For the first time in recorded history, the ranking of golf courses across western New York has been crowd-sourced. The process began two weeks ago, with stage one of the mechanism. After public and private divisions were reduced to 15 courses each, a ballot was produced and golf aficionados ranked from first to 15th, the finalists in each bracket. Two courses that received attention, but did not ascend to the final segment, were Niagara Frontier (Youngstown) and Brierwood (Hamburg.) Over the course of the next four days, we shall reveal the results of that ranking means. Today it is our pleasure to present the private course ranking, places 1 to 5, in reverse order.
- Previous: Public Courses 11 to 15
- Previous: Private Courses 11 to 15
- Previous: Private Courses 6 to 10
- Previous: Public Courses 6 to 10
- Previous: Public Courses 1 to 5
Five: Brookfield Country Club
The Clarence course has a William Harries lineage, with a Mark Mungeam touch-up. The jury is still out on the decision to revamp the 2nd and 3rd holes, but the members do like their new practice facility. Brookfield has a stern and varied collection of par four holes. The opening two-shot trace asks for a deep, accurate tee ball, followed by a focused approach to a bunker-protected green. The 2nd requires a targeted tee ball, both vertically and horizontally, and then an approach across a menacing pond. Thus, the game is on. The par three and par five holes at Brookfield are very good, but do not rise to the level of the fours. The 18th hole is one of the most unique in the area, even more so now that its twin, the closer at Westwood, is defunct. Brookfield received 604 points from the ballot. Its highest rank was a first-place vote.
Four: Park Club
Park country club sits slightly below the bustle of Sheridan drive in Williamsville. The hidden oasis, framed partly by Ellicott creek, was designed by Charles Alison, nearly 100 years ago. During the 2010s, Ian Andrew was retained to restore Alison’s vision. He returned short grass to the green surrounds, tied each green to the following tee, and returned a forgotten sense of order to the course. Although the club is known for its timeless 18th hole, that descends to the elaborate Wendehack clubhouse, crossing the creek one final time, the strength of the layout was established much earlier. The bunkering scheme at Park is the most complex in the area, which explains why its strongest members are great drivers of the ball. Approach shots into greens are never similar, so a golfer has no time nor freedom to rest on prior laurels. The Park Club received 609 points from the ballot. Its highest rank was a first-place vote.
Three: Wanakah Country Club
No club in the Buffalo area has risen in greater acclaim in recent years than Wanakah. The William Watson-designed course received an overhaul and youthening from the combined efforts of Chris Wilczynski (architect) and Gayle Hultquist/Rich Gladhill (superintendents). Purged from the course were the silver maples, opening up views to Lake Erie and the Buffalo skyline, allowing sunlight and wind to re-establish the natural order of growth. Ordinary holes were enhanced, and extraordinary holes (10, 12 and 14 come to mind) were revealed. Home to the most subtle par three in the region, Wanakah has reclaimed a lofty place in golf in western New York. Wanakah received 642 points from the ballot. Its highest rank was a first-place vote.
Two: Country Club of Buffalo
The country club of Buffalo was gifted an odd opportunity, with the October storm of 2008. Some 500 trees were downed by the ice and snow, and the membership awoke to sight lines that most had never seen. Victim, like many courses in the northeast, of enthusiastic tree planting over the years, the panorama of the former quarry was returned by mother nature. In possession of the finest par three holes in western New York, the Donald J. Ross, jr., layout buttresses the short holes with stout par fours and two diverse par five holes. The Country Club of Buffalo received 761 points from the ballot. Its highest rank was a first-place vote.
One: Crag Burn Golf Club
Crag Burn golf club is the best that Robert Trent Jones, sr., could ever offer. It was not built to host major championships (which caused the architect to make courses overly punitive) and it came at a juncture in his career when he returned to the early days of his architectural sojourn. Crag Burn is more Green Hills, Durand Eastman, and Seven Oaks, than his mid-career work. Crag Burn could host a major event, but it was not built to host them. Touches of classical architecture blend with his mid-century, modern style, to create a course that stands above all others in western New York. Crag Burn offers four impressive long holes, a cadre of diverse, strategic two-shot holes, and a pair of solid short holes. Crag Burn Golf Club received 844 points from the ballot. Its highest rank was a first-place vote.