Beaver Island golf course, the only state-run golf facility in Buffalo-Niagara, inhabits a flat piece of land on Grand Island. Designed by the region’s most prolific golf course architect, William Harries, Beaver Island presents a fairly challenging test to most golfers, especially when the wind is up. The greens, in typical Harries fashion, are straightforward and easily putted.
A tough par four begins the test. Straight forward, 420 or so, two bunkers in drive zone, drive and mid to long iron to a slightly elevated green. The second is a nice par five, where all depends on the wind. With no wind or a following breeze, birdie becomes a possibility. With the breeze in your face, number 2 becomes a true three-shot hole. Scattered bunkers cause the player to think about tee and second shot placement, although they are not plentiful nor hazardous enough to threaten the recovery. Like all of Beaver’s greens, this one is large and round, with slight breaks and rolls.
The third hole is a scenic par three that plays over a branch of the large, front side lake. The green is protected by some sand, although not enough to warrant redirection of the shot. The fourth is Beaver’s signature hole, a par five that presents an opportunity for eagle if played properly. The lake comes into play along the left perimeter of the hole, following it from tee to green. Woods on the right prevent a bail-out. The second shot is played toward a green whose fairway widens slightly toward the target. Nothing prevents a straight ball on either shot, so miss to the front of the green if necessary.
The fifth is another terrific par four, the second of four on the front side that require drive and at least mid-iron to reach the putting surface. The lake guards the left side the entire length of the hole, although the right side does allow a margin for error. The putting surface is guarded by front bunkers, yet is receptive to a mid-iron flown onto the surface. Number six is a long par three that plays slightly downhill to a solidly-bunkered green, there is nevertheless much room for error. The green is slightly smaller than the others on the front, yet no more difficult. Do not fly the green, as the smaller front-side lake comes into play.
Seven provides bit of respite among all the long irons, offering a drive/short iron to an appealing target. A bit of fairway bunkering and a copse of trees along the left make the right side of the fairway the ideal side from which to try an approach. Both a run-up and a flown shot are options here. If one can swing easily on number eight, this enormous par four is tameable. The fairway is large for the drive, so the shaft may be let out. The smaller front-side lake does not come into play until the second shot, unless the player blocks one ninety yards right from the tee. The approach can be played over a finger of the lake or across dry land, depending upon the angle. An approach from the left is the most advantageous, as the player can fade or draw the ball along the entire width of the green without crossing water. An approach from the right is a more adventurous one, as the water and a tree at water’s edge co-present visual and physical obstacles. The green is not nearly as difficult to putt as the fairway is to negotiate, so putting becomes routine once the short grass is reached.
The home hole of the outward half presents a worthwhile end to a tour-length front nine. Drive-zone bunkering threatens a well-struck tee ball to the left. Unlike the previous hole, the better approach angle is from the right, to a green protected by some bunkering, with a slight elevation. Much like numbers one and five, this straightforward hole rewards solid ball striking, not dramatic exploits. Number ten gives another opportunity to shave a stroke from par, this par five doglegs slightly to the left, and boasts a forest of trees down the left side. The green is protected by bunkers, but is easily accessible from the front left. The putting surface is two-tiered, and provides a bit of a challenge when putting from one tier to the other. Miss the green short, as it falls off on the other three sides.
A visually challenging tee ball begins the eleventh, a medium-length par four. The large tree ahead seems to dictate a tee ball played to the left, when in fact, the proper angle is to go over the tree or to the right, cutting the dogleg and shortening the hole. The green sits no more than a short iron away, and is eminently puttable. The longest of the par fives at Beaver, number twelve runs mostly straight from tee to green. Small trees on the right, and large trees on the left, increasingly narrow the hole as the green nears. The green is well-bunkered, and sits a bit above the fairway. It is large, and is best missed to the front. It is puttable, as the sloping of it is not too rigorous.
Thirteen is an enjoyable par three, a mid-iron at most. It is bunkered to the right, and has OB behind and to the left of the green. The putting surface is flat, and not too extreme.
The first of three consecutive medium length par fours, the drive on fourteen must carry 150 yards over a pond to the fairway. The green sits a bit below the drive zone, yet is a smaller target than its predecessors. A slight dogleg left, number fifteen provides ample width to the driving area, although some trees do come into play. The green again sits a bit below the drive zone, and is also a fairly small target. There is some slope to the putting surface, requiring a bit of focus with the flat stick.
The sixteenth reverses the direction of the course, heading north. OB lines the left side of the fairway, while a copse of trees to the right forces the drive into the fairway for an unobstructed approach to the green. There is sand around the green, which slopes a bit from front to back. Number seventeen, a short par three, is marked by the enormous cross bunker that guards the entire front of the green. The putting surface is double-tiered, front and back, but not too extremely. A two-putt is not a difficult achievement.
The inward home hole is a direct affair, with little trouble other than the OB left. The green sits at the same level as the fairway and tee, and, in spite of the small bunker to the left of the putting surface, is an easy target to hit. A pleasant end to a pleasant round of golf.