This week’s discussion of the Best 10th Hole has dredged up some painful memories for me. In particular, I can’t help but be reminded of one of the great holes in Buffalo-Niagara that was lost due to natural disaster several years ago.
Of course, “lost” is a bit of a strong word. The 10th at Byrncliff still remains. But the below BEFORE/AFTER pictures highlight the loss that occurred several years ago:
If you look at the above picture, you will note that the ridge runs diagonally across the fairway. Thus, catching the hill is much easier down the left side of the fairway (say 220 yards) than down the right side (say 250 or so yards). Also, the left side is much more open if you happen to pull your shot.
Until several years ago, there was a significant price to be paid for playing down the safer left side. An immense tree guarded the left half of the green for any approach coming from the left side of the hole. Even if the pin was right, any shot from the left ran the risk of catching a limb and being deposited in the creek if it was pulled slightly. The ideal tee shot, especially to a left pin, was to hug the right side of the fairway (risking the few lone trees in the right rough).
Unfortunately, lightning claimed the specimen tree, and removed much of the decision-making from the tee shot.
Also, the single tree worked in perfect concert with the diagonal slope in the drive zone. The distance to the ridge (220L-250R) provides a very interesting decision for all but the longest hitters. The slope wasn’t so steep that you would be guaranteed a run all the way to the bottom just by reaching the crest. The result was a number of downhill/sidehill lies in the 120-150 yard range. The creek short of the green swallowed many heavy approaches from these awkward lies, so you had to decide if you wanted to stay on top of the ridge for the longer, yet flatter, approach or determine which line you wanted to take to reach the lower fairway.
Today, longer hitters will easily reach the lower, flat tiers of the fairway. However, in wetter and windier conditions, the uneven lies do come back into play, even for the big hitters. In either case, without the need to negotiate a specimen tree, a significant portion of the original strategy has been lost.
Still, even with the loss of the tree, there is much to enjoy on this hole. Byrncliff’s 10th features one of the best triple-plateau greens in the area. In fact, this green inspired one of my personal golf terms – the “six pack green.” A “SPG” is one of those greens that is so much fun to putt that you head out after your round with a putter, a six pack and a few friends and try to make triple-breaking, cross-green bombs.
Also, if you happen to go long on your approach, either by overcompensating for your fear of the creek or by attacking one of the back pin plateaus, you will be faced with a very delicate pitch to a green sloping heavily from back-to-front. Second pitches are not uncommon at all from behind the green after timid first attempts.
While still a solid and challenging hole today, that tree is dearly missed, as it once elevated the hole to the ranks of Best in Buffalo-Niagara.