Richard Remsnyder Tourism Director Ulster County, New York
I was introduced to the game of golf as a 14-year-old by my father, Robert, who was an Army officer. He had a good game, but unfortunately didn’t have the time to play much. But he told me that if I wanted to get good at something, I had to devote plenty of time and attention to it.
When I came to the realization that I wasn’t going to be a professional golfer, I figured that the next-best thing would be to write about the sport I loved. My first newspaper job was as an investigative reporter at an upstate New York daily newspaper. However, when one of the sports writer left to take another job, I jumped at the opportunity to cover sports, including local golf.
In 1990, I was lucky enough to be hired as the golf writer for Gannett Suburban Newspapers in White Plains, N.Y., which including covering the four major golf championships. From 1993 through 2002, I covered the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship during the meteoric rise of Tiger Woods.
After leaving the newspaper business in 2003, I began a career in the tourism and hospitality industry. I have been the tourism director for Ulster County for the past 10 years and one of my jobs is to promote the dozen golf courses in our county, which is located in the Hudson Valley about 90 minutes north of New York City. I take great pride in our courses and it’s truly rewarding when I hear that golfers from all over the Northeast are playing our courses after hearing about them at golf shows I have attended in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut or as a result of our advertising efforts.
MATT WARD: How would you assess the overall travel industry for consumers as we get ready to start the 2016 season?
RR: I think the travel industry is in great shape. With gas prices still relatively low consumers will be traveling in record numbers in 2016.
MW: Why should golfers trek to Ulster County?
RR: Golfers from all over New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania come to play our courses that are scenic, in excellent condition, are very affordable and offer little or no waiting. There are resort courses such as New Paltz’s Mohonk Golf Course and the Fallsview at Honor’s Haven Resort and Spa in Ellenville and superb daily-fee courses with breath-taking views of our spectacular mountains such as Apple Greens Golf Course in Highland, Lazy Swan Golf and Country Club Village in Saugerties and New Paltz Golf Course.
MW: In general terms — the length of the golf season is usually from when to when?
RR: April through November is generally the golf season, though in 2015 courses were open through Christmas.
MW: When and where did golf originate in Ulster County?
RR: Golf in Ulster County began over 100 years ago when a nine-hole golf course was built on the grounds of the five-star Mohonk Mountain House, a National Historic Landmark that opened in 1869 on a spring-fed, sky water lake resort in New Paltz.
MW: After people have played during the day — what key attractions are worth visiting?
RR: One of America’s most recognizable small towns is Woodstock, a must-see attraction in Ulster County. Over the years, scores of folk and rock acts such as Bob Dylan, the Band, Paul Butterfield, Richie Havens and Van Morrison have either lived in or performed regularly at Woodstock. The recreational opportunities are endless here, with many miles of hiking and biking trails and world-class rock climbing at the Gunks. History buffs will have a field day in Ulster since Kingston was the first state capital and New Paltz’s famed historic district of stone houses was built by Huguenot settlers in the late 17th century.
MW: What are among the best lodging options with ties to the golf offerings?
RR: Mohonk Mountain House offers golf packages at its famed resort. Also, the Honor’s Haven Resort and Spa is a great place to relax and dine after playing the resort’s nine-hole Fallsview layout that was designed by acclaimed architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.
MW: If you could change one thing in golf — what would it be?
RS: I would make it more affordable to play some of the country’s better-known courses. To pay $300 or $400 to get on a famous golf course leaves most golfers out in the cold.
MW: Is Ulster County taking steps to encourage more people to play — and if so how are such actions working?
RS: A number of our courses have offered spring specials to get people to come out and play their courses early and it has led to a lot of new and repeat business. Also, senior discounts have been good for business in general.
MW: What’s your take on tee time providers like Golf Now and others which have rapidly expanded their role and involvement?
RS: Golf Now and other tee time providers are a mixed blessing for most Ulster County daily-fee courses who subscribe. Yes, it has increased the number of golfers and revenue with the extra bookings. But on the down side — the lower-than-average greens fees definitely have undercut the pricing and the integrity of the golf courses. Some courses report that many of these golfers are not aware of golf etiquette and also get offended when they show up an hour earlier than their scheduled tee time and are asked to wait to tee off. Also, club members wonder why they are spending as much for a golf cart as these golfers often pay for greens fees and a cart combined.
MW: What’s the biggest challenge facing Ulster golf and what steps are being implemented to face it?
RS: Attracting young people to the game. Many courses have offered junior clinics to get kids started and it has helped over the last decade to grow the game.
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