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Down the Fairway: Vacation outings lead off the beaten path

Down the Fairway: Vacation outings lead off the beaten path

Vacation time for me in the spring or summer means checking out a variety of golf courses I haven’t

Vacation time for me in the spring or summer means checking out a variety of golf courses I haven’t played before.

Upstate New York boasts a plethora of clubs, both public and private, that can rival any other state in terms of scenic beauty, challenge and fun. The more unique a course is, the more it stands out.

This week, I visited several layouts.

The first one on my list is a course that is probably not on most Capital Region golfers’ radar. On Memorial Day, my sister, Sandy, her boyfriend, Rocky, and I played Par 3 Golf at Country Meadows.

Located on Route 149 in Fort Ann, Country Meadows isn’t very far from Queensbury Country Club. Like its full name suggests, Country Meadows is a par-3 course, with only one hole that can be played as either a par-3 (170 yards) or a par-4 (220).

The most interesting thing about Country Meadows is that there are only 12 holes. Not nine and not 18.

“We just haven’t gotten around to building all 18 holes yet,” said co-owner Susan Shovah, who along with her husband, Edward, oversees virtually the entire operation. “We are building the holes a little at a time. We expect to have 14 holes done by next year, and eventually, we’ll have all 18.”

The Shovah family built the course in 1998 and it opened in 2000. Although players of all abilities would enjoy this layout, it’s perfect for beginners. Most of the holes can be played with either a pitching wedge, sand wedge or lob wedge, except the 11th, which is perfectly suited for a 4-iron, 5-iron or hybrid when played by the average player as a par-3. When played as a par-4, the average player can hit a 3-wood or a driver in an attempt to drive the green, but there is a small pond just to the right of the green, so a fade or big slice can get you into some trouble.

Water comes into play on four holes at Country Meadows, and one hole provides a blind tee shot to a green that is guarded to the left side by trees.

Country Meadows’ greens are tiny, especially on the first nine holes, but they roll true. This is the kind of course that can help you fine-tune your short game. If you have a friend or significant other who doesn’t play much golf, Country Meadows is the perfect place to bring them, because it’s never crowded, and you won’t be rushed. Plus, the holes are short enough that it won’t take you all day to play.

The price is also right. It cost just a little more than $10 to play 12 holes. When we were finished with our round, we enjoyed an excellent lunch at the comfortable clubhouse.

“We feel that although it’s short, our course is a challenging layout,” said Shovah. “The hardest part of the game to learn sometimes is the short game, and you can really work on that part of the game here. You’ve got to be accurate to keep your shots on the green.”

The Shovahs said that most of their visitors are from Granville, Queensbury or Hudson Falls, but that they do get their share of tourists who stop off on their way to and from Vermont.

They said their clubhouse gets plenty of use for banquets and parties.

If you are a beginner or just want to have some fun working on your short game, Par 3 Golf at Country Meadows is a must stop.

The other first-time visit for me this week was Rainbow Golf Club in Greenville. Since Rainbow has been around for a long time, there is a good chance that many Gazette readers have played this unique layout. Although I’ve heard about it for some time, I finally took the trip on Friday, and I was glad I did.

At just 5,159 yards from the white tees (5,861 from the blues, 6,287 from the golds and 4,345 from the reds), Rainbow isn’t long by any means, but this tricky layout keeps you on your toes. There is almost no hole that is perfectly straight. Doglegs are the rule here, and they can make for some interesting choices.

Right from the first hole, a 320-yard dogleg-right, you are forced into some major decisions. You can try to shorten the hole by going over the trees on the right, but you must hit your shot high enough, or you will be in jail among the tall trees. To make matters worse, there is a pond that comes into play in front of the green, so the big hitters must be careful when cutting the corner.

Several shorter par-4s are doglegs that can almost be driven by the big hitters, if they cut off enough of the dogleg without getting into trouble. The more you play Rainbow, the more you feel comfortable about how much you can cut off with your tee shot. Since I was playing with someone who grew up on the course, I did get some local knowledge that helped on a few of these shots.

One of the most difficult holes to play at Rainbow is the 348-yard 12th hole, which is an extreme dogleg-right with a green guarded by water. The tee shot must be some kind of fade that keeps your ball precariously close to the tree line. If you slice your shot too much, you’re into the trees and will be forced to chip back out. In order to get a clear view of the green, and a flat lie, you must bomb your tee shot at least 250 yards. Otherwise, you can be left with a downhill lie and an approach shot of 170 yards or more into the water-protected green.

One more thing: The big hitters can skip trying to hit their tee shots around the trees and use a different set of tees that allows them to go directly at the green. But there is no bailout if they take this route, and they must be able to carry at least 300 yards over water to accomplish that shot, so it leaves most of us to dream.

Just as exciting is the next hole, the 97-yard 13th hole, which is an island green. A pitching wedge or sand wedge will get you on the green, but be careful with the wind. This is no 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, but it has the same feel. You definitely breathe a sigh of relief when your ball lands safely on terra firma.

I can’t wait to try Rainbow again. The former resort includes breath-taking scenery.

The cost for two players with cart is $77. Not bad these days.

Along with a trip to The Edison Club, which is always a treat to play, and my usual nine holes at Van Patten in my league play, that was my golfing week in a nutshell. I had beautiful weather, for a change, and except for a muscle pull in my back with just a few holes left at Rainbow, I was pain-free. What more could you ask for in a golfing vacation?

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