DESTINATION: ROCHESTER, NY
Updated: Feb 3, 2020
The golf conversation in this Western New York city usually begins with Oak Hill Country Club - and rightfully so. It has hosted every major men's championship possible, Ryder Cup included. However, the conversation doesn't end there... This sneaky good - if not short-seasoned - golf town has some really good public tracks you can play and at some of the nation's best prices. While you may not think of Rochester as a place to take a golf trip, maybe you will after you spend the next eight minutes reading this?
About the Region:
Aside from its famously long, harsh winters on the shores of Lake Ontario, Rochester is a beautiful place for at least 6 weeks a year. We kid, it's a great town to visit and getting to go back to visit has become something we both look forward to (we both grew up here but left for warmer climates 20 years ago and never looked back).
It's got everything you'd want for any number of types of trips; family, buddy, golf, sports, business, etc. Here's what you can expect to see and do while in town:
Lake Ontario gives you everything from beaches to deep sea fishing.
Rochester's city core has a vibrant, born again downtown with great restaurants, breweries, shops and festivals.
Its an older, northern city, so you get hip neighborhoods to go with it. Also check out the Erie Canal towns & suburbs like Brockport, Pittsford, Fairport & others. All are great places to experience a little history or a summer/fall festival.
For families, it even has its own medium-sized amusement park called Seabreeze that sits right up near the lake. No summer was complete without a trip there as a kid!
Want sports? In addition to all those golf championships hosted, Rochester is home to Red Wings baseball (AAA Twins) as well as the Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League (indoor version). The Buffalo Bills even host their preseason training camp at St. John Fisher College (right near Oak Hill CC) each summer.
Wegmans Grocery Stores. It's an experience to go to one, but it's a way of life here.
We love learning about a new area as much as playing golf in it. If you're the same way, you'll love this.
A story known all too well to locals, but probably unbeknownst to our readers, is the relationship & history that the city has with photography & film. It's best unreeled in this quick snippet previewing the Photo City documentary
As they mention in the clip, "Rochester, New York in 1964 was the Silicon Valley of its era... The image capitol of the world!" Bausch & Lomb, Xerox and Kodak were all HQ'd here. It's a really interesting - and unfinished - story. Watch the clip if you didn't already.
Now that you know where it's been and what to do off the course, let's get on the links!
About the Golf:
Oak Hill Country Club.
You want to play it.
You're probably not going to.
Let's just move on...
Fear not! There are plenty of places to play that will get you and your group out of bed to be first on the box!
Trust us, we both grew up here; BMAC on the west side and Dooner a bit more to the east in the Finger Lakes. We've played nearly every course in a 40-mile radius of town! There are some we haven't played, but not many...
That's a lot of flags and favorites mixed in there and pretty evenly split. For this reason, we thought it'd be fun to have a draft to pick the best places in town to build around. We'll alternate picks and trading is not allowed. As for the format...
We will each pick three public courses in our common draft.
We will then have a supplemental round where we'll select one private course (just in case you're savvy enough to pull it off, we'll send you after the right ones!).
We'll each sign one "undrafted free agent" that will serve as our 'sleeper pick'.
One thing to remember, like most large cities (Rochester has close to one million people), most of the courses in city proper are private, leaving the public tracks to the suburbs. However, the urban sprawl is so great now that most of the 'burbs are considered city anyway, but felt we needed that disclaimer.
So without further ado...
The Golf Crusade Rochester Golf Course Draft is now OPEN!
With the First Pick of the TGCRGC Draft, BMAC selects:
The Links at Greystone | Town of Walworth | designed by Craig Schreiner
Draft Pick Analysis
Dooner: You (jerk). I thought for sure you'd go Mill Creek and I'd get a steal with Greystone at #2. I digress... great pick. BMAC: Go big or go home Dooner! I put Greystone very close to my top 10 overall. It's the first golf course I ever played that left me in awe.
