CONCORD GOLF CLUB (THE MONSTER)
Kiamesha Lake, NY 12751
Architect: Joe Finger
Par – 72
Excitement Level – 8/12
Difficulty – 10/12
Design: Four and 1/2 stars (all ratings out of 7)
Natural Setting – Four and 1/2 stars
Conditioning – Three and ½ stars
Cost – $65 Peak, $55 Off-Peak/Reduced
Yearly memberships – No
Value – Five Stars
Overall – Four and 1/2 stars
Tees Yards Rating Slope
Blue 7650 76.4 142
White 6989 74.1 137
Red 6548 78.5 144
Back in the seventies, the Concord Resort was one of the most celebrated facilities in the country. A-list celebrities entertained well-heeled New Yorkers and other jetting golf and tennis aficionados in a bucolic getaway conveniently nestled in the Catskill Mountains. This full service resort climbed to the top of its competitive mountain primarily on the strength of its unconquerable golf course, dubbed “The Monster.” Even now, its prolific length and fierce rating make it one of the most difficult tracks in the country for all levels of play. Most amateur players are overmatched at tracks over 6800 yards and ratings over 72 and pros still face a stern, long test at the Monster’s Herculean 7650 yards/rating 76.4. Now imagine the challenge presented back in the course’s heyday when no one heard of a bubble shaft, fairway metals were not even in designers’ imaginations and blade irons were the standard in all bags. The Monster’s difficulty was so renowned that pros were unwilling to consent to a tour stop being played there. To this day, the course record remains 67, owned by several players.
Sadly, bankruptcy and real estate disputes have closed this once proud resort. It has been many years since Bobby Darin and Englebert Humperdink shared drinks with Florence Henderson and Ben Vereen. But the golf course has stayed open throughout the turmoil, a well kept secret on any true connoisseur’s golf radar screen. Even now, the course is still a fantastic challenge to all golfer’s and is a steal at the $65 greens fee.
ON THE COURSE
In the early sixties, owner Ray Parker issued a challenge to top architect Joe Finger (now in partnership with nationally acclaimed designers Baxter Spann and Ken Dye). Parker wanted the most difficult course in the country, one that could host a tour stop and provide a difficult test to the world’s top players. Finger succeeded too well to lure to the professionals, reputedly intimidated by the ungodly length and ubiquitous water hazards. When the course opened in 1963, only Spyglass Hill had a higher course rating in the United States. Nevertheless, the course was an instant hit with the playing public, eager to test their skills and see if the Monster was truly deserving of its reputation. To this day, most players return to their homes humbled by the layout.
Most of the course’s difficulty is derived from a combination of its length, the size and placement of its intimidating water hazards and its enormous, undulating greens. Built amid eight large lakes and Kiamesha Creek, water is in play on nine holes. The course features numerous forced carries over water. Add in the sheer length of every hole and the course is worthy of its rating and reputation. Seven of the ten par fours are over 410 yards from the white tees and both par threes on the front exceed 207 yards. The par threes on the back, while shorter, feature forced carries over water from tee to green. In a nod to the amateur and resort players, the owner reversed the routing of the nines and the back is considerably shorter and easier, if not more intimidating due to the forced carries over water.
The course opens with five long, narrow and daunting holes. After a long, narrow three-shot par five to warm up the players’ swings, the course present two consecutive 425 yard dog-leg par fours. Water runs all along the right side of both drives, eagerly swallowing any slice. Drives must be long and straight to reach the knee of the dog legs. The adventure does not end upon reaching the putting surface as both greens are over 42 yards deep.
The course only gets harder. The fourth is the hardest hole on the course, a 600 yard par five with a 210 yard long water hazard diagonally bisecting the fairway on the second shot. Thick forest lines both sides of the fairway sternly penalizing wayward shots.
The par threes at The Monster offer no reprieve. After negotiating the frightening opening stretch, the first par three uphill, is over 200 yards in length and is played to a green amid a sea of deep bunkers. As the back half of the green slopes away form the player, shots must not only be long, but high, a difficult challenge for average players and resort guests. After a short par four, the second par three is even longer and further uphill. The seventh hole is over 215 yards from the resort tees. Worse yet, the deepest and largest bunker guards the front of the green. The entire left side is protected by an enormous drop-off into the woods from which recovery is impossible…if the ball is even found. Two more par fours over 420 yards in length round out the front side.
The par four tenth measure a mere 352 yards, but the tee shot is played to a narrow peninsula of land guarded by a lake on the left and a creek on the right which cuts in front of the green. Finger rightly anticipated advances in equipment since the design of the hole is just long enough and the green well guarded enough to be undriveable even with today’s modern equipment. Next, two scenic par threes with water tee to green sandwich a fantastic three shot par five featuring two carries over water, first off the tee and again to the putting surface. While both par threes are only 160 yards for resort guests and 190/180 yards for the pros, the short eleventh green slopes steeply left into the hazard and the fourteenth is well guarded by bunker on either side and the forest behind.
The finish is a world class challenge. The fifteenth is 440 for amateurs and 480 for pros (again, those are the same distances that existed in the sixties and seventies!) If the drive carries the crest of the hill about 210/260 yards out, the fairway slopes downhill and to the left towards the putting surface, giving the player additional yardage. The green sits serenely nestled in a sea of bunkers. The approach shot is one to two clubs downhill, making this otherwise absurdly long hole reachable with two excellent shots.
After a long, narrow, uphill three shot par five, the seventeenth offers the best risk-reward challenge on the entire golf course. Off the tee, the player can lay-up into the peninsula fairway surrounded on three sides by water with a 200 yard long iron or fairway club. The approach shot will then be about 170 yards uphill to a narrow green. Alternatively, the player can attempt a 220 carry over the left hand pond to a separate part of the fair way leaving a mere 130 yards to the green and a much better angle of approach. For a final challenge, eighteen is a 450 yard par four to a green surrounded by deep bunkers.
CHIP SHOTS AND TAP-INS
While the resort may not re-open for a few more years (if ever), the course is still in terrific shape. While rumors went around several years ago that the conditioning had deteriorated, the course took the criticism to heart and rectified the problems. While it’s not tour conditioning, the course is still an excellent value and a challenge that all golfers should experience. On weekends, the course offers a twilight round and full dinner special for $80 that, at least for one day, hearkens back to the resort’s glory days.