Elma Meadows is one of two Erie County Parks golf courses. Located on rolling terrain, south-east of the city, Elma Meadows combines an exciting challenge with an enjoyable walk in the park, a guaranteed walk not spoiled!
Without a doubt, the most breathtaking first hole tee shot in the area. From 40 feet above the fairway, the first tee gives you an immediate preview of the hills and elevation changes that are in store. Arguably the toughest opening hole in WNY, you will need two solid shots to reach the first green. You have plenty of room on the right, but any slice will add even more distance to this 422 yard dogleg left. A par on this one feels like a birdie, and gets you into the round immediately.
This medium length par-4 plays back up the hill with a slight dogleg left. Big hitters can flirt with the trees guarding the left corner and a fairway bunker further down to leave a shorter approach. There is room to miss to the right, but a large tree at the right 150 marker will force you to get creative with your second shot. It is possible to miss right and get past the 150 marker without much penalty, but only for another 15 years. A recently planted sapling further down in the right rough will bolster the hole’s defense against stray tee shots.
Simply from the card, it is difficult to imagine how this straight, relatively short par-4 is the most difficult handicap hole. Standing on the tee, the answer lies approximately 90 yards ahead, as two maple trees guard the entrance to the remainder of the hole. If you manage to get past the first two sentinels on your uphill drive, your ball had better be continuing on a straight path. To the left, another large maple reaches slightly into the fairway and a line of large trees guard the right. Once safely in the narrow fairway, be sure to take notice of the pin’s depth, as the green is split between the front and back by a large ridge which invites a three putt.
One of the best designed short par-4’s in the area. An out of bounds fence lines the right side of the hole. People wanting to avoid out of bounds must navigate a single large and wide maple tree that stands 210 yards from the tee to the left-center, creating a slight dogleg left with a relatively narrow fairway. The hole even allows room to bail out left of the maple tree, but a group of tall trees just short and left of the green precludes any airborn approach. The ideal tee shot is down the right side of the fairway, leaving the best angle to the green. In the spirit of strategic design, the more risk taken off the tee, the easier the approach.
The fifth at Elma is the closest to what Jack Nicklaus describes as a “par-4½.” At only 484 yards and all downhill, this dogleg left provides a great opportunity to card a birdie and is the easiest par available on the front nine. There are primarily two ways to screw up this hole. You can drive through the dogleg with a straight tee shot leaving only a punch-out option, or hit the short evergreens that sit just to the left of the tee, both of which are a real possibility with a driver in hand. Most players would be better served with a 3 or 5-wood, allowing an additional margin for error in clearing the evergreens and removing the possibility of being in jail through the dogleg. The “safe” straight tee shot leaves the possibility of a downhill lie from 260+ yards out. A tee shot that flirts with the evergreens and cuts some of the corner is rewarded with a flatter lie and opportunity to reach the green some 60 feet below in two. The green is easily accessible, guarded only by a bunker short right and a lateral hazard well to the right.
The only flat hole on the course, the 6th green is fairly generous, but is guarded to the right by a pond, and protected by bunkers in front and to the left. The front left corner provides the best opening for a safe shot. The green is framed by a hillside to the back, and is one of the most picturesque holes when the fall foliage arrives.
From an elevated tee, your tee shot carries over a pond to one of the tougher driving holes at Elma. To the left are a group of pine trees while a fairway bunker guards the right side of the hole. Laying up short of the hazards leaves a blind second shot, while shorter shots that are pushed to the right fall down a slope, leaving a difficult recovery. A good straight drive rewards the player with a downhill approach with a mid-iron. As with most holes at Elma, the front of the green is open, allowing players to play a variety of approaches between the left and right bunkers.
Unlike the generous green provided on the 122 yard 6th, this uphill par 3 provides a much narrower target, with bunkers hugging the front left and front right corners. The 8th green also starts a theme of “know where not to miss” that you should keep in mind for the rest of the round. Once past the corner bunkers, the green falls off sharply to left, right and back, leaving difficult uphill chips for misses in these areas.
