I grew up in a house on 138 Mountain Rest Road approximately one mile down from the entrance of the Mohonk Spa and Hotel. Located directly across the street from the resorts gatehouse is the Mohonk Golf Course. My family moved to New Paltz in 1967, at the time I thought golf was a game played by the affluent. By the time I turned nine I was allowed to ride my bike any where I wanted as long as I was with my 12 year old brother Gary. It was in the summer of 1969 that we pedaled all the way up the steep hill that led to the Mohonk golf course. The first few times we parked our bikes by what is now the fifth hole which is several hundred yards before the entrance way. We didn’t have any golf clubs but we would scurry around the woods looking for golf balls in the twilight hours of summer. One night a man came in a golf cart and asked myself and my brother what we planned on doing with all those balls. We thought for sure he was going to take them and tell us to stay off the property. Instead he offered us a deal. “I’ll give you ten cents for every ball you bring to me as long as you only look for them when there are no golfers on the course.” My brother and I smiled and told the man we have more than a hundred at home. He chuckled and told us to come back tomorrow with the balls. The encounter was my introduction to the golfing community. It also was my first business transaction.
The man who came out to greet us was Robert Pawson. Himself and is wife Lois were long time heads of the golf course. In the summer time they lived in the cottage located right next to what is now the tee box for the second hole. The Pawson’s were involved in the Mohonk golf course from the early 1950’s through the early 1970’s which is the longest tenure of anybody who worked directly with Mohonk’s golfing operation.
The course was constructed in the late 1800’s, and the golf cottage that acted as the pro shop was built in 1903 and enlarged in 1916. It served as the headquarters for the golf operation until 1980, when the golf shop moved to its current location in the farmhouse on the south side of Mountain Rest Road. It is now a guest rental called “Golf Cottage.” A little known fact is that in 1925 the golf course doubled in size to 18 holes when a second nine was added. The first nine was called the “Rest” course and the second the “Hillside course”. Between 1963-1965 the golf course became two separate nine hole courses and the lower “Bonticou” course was redesigned, but it was too steep for golf carts and therefore not very popular. It closed in 1968 and turned into the Bonticou Ski Center which was operational through the mid 1970’s.
Shortly after the Pawson’s retired Larry Furey and Rob Gutkin were named co-headpros. They opened the farmhouse pro shop and a practice putting green was installed in front of the shop. Larry and Rob were there about five years before Larry became a part owner of New Paltz Golf Course and Rob opened a clubmakers shop in town where he designed custom golfing equipment. Michael Scudder became the pro in 1987 and was there six years. Today the golf shop is run by Juan Weisenberg and the golf course is functioning at full force after a year of limited play due to Covid 19.
My memory of the course is all about an introduction to a lifetime sport that became an intregal part of my future. I look back fondly to many rounds played with my dad at Mohonk. I played there with high school classmates, Eric Ackerly, Kyle Peterson, and Randy Freer. There was a day in the summer of 1975 that myself and Todd Krieg played 72 holes in one day. The coolest thing were the days when me and my brother would head down the mountain on our bikes with a sack of golf balls over our shoulders. We were cruising in the summer darkness without a care in the world.