Since I'm always on the lookout for affordable golf I just couldn't pass up on a visit to the Rochester and Finger Lakes region of New York State. The area covers a lot more territory than I thought and trying to get a good snapshot in only five days was exhausting. With 60 odd golf courses, well over 100 wineries, and some 70 plus breweries I'd need more like 50 days to cover everything I wanted. This area is certainly a couples paradise for activilites and my wife and I did our best to enjoy every minute.
Day 1 - June 22
With an early afternoon tee time we made our casual 3 1/2 hour drive from Ottawa to Dutch Hollow Golf Club in Owasco, New York. For some reason I had the feeling that Dutch Hollow was going to be relatively flat and open. Some would say more of a links-style course. My assumption was quite wrong. Dutch Hollow impressed me with its mature trees, elevation changes, and beautifully conditioned greens.
For a complete review of Dutch Hollow Golf Club, click here.
After a short 15 minute drive to Auburn, NY we were at our hotel for the evening, the Hilton Garden Inn. I was very pleased with the quality of accomodations, service, as well as the fine dining offered at the hotel. The BeauVine Chophouse & Wine Bar capped off a wonderful day. We added a local bottle of Knapp Riesling to accompany a superbly cooked Jail Island Salmon dish that certainly was to both our liking.
Day 2 - June 23
The city of Auburn, NY has a rich history that has a strong connection to Canada. Know as "the Moses of her people", Harriet Tubman was a major "conductor" of the Underground Railroad bringing slaves across the Canadian border to St. Catherines, Ontario. The Harriet Tubman Home resides on 180 South Street in Auburn.
If you're able to stay a few days in the Auburn area you'll probably want to pick up some tickets to the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse. The Theater Company specializes in professional musicals throughout the season. The venue is worth a visit.
With a late afternoon tee time we decided to spent a few ours in a quaint village called Aurora. Aurora is the home of Mackenzie-Childs, a manufacturer of ceramics and hand painted furniture. They are reknowned for their unique style and quality. This is a worthy stop just for the tour of the facility. After the tour we ate lunch at the Fargo Bar & Grill on Main Street in Aurora.
Bristol Harbour Resort features a Robert Trent Jones course that can give anyone a headache. Our round was played during high winds so my head was hurting a bit more than expected. This is a thinking golfer's course.
Thank goodness for a great after round meal at the Bristol Harbour Resort. The view from the patio is stunning and so are the meals.
A review of the Bristol Harbour Golf Club can be read here.
Day 3 - June 24
Greystone Golf Course is one of three courses operating on the "234Golf Trail" (the others being Shadow Pines and Shadow Lake). Each course can be accessed from one road (Atlantic Avenue) and is located about 20 east of downtown Rochester, NY. A recent 2014 rating showed Greystone to be one of the Top Public Courses in New York State and after playing this gem there's no question you'll see why.
A review of Greystone Golf Course can be read here.
No visit to the Finger Lakes is complete without a wine tour. After our round at Greystone we found time to stop in at Apple Country Spirits and the Young Sommer Winery both in Williamson, NY. The Apple Country Spirits offers views of the entire operation including the cider press, aging barrels, and stills. On top of wine their Peach Vodka was quite amazing as well as their Steampunk Hardcider. We selected a bottle of each. Sampling is such hard work!
The Young Sommer Winery is a family operated business that has ties to the Rhine River Valley in Germany. The farm grows more than 20 varieties of apples, cherries, peaches, plums, and pears and their wines have been awarded gold and bronze medals in the New York State Fair home wine competitions. Over 3 decades they have accumulated more than 30 gold medals in both regional and national competitions. Wilma and Herm, the owners, were quite willing to answer our questions on their winery experience.
After a long day it was nice to arrive at our accomodations for the evening. The history of the Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast in Sodus, NY was fascinating. The property also has ties to the Underground Railroad with reported tunnels believed to still exist under the property. It was tough for me not to grab a shovel (but a cozy bed won out). Each of the rooms at the Inn delivered a different feeling of home away from home. This was the first time that I've ever stayed at a B&B and I would certainly do it again. Our host, Belinda McElroy, gave us a wonderful tour of her home and history lesson of the property and furnishings.
When we first saw Mill Creek on our drive-by we did a few finger points. The layout looks gorgeous and the course doesn't disappoint. Sitting on the highest point in Monroe County, Mill Creek is a challenging track that had me shaking my head on a few holes. After a drink in the clubhouse bar aptly named, "The Tavern", it was off to our accommodations for the night.
For a review of the Mill Creek Golf Club, click here.
The Strathallan is an upscale hotel located near downtown Rochester. What's not to like? The building is unasumming (we happened to drive past it without realizing we had) as there is no loud signage to identify the Stathallan location. The inside is very modern and has a very professional feel.
After settling into our room we headed to the Strathallan rooftop for a drink at Hatties. From Hatties we had a 360 degree view of the city and beyond. Dinner followed at the Char Steak & Lounge located on the main floor. At Char's we both had one of the best steak dinners in years and service was top notch! I recommend the restaurant to take someone for a very special occasion.
We fully had intentions of wandering around the Rochester Jazz Festival which happened to be on during our stay but after our busy schedule we just didn't have the energy. We planned to stop at the George Eastman House, the founder of Kodak film, but there wasn't time for a complete visit. Another area we planned to visit was Park Avenue, a neighborhood known for strolling, shopping, restaurants, bars, etc. Next time!
Day 5 - June 26
It's always nice to finish on a high note. I had my best round of golf for the week at the Ravenwood Golf Club. Ravenwood is visible on the northside of the I-90 Thruway between Syracuse and Buffalo so access is a simple "hop off the highway". Ravenwood is one of my favourite courses of the 5 we played on our whirlwind tour.
To read a review of the Ravenwood Golf Club, click here.
At the end of a grueling, yet enjoyable, 5 days we've covered enough of the Rochester and Finger Lakes Region to give us a the idea that "we want more". Next time we'll probably find accomodations to set our feet down for a few days and relax between rounds of golf and take in a few more of the historic sites of the region. The numerous Wine Trails are always available to fill a day.
A good site to plan your visit to Rochester and the Finger Lakes is Visit Rochester, the official tourism site of Rochester, NY. From here you can find out many of the scheduled events of the area and plan your triip.