Dooner: That's high praise! I'm a bit surprised by that honestly. Especially someone as accomplished as you were as a scholastic player in the area. You've played all the good stuff!
BMAC: You walk into a place like CC of Rochester, sure you're in awe of the club atmosphere and the history and the ambiance, but the course really isn't that inspiring. Its really nice don't get me wrong, but you're not in awe of it. I was in awe of Greystone the first time out. I love it.
Dooner: Great description. After looking back through some pics like these, it's hard to argue - especially in a unique links golf setting like they've created there. It's not missing anything.
With the Second Pick of the TGCRGC Draft, Dooner selects: Mill Creek Golf Club | Churchville | Raymond Hearn & Paul Albanese
Dooner: You didn't think I'd let you get both links courses would you? BMAC: Damn... Dooner: Question - Would you have taken Mill Creek #1 if their short course was still open?
BMAC: No, but Mill Creek is solidly at #2 either way.
Dooner: Fair enough. 'The Highest Point in Monroe County Golf', as they used to call it, sits on a piece of land reminiscent of Shinnecock Hills or Bulls Bay, just with trees on the drumlin of which the clubhouse sits atop. If they cut those trees down, man, this place would be pushing a top 100 public list or two, dare I say.
BMAC: Totally agree. The west side of town has a lot of public options but Mill Creek (literally & figuratively) stands above the rest with its great design, terrain and (hopefully still great) conditions. Dooner: The other fun part of this course is the number of options you get to play each hole. Take a look at a few holes and the different paths to the green on each:
ROUND 2 Pick 1, #3 overall, BMAC selects: Ravenwood Golf Club | Victor | Robin Nelson
BMAC: This course is a bad mamma-jamma!
Dooner: Ravenwood kicked my ass a long time ago. I think I broke my hand hitting out of the rough.
BMAC: That's because you suck at golf.
Dooner: Fair point. Still, I'd like another crack it though - conditions were tremendous. It was brand new when I played, I'd like to see how it has matured.
BMAC: Ravenwood gets a lot of accolades and I'm not one to argue too much with what it receives. A lot of people that just read the rankings would probably be surprised it's wasn't the #1 pick in this draft, but this is where I feel it belongs. Dooner: Preach!
Pick 2, #4 overall, Dooner selects: Bristol Harbour Resort | Canandaigua | Robert Trent Jones
BMAC: I knew you'd go for that one.
Dooner: You won't find a more different set of nines on our entire courses played inventory (that are as close to being as good as one another). The front plays linksy on the rolling hilltop with no trees before the back dives in and out of the ravine creating the memorable shot values. Any course that is good enough for Jack Nicklaus to still hold a course record means it is one you want to tackle.
BMAC: Maybe because it was so long ago, I don't remember it being that memorable.
Dooner: Being so close to the lake, I wish you got more views of it. You get some, but it's as good a course as there is in the Finger Lakes & the views of the surrounding hills are nearly unbeatable in the region. It is a bit of a drive out there, but if you don't steal my next pick, I might be able to use it to make a wine country golf pairing!
NOTE: We profiled Bristol Harbour Resort in an earlier story. Check it out for the full scoop.
Pick 1, #5 overall, BMAC selects:
Blue Heron Hills | Macedon | Pete Craig & Dick Bator (w/ input from Jack Nicklaus)
BMAC: BHH has a classic old school feel. It is situated in a very low-lying area which brings into play some wetlands; the habitat of choice of the Great Blue Heron, or Ardea herodias.
Dooner: (Nerd) I mean great choice! Its pairs perfectly with Greystone. They are three miles apart as the Heron flies.
BMAC: I'm the nerd? Nice pun by the way. Speaking of pairings, check out this weekend twilight deal at Blue Heron...
Dooner: So you can play 18 in the AM at Greystone, practically walk over to Blue Heron Hills for 18 in the PM and they'll give you a steak dinner when you're done?
BMAC: If that doesn't say perfect golf trip Saturday, I don't know what does?
