Review: Inness

Course Name: Inness

Designer: Rob Collins/Tad King (2021)

Location: Accord, New York

History: Coming off extreme success and a cult following after their first design Sweetens Cove, Inness is the sequel for Rob Collins and Tad King. Built on a former municipal course called Rondout, Inness was unveiled to the world in June 2021 after years of secrets and rumors. Part of an upscale getaway resort in the Catskills, Inness is the vision of Manhattan developers who desired a Sweetens 2.0. While too new to be included on any official lists, I fully expect Inness to make waves in the coming years once people experience it.

Conditions: 7/10, Much has been made about Inness’ mediocre conditions online, but I can definitely cut it some slack considering the course is only a few months old and needs to mature. Yes, there are some barren spots here and there, but the teeboxes and fairways are in overall good shape. The greens roll true and are decently fast (as fast as can be given the contours) and the course must be commended for its extremely firm and fast playing conditions.

Value: 5/10, At $75 to walk 9, Inness is not a cheap 9-holer and quite expensive for the area. With that being said, this is almost certain to be one of the most highly regarded 9-holers in America over the next few years and the price is not that outrageous in that context. Also available are all-day passes which I assume will be very popular given the location. The business model is certainly interesting, however. The course was completely empty on a beautiful weekend when I played and the course’s isolated geography might make the price a bit too high considering it is not at Sweetens level yet.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Gold                        36           3361              35.7              132

Green                       36          3055              34.2               127

White                       36          3734              32.8               118

Orange                     36          2326              33.1               113

Hole Descriptions: For a few years now, I had been looking forward to Inness’ opening. Much of this had to do with the increasing popularity of Sweetens Cove and the fact that Sweetens is a plane ride away while Inness is an easy day trip. Based on all I had heard and seen from Sweetens, I was skeptical of how much I’d enjoy King and Collins’ work, but I definitely had to experience it for myself firsthand. My excitement only intensified when I reached a tiny clubhouse in the middle of absolutely nowhere and peered out on the gorgeous flowing course. After playing Inness, I had some very strong opinions I will discuss below.

Let’s start with the disclaimer that Inness is not the best course in the country and anyone who tells you so is crazy. The same can be said for Sweetens Cove, whose cult following is a little much sometimes in my opinion. With that being said, Inness has some incredible attributes which I really love. First, the variety of holes here is tremendous with each of its nine holes having their own distinct feel and strategy. There’s reachable par fours, tough par threes, uphill holes, doglegs, and of course insane variety within these greens. Even with all the variety, the course feels extremely connected and flows fantastically, easily walkable and with several holes playing to a double green. The setting is gorgeous, and the fun factor is extremely high.

The biggest detractor about Inness is also the thing that sets it apart – the greens. I am not exaggerating when I say that Inness’ greens are by far the craziest I’ve seen and almost certainly some of the wildest in golf. The only thing I’ve played that even remotely comes close is Streamsong Black, but even those pale in comparison. Huge, extremely undulating, and very firm, these greens are truly unique but are too penal and difficult for stroke play and the majority of golfers. Perhaps a scramble or match would be fun, but this is simply not a course you can go out and expect to shoot a good score. One thing the greens do allow, however, is multiple pin positions that allow you to play more than nine unique holes in a given day. I think if I owned the property, I’d put two pins on every green to allow for a proper front and back nine. While some will love the greens, traditionalists will not enjoy putting these surfaces.

The opening hole at Inness is a few steps from the clubhouse as a 392 yard par 4. Playing as an uphill dogleg right, this hole features a somewhat awkward teeshot with the ideal ballflight being a fade around the right trees.  A large bunker guards the left at 255 yards but otherwise this fairway is generous and undulating. This approach runs uphill to a gigantic green containing numerous plateaus and surrounded by swales on all sides. A potential three- or four-putt here provides a fitting introduction to Inness.

The par 4 1st
The bunkers at Inness are rugged and unforgiving
A look from beside the wild 1st green

At 340 yards, the 2nd hole is the first of three shorter par fours at Inness. Playing downhill and straightaway, this is a sublime hole and one of my favorites with its exhilarating teeshot. This fairway features numerous humps, bumps, and speedslots and is defended by a midline bunker at 210 yards. While the drive is very easy, this green is maybe the largest I’ve played connected to both the practice green and 9th at 55,000 square feet. Playing as almost a Redan and Biarritz simultaneously, this green slopes both right-to-left and back-to-front with a difficult back plateau.

