A few weeks back, I traveled south with my most significant other to Ellicottville. I’ve always enjoyed golfing in the hills or mountains, and my only regret is that my compeer avoids golf with every ounce of her vast store of energy. Ergo, I am abandoned to go it alone; I press onward.
Up until I turned 40, Holiday Valley was that funky course with really fast greens. It was funky because it had a 360-yard par five, a 17th hole that played against every possible slope in every possible way, and two nines as different as any could be. The resort retained Paul Albanese to redesign portions of the course, to make it a more playable in spots and more challenging in others. As Albanese did his due diligence, he was acutely aware of the rise of the Tamarack Lodge, the spacious building that would truncate the 9th hole and force him to reduce the driveable par four to a mid-length par three.
Albanese made a few bunker adjustments on the lower nine, the front, but left most of it alone. His principal contribution to the outward nine is the elevation of the 7th tee into the hill below the treacherous double-black-diamond slope known as “The Wall.” The greater part of his work took place on the back nine. Tees on the par-three tenth were elevated to create a beautiful drop-shot against a mountain backdrop. The eleventh, the formerly-ghastly dwarf par five, had its right side opened up and its left side cleared of a number of a trees. The hardwood reduction means that the green is now accessible from 200 yards away; in the past, a ball had to be within 100 yards to have any kind of view of the green.
Albanese touched up the 12th and then went to work on the Cascade hole, the tumbling 13th. Formerly a narrow par four, more trees were cleared on the left and a split fairway (lower and upper) hole was created. If it weren’t for the the closing holes, this hole would stand as the monumental achievement of the renovation. Have I awakened your curiosity? Good.
The 17th hole was a counter-sloped hole whose approach was nearly impossible to judge, let alone hit, correctly. It was also narrow and quite the heartbreaker. The 18th played at various times as a sweeping par four and a sweeping par five. What Albanese did was reverse the fairways, create a new green on the left, and rechristen the penultimate hole as a challenging, uphill par five. If the climb weren’t enough, the majority of the front-to-back sloping green is blind until you reach the putting surface. The home hole now plays down the old 17th fairway, then crosses the fronting creek to the 18th green.
Each time I pull into town, I remark that all that is missing from Ellicottville is a boarding school or small college. It has that traditional feel of a northeastern school town. Alas, we can’t have it all. Ellicottville is the perfect place to get away for a few days. The lodging is excellent, the adventure park and mountain bike trails feed the adventurous soul and the golf whets your appetite for a return tout at the champ.