(Seventeenth in a Series)
CLINTON — The Rome Sentinel Golf Tour visited an exclusive club this week, the Skenandoa Club.
“It’s a fantastic golf course,” owner Mike Intartaglia said. “It’s challenging yet very fair. It’s not as tight so you don’t lose a ton of golf balls, but the greens have a lot of undulation and there’s some tough putts out there. We can make the pins pretty evil.”
Intartaglia said that Skenandoa is a championship golf course. “I’d stack it up against any in the area. It’s a super place,” Intartaglia said.
“The course was developed in 1890, but it started out as a social club,” Skenandoa PGA pro John Taranto Jr. said. “It was six Clintonites and six Hamilton (College) alum. They created a club, and in 1964, the club decided to build a golf course.”
The course started with the Mayor farm.
“It was actually Dick Mayor, who was a kid then, is one of our oldest members, it was his farm house, and the club bought the land from him and they started building,” Taranto said. “Another one of our members who is still here, Archie Burton, remembers putting rocks in the back of the carts and dragging them in from the golf course.”
Taranto explained that the first superintendent at Skenando was also grounds and maintenance at Hamilton, so there was a good relationship between the club and the college.
“Dave Hughes is the current superintendent and he came in around 2005 and he put in irrigation so we have water in fairways and has just done a lot with the course,” Taranto said.
When asked if the course has any signature holes, Intartaglia said he wanted to see if I could pick any out, which I’ll get to later. But Taranto said that he thinks the course’s signature hole is No. 17.
“If we had any hole, it would be 17,” Taranto said. “It’s right on our scorecard. It’s just picturesque with the water. It’s one of the only water holes on the course, so it’s just a good view.”
Taranto also explained that hole No. 10 used to be the first hole, but that it was changed in the 1980s.
“Today’s back 9 was the original front 9 that was built in 1964,” Taranto said. “The front 9 was added after that.”
“Seventeen is kind of a nice finishing hole,” Taranto said. “Sixteen, 17 and 18 I think are the toughest finishing holes in Central New York.”
The course is spread over 172 acres, making it a large course.
“A lot of people will squeeze an 18-hole golf course into 100-110 acres. To give it perspective, my other course (Barker Brook) is over 132 acres. This is 172 acres so it’s a big piece of land,” Intartaglia said. “It’s a lot to mow, but there’s a tremendous variety of trees. It’s really just a picturesque setting. A lot of big ponds throughout, some really lengthy holes.”
Skenandoa also has multiple sets of tees, ranging from senior ladies, ladies, seniors, men’s and championship.
One thing that Intartaglia is still getting used to since he bought The Skenandoa Club last year is the private club atmosphere.
“There are some certain expectations that you have to tend to at a private club,” Intartaglia said. “It was one of my biggest concerns when I threw my name in the hat.”
Intartaglia said he initially wasn’t going to purchase the club, but Skenandoa and Barker Brook have a reciprocal agreement, so he heard the rumblings of what was going on at the Clinton course.
“I heard what was going on,” Intartaglia said. “Their members would come play Barker Brook and they would say ‘We love how you keep Barker Brook, we’d love for you to come to Skenandoa,’ and again I said no.”
Intartaglia said that he once again heard from some of the Skenandoa members that it might not go to the person initially interested in purchasing the club. Then he heard that a group of a golf pro, a food industry professional, a “good” businessman were all vying for the club. That’s when Intartaglia began to look into the deal.
“I said to myself, I’m stopping myself from looking into this deal only out of some loyalty to an acquaintance, who might not end up getting it anyways,” Intartaglia explained. “So then I set up a meeting with the board of directors and we kind of hit it off.”
Intartaglia said that the way the corporation was structured was that it was a non-profit, member-owned.
“All of the members owned the club,” Intartaglia said. “(Buying the club) wasn’t really a bidding war. It was more who the members were comfortable with.”
Intartaglia said that he then needed to give a presentation, but before that, he was spending a lot of time at Skenandoa, getting to know the members. When it came time to give the presentation, members were there while Intartaglia explained his plans for the club.
