Stay on the beaten path at Chenango Valley State Park Golf Course

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The course layout at Chenango Valley State Park Golf Course

CHENANGO FORKS – Most of the golf courses I have played the past 15 to 20 years have not placed a premium on driving accuracy. Adjacent fairways running in the opposite direction welcome my stray drives, and finding a green in regulation is still quite attainable.

In resuming our summer golf tour earlier this week, I learned quickly how unforgiving Chenango Valley State Park Golf Course can be for the wayward driver.

Lesson learned number one at State Park: Find the fairway with your tee shot. Lesson number two: Find the fairway with your tee shot.

Normally a golf statistics junkie, I had no such time for superfluous numbers. Most of the time I was simply trying to find my ball amongst the trees and thickets.

Said my golf partner Rick Ferris about two-thirds through our round, “If you put it in the fairway, you have a chance at a decent score.”

A chance was about right for this twosome, just like you have “a chance” at selecting the magic numbers in the Megaball drawing.

While Rick did his best work off the tee, he matched my score-mangling with off-the-mark approaches to the green. As for me, I was taking my medicine time and again; punching out to safety after another golf ball was batted down by an obtrusive tree. To my credit, I wasn’t hitting trunks center mass, but a labyrinth of wooden, craggy arms synchronized on this sunny, warm afternoon to stop any forward progress of a Newell-struck golf ball.

After spending most of last summer in Albuquerque,N.M., I returned to the area in July 2014, and finished off the season with three golf course reviews. In consideration of the extra-long 2014-2015 winter and the nearly as desultory spring, I waited until precisely this week before resuming the golf feature.

I plan on using a number of different partners this season, and Rick was the first one I turned to as my partner in crime. (If you saw our exhibition on the course, you would definitely say we were guilty of something.)

After considering a couple of course options, Rick suggested C.V. State Park. I had few memories of the course, and the last time I toured it was nearly 12 years ago this week with the late Bob McNitt.

I kept the writeup from that golfing expedition, and as bad as I played that day, this one was even worse. Still, Rick and I marveled at the neatly manicured greens with a unique layout that has no repetitive tendencies, and is a firm challenge for any amateur golfer.

“There are a lot of courses where you have holes that run side by side,” said CV State Park golf professional, Jeff Carson. “This is a course that goes out, and then comes back. There aren’t many holes side by side.”

One has to remain disciplined with his game plan at State Park, and keep the driver in the bag in favor of placement and accuracy. That was good in theory; however, topping your tee shots – and I pulled that off three times – will smash even the best-laid plans. For Rick, he was straight and true off the tee, and skull-laden from 50 yards and in.

While my birdie attempts often came from well beyond 100 yards – such is the reward for oft-erratic tee balls – Rick’s line-drive lob wedges evened the playing field.

But we repeated to ourselves, as if it was a mantra, “it’s a beautiful day, we’re having fun…the course is in great shape.”

It was a beautiful day, and the course was in marvelous condition despite a recalcitrant Mother Nature the previous five months. Having fun? That was debatable considering we topped 180 combined strokes.

To me, 12 years gone by had faded most of my memories of the course. I did remember the par-five seventh, one that used to absorb and retain water due to its proximity to the Chenango River.

About three years ago, a pond about 275 yards from the tee was excavated as a collection area for the extra water. Carson said the water problems that plagued that hole are now gone. “That hole is in as good a shape as any on the course,” the pro said. “You can almost say that the pond now defines the hole better. It used to be all marsh and long grass with no definition at all.”

Other improvements made in the dozen years since our last visit to the course are spruced up, graded tee boxes, and entirely new tee boxes that lengthened the course to over 6,400 yards, nearly 200 yards longer than the 2003 iteration.

Plugging along on a day when neither one of us had our A, B or C game, we caught fire for a three-hole stretch on the back nine – more like a smolder – when Rick parred the 13th and 14th holes, and was in prime position for a third straight par, but three-putted. I, too, recorded my only two pars on the back nine during that stretch.

“Now we’re hitting some golf shots,” Rick said in a proclamation to no one within earshot. We proceeded to chop and hack our way through the final three holes with bogeys aplenty and pars a mere pipedream.

I analyzed my scuffed up ball following a bogey on 18 – again a world-class scramble in my book – chipping over sand to within 10 feet, and rolling in a cool five on the par-four finale. “Mercifully, it’s over,” I told my Titleist.

Although my bag was a bit lighter due to a few lost balls, our wallets were not nearly as light with what we agreed was the best deal for the product you receive. Throughout the golf season, CV State Park is offering a Monday through Thursday rate of $25 for greens fee and cart between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. For weekends after 1 p.m. and holidays, the same deal applies.

“I know I’m the head pro here, but I’m not biased when I say that this is the best course you can find in the area for the price you pay,” Carson said.

That price is indeed a bargain, and maybe next time we won’t cash in on the deal by taking as many shots as possible.

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