The closest imitation of a driving range you will find on the course, as the fairway is very wide here. There is another 40 yards of rough to the right before any trees come in play. Depending on rainfall, the penalty for hitting to the rough at Elma varies significantly during the year, so there are times the driver may be unleashed with impunity.
At peak volume times, many people start their round on the back nine. Compared to the difficult 1st, the 10th allows a much easier start. At only 365 yards, this hole cascades downhill to various plateaus, with the bottom of the hill approximately 240 yards from the tee. Depending on distance, one could be left with a difficult downhill lie. However, with the demise of a large tree guarding the left hand side this past winter, there is little to deter players from hitting the driver. This leaves the swales and slopes of this 10th green as the primary defense on this short par-4. Leave your approach below the hole and you should have little difficulty.
Those who do play the back nine first better have had a good start because the 11th will severely test even the best player’s game. This dogleg left requires an uphill drive to a sloped landing area. Slicers have more difficulty here because, unlike many holes at Elma, there are a number of tall pines that don’t allow the ball to start left. Shots that bail out to the right don’t get the benefit of the sloped landing area, which will push good drives forward. Also, long drives left out to the right will be hindered by a single row of tall trees, which can be cleared, but usually not with enough club to reach the green. From the fairway, the approach is slightly downhill, with bunkers left and right.
While the 11th is a long par-4 favoring the right-to-left, the faders get their advantage coming back on the gentle dogleg right 12th. The right side is lined by large overhanging maple trees and guarded by a fairway bunker, while the left side is wide open, with one fairway bunker well left into the rough. Big hitters can get the benefit of some extra roll as the fairway starts sloping down towards the hole approximately 160 yards from the hole. On the approach, the banked green falls of sharply behind and to the sides, leaving delicate pitches for misses.
A classic heroic hole distinguished by the rows of tall pine trees that guard the corner of this sharp dogleg left. The hole may be played safely to the right of these trees, leaving an approach of 180 yards. The brave may attempt to carry the pines, cutting the approach down to 100 yards, if successful, or requiring some creative punch shot, if failed. Once again, the banked green is bunkered left and falls off sharply to the back and sides, severely punishing left and long shots.
This gentle dogleg right is also sloped from left to right, and provides a fairly generous fairway. People who take more risk by hitting driver for length or flirting with the right side of the fairway are given a flatter lie for their approach, while those who lay up are likely to have the ball below their feet. After an uphill drive, the approach is slightly downhill to a green that slopes away from the fairway, and is guarded by bunkers on the left side and front right corner.
This uphill par-3 can require anywhere from 8 iron to 4 iron, depending on wind conditions and tee position. An out-of-bounds fence lines the right side, leading many to miss to the left. The left side of the green is raised and slopes toward the right, leaving a more difficult chip for those who play safe. Be careful not to miss pin-high to the right, as the banking of the green will kick such shots up against the fence for a likely unplayable lie.
The first of two straight birdie opportunities, the drive climbs straight up for 250 yards, up a slope affectionately called “Cardiac Hill” by the members. A number of smaller trees run the entire length on the right, while the left is guarded by a solitary large maple. The raised green falls off sharply to the right side, and is protected by a left side bunker. Two very good shots leave an eagle opportunity or an easy pitch to set up birdie.
The 17th offers another great birdie opportunity to those needing to make a move. Playing downhill and often downwind, you are tempted to hit driver to leave a short approach. Drives pulled left may be blocked from the green by a group of pine trees or be left with a downhill lie from the rough. Those laying up need to be cognizant of their landing area as the fairway falls off diagonally, and could leave an awkward downhill lie. With such a short downhill hole, the designers made the penalty for missing the green anywhere but in front very severe, adding significant slopes away from the green that will leave blind recovery shots.
If you need a birdie to make your score, you better have picked it up on 16 or 17, because the 18th is anything but a birdie hole. Playing downhill, the hole is guarded on the right by a bunker, and a run up to the left will likely be caught by a bunker 10 yards short of the green. Short right is the best place to miss, while shots that are left will generally kick away from the green and down the slope of the adjacent 14th hole, leaving a blind uphill pitch to a green sloping away from you. A par finish here is always well earned.