From championship courses to par-72s, golfers along the Adirondack Coast have been driving, chipping, and putting their way across our cedar-lined fairways each spring for more than a century. The area’s legacy as a golf destination goes back to the glory days of the country’s first golf resorts, one of which opened right here, along Lake Champlain’s eastern shores during the late 19th century.
With this history, I’ve come to consider golf a “fancy” sport—or, at least, a very serious one—because it’s about more than just the sport. It’s about culture and etiquette, too, for both players and spectators. And because culture and etiquette are often accompanied by a rule or two, stepping onto the green for the first time can be intimidating. And intimidation is just no good when you're trying to relax and enjoy your vacation!
With wide open spaces and abounding lakeside mountain scenery, visitors can choose from a variety of impressive courses throughout the area. But if it’s more than just a few competitive games you're after, you’ll find one of the area’s uniquely storied golf courses standing the test of time in Plattsburgh. It’s where the history of Adirondack Coast golfing began; the perfect place for a newbie to start out.
Bluff Point Golf Resort & Cottages | 75 Bluff Point Dr, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
This is where legends of the past have cleared their heads, tested their skills, and achieved leisurely bliss - and so can you! (Easier said than done, eh?)
Established in 1890, visitors can swing at tees on the same green popularized by former U.S. leaders like presidents Roosevelt (both Teddy and Franklin), McKinley, and Taft, not to mention baseball legend the Great Bambino himself in 1936. Yeesh, no wonder this sport is intimidating!
The renowned course at Bluff Point was once attached to Hotel Champlain, the elegant 500-room Victorian summer getaway majestically overlooking the lake for which it was named. Spanning 1,000 acres total with private beaches, a steamboat dock, and an all-star regular guest list including the Astors and the Vanderbilts, this was the hottest hotel resort in the northeast for nearly two decades following its completion in 1890... until burning down in 1910. The hotel was rebuilt the next year and continued to host prominent visitors until the early 1950s.
Now the site of Clinton Community College,visitors can tour the re-imagined grounds glimpsing Valcour Island and Bluff Point Lighthouse to the southeast, just as society’s creme de la creme would have back in the day, visualizing the epic naval battles fought right on these waters during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
Golfers of all ages and levels will enjoy reading up on history at each hole on Bluff Point’s now family-owned lawns. While putting along, U.S. history buffs should especially keep an eye out for a plaque at hole #18 - this is where President McKinley was known to read while observing matches during the summers of 1897 and 1899, when Hotel Champlain was considered his official “Summer White House”.
Visitors can still stay on the grounds today in Bluff Point’s luxury cottages, breathing in those same panoramic views of Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains.
What started trending as a sport for the elite in the late 19th century has now evolved into something everybody can enjoy. Today, golf courses dot the Adirondack Coast’s shores, and our best ones are public,welcoming returning visitors each season. The vibe varies from course to course, but it’s safe to assume you’ll garner a few odd looks showing up in junky jeans and an old t-shirt. As a general rule of thumb, go for clean and comfortable, always keeping weather in mind for optimal play.
Tops and Bottoms - Opt for a pressed short-sleeved polo or collared shirt with breathable slacks,khaki shorts, or an athletic skort. If you’re feeling really committed and know you're likely to break a sweat beneath the sun, dry fit is always an option. If the day is feeling chilly or looking overcast, bring a pullover or windbreaker along that you can either throw on or shed as the day continues. Visitors are encouraged to play at their own paces, and it’s not unusual for the game to goon in spite of a drizzle
Shoes - If you don’t have golf shoes, sneakers work just fine. You’ll likely be spending the day on your feet, so comfort is paramount. Remember to pay attention to the types of spikes on your shoes if they are golf specific - most come in soft and metal, with the latter sometimes considered controversial for the grass. When in doubt, you can always call ahead to learn more about any potential dress codes for footwear.
A Hat or Visor - Vitamin D is great and you’ll get tons of it outside on the green,but you’ll also need to block the sun to see the course and really bring yourA-game - not to mention, to avoid sunburn (shout out to SPF!).
A Golfing Glove - If you’re prone to blisters, this one’s a must.
Golf Balls - Often golf balls are provided with the game, but not always. It never hurts to have a few extra on hand, just in case!
Tees -There’s a chance your tee could break during the game - maybe you’ve got an incredible arm you never knew about! Or, maybe your hand-eye coordination needs some assistance. Either way, you should probably just snag a few extra tees early on so you can avoid any interruptions or early returns to the clubhouse.
Clubs -Many people bring their own (and a case or bag to keep everything together),but clubs are typically always available for rent in the pro shop, no matter what course you head to. Shop attendees will be able to help you find the right match for your dominant hand.
Golf Cart - Let’s put it this way: on a hot Adirondack Coast day without a golf cart, that dry-fit polo is no longer optional - it’s necessary. For those not about the brisk walks, investing in a cart rental will help you relax and enjoy the atmosphere with ease, while keeping the game at a steady pace.
Cash -It’s always helpful to have some cash on hand for drink carts and tips!
Many courses conveniently sell and rent equipment and clothing on site in their adjacent pro shops. Some, like Bluff Point, even offer practice greens and lessons for beginners looking to sharpen their skills; these courses include: Harmony Golf Club and Community, North Country Golf Club, and Adirondack Golf and Country Club.
Depending on where in the area you’re golfing,you can also check out the following shopping locations for competitively priced equipment: Consumer Square, Champlain Centre, Lenny's Shoe and Apparel, and Play It Again Sports. Whatever level you’re at or working towards, you’ll find the resources you need to really get into the game!
Spring is about to be in full swing! With the billowing blankets of snow behind us and the season’s fuschia apple blossoms nearing full bloom, who’s ready to hit the green? Check out a complete list of Adirondack Coast golf courses here as you plan your next getaway.