WOODSTOCK — The first round of the Ulster County Men’s Amateur Golf Championship will kick off at 8 am on Friday morning, June 24, at the well-groomed par-70 Woodstock Golf Club.
A field of 54 golfers will compete for the coveted title in the 54-hole tournament more commonly known as The Herdegen. The tournament will move to Highland’s Apple Greens Golf Course for the second round on Saturday. The low 27 scorers and ties will survive the 36-hole cut and advance to Wiltwyck Golf Club in Kingston for the final round on Sunday.
Since Woodstock Golf Club measures a modest 5,429 yards, the expectation is that this is the one course in the Herdegen rotation that could yield low rounds. The nine-hole course has two sets of teeing areas and the difference is considerable on the second hole, which plays nearly 50 yards longer the first time around.
Apple Greens figures to be a bit tougher than Woodstock Golf Club with its extra length, while Wiltwyck generally produces the stiffest challenge for the county’s best amateurs with its tree-lined fairways and slick greens.
While Woodstock offers an opportunity for a lot of birdies, the course wasn’t a pushover in 2021 when the average score was 81.27 for the field. The only golfer to break par was eventual Herdegen champion Jared Miller, who opened with a 1-under-par 69.
In a pre-tournament interview with the Freeman, Woodstock Golf Club fifth-year head professional Chris Sanger said golf course superintendent George Wade had the course in excellent condition.
“The greens, I think, are the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Sanger said. “It’s really shaping up for this week. Hopefully it stays somewhat dry. You’re not going to hit the fairways as much and the greens get firm. It’s a much different golf course than if it’s wet and you can attack.”
Sanger said the key to playing Woodstock well is to keep the ball in the fairway and hit greens in regulation. “And making puts,” he said. “If you’re making putts, you’ll do pretty well.”
Sanger said there are three holes that are pivotal in posting a good score at Woodstock. The first of those is the par-4 second hole, which measures about 360 to 370 yards from the lower tee. There is a creek that runs diagonally across the fairway about 230 to 250 yards
from the tee.
“The longer hitters can actually hit over the creek,” Sanger said. “But since it’s the first round (of the Herdegen), I’d probably see a lot of guys playing pretty conservatively. Maybe take a 3-iron off the tee, which will give you anywhere from 150 to 160 yards into the green.”
The approach shot is a tough one to a narrow two-tiered green with towering trees and bunkers on both sides of the putting surface. There are also out-of-bounds stakes all the way down the right side.
The field averaged 5.17 strokes on the second hole last year, more than a shot over par.
“You’re playing for a par,” Sanger said. “Even a bogey isn’t bad. It’s the hardest hole on the course and I imagine it’ll play the same way this year.”
While par is a good score on No. 2, Sanger said Herdegen competitors must take advantage of the par-5 fifth both times they play it. The first time it’ll be about 465 yards and the second time, when it’s the 14th hole, it’ll be about 20 yards shorter.
“It’s really a long par-4,” Sanger said. “Yes, the second shot is all carry (over a pond), but you have to score on that hole if you’re going to have a good round. A par there is like making a bogey.”
Sanger said 29 birdies were made on the two par-5s a year ago and the holes ranked as the 15th and 16th holes, with a scoring average of 5.33 on the fifth and 5.26 on the 14th.
The risk-reward par-4 eighth hole is one that has the potential to make or break a round at the historic private club, whose logo features a peace sign, a dove and two golf clubs.
The eighth hole will measure about 275 yards and about 15 yards shorter the second time around. Long hitters often try to drive the elevated green to set up a potential eagle, but there is so much trouble around the green that many just lay up with a short iron and then try to make a birdie with a pitch shot and a putt.
“It’s very reachable, but since it’s the first round of the Herdegen, you’re just trying to post a good score,” Sanger said. “You don’t have to chase birdies or an eagle in the first round. But I’m sure there will be guys going for it. But if you hit it left or right, you’re probably going to make a big number.”
Sanger said the club is looking forward to hosting the county championship.
“It’s the premier event for amateurs in Ulster County,” Sanger said. “We love having it. It’s exciting to get some of the better players out here and see what they can do. We don’t go super-crazy with the setup. It’s a fun day.”