Terry Hills is unique to golf in Buffalo-Niagara, in that it possesses three separate nine hole runs. Having 27 holes affords the Batavia course the freedom to schedule a closed, 18-hole event and still have nine holes available for walk-up, public play. The original nine, the East, was designed by Parker Terry. The North nine was added by Geoffrey Cornish and the South nine was laid out by Edmund Ault. While none of the nines will ever overwhelm a golfer with length, it is recommended that one pay attention to the strategic elements of each hole, lest she/he wind up in an unenviable spot, poised to write down an undesirable number on the scorecard.
The first hole on the East is a gentle handshake. It dives down into a wee valley, then rises to a green sited on a wee bluff. Trouble comes in the form of trees on each side of the fairway, and horseshoed around the putting surface. The second and third holes at Terry Hills are round-wreckers, if you’re not careful. The second is a short, dare we say “driveable” par four at 290 yards, but trouble awaits left, long and right. The smart play is a layup-wedge combination, leaving a run at birdie. The third is a found hole, one of those terrific par threes that nature put there, waiting for the right man to find it. Playing 130 yards (officially) from the tee, the third drops out of the sky to a green located on the far side of a pond. You might make the climb to the fourth tee a few strokes under par, or twice as many over!
The fourth hole is the first par five and offers an angled tee shot to a straight and uneven fairway. Heading due east, this three-shotter is lined with trees and has a bit of vertical movement in the neighborhood of the second-shot landing area. An uphill approach to a large green often deceives one into thinking that the birdie putt is much closer than it turns out to be. Hole five is a strong par three, heading back to the west. It may be a shade downhill, but its overall length demands a mid to long iron play to a green that drops off a bit on the sides. Two bunkers protect the front of the green from bounced-in approach shots. Hole six runs parallel to number four and matches it in par-five length. Unlike its predecessors, this one play notable uphill from the start of the fairway to the green sight. Once again, no fairway bunkers are employed, as trees and distance prove to be effective obstacles to a par.
The closing trio on the East nine features a second, mid-length par three that runs opposite the 5th; a short and dangerous, downhill par four where sand and water protect the over-zealous tee shot; and a third, par-five hole where a strong drive brings you within range of the green in two. The key to seven is finding the middle of the green. A solitary bunker protects the right side, so a recovery chip or pitch is possible from short, left and long. On eight, the placement of the drive determines your next play options. Although the green is wide, it is tilted and side-hill putts are common. Nine is a terrific closer, as it offers a wide fairway (albeit one lined with trees) and an opportunity to smash a shot up near or on the putting surface in two. The green is flat with subtle undulations, providing a real chance to make one’s first putt.
East Nine Gallery
The getaway from the clubhouse to the North nine is a bit similar to the East’s first hole. A medium par four with a bit of trouble on the drive (bunker right) and a bit of trouble on the approach (bunker greenside left), but for the cautious player, a run at par should be within reach. As with all the par fives, the 11th hole is reachable with two strong strikes. The hole bends gently right, encouraging the typical amateur fade. A deceptive bunker sits about 30 yards short of the green on the right; carry it and your shot should bound toward the putting surface. Twelve is a nifty hole, with a bit of mounding that frames the green and adds character to the view. Two bunkers punish the errant shot, but at 192 yards from the tips, the distance is manageable by all.
The thirteenth hole doglegs right, between two bunkers, at the 220-yard mark. If you want to let your drive out, you might try cutting the right, inside corner but the prudent play is a hybrid toward the left bunker, leaving a wedge to a green protected by two front bunkers. If there is anything redundant about Terry Hills, it is the predisposition of the three architects to bunker holes front left and right. Carry the sand and a birdie putt awaits. The 14th is the horseshoe, the downhill par three to a green hidden by a horseshoe of water. While an extremely-accurate run-up shot might find its way to the green, the best play is to trust your iron selection and fly the ball onto the putting surface. No greenside sand protects shots that miss their mark. The fifteenth is of similar distance tot he 13th, but entirely different character. The uphill trajectory of this short par four adds ten to twenty practical yards to its distance. Two bunkers in the drive zone narrow the fairway neck, so again, the lay-up is prudent. Once in good shape off the tee, the unguarded green invites a variety of approach-shot options to reach the short grass.
Hopefully you’ve made up some shots on the first six holes of the North nine. The closing triad is the most punishing stretch on the entire property. measuring over 1300 yards, the two par fours and one par five move left, right and back again (which way was that?) around corners and bunkers, amid forests and through hill and dale. They are an enjoyable walk or ride, so if you don’t play your best golf, enjoy the views.
The sixteenth doglegs hard left around a stand of trees. A tee ball to the plateau landing area leaves a long approach to a green by sand front left and mounding on the right. The 17th plays slightly uphill and to the right, with a right-front bunker standing sentinel over approach shots that leak just a bit too much. The wondrous 18th simply demands your best. Whack a tee ball into the fairway, then negotiate the single tree in fairway central and you will face an approach across a valley, to a single-bunkered green located on a shelf. It’s an impressive and demanding finish to the middle nine that awaits, but it’s one you will remember.
North Nine Gallery
The shortest of the three opening holes is the 19th, but due to its rightward lean at the end, it may be the most treacherous. Balls that miss up the right side off the tee find a nest of trees to block the approach. The uphill trajectory of the fairway adds real yardage to the drive and serves to kill balls that land in the upslope. Left side is better side, so play safe with a hybrid and reward yourself with a short iron in to a bunkerless green. Bunkerless doesn’t mean feable, however. The fall-offs to all sides ensure a creative chip or pitch recovery if you fail to find the putting surface. The 20th hole is a smashmouth par five. Long and straight, with an imposing pond fronting the green, number twenty demands two mighty strikes, followed by a gutsy approach across the closest thing to “Lake Terry” as exists on the property. Your drive carries the crest of a hill and the remainder of number 20 unfolds before you. The second runs down to water’s edge, then it’s gut-check time. The 21st hole offers the second consecutive blind drive, over the peak of a hill to an unseen fairway. After the hole doglegs right, the approach comes in to a green with a drop-off left and sand to the right.
Although number 22 has a garden feel to it, ensconced between a hedge and a series of trees, the wee pitch of a par three offers a tee shot hidden from the effects of the wind…until the ball is in the air. Gauge your iron properly, because any miss is an unfortunate one. The green is ample, so no excuse should be offered for an errant shot. The 23rd dances along the parallel oob up the left side for nearly 370 yards. This double-dogleg (albeit gently so) par four utilizes the common feature of trees to shape its trace. The unbunkered green sits atop a rise, so add a club to your approach shot. Hole 24 reverses direction to the south and it is a memorable par five, for sure. One of the best features of the entire property is its ability to mix push-up greens with putting surfaces located at fairway height. The 24th ends, in the traditional way, with a green surface located not even an inch above the fairway. Bunkering along the way serves to contain one’s strategy, but it never intrudes on the 490-yard waltz.
Slightly uphill, the 25th is protected by an ample bunker on the right side of the green. Since the majority of the hole locations on the hole are left of the sand, it makes absolute sense to play center-left and take your chances with the flat stick. Hole 26 is a straight, slightly-uphill, two-shot hole that depends on the foibles of topography to defend itself. Ripples and rolls in the fairway lead to slightly-uphill and -downhill lies for the approach, causing many balls to stray left or right. More undulations guard the front of the green, proving that bunkers are not the only efficient way of protecting par. The final hole, a shortish par four, offers an opportunity to unleash a drive, get within wedge distance of the green and close with a birdie. If you don’t like the idea of a half-wedge in, lay back to a full hundred yards.
South Nine Gallery