Places can’t speak, can they? Not in the human manner, but they can convey meaning via their characteristics, their offerings and the simple reward of being there. Holiday Valley is just under a two-hour drive from metro Buffalo, but it’s a foreign land for many who don’t venture that far for their golf. Truth is, it shouldn’t be, and Steve Carney, director of golf at the resort, steps in to elaborate precisely why more people should venture southward to Ellicottville.
1. Give us the back story on golf at Holiday Valley. What’s the history of the course?
The front nine opened in 1958. The back nine was added in 1989. Over the years the course routing has changed numerous times depending on the ongoing changes with the resort. We have always been a Resort allowing members, public play as well as many golf package players.
2. What challenges does a dual-season resort face, that wants to extend skiing as long as possible, knowing that golfers are eager to get out on the golf course?
Actually the 2 seasons do not intrude on each other. Golf is open mid April thru October. Skiing typically begins mid November until the 1st week of April. A lot of the designs of the course, skiing, and overall resort are always considered when we do any construction. We wouldn’t build a green where 100,000 would ski over it each year. There are 7 holes under our cross country skiing that impose no problems. We have 7 holes that downhill skiing goes over. We do make a lot of snow on those holes. If the snow cover is good it actually protects the grass. If we have thawing and freezing the biggest problem would happen when ice forms. That actually will suffocate closely-mown areas. So all greens must have good drainage so as not to puddle and freeze quickly.
3. Holiday Valley has an 18-hole course on one side of Route 219 and a practice facility on the other. Tell us a bit about the practice facility and your teaching program.
Our practice area was completely rebuilt in 2003. It is a state of the art facility with a putting and chipping green. 2 bunkers. 10 covered hitting stalls. And a grass tee that is 125 yards and can accommodate 40 players. Yearly we host the Mel Sole Golf School during the summer as well as offering lessons with 2 PGA Golf Professionals. We also offer 3 different junior programs in the summer as well as a beginner ladies program.
4. In the mid 2000s, Holiday Valley made the decision to renovate the golf course. Your architect of choice was Paul Albanese, a talented but lesser-known designer. Describe the process of renovating the course and what concessions and changes were made along the way.
We decided early in the process that we wanted to stay open during construction. So determining the architect had to take that into consideration. We rebuilt 6 holes yearly over 3 years and tried as much as possible to only work on 1 or 2 holes at a time. Paul, our Superintendent Don Wagner, myself, and many others in each business took part in the rebuild. We would all look at 100’s of different options and we’d decide which was in the best interest of the resort and our guests. Paul was super in allowing all of us to have great input in the final designs.
5. The front nine at Holiday Valley runs along the flats at the base of the ski hills, while the back nine takes an adventurous route through the lower hill country. What benefits do you see to each half of the course and what advice do you give to first-time players?
The front side is a fairly flat, park-like design. Many creeks and ponds and many fairly deep sod wall bunkers. The course is fairly narrow, numerous challenges , but good possibilities for a player to make pars and birdies. You leave the front believing this isn’t that tough of a course. The back side however is much different. Big elevation changes, deep ravines, side hill shots, and the ball travels much more when it hits the ground. 5 or 6 holes could be our signature holes. Holes 11, 12, and 13 compose E’vile corner, which challenges all players. They can make or break your round. I suggest that short and straight is much better than long and wrong. Course management is an absolute must. Then the remaining holes contain many side hill lies as well as huge elevation changes.
6. Holiday Valley surprises a lot of newbies with the tremendous conditioning of the course. It’s green and nearly pristine, but it doesn’t play slow and lush. What’s the secret?
We start with a great Golf Course crew that takes pride in their work. Our present Superintendent, Jerry Martin is a 40 year member of the USGCSAA and is second to none. His vision for advancing never stops. Each year we review what improvements we’d like to make and Jerry gets them done. We’d like to keep the course in very lush condition, greens at 9 to 9.5, and very manicured overall conditions. We believe Holiday Valley is the most beautiful course in Western New York.
7. Any future plans for the golf course? Any changes or upgrades in the works?
We are presently in the middle of rebuilding all bunkers on the back nine. And we are always working on attention to detail. The work and improvements are endless. We have no big plans on the course in the near future.
8. What rounds out the warm-weather vacation experience at Holiday Valley? What’s available for the non-golfer?
Holiday Valley offers year round accommodations at our 2 Hotels as well as numerous condos. We offer 5 pools, hiking, biking, adventure park, mountain coaster, and climbing forest. McCartys and John Harvards are 2 great restaurants. And don’t forget Ellicottville with lots of shops and restaurants. And throughout the year they offer numerous festivals and concerts for all ages. Ellicottville is a great getaway for all.
9. What question haven’t we asked, that you wish someone would? Ask it and answer it, please.
Why come to Holiday Valley?
A trip to Ellicottville and Holiday Valley removes you from the daily hustle and bustle. Whether you come for the golfing, to try out our adventure park, or just enjoy Ellicottville, your day will be fun and memorable.