Heading off on the outward 9, I start looking back in time for some of the omissions from this week’s polling. One brings back some nostalgia, another reaches back to the original works of William Harries, and the final recounts a hole that no longer exists.
Gowanda ~ 474 yard Par 5
I took up golf in the late summer of 1987, just a few weeks before my senior year in high school. I was immediately addicted and even decided to try out for my high school team a few weeks later. Luckily, Pioneer was a small school, and coach Max Payne recognized my passion, so I was allowed to travel with the team, playing the back nines in “non-competitive” exhibitions. Gowanda Country Club holds a special place for me, because it was the first “non-Turkey Run” course where I managed to shoot bogey golf over nine holes. While I was happy with my score, I was in love with the rolling acreage, dramatic elevated tee shots and feel of the course.
I hadn’t realized it at the time, but it was my introduction to two architects that would fill my golf experience over the next few decades. Gowanda is another Western New York creation by the prolific tandem of William Harries and Russel Tryon. In my experience with their work, the two things that stick out the most are their affinity for the reachable Par 5 and the use of natural slopes to add challenge. The 10th at Gowanda combines both with a chance to kick-start your new nine, but has enough trouble lurking through pinching greenside bunkers and the potential dilemma of downhill lies to keep your interest.
Brookfield ~ 425 yard Par 4
Most of us are familiar with the collaborative works of Harries and Tryon, as they worked together in the 50s and 60s to create the likes of Sheridan, Elma, Brighton, Audobon, & Byrncliff. However, prior to his post-WWII partnership with Tryon, William Harries operated independently for a period between the wars.
During that period, Harries designed Brookfield Country Club in the nothern suburb of Clarence. The rolling land complimented Harries’ strength in creating graceful holes which rise & fall along the natural contours. The 10th at Brookfield is another beautiful hole from an elevated tee, which tempts you to challenge the corner-guarding bunkers. Like the 7th at Brookfield, the 10th contains that hard-to-explain quality of just “feeling right.”
Byrncliff ~ 392 yard Par 4 (Pre-Lightning Strike)
Prior to several years ago, this hole was one of the great strategic designs in the area. Unfortunately, most of the strategy was dictated by a single large tree that guarded the front left of the green. A lightning strike eliminated the tree and one of the great holes in WNY was lost. See my complete eulogy of this lost gem here.