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A Round with Leatherstocking Golf Course Superintendent Bernie Banas

By: The Otesaga / 01 Apr 2016

Whether our guests are here to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, tour the museums, or see some of the beautiful sights around Lake Otsego, many make the time to play a round of golf right on our grounds here at The Otesaga Resort Hotel.

The Leatherstocking golf course is one of the East's most scenic and challenging resort golf courses and offers a premier golfing experience in one of the country's most picturesque natural settings. Designed in 1909 by Devereux Emmet, the course features a natural contour terrain that sweeps along the western shoreline of Lake Otsego and offers gorgeous views from varying elevations. It also offers lovely, manicured scenery that inspires the senses, while relaxing the mind.

With the arrival of spring and warmer weather beginning to thaw the greens, we wanted to get a better idea of what it takes to get Leatherstocking Golf Course in the pristine shape its players are accustomed to.

The 12 person staff that is tasked with bringing the course back to life is headed by Bernie Banas, the golf superintendent who has been on the staff for 22 years.

"We typically begin in the first week of April, when most of the snow has melted away. The first step is a two-week surveying of the course: raking, picking up debris, fixing any damage the winter has done."

Once all that has been taken care of, the crew shifts their attention to preparing the driving range for the flock of locals and guests who are ready to dust off their golf games. One flock they try to keep away, however is the returning geese.

"Keeping the geese off the course is always a challenge in the beginning of the year. We have a Border Collie named Buddie who helps us patrol the grounds. Geese are afraid of wolves, and Border Collies like Buddie resemble them so closely he scares off the Geese for us."

While Buddie takes care of intruders, the team has moved on to mowing. Since the greens are mowed so low, they need to be tended to first so that the grass doesn't grow too long.

Asked what task he is most meticulous about, Bernie said "Oh, definitely the greens. We have to be careful, especially on a mild winter like we had this year, when people are trying to play the greens while there is still frost on the greens. This can leave indents on the grounds and cause permanent damage. So we need to be very careful to make sure the greens are cared for just right."

Bernie's team then gets into edging the bunkers, raking the sand, redistributing the sand to keep uniform depth, measure the depth of all bunkers, etc. This process takes about a week. Once that is done, the most daunting task is all that remains.

"Once the grounds are all set and we are just mowing and maintaining, we shift our attention to the sprinkler system. It takes two of us about a month to get water in the pipes, check every sprinkler head, and look for leaks. You never know what damage you are going to find there. You just hope for the best."

After that, Leatherstocking Golf Course is open and ready for action. We asked Bernie if he had a favorite hole to play on the golf course. He was hesitant to name a favorite, as they each have unique quirks that he has found from spending so much time on the grounds. He finally gave in when pressed for a favorite.

"Oh, I mean they all are so unique. I will say I do love the 4th hole at night. When the sun is beginning to go down, you can see the shadow of the bunkers and it is very picturesque. But the whole course has so much character."

So the next time you are in Cooperstown, try to leave some time to enjoy the beautiful views Leatherstocking Golf Course has to offer. Keep an eye out for the 4th hole if you are playing in the late afternoon. And make sure you thank Bernie and his staff for making Leatherstocking Golf Course the jewel that it is.

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