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Lake Placid's golf time machine: Links Course is the throwback of throwbacks

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - The downtown streets and Winter Olympic venues are about two minutes' drive away. Yet there's no sign of them, or any other facet of modern life, on the Lake Placid Club's Links Course.

Lake Placid Club Links Course
Seymour Dunn's Links Course design sticks little obstacles like tall grasses where you least expect them.
Lake Placid Club Links CourseLake Placid Club Links CourseLake Placid Club Links CourseLake Placid Club Links Course

This place seems stuck in time. It's as if architect Seymour Dunn stuffed the golf course into a capsule after he designed it in 1909.

From the first tee, across a road from the clubhouse and the start of the sibling Mountain Course, all you see is green. Largely flat green, into the horizon. The Links definitely lives up to its name - it's wide open, with few trees but plenty of work for the golfer.

Those who've played true links golf in Scotland or Ireland could be in for a shock, though. This Links doesn't give you much roll on shots, making it play even longer than its 6,936 yards.

Attack the Links Course like a traditional links course and you'll be in for a very long day.

"It's a links course where you need to play American golf," frequent visitor Charlie Spartz said.

That makes it a difficult play, tough enough to compete with Saranac Inn Golf & Country Club as the hardest course in Lake Placid.

The Links is one of a good half-dozen local tracks approaching or already past the century mark, but few hearken back quite like this one. Tee up on a gray morning and you almost expect bagpipers in kilts to appear out of the upstate fog. The modern tractors mowing the fairways seem out of place. You want to ask a few guys in shorts why they aren't wearing derbies.

There are big grassy knolls blocking several approaches, and long, skinny bunkers run up the sides, presenting different sand looks - and shots - than most resort-course golfers are used to facing.

There's an old-school subtlety to Dunn's design. The Links Course doesn't hit you over the head with showy touches intended to send you whimpering to mama; instead, it softly, almost unnoticeably backs up its 138 slope rating. It's the type of track where you don't even realize your score is creeping into triple digits until you look down and do a few calculations. It's golf radon.

"You run into little problems on a bunch of holes," golfer Adam Carter said. "And all those little problems add up to one big score.''

The problems start with a lake that really wouldn't be in major play on the 456-yard, par-4 first if it wasn't your opening shot of the day. There's a devilish tweener par 3 (166 yards) where the hole's up on a ridge and it feels like you're making your club selection with Howie Mandel screaming "Deal or no deal!" in your ear.

The par 5s are simply long and longer, coming in at 552, 581, 618 and a very welcome 509 yards. Every one of them seems like an airport runway, stretching on and on, without a tree in sight.

Historic golf, you got us. They also walked five miles to school through heavy snow 100 years ago. And that's the way they liked it.

The verdict on The Links

The Links is one of the most conveniently located resort courses you'll ever find, right down the street from fun downtown Lake Placid, and one of the most walkable. But it's no easy resort-course play. This is the preferred track of Lake Placid's serious golfers - assistant pros, pro-shop workers, bobsledders (hey, it's an Olympic town).

If you're up to a challenge, it's a definitely a worthy upstate New York play. The adjacent, slightly less Rubik's Cube-like Mountain Course is usually preferred by shorter hitters, although it's by no means a pushover.

With a $69 green fee, the Links is worth checking out just to experience a Seymour Dunn round. You'll get some forced carries over native grasses, bunkers in different shapes and plenty of big grassy knolls. With the mountains looming in the background, it's a history classroom with a view too.

Lake Placid hotels

The Mirror Lake Inn and the 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 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.

Lake Placid dining

If you're looking for a special meal, you'll do no better than The View at Mirror Lake (518-523-2544). This is sophisticated food served up by a warm, doting staff. Ask for a table on the covered outdoor terrace for a great view over the namesake lake and a rustling creek practically right under your feet.

Northwoods Inn on Main Street has the best burger in town.

Fast fact

Seymour Dunn is probably best known for designing Royal County Down in Ireland.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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