The greens at Dinsmore. (Photos by Zac Shaw)

Growing up, I was not alone in believing that golf was a stupid and pointless game. Hit a ball towards a small hole? Over and over again? With a bunch of rich white dudes? They manicure acres of grass for that?

I was wrong. Golf is ecstasy. Golf is thrilling. Golf develops character, physical coordination. And mental acuity. Golf courses are generally carefully maintained ecological wonderlands. And most surprisingly of all, it turns out that golf is for everyone.

Golfers understand that this game is so much more than meets the eye. It’s unfortunate that golf, seen at a superficial level, has such a bad reputation among many non-players. They say it’s pointless, racist, environmentally destructive, and only for the rich.

I once believed that. Now I live for birdies. Golf is great. 

What changed about my attitude? Everything.

The course owners I’ve met here in the Hudson Valley – and there are a lot of them – regard themselves as environmental stewards, some with more passion than the parks-and-recreation folks.

Yes, golf has a history as a white man’s game. But the large majority of courses I’ve played at welcome all ethnicities and genders. Our area’s diversity is duly reflected on its courses, particularly in the public courses whose businesses thrive or die on taking all comers. The world of golf is not without racial bias, but it isn’t the bastion of bigotry of yesteryear.

Golf can be an expensive hobby, but it’s not inaccessible. People from all walks of life are playing. There are courses here for players of all income levels. Serious golfers may cringe, but I still play with most of the starter set of clubs I bought seven years ago for $125. I spend that much every year replacing balls that end up in ponds, in woods, and sometimes in what seems like extraterrestrial dimensions. Yes, greens fees for 18 holes plus cart might seem a luxury purchase, but walking back-to-back nines at a budget par-three course remains a sublime experience. 

Golf needn’t be exorbitantly expensive. It can be an investment on a par with many other hobbies, and its dividends are massive and multifaceted.

Perhaps we’re a bit spoiled. The Hudson Valley Golf scene is one of the best in the Northeast. That’s no subjective assessment. It’s hard to beat the breathtaking scenery, the large number and diversity of courses, and the friendly community that has welcomed myself and many others into the pursuit of par. Golfers who live here know how lucky we are. Visiting golfers readily acknowledge that what we have is special.

Below you’ll find descriptions in alphabetical order of 18 courses within Hudson Valley One’s coverage area. I’ve played at most of the courses. I’m not just trying to be nice when I say they are all great, each for different reasons. I have tried to encapsulate those reasons so you could find the course that best matches your style.

Always check with the golf course for the most current information before visiting.

Alapaha Golf Links (Kingston)

9 holes • public

This family-run executive course is a long-time local favorite. PGA pro John Durcan Sr. and son John Durcan Jr. are cornerstones of the Kingston golf community. Alapaha is great for beginners, while more experienced players will enjoy seeing how many birdies they can rack up on this scrappy set of par threes with three short par fours. 

With only a handful of hazards, this course is forgiving to all. Finish earlier than you thought? Hit the driving range or the indoor simulator. If you are looking for a budget-priced, accessible, down-to-earth and thoroughly enjoyable outing, head to Alapaha.

Apple Greens Golf Course (Highland)

27 holes • public

This might be Hudson Valley golf heaven. Apple Greens is a spectacular, USGA-spec, professional-grade course with accessible rates, especially for weekday locals. 

At 27 holes, you can choose your own golf adventure amidst gorgeous Mohonk views. Highlights include a 610-yard par five and an island-green par three, plus many other memorable and challenging holes. The crew here is super-hospitable, which is good because there are 15 holes with water. 

Apple Greens is a truly exquisite blend of high-quality golf holes and laid-back, golf-lovin’ friendliness.

Catskill Golf Club (Catskill)

18 holes • public

You will never get bored golfing in the Hudson Valley, because you will keep finding beautiful gems like the Catskill Golf Club. It’s a proper 18-hole journey with myriad hazards. Don’t let this course’s affordable rates lull you into a false sense of security. You’ll have to think through shots carefully, winding your way through elevation changes and around a creek that runs through half the holes. With wilderness all around (and out of bounds), this is as serene as budget golf gets. As long as you stay out of the trees, that is.

