A Day at Bluff Point

Bluff Point melds history with gorgeous golfing scenery.

(Photo by: Jess Huber)

I’ve got my required collared shirt and a tatty pair of sneakers on. I set the ball on the tee and take a wild swing at the thing — a slice far right of the fairway. Of course I’m no Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer or Tiger Woods. I’m a mere beginner at the Bluff Point Golf Resort and that’s OK.

Situated right on Lake Champlain near Valcour Island, Bluff Point is the oldest golf resort in America with much to offer both novice and skilled golfers. In fact, the course just celebrated 125 years of presidential history. Not only does Bluff Point give beginners an opportunity to finesse their craft, but now golfers have the chance to learn about the course’s history through brand-new interpretive panels located at each hole.

U.S. presidents William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Franklin Roosevelt, as well as sports demigod Babe Ruth, have all stayed at the 145-acre resort. In fact, a landmark was erected on the 18th hole under a pine tree where President McKinley loved to sit and read for hours while watching the golfers play. “This was the hotel to go to back in its day,” said Paul Dame, owner of the course for 10 seasons. The course has been in the Dame family for decades, which is no wonder Paul’s love for golf began at the early age of 8.

“Every year it’s hard to believe how fast time goes by,” Dame says, acknowledging his nostalgia of playing on the course as a kid. And with 125 years in the bag, Dame is looking to draw more golfers to the resort to experience its waterfront views, wide-open fairways and impressive lore. Bluff Point offers a package consisting of lodging for one night, two rounds of golf for each person and a golf cart all for $89. Who said golf was for the affluent?

Deals like these have kept Kevin Kehoe and Elaine Reynolds of Chazy, New York, golfing at Bluff Point for nearly 20 years. They also admire the course’s blueprint. “It’s wide open sometimes so that if you get off the fairway, you can recover,” Kehoe says. “I look at it as a good, fair course.”

It’s the perfect course to learn to golf on. Local high school golf teams frequent the course for matches and practice. Hunter Marbut of Plattsburgh High says the course can be difficult at certain holes.

Marbut says: “You have to know where to line your ball up. You have to try not to put it in the woods or some of the tall grass sticking up or the water. You have to know your game.”

He also says the fact Babe Ruth played on the same course in 1936 makes the game more fun. Ruth scored a 70, just one stroke away from the course record at the time. The Delaware and Hudson Railroad built the 500-room Victorian style Hotel Champlain on Bluff Point in 1890. The 125-foot-tall structure was considered the finest summer resort in America and was used as McKinley’s summer White house for two years during his term. But the resort burned to the ground on May 25, 1910, believed to be caused by a stray bolt of lightning.

The hotel was quickly rebuilt the following year and remained a hotel until the 1950s when the structure later became Clinton Community College. Visitors now have the option of spending the night in the resort’s cottages and suites located between the fourth and sixth holes. Whether you want to escape the kids for the weekend or want them to tag along and learn how to swing, Bluff Point Golf Resort is the perfect place. Because of the course’s wide fairways, there is no rush to finish holes and plenty of space to perfect your driving, chipping, and putting.

So what’s the trick to mastering this game of patience? “Get lessons,” Kehoe says. “It’s the most counter intuitive game out there.”

The course offers a summer golf camp consisting of 13 lessons,  and a couple of tournaments for juniors and a driving range for adults to practice getting that grip and swing down. Its pro shop is also the ideal place to browse its extensive inventory of gear from balls to gloves to clubs and bags, as well as official Bluff Point merchandise.

Dame also revealed plans to expand the number of cottages located around the course due to high demand. He says it’s difficult to imagine what’s in store next for the resort following 125  years.

“It’s hard to say what the next 25 years will bring,” Dame says, “but we’re just looking forward to continuing to improve and making things better and expanding the golf resort atmosphere.”

Issue 6: Winter/Spring 2016

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