Barbara Delky of Plattsburgh, N.Y. "It gives us the opportunities to go for some shots."
And watch some of those guys who just hit it as hard as they can and worry about direction later struggle. Mountain Course is not a place where you want to be airmailing fairways. Do it on No. 1 for example and you're liable to end up in the woods or on the road.
Mountain is one of the almost century old historic courses in a
Lake Placid region that carries plenty of summer vacation punch despite its winter haven Olympic reputation. It's the shortest full-length course in a region that doesn't worship distance. But that doesn't mean it's a pushover.
In fact, Mountain Course's length rings somewhat misleading. There are a number of uphill shots, a host of uneven lies and a trickle of blind shots that test your mettle. This golfer found Mountain tougher on his score than its resort sister Links Course that comes in at 6,936 yards and plays much longer than that.
Mountain Course practices more deception than a Hollywood couple breaking up another Hollywood marriage. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have nothing on original course architect — Scotland's Alexander H. Findlay.
Take No. 2. This seemingly benign 380-yar par 4 on the scorecard turns into a bumpy, little hilled fairway into the unknown. You can see the hill blocking the flag. But you cannot see the water behind the green unless you run up this steep hill preshot.
Mountain Course scorecards are barebones simple enough that you're not liable to be able to pick out any water from the tiny hole sketches either.
"I honestly played it because it was the cheaper of the two courses,'' vacationing golfer Carter Doughans said. "Thought it'd be a nice little easy course. But it's got some son of a bitch in it.''
There are certainly plenty of swales and other obstacles you don't expect to see in the middle of a fairway. No. 3 has a grass knoll in the center of a sea of swales. No. 6 plays like a skateboard vert ramp — straight down, bowl in the middle, straight up to the green. Plus, there are trees creeping into this fairway opening for good measure.
It's pure picturesque intimidation in a small package.
You'll never forget you are in the Adirondack woods on Lake Placid's Mountain Course. This course is bare of all houses, a benefit to having been designed long before golf course communities became vogue. Sometimes you might even feel like you're being attacked by nature.
Or at least swarmed.
There are small bees, medium grasshoppers, big flies and humongous dragon flies. All in a day's swing and swat.
Just remember to walk loudly (to drive away pests) and swing a short stick softly. The last two par 5s on Mountain are the 10th and 11th holes. Three of the last seven holes are par 3s.
"It's a fun finish," visiting golfer Carol Lund said. "A fun course."
It's more than a little neat to play Mountain Course and see the shot-making that was demanded back in the day. Sure, Tiger Woods would be hitting six iron off the tees here, but who cares? You're not Tiger Woods.
Mountain Course throws several inventive, ingenious obstacles at you. Golfers might not always be smiling at those obstacles, but no one can say they're uninteresting.
The greens aren't as good on Mountain as Lake Placid Club's showcase Links Course and there aren't a lot of yardage markers out in these woods.
These are hardly crippling quibbles though. Play Mountain and you'll have something to talk about during the rest of your Lake Placid outdoor adventure.
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.
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. The Crown Plaza also owns the Lake Placid Club and has discounted rates and prime tee time access. Throw in the Jacuzzi tubs in the Adirondack wing and you may be sold.
Alister MacKenzie did the redesign on the Mountain Course in 1931. Yes, that Alister. The same guy behind Augusta National.
October 18, 2007