Golf Guide: With unique 36-hole layout, Town of Colonie a real gem
COLONIE Size and variety make Town of Colonie Golf Course one of the most popular layouts in the Capital Region.
One of the few courses in the region with 36 holes, Town of Colonie features three distinct designs.
“We had two original nines that were built in 1969,” said Town of Colonie general manager and director of golf Noel Gebauer. “The original 18 holes is a pretty traditional type of layout for the Northeast. It is very demanding off the tee with a lot of fairway bunkers, but there are large receptive greens in general. There is plenty of run-up room in general, in the front of the greens, and the greens themselves are not very undulating. They are fairly flat. I would say the most demanding part of the original 18 is the tee shot.”
William Mitchell, the original course designer, carved the first 18 holes, called the white and blue nines, out of 199 acres of trees and woodlands. Also the designer of Saratoga Spa State Park Golf Course, Mitchell’s design allowed for about 35,000 rounds of golf per season. With the popularity of the game booming at that time, residents wanted to play more golf.
That’s when Town of Colonie officials went to famed course architecht Robert Trent Jones, who designed the third “red” nine, which opened in 1982.
“The red nine is a very distinctive nine, and it’s classic Robert Trent Jones, with multi-leveled greens,” said Gebauer. “It also has elongated tees where we can move the tee markers to make it play from different yardages. On some tees, there is a 50-yard difference in the tees.
“There is also more water on the red nine, and the par-5s are great. The first and fifth holes are reachable in two by the big hitters, but if you hit a bad shot, a double-bogey also comes into play.”
Even though more than 70,000 rounds of golf could be played with 27 holes, Town of Colonie residents wanted even more golf, so officials once again decided to expand the course. This time, they went to Richard Jacobson, who had worked for the Jack Nicklaus course-design company. Jacobson’s “green” nine opened in 1999.
“The green nine is different than the other three nines because it was built around an environmentally sensitive area,” Gebauer said. “There are a lot of areas on the green nine where golfers must take those areas into consideration. The strongest parts of the green nine are the par-3s. The third hole, for example, plays to an island green that is surrounded by the environmentally sensitive areas we were talking about. If you miss the green, you aren’t allowed to look for your ball in the protected areas. The other par-3, No. 3, is an uphill par-3 that plays 200 yards even from the white tees. That is also a very tough hole.”
Gebauer said that many of the par-4s on the green nine are tight, including the first hole.
“The laws regarding environmentally sensitive areas stopped us from clearing out too much brush and trees from some of those par-4s, especially the first hole,” he said. “That one is a very tight hole from the tee.”
Gebauer said the variety of the course gives it a special appeal.
“You can definitely go from nine to nine, and feel like you are changing facilities,” he said.
“Last year, we had 66,000 rounds of golf played here, but the highest number we’ve had is 73,000. In the last four years, we’ve had more than 66,000 every year.”
Town of Colonie hosts 30 golf leagues and numerous outings, but with the 36 holes, there are rarely postponements.
Improvements to the course this year include several drainage projects. It will be much drier on the sixth hole of the white nine and on the seventh hole on the blue nine. Trees have been cut down in select areas to provide more sunlight to greens and previously wet areas.
Town of Colonie was the original home for the Futures Tour in the Capital Region, and it just recently became the host site for the Northeastern New York PGA, which moved its offices to right behind the Town of Colonie pro shop. It will host the Albany County Amateur Championships, as well as the NENYPGA Assistants Championship and the Senior Club Professional Championships this season.
The course also features an excellent driving range and restaurant, called Chip Shots. Gebauer oversees the entire operation.
“I worked here through high school and college, and my first job after getting into the PGA was right here working for [former longtime head pro] Tom Gunnng,” said Gebauer, a former president of the Northeastern New York PGA as well as a former Teacher of the Year.
Gebauer, a graduate of Colonie High School and University at Albany, was also an assistant pro at Western Turnpike and at Schuyler Meadows before becoming the head pro at Normanside Country Club in Delmar. Gebauer returned to Town of Colonie as head pro in 2007. He was voted as one of the top teaching pros in the country in 2005 by Golf Magazine and won the NENYPGA’s Horton Smith award twice. He was also voted the section’s Professional of the Year in 2009.