I was fortunate enough to play golf at the Putnam County Golf Course in Mahopac, New York a few weeks ago while on vacation. As a Florida boy who has only played out of the state once prior, hills and grass other than Bermuda is a weird, weird thing.
The first thing that was different hit me well before teeing off – it was while I was looking for a tee time. The first group can go off as early as 5:40am. Here in Florida, during the summer, we are lucky to get off by 7am and if we do we are either chasing the mowers around the course or we are playing on an unmowed track.
Fortunately, we had an 8:07 tee time so none of that was an issue, and neither was the heat. The temperature when I teed off with my wife’s cousin, John, was a beautiful low-humidity, 75ish degree morning.
When I stepped on the first tee I saw something that I’ve only seen once, on my only other time playing out of the state – mountains.
We have some courses in the middle of the state around Dade City and Brooksville that have elevation changes, but nothing has a mountain in the background. We also do not have the benefit of “getting the roll” that often which I was fortunate enough to do on this downhill, dogleg left.
The next thing that really opened my eyes was the beauty of the greens. They are bent grass, which is completely different than Bermuda. The best comparison is to say to roll a golf ball in your driveway on concrete and then roll it on your granite countertop. Bent is the granite, Bermuda is the concrete. It was surreal to actually play the break in the green and not play the bounce.
The elevation was not just on the first tee. The course routinely went slightly up and down the mountainside, usually on the side hill (yet somehow there was never a lie where the ball was ridiculously below your feet). It wasn’t until we made the turn and hit the 11th hole, named “Down and Away” where we were fully shooting down the side of the mountain.
It is a simple, dead-straight, 397 yard par four but the challenge lies between the ears. The smart play is to hit a long iron or hybrid and use the 70+ foot elevation to your benefit. Unfortunately, the smart play isn’t always in order when you’re standing at the top of a mountain shooting down to a reachable par-4 with a backstop behind the green to keep the ball from rolling into the pond behind the green.
When looking at the names of the holes on the scorecard, one name stood out. It stood out because of it’s simplicity – Hole 16 – “Star.” It looked simple enough – par-3, 152 yards from the blue tees. What is challenging about that?
As I found out the name refers to where the pin is located. You have to aim for the stars to hit the green, because the pin is perched some 60+ feet above the tee box.
Again – I’m in Florida. We do not need 9ft flag sticks like Putnam County generously offered on multiple holes. 152 on flat ground is an easy 8-iron. When the pin is six stories up…?
At the end of the round, I was happy. It was a beautiful course that I was glad that I was able to play. The condition of the course was perfect, the layout was challenging and if I was to rank “fun” it would have been a 5 out of 5 rating. It wasn’t an easy course that you could pound into submission, but it did not wear you out because of all of the thinking that you had to put into it. If you wanted to smash driver – go for it. If you wanted to lay up – that was an option too. The bunkers were a little thicker than what I’m used to but that was to be expected – I wasn’t in Florida playing in sugar sand. The rough was much different because although thick, the ball didn’t settle to the bottom like it does here in Florida. I am really grateful that I was able to play Putnam County and I look forward to playing some of the other courses in the Mahopac area in the years to come.