Gather round, children. I’m about to tell you a story about a golf course. It’s only nine holes long, and it’s one of the best … no, make that BEST public golf courses in western New York. It’s an example of a brilliant routing, on a small piece of land. It’s a tale about staying out of nature’s way, taking what the land gives you, and walking away a one-hit wonder. After playing golf for 45 years in Buffalo-Niagara, I finally saw the brilliance that is the Attica’s 10th Hole and Golf Course, formerly the private Attica Golf Club.
Have a look at the opening graphic. We’ve added big numbers to tell you which hole is each. I suspect that Mr. Harry Heit, formerly the professional at Irondequoit and Silver Lake, looked out at his property and made one of two decisions: here will be my first tee, so where do I go from here? Or, here will be my ninth green, so how do I get here? Either way, he knew where to arrive, and he knew where to depart.
The course opens with a gentle handshake of a par four, heading north on the eastern perimeter. Location is important, and we’ll tell you why in a moment. True, there is a pond to the left of the green, but that’s only a problem for people who try to drive the green. For the rest of us, a mid iron off the tee leaves a wedge or less to the green. Hole number two traverses the entire northern perimeter of the course, heading west. Tee shots from the back deck must traverse a small marsh, while forward tees avoid this wee hazard. The fairway climbs gently left, until it plateaus for the final 100 yards. Hole three, the first short hole, offers two decks: upper and lower. It plays along half of the western perimeter, in a southward direction, and plays at least one club longer, so be prepared!
You’ll notice on the map that the sixth hole continues to the south, and tees off directly beyond the third green. The temptation must have been enormous for Heit, to continue in that direction. No decision would have been worth, and we’ll get to that, soon enough. Meanwhile, the tee shot on number four is the first instance of an eastward play. A common mistake by the amateur architect is to head east with early tee shots. Playing directly into the rising sun is unfortunate, and Heit was wise enough to resist until nearly halfway through the course. And what a hole he found.
The optimal tee shot plays down the left side of the fairway on number four, even as the hole moves down and to the right. Crossing from the lower right, runs a creek that passes near the green. The deeper left that you drive, the shorter the approach and the flatter the lie. The green has a trough running all the way around, moat-like in appearance, but bottomed with grass, not sand. The fifth runs parallel to the fourth, moving uphill to the fairway crest, then downhill to a well-bunkered green. The fifth green is diabolical, with a plateau high and left, where many a hole is cut, and a collection area low and right, where many a weak approach shot or pitch end up. Now we reach the aforementioned sixth. Heit needed to find four and five in the middle of the course, in order to save eight and nine for the end. The sixth is a short par four that plays thirty yards longer, thanks to its uphill trajectory. The drive narrows with OOB right, but it’s nothing that a fairly-accurate golfer can’t handle. The green is completely unprotected by sand, like others, as the internal contours of the putting surface provide all the challenge a short game needs.
The final act of this three-part play begins with a blind tee shot to a sunken green. Seven can play as long as 225 yards, or much shorter, depending on the distance you select. The long tee plays from high right, and the shorter one, from low left. The putting green slopes from back to front, but some putts actually break uphill! Goes to show what happens when a green sits contrary to a predominant slope in land topography. The second consecutive, bunkerless green is less deep than in past years, and with luck, will revert to its former size. A larger putting surface would give the green more options, and situate it as a formidable opener to this final sequence of holes.
There are two ways to play the eighth hole at Attica. The easier and obvious is the short tee. The harder one, and less obvious (as you can’t see it) is the basement tee. The later adds 50 yards to the hole; 30 are physical, while 20 are due to the uphill nature of the tee ball. The high side of the fairway is left, and from there, the green opens up. The low side, where balls tend to slide, requires an approach over a low bunker, from which recovery is unlikely. Like the fifth green, eight’s putting surface is devious, and a two-putt is nearly a badge of honor. From eight, we move north to the ninth, a spectacular par five closer. The tee ball is played toward a ridge. Most days, it’s better to not carry the ridge with your tee shot, as your lie should be flatter. Go over the ridge, and you’ll be closer to the hole … with a ball above your feet, at a downhill angle. Not the easiest of shots. The green sits like a bench in the hill below the clubhouse. There is no running of the ball onto this green. Hybrids and long irons usually come up short, leaving a pitch to the table top.
Attica’s nine holes are sorely undervalued by the golfing public of western New York. Many might not know that they exist. Hopefully, this review amends that oversight. The course was purchased by Scott Howard and family this year. Howard, the long-time superintendent at Fox Valley, moved into the running of the course and should prove to be a proper steward. We have a few observations and one wish for Attica’s 10th:
- Putting surfaces appear unprotected, but they are not. They are their own protection;
- Changes in elevation are extreme, often requiring the addition or subtraction of an extra club;
- Harry Heit knew that his 8th and 9th holes had to close the curtains, and he found a way to position them at that precise location in the round;
- Having seen this course after the 2020 ranking, there is no doubt that it deserves a place in the top 15, public golf courses in Buffalo-Niagara. Alas, it shall have to wait until the next ranking, in 2022;
- Our wish: return the 7th green to its former size.