The name says it all.
Top of the World Golf Resort, located on Lockhart Mountain Road in Lake George, sits high above one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Northeast.
And when you play this mountain jewel, you definitely will feel like you are on vacation, whether you are or not.
I was “on holiday” this week when I took some of my golfing buddies to see my old friend, head pro Tom Smack, who was the former head pro at the nearby Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing for 24 years. Smack, in his fourth year as the pro at Top of the World, gave me a tour of the clubhouse, and we had time to chat before my friends and I enjoyed a tremendous round of golf.
“There are 1,300 acres of land on this property, and there are plans for some even more improvements,” said Smack, who turns 68 in November. “The owner, Jim
Feeney, bought the place in 1996. He owns two other courses in South Carolina. The course was originally only nine holes, but Jim expanded it to 18 holes five or six years ago. There are plans in the works to build a practice area with a short-game section, and I’ve done a few things since I got here, like lining up some business with the hotels back in Lake George to play golf up here. We’ve created two leagues for men and women. They never had leagues up here before.”
Smack also had a hand in making other improvements, including putting in more bunkers and improving the irrigation system.
“This has been one of the driest seasons in years,” he said. “But Jim Feeney and I have a great relationship. He has been super to work with, and he understands the game. He’s a good player in his own right, and he plays to about a 5 handicap. We play golf together often. We both have a vision for this place. The way we figure it, once they come here, they’ll come back.”
No kidding. I can’t wait to get back to the Top of the World. The views are unparalleled as you can look down toward beautiful Lake George from numerous points on the course. Smack reminded us that the Vermont mountains weren’t just there to gawk at. Most putts break toward them, and we found that to be true, even though the obvious break appeared just the opposite on numerous occasions.
Although there were a handful of tight fairways, which is customary for mountain layouts, most of the fairways were generous, and at 6,044 yards from blue tees and 5,603 from the white tees, the yardages don’t scare away the average player.
One of the most unique holes on the course is the 465-yard
par-5 14th hole, which requires perfect placement off the tee to about 200 yards or so to set up a 165-yard approach to a downhill green that is protected by trees and bushed. The green is a dramatic dogleg about 90 degrees to the left from the fairway, and unless you’ve played the course before, you have no idea where to hit your tee shot. If your approach shot is short, you are doomed.
Two warnings. With all the dry weather this summer, many of the greens at Top of the World weren’t holding that well, and with winds that gusted to nearly 40 miles per hour by the time we played our final two holes, it was like playing the British Open.
But if you haven’t played this course, give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.
Smack pointed out that the food at the Farm House Restaurant in the clubhouse is excellent, but they are closed on Mondays, which is the day we ventured north. Lodging is also available on site.
“We do a lot of outings here, and it seems to be popular spot for leagues to play their mid-season or end-of-the-season tournament,” Smack said.
By the way, it was fabulous to see Smack again. The former pro team captain for the annual Gazette Cup between the local club professional and the amateurs from the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association was one of the top players in the section in his younger years. He was known for an extremely quick tempo with his driver. His accomplishments included winning the NENYPGA Stroke Play, Senior Stroke Play and Match Play titles. He also qualified for the U.S. Senior Open twice.
“When they let me go at The Sagamore, it was tough, because I had been there so long,” said the Maryland native. “I’ve been a member of the PGA for 40 years now, and things have changed. It’s much tougher for younger guys to get a good head pro job in our business. There aren’t that many jobs out there in this economy, and once somebody has a good job, he doesn’t want to leave. I was fortunate that Jim called me up when he found out I was out of a job. My wife, Angie, and I live right on the property now. We’ve been married for 37 years, and she still works for the local school district. This move worked out great for us.”
As I return from my two-week vacation, I can jump right back into the golf coverage mode with one of the busiest stints of the year on many fronts.
Local club professionals compete in their annual Professional National Championship local qualifier Monday and Tuesday at The Edison Club. The top players advance to next year’s PNC. This year, Scott Berliner of Normanside Country Club and Ian Breen of Colonie Golf & Country Club competed in California, and Berliner nearly made the cut.
Local juniors will play in the annual Gazette Capital District Newspaper in Education Junior Golf Championship Friday morning at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Competition will be divided into boys’ 12-14, boys’ 15-18 and girls’ 12-18 divisions. Prizes will be earned in both gross and net divisions.
The CRAGA Championship, for the area’s premier amateurs, is set for Friday and Saturday at Schuyler Meadows Club. This event is considered the top tournament on the amateurs’ schedule.
Player of the Year point leaders include Country Club of Troy’s Steve Quillinan Jr. (324.26), who won the Troy Invitational, Mohawk Golf Club’s Jim Gifford (297.96), who qualified for sectional play in the U.S. Open, Capital Hills at Albany’s Don DeNyse III (163.75), Rolling Hills at Antlers’ Dan Russo (145.50), Mohawk Golf Club’s Chris Barach (144), who won the Tri-County Match Play championship, Olde Kinderhook’s Jim Welch (140), Normanside Country Club’s Victor Fox (140), who has dominated all the local junior events and won this year’s Albany County Amateur, Western Turnpike’s D.J. Tozier (134), who has moved to Georgia, Country Club of Troy’s Matt Horton (123) and Wolferts Roost Country Club’s Jeb Buchanan (101.50).
