When you’re a dude, you love the idea of owning a sporting team or venue. When you’re a mature fellow, you love the idea of owning one of the above, and you combine it with a sense of community, family, history and service. Usually you plan it out, although sometimes the notion strikes you on an August day, behind your house, doing yard work with your son. This tale sums up a bit of the last few months for Ross Cellino, the new owner of Harvest Hill golf center in Orchard Park. Earlier this week, he took a phone call from us and filled us in on the details we were missing.
Not all the details, mind you. Perhaps there aren’t that many. What Ross Celino sees in Harvest Hill is a great layout that needs a bit of touching-up here and there, but not everywhere. It all begins with some buildings and a parking lot. New owner Ross Cellino commented, “We’ve submitted a proposal to the town on the work we’d like to do. A cart building would be at the southern end of the parking lot, toward the tenth tee. Next to it, the clubhouse. Over toward the ninth green, a pavilion.”
If you look at the rendering below, you see a completely revamped entry way and parking lot. Instead of knifing past the houses where the First Tee program resides, the entrance road will swing along the perimeter of the property, curl in front of the clubhouse, then into an expanded parking area. The three buildings can be seen to the left of the parking lot.
The other interesting addition sits between the first tee and the ninth green. Currently, golfers practice their putting on the former site of the way-back tee. Some time in the 2013 season, a putting green will be built along the ridge behind the 9th green, allowing the current putting green to return to it original iteration of tee deck.
“We’re not interested in building a Taj Mahal,” Cellino continued. “We want a practical, efficient, serviceable clubhouse that doesn’t cause green fees to rise. We want a place where golfers can have a sandwich and a beverage and feel comfortable.” That comfort will extend to excellent vistas of both finishing holes, the terraced, par-five eighteenth and the daunting, climbing, par-four ninth.
“I’m not a great golfer by any stretch, but I like golf. I like the idea of involving my family in this golf course, for future generations. I want Harvest Hill to continue to have a country club feel, but be accessible to daily-fee players.” To this end, Cellino plans to limit the number of season passes sold in 2013. “When you have a large number of season passes, you drastically reduce the number of available tee times and limit access to the course. Not everyone wants to play the course over and over, and I don’t want to shut those golfers out.”
The original mission of the trust that oversaw Harvest Hill from its inception was to provide community recreation and youth education. Cellino plans to preserve those lofty goals. “I like The First Tee program and I’ve made a commitment to them. At the same time, I want seniors and juniors to have access to this fine golf course. People tell me it’s a very good, even great golf course and that is nice to hear.”
For those unfamiliar with Harvest Hill, the property begins with a wide and deep practice range and also includes a three-hole short course for beginners, as well as an enormous short-game practice facility (complete with multiple tee decks.) The centerpiece is the Hurdzan/Fry-designed championship golf course, host to many local PGA and high school events. In other words, it’s a pretty big deal.