Hit the Links

Scenic Drive: The first tee at Garrison.Photo: PAXTON

As the suburbs and commuters have edged north, so have the farmers, leaving countless acres of fertile land once used for grazing cows to a more modern pastoral American pursuit: chasing a tiny white ball around a vast green expanse. Starting less than an hour from the city, the Hudson Valley now offers New York golfers the type of high-end daily-fee public courses that countless players in other big cities have long taken for granted. Below, the top tracks.

The Links
When a fraternal Gaelic golfing society based in the city found it increasingly difficult to locate courses that could accommodate its outings, it did what every weekend duffer dreams of: built its own course. Opened in 2000 outside Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County, The Links at Union Vale (845-223-1000; thelinksatunionvale.com; weekend greens fees: $62) evokes the auld sod, sprawling across some 200 acres of farmland, treeless in the classic links style, with lots of hills and sand. Plunk a shot in one of the pot bunkers and you’ll surely need an after-round pint of Guinness.

The Views
A bit closer to home, in Putnam County, the 27-hole Centennial (845-225-5700; centennialgolf.com; weekend greens fees: $125) may well be the Hudson Valley’s top design. The terrain on the Fairways, Lakes, and Meadows nines varies dramatically, as their names imply, but the 1999 Larry Nelson design knits it all together with similarly contoured greens and classical bunkering throughout. The hilly course is also one of the area’s most scenic. The view from the elevated tee on the Meadows’ eighth hole is especially picturesque, overlooking a heavily bunkered green with views of the surrounding green hills.

The Classic
The Garrison (845-424-3604; garrisongolfclub.com; weekend greens fees: $85) isn’t new, but new management has worked hard to spruce up this classic Dick Wilson design located directly across the Hudson from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (you can see the ramparts from the course). Set on a plateau overlooking the river, Garrison is the only “coastal” course in the Valley. The surprisingly good Bill Brown’s restaurant, featuring upscale Continental cuisine (Nantucket Bay scallops, steak-frites), makes this one of the only Hudson Valley clubs worth considering for a decent post-round dinner.

The Bear
On the left bank of the Hudson, due west of West Point, you’ll find Mansion Ridge (845-782-7888; mansionridgegolf.com; weekend greens fees: $135), the first public Jack Nicklaus design in the tri-state region. The four-year-old course is one of the least sadistic the Golden Bear has inflicted upon the golf-playing public, playing to a relatively short 6,462 yards. Instead of using the nasty water and waste hazards he often employs, Jack went with subtle hole shapes and small greens requiring soft and precise approach shots. The result is a fun-to-play track that won’t force a ton of bogeys but won’t yield too many birds, either.

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Hit the Links