We began our late-March installment on Lost Golf In Buffalo with the brief (as in, that’s all we had) tale of Mossey Springs Club. Between then and now, we recalled the sad story of The Belfry International, a course whose fate might have been even more excruciating. Conceived and built on the heels of the successful 1995 Ryder Cup in Rochester, the course sat on both sides of I-90 in Henrietta, slightly east of the I-390 interchange. If one pays attention (and is not driving) the wooded corridors to the south and the elevated greens and fairways to the north, are still distinguishable. We recall a soft opening to the course, as we actually saw golfers playing the fairways and greens! This would have been in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Funding dried up, even though the course was finished, and a public opening never took place.
The (now-overgrown) Belfry International, Henrietta, New York
Before the recent demise of Westwood Country Club (Sheridan & North Forest in Amherst), area golfers would be challenged to identify the last course to close in Buffalo-Niagara. Truth be told, we have no idea. Certainly, courses have shrunk (the 1912 US Open site at Main and Bailey is a shadow of its championship self, and the same can be said of Sheridan Park, home to the 1962 National Public Links championship) but closed and done with? No idea. There were at least two courses, however, that reached the planning stage but never came to be. Thanks to the digging of the Scrambler himself (Mr. Kevin Lynch), we have real-news evidence of a two-course complex, part of an impressive development plan that kinda-sorta came to be. In this second of two installments of Lost Golf In Buffalo, we’ll take a glance at Audubon Village.
The concept of urban planning, with little to no automobile traffic, gained some interest in the late 1920s. Perhaps a reaction to the country’s growing dependence on the automobile, certain engineers and architects looked to develop smallish communities with trafficked border roads, but little roadway in the interior. One of these communities reached the design board in the mid-1920s, and it was known as Audubon Village. Back in the day, Millersport Highway north of 6 Corners in Eggertsville was simply a continuation of Grover Cleveland Highway. Envision the point at which this roadway crosses over Maple Road, on its way past SUNY-Buffalo’s North campus. This would have been the midwestern corner of Audubon Village. The community was to extend itself to North Forest Road (labeled in source articles as The Forest Roads) to the east, and Sheridan Drive (albeit just a bit) to the true south. Interesting are the names of two western connectors to the community: Willow and Koenig Roads, all lost to the aforementioned university development. Maple Road to the west of Millersport (nee Grover Cleveland Highway) was called Shell Road.
What’s the golf tie-in? Two golf courses and a country club. The connection to present-day Amherst is clear. The Audubon golf course, one of the municipal courses in the town (Oakwood being the other) can be traced without much effort. Nuances differ, specifically the starting point of the course and its continuation across Maple Road. Four, full-size holes were designed on a northern parcel, where the town’s par-three course now sits. Adjacent to that tract of land, at the southwestern corner, were nine holes (soon to expand to 18) of a private club called Willowdale (which we now know as the defunct Westwood.) To the north of the present Audubon course, where the flood remediation project and housing developments now sit, was to be a second golf course, wedged in among the homes.
To the best of our knowledge, an architect for the two golf courses was not identified. It is our guess that the firm of William Harries (also responsible for Brookfield, Elma Meadows and Sheridan Park, among others) ultimately executed the design for the Audubon town course; whether the firm laid it out or simply built the commissioned plans is not revealed in the source material. Audubon would be best labeled as a sporty course. It has its moments, but it is not a layout to which golfers flock for a championship test.
Why was the second course never built? Perhaps for the same reason that golf courses across America, overbuilt in the 1990s and 2000s, find themselves contracting: land value. Houses, schools, business districts all take precedence over golf, especially when a course is under-utilized by its potential clientele. In the case of the second course at Audubon Village, perhaps it is fortunate that plans were altered ahead of the course construction; to lose those holes would have been a dagger to the heart of those who love golf.
Article on Audubon Village
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