GREENWICH — The Battenkill Country Club is a public, nine-hole course that was founded in 1925, making it one of the oldest golf courses in the area. The 2,973-yard, par 35 course is aptly named, as it sits right on the banks of the Battenkill River, making for nice scenery, but also a penalty stroke waiting to happen.
The Battenkill is one the rare courses that begins its layout with a par 3. Players get a glimpse of the river behind the first green of the 185-yard hole, requiring a precise swing to start their round.
“The first swing of the day is a 180-yard par 3 down to a hole where, if you hit it over, you’re in the river. If you hit it left, you’re in a bunker and if you hit it right, you’re in a bunker,” head professional Bill Wigand said. “So the best place to miss is short and then chip it on. For the first swing of the day, it’s a daunting task.”
It doesn’t get any easier on the second hole, which Wigand called “the hardest hole relative to par.” A stream dissects the fairway of the 405-yard par 4, leaving golfers with two choices. The more aggressive play is to take out a driver, but a left-to-right slicing shot is a must due to the severe dogleg right. The safer move it to take out an iron or fairway wood and hit it short of the stream. However, that leaves players with about 210 yards into the small green, which is a common feature of the course.
Following the difficult duo to start the round, No. 3 and 4 gives players an opportunity to get a couple of strokes back. The 490-yard, par 5 third hole is pretty open off the tee and reachable in two with a pair of good swings. Then the fourth is a harmless 136-yard par 3.
GREAT HISTORY AT NINE-HOLER
By Chris Graf
Many of the tourists heading to Saratoga Springs for track season will have their clubs in tow. Post time at the track is 1PM and that leaves plenty of time to squeeze in an early morning round at Battenkill Country Club, a semi-private club located just 14 miles east of Saratoga in Greenwich.
“We are located only 20 minutes outside of Saratoga,” says Bill Wigand, PGA Professional and Director of Golf at Battenkill. “You can come in the morning and be done in time for the track. You can have a full day of golf and horses.”
Battenkill’s 41-acre course was carved out of 78 acres of farmland in 1925. It was a community effort spearheaded by the club’s original 100 members. Farm tractors were used to create the fairways and greens of this scenic 9-hole course on the banks of the Battenkill River.
“You can see the river from almost every hole,” says Wigand. “When you can’t see it, you can hear the waterfalls.”
In addition to being scenic, the course has a reputation for being very well-maintained. Many improvements have been made over the years, and the bunkers were recently renovated.
The club’s first pro was Henry “Hap” Duval, father of Bob Duval and grandfather of 2001 British Open Champion David Duval. Hap Duval held the course record for many years and was inducted into the Northeastern New York PGA Hall of Fame in 1996.
Hap was not the only well-known person to play at Battenkill. Songwriter James “Kim” Gannon also played there. Gannon graduated from Albany Law School and passed the New York State Bar Exam but ended up pursuing a career in music. In addition to writing songs for movies and Broadway, Gannon penned the iconic Christmas song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The top-10 song was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943.
Wigand says Battenkill CC remains an “old-style” course. The greens are small and require a good short game. The course itself is challenging, and it is difficult to break par. For 9-holes (3,000 yards) par is 35, and the longest hole is 545-yards.
Although the course is only 9-holes, many golfers play 18. Tee adjustments on the back-9 give the holes a different look for those who choose to play the course twice. It is flat and easy to walk, but carts are available.
Prices are very affordable: 18 holes with a cart costs $30 ($22 without cart). Nine holes with a cart costs $22 ($16 without cart). Clinics and lessons are also available, and there is a restaurant that serves light fare.