The downhill par 4 2nd is incredibly fun
Avoid the midline bunker on 2
The 2nd green may be the toughest on the course

The 3rd hole might be one of the most difficult par threes I’ve played at 201 yards straight uphill. Featuring yet another double green shared with 6, the 6th green is actually in front of the 3rd and seems like a much more natural target. Instead, the 3rd green is wedged way up on the far left of the property with a pot bunker short and another bunker right, splitting the 3rd and 6th greens. Tight lies surround this green in every direction and the predominant slope of the land (and green) is hard left-to-right. The firmness, slope, and length make this green almost impossible to hold considering most golfers are using woods or long irons.

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The extremely challenging par 3 3rd
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The severe 3rd green

At 584 yards, the par 5 4th is the longest hole at Inness and certainly one of the most difficult. From the highest point on the property, this teeshot plays downhill over a significant forced carry of 200 yards of water and fescue. Accuracy is absolutely required here, as trees hug both sides the entire way with plenty of water down the right as well. Once you reach the fairway, this hole plays as a slight dogleg left with a narrow fairway and a midline potbunker about 75 yards short of the green. This undulating green is small by Inness’ standards and is shallow and wide.

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There’s little room to miss on the 4th hole

The 5th hole is the shortest on the course but continues the difficult stretch as an 177 yard par 3. From the Back Tees, this one-shotter plays through a chute of trees with a forced carry the entire way over water. While large, this green is very difficult, sloping steadily back-to-front with two tiers. This excellent hole is most memorable for its severe bunkering, as penal bunkers guard short (Lion’s Mouth?), right, and long of the green.

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The beautiful par 3 5th
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A side view of the wild 5th green with a devastating bunker long

The 6th hole is one of the easier holes at Inness as a straightaway 338 yard par 4. After a brief forced carry over water, this hole features a very generous fairway without much trouble. No matter how good the drive is, all golfers will be left a delicate pitch to an elevated shared green that slopes severely back-to-front guarded by a bunker and false front short. This is probably the most boring hole on the course but would be the most exciting on many courses.

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The par 4 6th
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The dicey approach at 6 with the connected 3rd green in the background

While every hole at Inness features some difficulty, the 7th hole is the number 1 handicap for good reason. At a lengthy 443 yards, this is the longest par 4 on the course and also the tightest, with water on both sides for much of the landing area. Playing as a dogleg left, a large weeping willow down the left at 250 yards signifies the beginning of the dogleg. With an even narrower fairway on the approach, this hole features a narrow, severely back-to-front sloped green defended by water short right and a steep, tight slope right. This hole demands both brawn and finesse to score well.

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The difficult par 4 7th
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The approach at 7

The 8th hole is the shortest par 4 at Inness and a bit of an odd one at 310 yards. While reachable in theory, this hole really doesn’t set up for a driver with a wide fairway ending abruptly with water at 235 yards. Although there’s a tiny sliver of fairway to the left, the majority of this green juts out behind the water and is guarded by a bunker short as well. The safe play is a long iron, leaving a wedge into a very wide, shallow green.

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The risk/reward par 4 8th
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The approach at 8 after a lay-up

One final marathon awaits on the closing hole, a big, sweeping 576 yard dogleg left par 5. I am a fan of this hole but do find the drive a bit awkward with a large tree blocking the left fairway at about 210 yards. With OB down the left and fescue on the right, this tree forces the golfer to either hit a high draw or lay-up to avoid running through the fairway. The hole is hard enough and would be improved if the tree were replaced by a bunker or hazard on the ground. This will be a three shot hole for almost everyone with the severe dogleg occurring about 380 yards off the tee with a very narrow fairway at this point and deep bunker right. From here, the fairway widens and runs slightly uphill to a gigantic shared green with insane swales defended by bunkers short right. The predominant slopes on this green are back-to-front and right-to-left but there are basically no straight putts here.

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The par 5 9th
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A look at the insane 9th green

General Comments: Inness the golf course is part of the larger Inness Resort which features upscale lodging for those hoping to escape the busy world and enjoy the tranquil Catskills. After golfing, we checked out the restaurant and lodging and were extremely impressed at the tasteful minimalism rampant throughout the resort. The view from the restaurant is stunning and the food is pretty great too. The course doesn’t have a practice range but includes a large practice green that’s connected to the 2nd and 9th double green. Like the resort, the clubhouse is extremely minimalist but tasteful and I love how you exit the back door and can view the entire course.

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Inness’ simple clubhouse
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The breathtaking view from the restaurant

Verdict: While it won’t appeal to everyone, Inness will undoubtedly leave a deep lasting impression on everyone who experiences its incredible variety and some of the wildest greens on the planet. While I am curious about the business model and uncertain it will live up to Sweetens, Inness is a must-play at least once for everyone and well-worth the drive from the City.


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