Since Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the 1932 Winter Olympic Games, Lake Placid has been a well-known center for winter sports activities. When the United States national team beat the Soviet national team at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, Lake Placid became known the world over as the host of the greatest moment in sports history. While Lake Placid is known worldwide as an institution for winter sports, many would be surprised to hear that summer sports in Lake Placid are just as dynamic as their snowcapped counterparts and golf has been a vital element of Adirondack life for over a century when, in 1895, the same year the first public golf course opened in the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park, the first Adirondack golf course was built.
With over a dozen golf courses a short drive of the High Peaks region, it is easy to see why many Adirondack residents can be found on the greens once the sun comes out after a long winter and, with five wonderful golf courses in Lake Placid, it is easy to see why many guests stay at High Peaks Resort with golf on their mind. As an early spring graced the Adirondacks with warm temperatures and the locals started to put away their ice fishing gear in favor of fishing rods and golf clubs, I had the opportunity to explore the history of golf in the Adirondacks with the man who wrote the book on it (quite literally!); PGA Professional and Director of Golf at the Whiteface Club & Resort, Peter Martin.
High Peaks Resort: You have an impressive background both as a golf professional, a writer, and a professor. With your experience, you could go anywhere. Why do you love Whiteface Club so much and has it always been your club?
Peter Martin: It's always been my club; I've been here 39 years. When I was a boy of 14 or 15 I caddied the Saranac Inn Golf Course, near Upper Saranac Lake. One summer afternoon when I wasn't busy I hitchhiked over here; they let me play golf here and I fell in love with it. It's always been one of my favorite courses and to become the Pro here was fantastic. So I've been lucky to have a job that I love at a course I absolutely love.
I've always felt that Whiteface is one of the greatest - it's got old school in it, it's got new school. It's a golfer's golf course. The beauty here on this little lake with Whiteface Mountain in the background; it's magnificent. It's one of the oldest courses; it was built in 1898, so we've been here a long time. It's one of the classic golf courses golf courses; meandering through the woods, up and down and some tight fairways and open fairways. It's just a great test of golf.
HPR: What makes that different from other courses in the area?
PM: Oh, it's oranges and apples and apricots. We're lucky to live in Lake Placid where there are so many golf courses. Craig Woods golf course; great course. Lake Placid Club with 45 holes, another great golf course. This just happens to be my favorite.
People don't realize there were five golf courses in Lake Placid. There was one called the Steven's House and Golf Course on Signal Hill which is no longer there, that was 1900. The Fawn Club; across from Whiteface Club when you drive in, there used to be a nine hole course there. The Ruisseaumont was a nine-hole course also. There's a lot of history in Lake Placid.
HPR: Why do you think that is? I admit, when I moved to Lake Placid from New York City, I was surprised, that there were this many golf courses in a compact area.
PM: Well, because of hotels. People would come up here from the city in the summertime and there was not the internet or the television, so what are we going to do? Well, we want to be outdoors! That's why we came up here. And what a great opportunity! Every hotel had their own golf course so people could stay and they wouldn't stay for a weekend - they'd stay for a few weeks or a month and play golf. So there were a lot of golf courses in the Adirondacks, not only in Lake Placid but the surrounding areas.
HPR: In 2005 there was a movie called "The Greatest Game Ever Played", about 20-year old amateur Francis Ouimet's 1913 US Open win over professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. What do you think the greatest game ever played was?
PM: Well, that was one of the greatest games ever played, there's no doubt. It was an amateur that came to beat the professionals. But there were a lot of great games and in Lake Placid, there were a lot of great golfers. Craig Wood, he won the Masters and the US Open in 1941 and a lot of people don't know that Seymour Dunn who was the golf pro at the Lake Placid Club was inaugurated into the World Golf Teacher's Hall of Fame three years ago, recognized as one of the greatest teachers in the world. So you've got two gentlemen from Lake Placid, one was the greatest golfer in the world and one was the greatest teacher in a small community like this.
Sometimes the best game of the year is the one you get before everyone else.
J. Peter Martin has been the golf professional at the Whiteface Club and Resort since 1978. He was elected to the Northeastern New York PGA Hall of Fame, has been a contributing editor of New York Golf Magazine and is a member of Golf Writer's Association of America.
His printed works include:
- Adirondack golf courses; Past and present
- Centennial History of the Whiteface Golf Club
- Craig Wood, the Blond Bomber and Native Son of Lake Placid
- Adirondack Golf Tips and Tales
Which golf courses are in or near Lake Placid, NY?
Evocative of the hills and mountains of golf's native Scotland, the Adirondack Mountains are home to a rich history of golf tradition. Contact the reservations team at High Peaks Resort for our pre-season golf packages and golf at a historic Adirondack golf course:
- Whiteface Club and Resort; 18-hole course designed in 1898 by John Van Kleek
- Lake Placid Club; 45-holes over three courses, the Pristine Nine, the Links Course designed in 1909 by Seymour Dunn, and the Mountain Course designed in 1910 by Alexander H. Findlay and remodeled in 1931 by Alister MacKenzie
- Saranac Inn Golf Club; 18-hole course designed in 1907 by Seymour Dunn
- Craig Wood Golf Course; 18-hole course designed in 1925 by Seymour Dunn, renamed in 1954 for Lake Placid native and US Open and Masters champion Craig Wood