Since Saratoga National Golf Club opened in 2001, it’s frequently ranked among the best public golf courses in the US. It’s just shy of the Adirondacks mountains in upstate New York and a few miles from the village of Saratoga Springs, New York, known for its mineral springs, historic architecture and world famous horse racing.
A stone gatehouse greets you at the start of a tranquil drive that meanders past wooden bridges, ponds glittering with the fountains and views of deep green fairways and greens. Then there is the amazing Victorian-style clubhouse. An overside foyer that is nicely appointment with rich hardwoods, colorful tiles and glittering chandeliers.
The steakhouse holds its own with any fine dining restaurant in the area. An expansive patio and covered terrace with multiple fire pits and an infinity pool wraps around the clubhouse giving fantastic views of the 18th green. A bar on a stone patio is complete with a soothing waterfall. On your way to the practice range you may pass a new Lexus displayed on the lawn.
The clubhouse features The National, a fine-clothier with threads and accessories in the classic Saratoga style.
Beyond the first-class facilities and soothing country-club landscaping, Saratoga National Golf Club insanely focuses on course conditioning and customer service. The treatment starts when you unload the bags with the attention to their guests. Golf carts are premium with a top-of-the-line GPS systems and stocked with ice and water. Multiple practice ranges, a strong short game area and a large practice green are all meticulously manicured to enhance your grand experience. Did I mention that the range balls are Titleist? The golf fee includes all-day use of the practice facilities.
I found the service by the staff to be exceptional rivaling those of the finest country-clubs. The golf professionals, bag attendants and restaurant staff are something special.
Saratoga Springs is one of those places where everything is close to perfect. The city’s lovely tree-lined streets and grand old Victorian homes, porch swings swaying and gardens brimming with colourful flora, bring to mind a gentler era. World-class horse racing, renowned performing arts and natural-springs spas, plus 13 golf courses, 10 museums, a historic battlefield, fabulous boutiques, antiques and restaurants mean there is something for everyone. Walk everywhere, it’s that kind of place.
In the mid-1800s the village was the summer home of many wealthy New York and Boston industrialists who sought refuge from the heat of the city. The name reflects the warm mineral springs in the area.
The name “Saratoga” is known around the world, for the name evokes the elegance, majesty and traditions of the world’s oldest sport, well-bred horses, and wealth. Royals, billionaire businessman and rock stars take part as owners, breeders, and fans. Its Saratoga Race Course is a thoroughbred horse racing track.
In August 1863, gambler, and future congressman John Morrissey organized Saratoga’s first thoroughbred meet a month after the Battle of Gettysburg. Over four days, 5,000 people came to wager on eight races. The meet lengthened since that time. The meet today lasts 40 racing days, and spans from mid-July through Labor Day in early September. With a current capacity of 50,000 they often consider it the oldest major sporting venue of any kind in the country.
In June 2001 they added the Saratoga National Golf Club to the Saratoga Springs upscale activity list. They design it to offer the best amenities of a private club without the rules and restrictions. It’s rare that public access clubs achieve that lofty goal. They did!
Saratoga National Golf Club Course
The man behind Saratoga National is the golf course architect, Roger Rulewich, who broke ground on the project in 1999 on a former horse farm. His layout takes full advantage of the property’s natural beauty. Rulewich’s golf courses have a natural approach, and Saratoga National is no exception, featuring two dozen wooden bridges, six tranquil ponds and blue limestone retaining walls to shape the greens.
The course is challenging and fun to play. It’s built on former marsh area so drainage is poor when it rains. The course rewards hitting fairways and punishes errant shots. Greens are bentgrass, fairway is rye and rough is a fescue. Rough is short but thick making balls are easy to lose. It’s well manicured and lush. Every blade of grass seems in perfect condition.
The course has a tremendous variety with strong picturesque water holes on the back nine. There are no houses on the course. The par threes are long, nearly 200 yards from championship tees. Hole 15 is the shortest par3 at 177 yards. It’s an island green guarded by two small front-side bunkers.
Long forced carries over marshy barrancas are common, including par5 approaches. The 590-yard par5 Hole 13 is one of our favorites. After a tee shot over a small traverse stream to a generous fairway, the second shot needs to navigate a large water feature that bisects the fairway. The longer carry on the left has the wider fairway with water guarding the entire left side and shorter carry on the right has a narrow fairway with two well-placed bunkers. The approach shot is to a long narrow green with water on three sides. There is little room for error.
Saratoga National Golf Club provides first-class golf in all aspects. There are few other public access courses in the country that can rival this all-around experience. Green fees reflect the quality experience at $120-160 from May to mid-July and September. But they go up 50% during the six-week race season.
Explore other Northeast golf course profiles from Quintessential Golf Magazine