Colonial Country Club (Tannersville)

9 holes • public

Boasting some of the most jaw-dropping Catskill mountain views of any public course, Colonial Country Club should be on your Hudson Valley Golf checklist. The staff is known to be incredibly hospitable, and the great food complements the great people. 

But you came here for the golf, and you will not be disappointed. You’ll find cool elevation changes to remind you that you’re deep in the mountains (not like you could forget the stunning panoramic views). The grounds are kept in such great shape that sometimes you’ll need to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not playing a private course.

Copake Country Club (Copake)

18 holes • public

With over a century of history, the Copake Country Club course feels richly rooted in the local landscape. Despite the vintage founding year, this club is thoroughly modern, with a great on-site restaurant, indoor simulators, cool Airbnb rentals, lessons, leagues … everything you’d come to expect from a top-shelf public course. 

Though the course sits nestled next to Copake Lake, water won’t be much of an issue. However, there are plenty of greenside bunkers to trip you up. 

This already-accessible course generously offer deeply discounted rates to first responders and local teachers. It’s worth the trek to the Massachusetts border.

Dinsmore Golf Course (Staatsburg)

18 holes • public

Some of the best courses in New York State are in state parks, and Dinsmore is no exception. This links-style masterpiece will keep you on the tip of your golf shoes as you navigate mighty elevation changes amidst phenomenal views (including a truly grand panorama from the clubhouse). 

The rough can be, well, rough, so don’t get cocky on your tee shots or you’ll be lost in a sea of weeds. The greens and grounds overall are immaculately maintained. 

This is a must-play Hudson Valley course. Shade is scarce, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Edgewood Club (Tivoli)

9 holes • private

Next to Clermont State Park is the stately Edgewood Club, a well-to-do private club that dates back to the 1880s. Lovingly maintained, challenging yet accessible to all skill levels, the course winds through the woods, with tight fairways and tricky trees. 

This exclusive and idyllic setting can only be accessed through recommendation of an existing member.

Green Acres Golf Club (Kingston)

9 holes • public

What’s not to love about Green Acres? The laid-back atmosphere belies a serious commitment to constant course improvement. In the last few years, many new water and sand hazards have been added, and yardage has increased, cranking up the challenge. Green Acres is slowly but steadily turning into a top-class course. 

Every time we visit we feel like part of the family. As one of the first courses to open and the last courses to close for the season, this is a course built for die-hard golfers. We did our first nine at Green Acres in 40-degree March weather. 

That kind of commitment is why we can’t wait to see the club’s ultimate goal of constructing a full 18 holes. It’s shaping up to be something special. As it stands today, this is a great casual course with a nice diversity of holes, interesting greens, and affordable rates. It’s our go-to golf destination as Kingstonites playing on a budget, and it keeps getting better.

Inness Golf (Accord)

9 holes • public

The newest course in the local landscape, Inness Golf is also perhaps the most unique. You’ll immediately be in awe of the huge practice green, which also contains the greens for the second and ninth holes. 

Featuring nine well-groomed wonders of course architecture, the vibe is surprisingly laid-back, with no dress code and a rustic vibe throughout. Chic lodging and the mouthwatering fare of a restaurant will tempt you to stay longer. This is the course we didn’t know we needed, and now we can’t get enough of it.

Mohonk Mountain House Golf Course (New Paltz)

9 holes • public

This Scottish-inspired course is one of the oldest in the United States, dating back to 1897. It is accurately described as “a shot-maker’s paradise.” You will find yourself in for an intense round of golf featuring uneven fairways and blind tee shots. Trees loom from every direction, and the scenery is (no surprise) breathtaking to the point of welcome distraction.

Guests of the swanky Mountain House get nine holes here included in their accommodation fees, but day guests can also book a tee time … and for fairly reasonable rates, considering this is a playground for the one per cent.

New Paltz Golf Club (New Paltz)

9 holes • public

It’s easy to see why some regard the New Paltz Golf Club as the best nine holes in the Hudson Valley. The first hole immediately takes your breath away, with its majestic mountain views and a sharp dogleg left. The course is challenging yet accessible to less experienced golfers, long yet interestingly contoured, and well-maintained while rustic and woodsy. 

