It is often said that it takes quite a few years for a golf course to ‘settle in’ to its full potential. The Buffalo Tournament Club (BTC) in Lancaster, NY certainly fits that description. If you played BTC in its early years, it was easy to be less than impressed by the course conditions. The fairways were patchy and sparse and the roughs seemed to be more weeds than anything else. Well, I’m happy to say, BTC has come a long way since then.
The initial thing that stood out to me was how nicely the fairways are coming in. For the most part they now have the proper amount of lushness without the feeling of being overgrown. The roughs still have a ways to go, but, happily, the weeds are slowly giving way to actual rough.
The greens at BTC are generally quite large with a fair amount of undulation and above average speed. While the size of the greens does make it easier to hit them, the size can often leave you with lengthy, breaking putts. For example, the green on the 6th hole is a somewhat narrow two tiered green that is well over 30 yards from front to back with a fairly decent hump about two-thirds of the way back. If you land your ball on the wrong side of the ridge, you might find yourself begging for a two putt.
The course does not have a large amount of bunkers and the ones on the course are by no means unfair. There is some water on the course , but, accept for number 9 and number 17 the water hazards shouldn’t be much of a problem. Overall, I really like the layout of the course. One of the things I liked was that the holes are laid out in varying directions. Unlike some courses which I call ‘up and back’ courses, BTC does a good job of changing the orientation of the holes which ends up giving he course a more memorable feel.
Unfortunately, the two weakest holes on the course (I think) are number 1 and number 10. Both are straightaway par fours that are pretty much mirror images of each other. Both holes lack any real visual impact which is too bad because after these holes there were a lot of holes I really liked.
Hole #2 is a nice longer par 4 that slopes down to a small valley and then back up to a devilishly tricky green. This is a good test of your golfing skills.
The 4th hole is probably the most difficult hole on the course. It is average length par 5 that requires an accurate tee shot and a very precise 2nd shot that needs to be landed on the flat part of the fairway. If your lay up shot is left or right you will find trees and brush; if it is too long you will be left with a downhill approach shot to a steep uphill green or a penalty stroke as you fish your ball out of the small stream that dissects the fairway.
Standing on the tee of the 7th hole (a short par 5) your view is up the hill to a narrow landing area with dense trees and foliage on both sides of the fairway and a rather large tree around 250 yards off the tee. If you are able to put the ball into play, you will have a straight forward second shot that should put you into very realistic birdie territory.
The 9th hole is probably the signature hole on the course and the most fun to play. The elevated tee shot must be hit fairly long to leave a reasonable approach shot, yet, longer tee shots can bring water into play on the right and a strand of trees on the left. A large pond juts out from the left and comes into play on any shots that are at the right side of the green.
On the back side, number 12 is a medium length par 3 with a wide, sloping green. With trees and brush behind the green, it is paramount that you do not go long. The pond to the left of this hole should only come into play with a really errant tee shot. I think a bunker somewhere in front of this green would make this a truly spectacular hole.
The 14th hole is a long par 5 that I would term a ‘bangers’ hole. There are trees and a small pond on the left and sparse trees on the right, but, the fairway is wide enough that it lends itself to anyone who wants to ‘let the shaft out’.
The course finishes with a short par 4 (#17) that requires both a precise tee shot to avoid trees on the right and an accurate approach shot to avoid water on the left and a medium length par 4 (#18) that requires a well placed uphill tee shot that lands to the right of a gaping sand trap at around 150 yards from the green; this will leave you with a medium length approach shot to a green that sits literally at the bottom of the hill. Both these holes are so well designed that you really can appreciate the thought that went into the design.
Some of the amenities include a driving range and a massive putting green. A club house is still under construction.
With a few tweaks hear and there, The Buffalo Tournament Club is well on its way to becoming one of the nicer public courses in the area.