Wind and leaves. Half of a Haiku verse. I have no more. That’s what confronted us on the first tee, Sunday morning the 13th, at the ever-challenging Sheridan Park golf course in Tonawanda. We ended up at Sheridan due to a series of fortunate events. I inherited a pair of Adams hybrids with woefully aged grips. After postseason rounds at Delaware Park and Elma Meadows I promised myself to have them regripped. My shop of choice sits across Sheridan Drive from the golf course entrance, and as John Lindner replaced the worn grips (I had him do a 4-iron, for good measure) he told me of the condition of the greens across the way. Having come off the magnificent surfaces at Elma, I filed the opinion in the short-term memory bank. When the chance for a round with my southland buddies came open, I encouraged them to journey north.
This was no major sacrifice for them. For the majority of the off-season, I find myself down their way, usually at Byrncliff. And they are good guys, intelligent and fiscally sound. A $15 walking round over a challenging golf course, on a sunny day in November, is a no-brain decision. Off we went, finding that the fairways were primarily firm (with a few mud balls to remind us that it is November) and putting surfaces as smooth and quick as John had revealed.
In my mind, Sheridan is the perfect golf course. I’m told that the old iteration was spectacular, but I never knew the holes across the drive. Since they took the map of the original course out of the clubhouse, its routing becomes even fuzzier. What I do know is this: the course tosses a series of half-par holes at you, from start to finish. The first cautions you, in an obvious way, to respect the proper side of any fairway, as well as lurking dangers (here we have water on the tee ball and OOB on the approach.) The second is the antithesis, a risk-reward par five, presenting a chance to reach the green in two, for a run at birdie or eagle. Of course, the trees on either side of the fairway will take you to bogeyland or worse, but that’s the fun of this type of hole.
And so it goes, throughout the exceedingly-flat and mildly interesting front nine. What makes it interesting? The approach to the fourth, over the cut of water that begins front-left and carves its way around, like a boomerang, to back right. The impossible par of the fifth, an extensive four that seems to go on forever and seems to always play into the wind. The wee pitch at the sixth, the invisible depth of the 7th green, and the slope of the putting surface at the 8th. We return to the 9th, a terrific drive-dropshot par four, and the game is on.
Golfers of experience remark that the back nine at Sheridan stands with the best nines in the area, private or public. The omnipresent (and no longer biochemically threatening) two mile creek winds its way through holes 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. The driving demands are balanced, with three drives favoring left to right, two ceding to right to left, one straight and one a lay-up. The par three holes are sadly similar (uphill from one bluff to another, crossing the creek, even in the same direction) but they differ a bit in length, which is something. The serpentine seventeenth, the claustrophobic 18th, and the all-world 14th are unforgettable holes. In fact, if pressed to offer a top-18 holes list in the area, #14 at Sheridan might just be the best par four in the area.