The New York Golf Trail: Discover charming downtowns, "Americana" and fun courses

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Rod Christian believes his New York Golf Trail is different from other golf trails.

"Apples to oranges," he said when comparing the New York Golf Trail to the popular Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama that inspired him to launch his trail in 2009.

He thinks golf is just a small part of why the 22-course New York Golf Trail continues to grow in popularity. It's more about touring the state's most beautiful regions than chasing bucket-list courses.

"(My golfers) are not generally playing five-star name courses or the latest design by a well known architect," Christian said. "They are solid, well conditioned, fun-to-play courses that offer good value. Gorgeous scenery and cool main streets and friendly staff in the hotels and courses, that's our niche."

Six trail courses rank among the top 20 public golf courses in New York by Golf Magazine, although only the Golf Club at Mansion Ridge -- a Jack Nicklaus course in Monroe ranked 19th in the state -- was designed by a major modern architect.

The trail is geared to showcase six distinctly different regions, the Finger Lakes, Cooperstown, central New York, Saratoga, Lake Placid and the Hudson Valley. Most of the trail stops reside upstate away from the skyscrapers and traffic of New York City and swanky clubs of Long Island.

Fall might be the best time to visit. Canadians love to drive south for a spring getaway prior to summer.

The Finger Lakes loop south of Rochester has become the most popular trail stop for this reason. It boasts the most courses (six), and that competition drives down prices. The pristine conditioning of Ravenwood Golf Club in Victor (no. 6 in the state) and the scenery and shot-making of Greystone Golf Club in Walworth (no. 17) are the top draws. Mill Creek Golf Club in Churchville and Bristol Harbor Resort overlooking Canadaigua Lake play nearly as good. The wineries and watersports of the 11 Finger Lakes entertain after the rounds. Although I stayed in the luxurious Woodcliff Hotel and Spa in Fairport south of Rochester, some groups might be better served staying downtown Rochester for its restaurants and nightlife.

Christian, a baseball fan, leans to Cooperstown as his favorite place. He loves that the Leatherstocking Golf Course -- a 105-year-old classic rated seventh in the state -- sits right off a charming main street roughly a half mile from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

More traditional golf resort stays come at the Whiteface Club & Resort on Lake Placid or Sagamore Resort on Lake George, home to a historic Donald Ross gem in Bolton Landing, north of Saratoga.

To date, the McGoverns -- a retired couple from Cape Cod -- are the only golfers to traverse the entire trail. They shared a sentiment that has stuck with Christian. They actually enjoyed the drives from their accommodations to the courses. They learned to savor the scenery and find a few surprises along the journey -- a car show here, a great BBQ restaurant there.

"Trail golfers experience that sense of hospitality, learning about a community after a fun day of golf," Christian said. "When I built the trail, I had that in the back of my mind. You need to have a unique experience that you can't always get at a golf resort or some other golf destination. There is a little bit of Americana in our destinations."

For more information, visit

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Related Links
Wild humps, hollows and mounds -- especially on the greens -- bring the challenge at Cobblestone Creek C.C. in Victor, N.Y. The greens might humble you, but chances are you'll enjoy every minute of the journey.
10 Images
The classic Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed golf course at Bristol Harbour Resort in Canandaigua, N.Y. occupies a special setting overlooking Canadaigua Lake. Here it's easy to see why so many people love the Finger Lakes.
10 Images
Greystone Golf Club in Walworth, N.Y, reigns as one of the Rochester region's best public courses. The rolling, forested land is ideal for golf and, without any homes in sight, peace and solitude are your only playing partners.
11 Images
Golf is woven into the fabric of Rochester, N.Y. Venerable Oak Hill sets the standard for the region's best private clubs, and excellent public courses ring the city out in the suburbs and rolling farmland.
7 Images
More from the author
3 Min Read
October 14, 2021
The wild and wavy North Course complements the Australian Sandbelt look of the acclaimed South Course near Oakland's airport.
4 Min Read
October 14, 2021
Comfort stations have become the new norm at exclusive private clubs like The Summit, which makes its PGA Tour debut this weekend.
5 Min Read
October 6, 2021
Kauai has fewer than half the courses of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, but the quality is top notch.
3 Min Read
October 4, 2021
The number of publicly accessible tournament venues will shrink during the 2021-22 PGA Tour schedule as the majors move to private clubs.
5 Min Read
October 4, 2021
Golf courses in California's Coachella Valley and Phoenix-Scottsdale are hotbeds of overseeding, but it's a common, and sometimes controversial, practice throughout the southern United States.
7 Min Read
September 30, 2021
From the largest elevation drop to the wildest greens and deepest bunker, all these U.S. courses take the game to the edge.
September 24, 2021
Get a glimpse of the No. 12 par 3 at Whistling Straits, which presents the shortest hole for participants to play on in the Ryder Cup.
September 28, 2021
Rory McIlroy and Martin Hall demonstrate how to hit a low, straight shot in this preview from the new series 9 Shots with Rory presented by WHOOP.
3 Min Read
September 16, 2021
Golf course news and notes: September, 2021.
7 Min Read
October 7, 2021
We found the 10 cities where it's easiest to score a tee time.
Load More
Now Reading
The New York Golf Trail: Discover charming downtowns, "Americana" and fun courses