Saratoga Race Track is located in Saratoga Springs, New York, which is 30 miles north of the New York state capital of Albany, which is two hours up the Hudson River or I-87 from New York City. Just north of Saratoga Springs are the Adirondack Mountains, where people from the city go to vacation in the summer.
The Saratoga Race meet runs from mid-July through Labor Day and has been a tradition with those New York vacationers since it was founded in 1863. They take the whole family and have a day at the races. The stands only hold about 8,000 and since 20,000+ show up every day, most of us bring our chairs and coolers full of Genesee Cream Ale (or Bud Light), and camp out back under the giant Oaks and Maples and watch the races on TV.
It was at this historic race meet on Friday, August 15, 2003, that Moe won his first Pick-6 wager. For you golfers who don't bet the horses, there are more people that have made a hole-in-one than who have picked 6 winners in a row at any racetrack. For you horseplayers who think I'm now rich, I should point out that all the favorites won (the longest priced winner paid $6.80) and the pick 6 paid $317.00. I'm proud to say that since my buddy Doug declined to participate, I hit it with an $8 ticket with 4 singles. It was the highlight of the trip, although having our lights come back on only 5 hours into the 'Big Blackout' was pretty good too.
Of course the wife and I golfed our way up and back and I have a few recommendations for you when you're traveling in Ohio, Pennsylvania or New York. The top golf course pick and closest to Kentucky would be Shaker Run. It is located in Lebanon, Ohio just north of Cincinnati and right between I-71 and I-75. Dick Young works at Persimmon Ridge, which is arguably the best course in Kentucky, and he recently called Shaker Run the best course he ever played?
Shaker Run has 18 holes designed by Arthur Hills and nine by Michael Hurdzan. In two visits I've not yet played the Woodlands Nine by Hills, but if it is as good as his other nine called Lakeside, then Dick has a strong case. Lakeside ends with a great lake view par 5 followed by a par 4 cape hole that invites you to hit over as much lake as you dare. The entire course is in excellent condition and well worth the $74 tariff.
The other great Arthur Hills course we played on this trip was called Southpointe. It's a private club located in Canonsburg, PA, which is just off I-79, south of Pittsburgh. The course layout and condition are both great, but the unusual thing about the course is that it is located in an office park, surrounded by 5 or 6 story buildings! I give them points off for the view, but the course had many elevation changes and was not easy. It is rated 72.3 with a slope of 140 from 6300 yards. We paid $100 as guests of the pro, but it was my 38th Art Hills course and definitely makes the top 10.
Just south of Columbus, Ohio, we played the Michael Hurdzen designed Cook's Creek. Pro golfer John Cook helped with the design, but the course is named after the Cook family farm on whose land it was built. In this case too many cooks did not spoil the broth. The course is an interesting mix of several short and several long par fours. Mr. Cook's creek and other water hazards affect play on 12 holes. I stayed dry all day and shot a season best 77. However, I did that from the middle tees at 6200 yards. The back tees play 6650 and the Cook's tees are 7071. I'm not ever going back there! It's a nice course but gets heavy play due to the $39 price and bozos fill the course. I fixed 6 ball marks per green and I didn't get them all.
The surprise course of the trip was located just south of Binghamton, NY and is called Conklin Players Club. We meant to play a Brian Silva design west of Binghamton called Links @ Hiawatha Landing, but couldn't get on since it was Sunday so we tried Concklin instead.
Rick Richard, who I am unfamiliar with, designed the course in 1991and it has several blind uphill shots. However, the great course condition overcame any design shortcomings and the formal plantings and water treatments throughout the course made for an enjoyable round... even on a crowded Sunday afternoon. At $55 it was a very pleasant surprise.
Just east of Syracuse, NewYork, is the Turning Stone Casino which owns Shenandoah Golf Club. I read about the course in Golf Digest when it opened last year and it was supposed to be the highlight of our trip up. It wasn't.
I won't list all the things wrong with it, but I will send the complete review to Golf Digest this winter. The tribe that owns Turning Stone has employed Davis Love III to build another course up the road...I'd wait a couple of years and try that.
We did find one great restaurant on this trip to add to our list of the ones worth driving extra to visit again. It is called Molinaries in Mentor, Ohio, which is just east of Cleveland. It was in a shopping center, but definitely 4 stars for food and service.
It was another great golf trip.