Plan to have a meal at one of the the fantastic on-site restaurants if you’ve got the time.

Red Hook Golf Club (Red Hook)

18 holes • semi-private

This 18-hole opus requires golfers to don their thinking caps and plan their shots strategically. You’ll find fairways that hook left and right, water hazards requiring precise navigation, and devilish greenside bunkers lying in wait. Trees will come into play as well, which is unsurprising given the course’s sylvan, bucolic setting. 

All-in-all, this is a formidable and fun romp through the woods that you soon won’t forget. Non-members can play Monday through Thursday and during twilight hours on other days. Check out The Fairway Tavern for classic golf eats.

Shawangunk Country Club (Ellenville)

9 holes • public

The towering Shawangunk Mountains frame these formidable nine holes in Ellenville. With long, rolling fairways, elevation changes and tricky trees, the layout is lovingly sculpted around the contours of the natural landscape. With picturesque mountain views surrounding you, it’s easy to get so relaxed you forget you’ve got a shot coming up. 

While it’s not golf-related, it’s super-cool that they open up for snow tubing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. That gives you a sense of the fun, down-to-earth attitude that prevails around the greens.

Stone Dock Golf Club (High Falls)

9 holes • public

A goose-quackin’ good time is in store for golfers at this forest-flanked beauty. The aforementioned birds do a great job fertilizing the fairways, but it’s the new owners who truly deserve the credit for recent course improvements. Elevation changes are all over the place, and the rough is not forgiving.

There’s a laid-back, hometown feel to this course and its super-hospitable staff. This is a course for casual golfers who love the game and just want to get out there and hole nine balls without fancy bells and whistles. It’s exciting to see the course and facilities getting the love they deserve. The attention can only make this local favorite a sweeter golfing experience.

The Twaalfskill Club (Kingston)

9 holes • private

The golf course at this private club has some serious history. The first putt was drained in 1903, and since then the rolling hills of Twaalfskill have bedeviled even experienced golfers. Ball placement is a science here, with greens that don’t leave much room for error. 

Rolling hills make the course feel melted over the natural landscape, perfectly in tune with its surroundings. If you’re into the members-only scene, you might be tempted to join this enthusiastic, golf-loving community.

Turtle Creek Golf Course (Wallkill)

9 holes • public

The characteristic rolling hills of Hudson Valley golf are present in spectacular fashion at Turtle Creek. The course is as scenic as it is unforgiving, with elevation changes, doglegs, undulating greens, ample hazards and tight fairways. It’s truly one of the area’s most humbling golf experiences. 

Beginners will need to bring a box of balls and a prayer if they wish to produce a decent score. Those who like a good challenge will have an absolute blast plotting each shot through one of the prettiest nine-hole outings in our area.

Wiltwyck Golf Club (Kingston)

18 holes • semi-private

A few years ago, this palatial course was members-only. Now it’s open to the public during some weekdays and twilight weekend hours. It’s an exciting opportunity for the average Joe to experience the members-only feel of an exclusive club for fairly reasonable greens fees. 

Famous course designer Robert Trent Jones sculpted this long and challenging series of deceptively difficult holes where club selection is always critical. With a professional-grade landscape that is always kept tidy, this is as close as you’ll get to cosplaying as a PGA professional in Kingston city limits. It’s truly magic to feel like you’re on a hike through the woods while ogling park-like, well-groomed greenery as far as the eye can see. 

That expansive beauty translates into some serious yardage, so bring your A game.

Woodstock Golf Club (Woodstock)

9 holes • private

Woodstockers know this golf course as the gateway to their community, though a relative few have ever set foot there. The exclusive club dates back to 1929, a time-weathered testament to the sumptuous scenery of our area. 

The challenging layout has you navigating tricky approach shots to bunker-flanked greens, deceptively challenging tee shots, and the occasional teenager driving by on Route 375 shouting obscenities during your backswing (sorry). Overlook Mountain towers above in all its majesty over the well-manicured grasses fit for even the most discerning player. 

It’s off-limits to the public with one exception: Tourists who present an out-of-town driver’s license and a receipt for a local vacation rental can contact the club and maybe squeeze in a tee time. 

The excellent on-site Millstream Tavern is thankfully open to the public.

original article can be found here