A few months back, one of our appreciated viewers suggested that we take a look at the best club and course websites in the area. “What an idea,” we thought, so the project began. It became clear that a private club and a public-access course determine different goals for their websites, so we decided to break down our reviews and evaluations into club and course websites. At the risk of alienating some, we’ll pull no punches and offer up an honest sauce of the clubs we think are providing a sincere service to web-traveling golf nuts in western New York.

We’re not going to analyze the value of the site for the club member, for two reasons. The more important is, we don’t have access to that portion of each site. The second reason relates to each individual club; the wants, needs and demands of the membership all differ. For example, Crag Burn is a pure golfer’s club~there are no pool and tennis courts. In contrast, many others offer the trappings and perquisites of a holiday retreat, from guest lodging to swimming and tennis facilities to ballroom dance space.

What this post does pretend to do, is determine which club’s web space is most helpful to a guest or a dreamer (I’ve been both.) The guest has finite plans to visit and play the club, while the dreamer stares skyward (or screenward) and muses, if only…

What should a fine club site offer? To begin: a scorecard, course tour or both. Folks come to the site to learn about the course. A trip to any number of sites (oobgolf.com, bluegolf.com, et al) will provide this information, so why not be in control of dissemination yourself? Next, an easy-to-understand navigational system. You’re in the customer service business, right? Your members and their guests don’t want to work too hard. Make the journey navigable. Third, a consistent appearance from page to page. This notion is more far-fetched than it was in the wild west days of web 1.0 (some sites still look like their 2001 iteration, sadly.) Then, a calendar of events. Non-members might be enticed to consider affiliation if you whet their appetite by letting them know what they’re missing. Last, access to your staff. Give us their email addresses. If you’re afraid of bots, write it as mogolf [at] santaclaus.com~we’ll understand. Much business is done via email these days; consider email the phone call that doesn’t interrupt. You know it’s there and you’ll get to it when you have the time.

Minor things like directions to the club (most folks have a GPS device), menus (if I’m a guest, I’ll eat anything; if I’m having a catered affair, I know you’ll make anything I request), weather (I’m fluent in weather.com, thank you very much) and photo gallery (usually shows too many flowers and ducks and too few/well-labeled golf vistas) are icing at best, excess at worst. If there’s a P.S. to be added, it falls under the “I know it when I see it” heading. Some looks appeal to traditionalists, while others fit the eye of the avant-garde. To each her/his own, say I. (I also like course histories, but then, I’m a golf course architecture aficionado.)

I’ve selected a number of award winners and given them catchy appellations that you’ll find only on BuffaloGolfer.Com (and probably, only in my posts, sigh.) At the end, I list the clubs from whom I’d like to see a little, you know, something for the effort.

My Awards:

Best Site Improvement of 2012: Country Club of Buffalo. If you had seen this site in 2011, you would have cried out for more. CCB enhanced its site in all the critical areas and did so with appealing colors and fonts. Style backed with substance is a hard hand to beat.

Most Unique Site: Shelridge Country Club. The Medina club has white ball links floating over a large background image. They are funky, but they get the job done. Sadly, they may not last; a large red notice indicates that the site is currently undergoing revisions. Let’s hope not.

Back It Up, Baby: East Aurora Country Club. The host of the International Junior Masters opens with a slide show of full-screen images, which might appear baroque if not supported by all the necessary information. Well, the EACC backs it up, baby. Course tour? Check. Scorecard? Check. Site map? Check. Navigation? Check. Nice job, folks.

Keep It Simple~Retro: Niagara Frontier Country Club. Frontier (as northtowners call it) is a chill outfit on the shore of Lake Ontario (think Youngstown and Fort Niagara) with an incredibly-cool stretch of old-school holes. It makes sense, then, that the website would be on the down low, yet efficient. It is, it works and that’s what matters.

Keep It Simple~Modern: Cherry Hill Club. The Ridgeway (Ontario) club has a tight site with functional drop-down menus. I’m a fan of an across-the-top menu bar, versus a down-the-side menu ladder (personal preference) and this one gets it done.

Cool Feature: Park Club’s course-map-to-course-tour functionality. It’s old school, along the lines of an image map. Click the hole circles and you’ll get a tour of the hole. It’s unique to the area, like many of the holes on the esteemed layout.

Do I Like It? I Don’t Know Feature: Bartlett Country Club in Olean has a funky slide show on youtube that is either too much or just right. You be the judge. It’s certainly thorough.

Clubs that give us enough to pass the test: Gowanda, Lancaster, Lockport, Springville, Transit Valley and the Arnold Palmer Management trio (Brierwood, Fox Valley and Tan Tara.)

Clubs that could give us a little more: Bartlett, Brookfield, Crag Burn, Moon Brook, Orchard Park, Wanakah, Westwood