As always, with over 60 courses in the Buffalo-Niagara region, it’s inevitable that limiting the candidates down to 8 finalists will leave some worthy courses on the outside looking in. In this week’s edition, we have a meaty par-4 and two short par 4s that just missed the cut-line for voting:
Ironwood ~ 457 yard Par 4
Scott Witter’s offering in Cowlesville features a number of shorter risk/reward holes, but in the middle of the front nine, the golfer is suddenly confronted with a stout test. Ironwood’s 5th features an “over-the-rise” tee shot, which is one of my favorite architectural design features. Resist the temptation to hug the right side of the tree line – the fairway moves more to the left than you think.
After cresting the hill of the drive zone, the hole cascades back down to one of the better greens in the region. The kidney shape of the putting surface confounds distance judgment, and tilts severely from left-to-right. Any miss short and left will leave a slippery pitch that will easily run off the green.
Country Club of Buffalo ~ 301 yard Par 4
I suspect this hole may have been a victim of its proximity to one of the iconic holes in the Northeast, yet alone Buffalo-Niagara. Since the “Volcano Hole” 6th at CCB garners the most attention, it’s understandable that the lead-up act may slip from memory.
This is a classic Donald Ross hole which forces players to choose between the heroic attempt for eagle or the disciplined of a strategic lay-up.
With a heavily-bunkered, plateaued green, this short hole requires a the golfer to consider the optimal angle of attack. Another reminder from the Golden Age of Golf Architecture that a well-designed hole doesn’t need to rely on brute length for quality.
Bartlett Country Club – 294 yard Par 4
This short, uphill par 4 doesn’t stun you with the same visual intimidation as CCB, but still leaves many “birdie/eagle dreamers” shaking their heads after a surprising double bogey.
The elevated green challenges distance judgment, while the surface severely slopes from back to front. For those who try to drive the green but come up short, this combination makes it difficult to leave the approach on the short grass. A better play may be to resist temptation, and lay back far enough to allow a full swing that can be spun. However, many golfers who guard against going long have their shots swallowed up by the solitary collection bunker on the front right of the green.
The benign appearance of this hole from the scorecard and tee belies the danger which surprises many golfers on their journey through this Southern Tier track.