“I think what the members needed to hear was that I have no intentions on making this a public golf course,” Intartaglia explained.
“That was their fear. We’re going to hand the reigns to someone and they were going to lose that. This club was the place that they grew up. One member said that he learned how to swim in the pool. They (the members) wanted to make sure that it was going to remain their club and to whatever extent, a private club. Maybe some tweaks here and there.”
“That’s aligned with what I want out of this place,” Intartaglia said. “I don’t want another public golf course. We do take some public tee times, but I actually reigned that in a little. We used to take public play any day of the week, but you could never play more than five times. Instead I said that Tuesday and Thursdays here, no public play on those days. And I said no weekend play until after 12 or 1 p.m. and only a couple a day.”
Intartaglia said that he did that to show the members that his intentions are to make it (Skenandoa) more exclusive, not less exclusive. With Intartaglia cutting down the public play and the number of outings that the club takes on, he hopes long-term, that it sends the right message to the members.
Intartaglia said the restaurant, dubbed The View at Skenandoa, is different. He welcomes the public to dine there.
“I want to fill the restaurant and the banquet hall,” Intartaglia said. “The restaurant was open to the public before, but it was the best kept secret in the Clinton area. Nobody knew they could come up here. They always figured that it was just for members.”
When I had the chance to play this course, I really enjoyed it.
Starting on the first tee, you’re greeted by a dogleg right. The green, which sits on a little hill, is easily reachable in two shots.
Hole two is another dogleg right, but there’s a mound right in the middle of the fairway, about 140 yards away from the green, with a bunker on it. This green sits on a little downhill slope.
Moving on to the the third hole, which is a 458-yard par 5 from the white tees. It doglegs to the left and there’s bunkers sitting to the left and right side of the green.
The fourth hole is another dogleg left, with bunkers to the left, right and behind the green. The fifth hole is a straight shot off of the tee. It’s a par 4, coming in at 351 yards from the white tees, and there’s a bunker to the right of the green.
The first par 3 of the course is hole No. 6. It’s 133 yards from the white tees. The green sits on a little uphill, with bunkers to the left and right.
Hole 7 is a dogleg right with a couple of green side bunkers. The eighth hole is a straight shot off of the tee and you wrap up the front side with another straight shot off of the ninth tee box. Both eight and nine are longer par 4s, coming in at 404 and 405 yards from the white tees, respectively.
On to hole 10 to start the backside. You’re hitting from an elevated tee box down into the fairway. When you get close to the green, I’d say about 130-140 yards away, there’s a slight dogleg to the left to get to the green.
Hole 11 is another slight dogleg left by the green with a bunker on the right side.
Hole 12 is the second par 3 of the course, 164 yards from the white tees. This one is slightly uphill to the green and there’s a bunker to the right.
Now when Intartaglia said to figure out a signature hole for myself, I for sure thought it was going to be No. 13. It’s a par 5, 498 yards from the white tees. You’re looking at a dogleg right when you tee off from back in a chute. So you’re first shot is safe, landing it in the fairway, but you might want to think about laying up on your second because there’s a little creek running through the fairway about 100 yards away from the green. But here’s the catch and this is why I thought 13 was the signature hole. The green sits on top of a big hill. I’ve never seen anything like this green.
Fourteen is another elevated tee box from the whites for this par 4 coming in at 407 yards. There’s water to the left of the tee so if you hook it, watch out. After the water, the rest of the hole is straight.
On 15, you want to lay up when you tee off. There’s a pond that sits right in front of the green so chip over that on your second shot. There’s bunkers to the left and right of the green.
Hole 16 is a straight shot off of the tee.
Now on to 17, what Taranto says is the course’s signature hole. It’s a par 3, 184 yards from the white tees. Water runs on the right side of the hole and trees run on the left. So it’s a pretty narrow tee shot. There’s a bunker to the right of the green as well.
And to finish out your round, another dogleg right off the tee on 18. Your second shot will be uphill to reach the green.
This is a beautiful course. Like Intartaglia said, it’s a picturesque setting, so if you have the chance to get on it, make sure you bring your camera.