Finally, the Futures Tour returns to the area Friday through Sunday with the Symetra Credit Union Challenge, presented by SEFCU, Sunmark and BFB Benefit, at Capital Hills at Albany.
Ester Choe, a two-time winner, leads the Symetra Futures Tour in money earnings with $43,117 despite playing only three events.
Leah Wigger ($30,249, one victory), Nicole Smith ($23,195 one victory), Megan McChrystal ($22,898, one victory), Jean Chua ($22,849), Victoria Elizabeth ($21,85), Sara Brown ($18,881, one victory), Lauren Doughtie ($18,607, one victory), Jenny Gleason ($18,329, one victory) and Kristie Smith ($18,058) round out the top 10.
Enjoyed my third lesson with Town of Colonie head pro Noel Gebauer this week. We concentrated on wedge shots from several different yardages.
The focus of the lesson was hitting these shots with relaxed arms and making sure I hit down on the back of the ball and take more turf than I usually do. I tend to pick the ball cleanly. He showed me that I didn’t necessarily have to use a high follow through on these shots. It’s more important to be aggressive at the bottom when I strike the ball crisply. Noel also has me moving the ball closer to my feet and body at address.
Hit some fine wedges this week at several different courses, but I still struggle with the flat stick. What’s new?
I also picked up a pair of the FootJoy spikeless shoes, and I must confess they are the most comfortable golf shoes I’ve ever worn. In fact, they are even more comfortable than sneakers. No problem with traction so far, but I haven’t worn them in rainy conditions. I recommend them if you do a lot of walking when you play.
u The New York State Golf Association will conduct one of its State Days tournaments Monday at Mohawk Golf Club. Play begins at 8 a.m.
u The Gazette Senior County Amateur Golf Championship will be played Aug. 16-17 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Net prizes will be awarded to winners of the 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus divisions. Only the top 20 and ties gross advance to the final round. Defending champion Jim Mueller won’t compete because of surgery.
u The Union College Golf/Basketball Fundraiser will be held at Mohawk Golf Club Sept. 24 at noon. Entry fee is $550 per team and it includes lunch at 11 a.m. and appetizers and awards following golf. The format is either two best balls of four or a scramble. It’s your choice. Contact Mary Ellen Burt at 388-6546 for more information.
u Pioneer Hills hosts this week’s Eastern New York Golf Association event on Wednesday.
u The Northeastern Women’s Golf Association competes in a Two-Person Stableford at Wiltwyck Golf Club in Kingston on Wednesday.
uThe Peter Famiano Memorial Golf Tournament will be held
Sept. 9, at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. There will be a continental breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by a scramble with a shotgun start at 9. There will be gross and net winners. The cost is $300 per foursome, and includes green fees, cart, continental breakfast and buffet following golf. Interested golfers can sign up by calling Bob Pezzano at 346-9297 before Aug. 24. The tournament will be limited to 30 foursomes. The event is held in honor of Peter Famiano, a member of the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame.
u The seventh annual golf tournament to benefit Amanda’s House, a home away from home for families of patients at Glens Falls Hospital, will be held Sunday at Country Meadows, a 14-hole executive course on Route 149 between Fort Ann and Lake George. Entry fee for the four-person scramble is $25, and includes a buffet after golf. There will be a 3 p.m. shotgun start. For more information, contact Country Meadows.
u The 14th annual Glenville Rotary Golf Classic will be held Thursday at Van Patten Golf Course. Entry fee for the four-person scramble is $100, and includes a snack at the turn and lunch. Call John Weldon at 399-0048 or 596-0320.
Jeff Barringer recorded his first hole-in-one with a 7-iron on the 145-yard sixth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
At Eagle Crest Golf Club, Joe Warren used a 5-iron for his hole-in-one on the 120-yard third hole.
Terry O’Brien wielded a sand wedge to ace the seventh hole at Briar Creek Golf Course.
Jimmy Gramuglia hit a 3-iron on 190-yard 18th hole for an ace at Top of the World Golf Course.
Randy Hines holed out for an eagle-2 on the par-4 11th hole at Schenectady Municipal while competing in the Coldwell Banker Randy Hines No. 1 league.
Clark Leonelli, 16, posted an eagle-2 on the 338-yard par-4 12th hole by using a 3-wood off the tee and holing out with a wedge at Airway Meadows Golf Club.
At Amsterdam Municipal, Jim Sweeney, Rick Raco and Mitch V’Doviak eagled the third hole, Matt Montanero eagled the 10th hole and Bill Neahr eagled the 15th hole.
Mike Bucciferro eagled the 15th hole, and Craig Hoeffner eagled the 18th hole at Briar Creek.