The Leatherstocking Golf Course sweeps along the western edge of Lake Otsego in the quintessentially American town of Cooperstown, N.Y. — home to the Baseball Hall of Fame and historic home of James Fenimore Cooper, author of the legendary Leatherstocking Tales. The town, the course and the vintage Otesaga Resort Hotel transported me back to a simpler time when the pace of life was slower and meant to be savored.
The grand-dame, Federal-style hotel (circa 1909) features an imposing front portico supported by massive 30-foot columns. A member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America, The Otesaga recalls a more gracious era, with an ambience that extends to its beautifully manicured, 72-par course.
Designed in 1909 by Devereux Emmet and offering panoramic vistas from almost every hole, Leatherstocking is considered one of the East’s most scenic and challenging resort golf courses. The traditional-style course, built on the natural terrain — as opposed to newer courses where land is shaped to fit the architect’s eye — plays 6,416 yards from the tips. It features narrow fairways, deep bunkers and small, fast greens. Leatherstocking is a formidable test of a golfer’s talent, forcing you to think your way around the course. The layout proves that a golf course need not be long to be a true test of ability.
Hole 1 (340 yards, par 4)
This hole is slightly uphill. A good drive will leave you with a short-iron into the green. Bunkers guard the green left and right. Avoid going long or you will be forced to pitch back up a hill to the green that slopes away from you.
Hole 4 (513 yards, par 5)
Hole 4 is slightly downhill. A good tee ball will leave the big hitter a chance to reach the green in two. If you choose to lay up, you’ll want to avoid the bunkers about 100 yards from the green, which is guarded on the left and right by a series of deep pot bunkers.
Hole 6 (360 yards, par 4)
This is a slight dogleg right with trees guarding both sides of the fairway. A brook also meanders along the right side. Aim to the left side of the fairway because the slope will bring your ball back to the middle. If you hit a good drive, you will have a medium- to short-iron to a green that is again guarded by deep bunkers.
Hole 7 (404 yards, par 4)
On this narrow uphill fairway, two deep bunkers 75 yards from the green will swallow up any second shot not struck crisply. A medium- to long-iron will be required for your second shot. The green is well bunkered with a false front that will spit off any shot that just lands on the surface. Look for the plaque about 350 yards from the tee; it marks the spot where Johnny Bench’s drive came to rest — probably the longest drive and certainly the most legendary on this hole.
Hole 11 (560 yards, par 5)
This hole marks the highest elevation of the course. It is a three-shot hole (unless you’re related to Mr. Bench). Avoid hitting your second shot too far left because of the drop-off that runs into the rough and a stand of trees. Bunkers guard the green, making accuracy on your third shot a must.
Hole 12 (137 yards, par 3)
Severely downhill, at first glance Hole 12 is likely to make a player salivate. The trick is to choose the right club on the tee shot because it plays considerably shorter than the posted yardage. Hit a wayward shot, and you are likely to end up in one of the eight bunkers surrounding the green or find yourself out of bounds long.
Hole 16 (366 yards, par 4)
This straight-away offers a spectacular view of the Otesaga Hotel and the lake in the distance. You must be deadly accurate off the tee to avoid the water down the right that continues all the way to the green. Long hitters should be wary of the stream that bisects the fairway. A good drive will leave a medium-iron into the green. The bunker on the left gets plenty of action from those who refuse to tangle with the right side of the green and a certain watery death by erring just a little to the right.
Hole 17 (182 yards, par 3)
No. 17 is sure to test your nerves. The lake guards the hole from tee to green. Whatever club you choose, you’d better hit the sweet spot or you will face a high score. The only room for error is to the right of the green — even that requires a considerable, but easier, carry.
Hole 18 (515 yards, par 5)
On this dogleg, the tee is situated in the middle of the lake. A bridge takes players from the 17th green to the tee box and again to the 18th fairway. To shorten the hole, you must add distance on the tee shot to carry the water. Once you clear the lake, there is water all the way down the left side and behind the green. Those who hit a good tee shot, and want to go for it in two, have a bailout area to the right. A two-tiered green awaits your arrival.
Leatherstocking Golf Course
The Otesaga Resort Hotel
60 Lake St.
Cooperstown, NY 13326
tel 607 547 9931
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