For the first time in recorded history, the ranking of golf courses across western New York has been crowd-sourced. The process began two weeks ago, with stage one of the mechanism. After public and private divisions were reduced to 15 courses each, a ballot was produced and golf aficionados ranked from first to 15th, the finalists in each bracket. Two courses that received attention, but did not ascend to the final segment, were Niagara Frontier (Youngstown) and Brierwood (Hamburg.) Over the course of the next six days, we shall reveal the results of that ranking means. Today it is our pleasure to present the private course ranking, places 11 to 15, in reverse order.
- Previous: Public Course 11 to 15
Fifteen: Moonbrook Country Club
The neatest story about our southernmost representative to the private course ranking is this: in 1953, Ben Hogan played an exhibition here, just prior to setting sail for Scotland and his sole trip to the Open Championship. He won at Carnoustie, and thus Moonbrook takes a footnote in the history of the wee ice mon. There are hills at Moonbrook, and they influence every shot you play. Victim to its distance from Buffalo center, it would certainly fare better if better known. Moonbrook received 258 points in the ranking. Its highest vote was for fifth place.
Fourteen: Lancaster Country Club
Another course with a shorter list than deserved of admirers. Lancaster is the epitome of the under-the-radar course. That, and its oddest golf hole is its last, leaves visitors with that unfortunate memory. If the 18th came earlier in the round, it would be seen as a risk-reward par four, much like the course’s 10th hole. Lancaster has some of the area’s more strategic par five holes, as well as an all-world par four. In many cases, the margin from one course to the next is razor-thin. Lancaster offers a memorable day of golf, and the opportunity to hit every club in your bag. Lancaster received 268 points in the ranking. Its highest vote was for first place.
Thirteen: Orchard Park Country Club
At times, a deal with a devil is unavoidable. Not the devil, mind you, but an earthly one. In the 1990s, the membership at OPCC decided it wanted to expand its practice facility, and relocate it adjacent to the first tee. Fine. The range, short-game area, and putting green are magnificent. Gone are the 17th and 18th holes, originals from Walter Travis. The replacement of golden-age holes should be done with holes of the same style. Not the case here. The architect failed to blend the three replacement holes with the other fifteen. Why is this a shame? For beginners, OP has two of the best short 4s (4 & 14) in the area, the nerviest little pitch of a 3 (16) in the region, the funkiest finisher (former 16, now 18) around, and greens that run subtly away in all directions. Orchard Park received 286 points in the ranking. Its highest vote was for fifth place.
Twelve: Stafford Country Club
Any course on the perimeter of a region will suffer for exposure. Stafford is a small club, content to be so, on the outskirts of Batavia. Its course, like the previous one, is a Walter Travis original. Like the previous one, Stafford made the mistake of softening features created by the master. In Stafford’s case, it was the putting surfaces, that rolled, belched and hiccoughed like no others. Fortunately, cooler heads preserved the inconceivable 11th green, the greatest putting surface in western New York. It also has two of the most fun 4s you’ll play in 10 and 18. Both are driveable, so eagle and double are always in play. Stafford could use some tree trimming as well, to encourage wind transfer and sunlight, and to give just a bit more angle to tee shots. If you’d like to step back in time and play a great one, look east. Stafford received 296 points in the ranking. Its highest vote was for third place.
Eleven: Transit Valley Country Club
Speaking of trees … sometimes mother nature trims them back; other times, it’s in the hands of the course to say, we’ve lost our angles and restricted our playing corridors. Such is the way of Transit Valley. The golf course moves in an intuitive manner, tracing the outer perimeter for the majority of its front nine, then maneuvering along the interior for the inward half. It has back-to-back short holes at 15 and 16, that are two of the finest examples of reigning in technology that we have. Transit Valley received 365 points in the ranking. Its highest vote was for third place.