Golf Course Architecture - Issue 74, October 2023

78 REPORT There’s a revival afoot a couple of hours north of New York City, in a region that many felt had seen its heyday. Central to the revitalisation of the Catskills is the opening of a new casino resort and the rebirth of the celebrated Monster Golf Course, brought back to life by golf course designer Rees Jones and his associate Bryce Swanson. From the 1920s to the early 60s – when golf architect Joe Finger, along with pros Jimmy Demaret and Jackie Burke Jr., laid out the original Monster at the Concord, once the largest resort in the US – the Catskills was thriving. Families from the New York metropolitan area would head to the mountains annually to escape the summer heat at one of the many thousands of bungalow colonies, summer camps and hotels in the Catskills. Grand resorts – like the Concord, Kutsher’s, Nevele and Grossinger’s, the inspiration for the fictional Kellerman’s in the movie Dirty Dancing – were the proving grounds for some of the country’s bestknown entertainers, from Joan Rivers to Jerry Seinfeld. By the 1970s however, in an era of air conditioning and cheap air fares, the mountain region had rapidly fallen out of favour. It was the onset of a decline that would last for decades and ultimately see off the Monster. But the area’s fortunes took a major turn in 2018, when Resorts World Catskills opened – with a performance by a returning Seinfeld – on the site of the original Concord, near Monticello. Its development was possible thanks to New York’s legalisation of casinos in 2013, a measure that was designed to create jobs, generate revenue, attract people and improve real estate value in communities like the Catskills. The resort – with two hotels, casino, a spa, pool, Topgolf Swing Suites, and an array of dining options – proved to be a driving force for investment in the local economy. A buzz returned to the Catskills, and with the appeal of city life fading post-pandemic and destinations like the Hamptons being stretched to capacity, each year has seen more openings – from rejuvenated lodges to new boutique hotels, along with stores, restaurants and more to support the increasing flow of visitors. Resorts World Catskills was ready to bring back the Monster, and they turned to Jones for the job. This new creature is actually a hybrid of the former Monster and the Concord’s International course, which also laid dormant. The construction of the hotels and a nearby waterpark resort had taken some holes from each layout out of play. Jones and Swanson therefore created a routing over the land of the original Monster’s first and ninth holes and most of the back nine, plus the International’s first six and last three holes. Some of the original hole corridors have been reused and some Monster’s return awakens the Catskills Rees Jones and Bryce Swanson bring back a kinder beast for New York casino resort.