Dooner: Nice research there, Sir! Great find!
Pick 2, #6 overall, Dooner selects: Reservoir Creek Golf | Naples | Blaine Harrison
Dooner: Thank you for passing on RCG. BMAC: I didn't want your tears on my conscience.
Dooner: Whatever helps you sleep at night! If you weren't already at Bristol Harbour (my previous draft pick), this wouldn't be an option. However, since you've found yourself out that far though, get yourself a grape pie & bring an open mind for a fun round at RCG. BMAC: Grape pies were my Grandmother's thing! Dooner: Yeah! She was a Lake Lady! BMAC: You're right about the course being way the F out there! Dooner: Yes it is (FACT CHECK: GoogleMaps puts RCG exacly one hour from downtown Rochester, yet just 20 min from Bristol Harbour). RCG is basically a one-off design, so it is a little overcooked. Buuut, when I said the views are Bristol Harbour were nearly unbeatable, this is the one that beats it. There are some really good holes here (and a couple that I hope they've updated) but because its so rural, you don't hear anything about it.
SUPPLEMENTAL ROUND - PRIVATE COURSES
BMAC - Monroe Golf Club | Pittsford
Donald Ross did at least six courses in Rochester. This is the best one outside of Oak Hill's property line. It's all golf, has no houses and the conditions are Oak Hill level. On top of that, Gil Hanse freshened it up in 2008 - I hear he does nice work. While he was there, he added a four-hole short course that features replicas of holes on the championship course to prepare you for your round. It tips out at just under 6900 yards (par 70) which keeps it from hosting pros, but it has hosted the Monroe Invitational - one of the oldest amateur tournaments in the country - every year since 1937. Some guy named Woods played in that event in 1993 and lost in the (then) match play final. That's significant, as it was Tiger's only match play loss in a five-year span that began with three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateurs (1991–93) and ended with three consecutive U.S. Amateurs (1994–96).
Dooner - Cobblestone Creek | Victor
Contrasting BMAC's classical pick, this modern Michael Hurdzan design has all the bells & whistles of a high-end private course. It's signature double bridges on the 9th are the site of as many wedding photos as they of memorable golf shots from its fairways (click on the link above and there's a great drone video that plays as soon as you hit the site that shows this). There is so much to see here in front of you as you're playing that it really gets your adrenaline going. Eye candy to the max! Only a string of average holes in the middle of the back nine keep this from being mentioned in a larger conversation in my eyes. It's awesome. Flip through a few shots on a rainy day (use arrows)...
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS - LOCAL GEMS
BMAC - Deerfield Golf & Country Club | Brockport | Pete Craig
You could probably make a golf trip - in terms of number of courses (8) and number of holes (126) at least - out of the public tracks in Brockport alone. Deerfield is the best of them and has 27 holes, even if we'd love to redesign the extra nine.
Dooner - The Pheasant Golf Links | Manchester | Pete Craig (original 18), Roc Furfari (ROC 9)
Cheers to Pete Craig! That man made himself a nice living designing courses in the area. After Donald Ross, he may be our most played architect (16 by my count). My choice is another 27-hole course, but its the newer 'ROC' nine that gets me off the couch. The original 18 is a good, parkland style course while the ROC is straight links fun.
Team BMAC - Greystone, Ravenwood & Blue Heron Hills w/ a Deerfield bonus play. Monroe if you're lucky. Rent a house in Pittsford, Fairport or Victor.
Team Dooner - Mill Creek, Bristol Harbour & Reservoir Creek w/ The Pheasant extra. Cobblestone Creek if you're lucky. Rent a lakehouse near Canandaigua.
As always, feel free to bounce around the site a bit. Hit the TRAVEL & DESTINATIONS tab at the top of the page to dig up more articles like this one or use the MAP & TRACKER with its interactive map to learn more about each course we've played in the Rochester area and beyond. You never know what you'll find until you look! Remember...
It's not about the list, it's about the journey!
BMAC & Dooner