Inness: The King-Collins 9-Hole Sequel to Sweetens Cove

Inness, the newest 9-hole course from the creative minds of Rob Collins and Tad King, is a wild ride in upstate New York—a dramatic deviation from the traditional Westchester County golf clubs just under two hours south.

But for many golfers, the inevitable comparison will be to Sweetens Cove in Tennessee, the new age 9-hole course from King-Collins 30 miles west of Chattanooga that’s developed a passionate cult following and gained traction in national rankings. Inness is the duo’s much-anticipated follow up to Sweetens and, being a 9-hole layout as well, the parallels naturally start there.

What’s different about Inness is that, unlike Sweetens, the golf isn’t at the forefront. As Inness head professional John DeForest notes, this 9-holer is more on the back end—a complementary amenity at a pastoral resort in the Hudson Valley that features modern farmhouse and cabin accommodations, locally inspired communal dining, and a membership option that will eventually include access to swimming, tennis, a gym and spa, and the property’s grounds, which are a cultivated mix of landscaped and natural. With a focus on nature and the outdoors, golf is a just part of the mix at Inness. But the flowing, eco-friendly layout—which stretches to 3,361 yards from the back tees—makes for a not-to-be-missed, fun-filled escape with massive, undulating greens that have wonderful variety and, at times, bewildering movement.

8th hole (photo by Erik Matuszewski)

“It’s getting over the ‘classic golf’ hump,” says DeForest, admitting that he too faced that challenge with his background in the New York area. “It might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But we also see the same person converted within nine holes. More than anything, I hear, ‘This is so much fun.’”

The clubhouse at Inness is as understated as they come, but with a modern architectural touch that typifies the resort itself. Standing on the first tee just steps outside the back door, you’re immediately struck by the size, slopes, and movement of the neighboring 2nd and 9th greens, which flow into the expansive practice putting green.

As at Sweetens Cove, walking at Inness is encouraged and the holes—which Collins and King built atop the footprint of a closed course called Rondout—easily blend into one another. At the par-three 3rd, which plays uphill at more than 200 yards from the back tee, it almost feels as though your tee shot plays over the edge of the adjacent 6th green. Indeed, the 3rd and 6th holes have another shared putting surface, although at significantly different elevations.

2nd hole and clubhouse (photo by Erik Matuszewski)

There are two par-threes and two par fives in the par-36 routing along with five par fours. Any discussion about Inness’s signature hole has to include the 443-yard par-four 7th—a bear of a hole with a narrow fairway that jogs to the left and plays to a stepped green with numerous tiers.

You won’t find much rough, but deep fescue that lines most holes can feel as much of a hazard as the deep “browed” bunkers that challenge some of the most optimal lines. “The bunkers can eat you up, but they’re avoidable,” says DeForest. “The average player is challenged, but not stepped on.”

It’s the greens that take centerstage at Inness, with slopes, tiers, humps, and curved edges that can just as easily funnel approach shots toward a pin as spill them off the putting surface. It makes for incredible fun, although it might not be what many traditionalists are accustomed to. And that’s part of the intent and vision of the latest distinctive King-Collins design, which is still growing in and maturing after its public opening.

7th hole (photo by Erik Matuszewski)

During my recent visit, DeForest recounted the Inness experience of a president of one of the old-school private clubs in Westchester. He grumbled for the first two holes, saying the greens were a “little ridiculous,” and then proceeded to make a birdie after a shot that caught the bank of a green, curled off a slope, and trickled to within a couple feet of the hole.

“It’s not what some people are used to, but then they’ll let down their guard, hit one great shot, and realize it’s so much fun,” DeForest said as we prepared for another stroll around the Inness 9. “You enjoy it, embrace it. People realize there’s a different brand of golf out there.”

Have you played golf at Inness?