The Chautauqua Golf Club is home to 36 holes of golf and a contemporary practice/training facility. Located across the street from the renowned Chautauqua Institution, the course boasts a number of holes designed by Donald J. Ross and Xen Hassenplug. The former is the standard by which golf course architects are measure, while the latter is relatively unknown outside of the Ohio-Pennsylvania-New York triad.
Holes 1-3: 371, 483 & 423
The Hill course opens with a sound par four. The green is not visible from the tee, so the drive must be played to a strategic point in the right-center portion of the fairway. The approach to the dogleg-left is played uphill, with two options. A high shot can carry to the large putting surface, avoiding the front-left bunker, while a runner may bounce in from high right. The green is tilted along the hill line, providing a putting challenge from hole 1. The second hole is a breather par three, played level from tee to green, over two forward bunkers. The putting surface is also wide, yet not tilted like its predecessor. Recovery shots from either side appear simple but are not picnic, so hit the green and be done with it. The third hole is a marvelous retro fit, a blind drive over a hill to a fairway that runs to the green.
The fairway cants from right to left and a large pond guards the hole down the left side, beginning about 100 yards short of the green. As with number 1, a runner may come in from the right side. The green is 2.5 clubs deep.
Holes 4-6: 549, 462 & 392
Hole #4 is the first 3-shotter on the course and plays quickly from left to right, then straight. A drive over the trees on the right will carry the wee burn, although a lay-up for shorter hitters never hurts.
The hole straightens and flattens past the burn, running a bit downhill into the putting surface. For longer hitters, this hole is an opportunity to get a quick run at birdie or eagle. Hole the fifth plays nearly as long as four, in the opposite direction, but as a par four! The hole is forgiving, as no trouble interferes until a front-right green side bunker comes into play. The sixth hole plays parallel again to five, then doglegs left around a large tree. There is a bunker at the corner of the dogleg, inexplicably in the rough (why the double/triple penalty?) so play safely right to avoid the garbage. The approach plays better from the right, too. The green is gently set above the fairway by a tiny bit, with sand protecting the left side.
Holes 7-9: 212, 472 & 367
Number seven is a strong par three, playing long yet downhill to a green hidden in a glade. A grove of trees up the right side forces shots from there to come in high, while a lower, left to right slider may be played in the opposite direction. A left greenside bunker protects the port side of the putting surface. Eight is a daunting par five, played out to, then up, a severe hill. No bunkers impede progress, yet none is needed.
The putting surface, remarkably, is not as severe as it might be, although caution should be taken toward the front. The end of the outward half, number nine, is a roller-coaster, downhill par four. A whomp with the drive could reach the front of the green, or it could end up in tree trouble, both left and right. The safe play, an iron or hybrid, leaves a short iron or wedge to a putting surface set in a treed amphitheater. Most approaches come from a downhill lie, so beware the miss to the side. The green is deep, with some tricky internal contours, so assess your long putts carefully here.
Holes 10-12: 353, 481 & 412
The opening hole on the inward nine, number ten, is an unforgettable two-shotter. The tee ball must negotiate a fairly-narrow landing area, leaving a wedge to a green laid atop a rock ledge.
The putting surface is not deep but, given the rock base, is quite slippery. In other words, it’s hard to hold and harder to putt! Number eleven, believe it or don’t, is even more demanding. Offering the most difficult drive on the course, the preservation of trees on either side of the fairway (not a great idea) conspires to force a lay-up or a really straight tee ball, or you are in trouble. The problem is, the lay-up turns number eleven into a four-shot hole, which is kind of silly. The landing area is tilted severely from right to left, precisely at the point where the hole doglegs left, downhill then uphill. A fairway bunker sits left, some 150 yards shy of the putting surface. The green, set high atop a rise, is protected front left by sand. Number twelve plays downhill on its left-to-right tee ball, then back up to a green set on a rise. Shots played center-left tend to carom farther port and end up in trees. Balls that start to the right and don’t come back, find tree or rough trouble. Another demanding driving hole, perhaps the toughest three-hole stretch on the course.
Holes 13-15: 175, 344 & 155
The glamor hole on the back nine, thirteen plays downhill, across a pond, to a wide and puttable green. After taking 1/2 club off for the descent, instructions are simple: hit a good shot.
The green is very receptive, typically retaining moisture due to its low altitude and proximity to the pond. Fourteen is tricky hole, with a feel like two par threes. Tee ball to one ledge, approach down to another. Once again, accuracy is the watchword, rather than distance. The fairway slopes slightly from right to left, with overhanging sentinel trees on each side. The approach continues uphill to a green set against a backdrop. The runner works as well as the high ball for an entrance to the green; just don’t go long! Number fifteen is a mundane par three with at least one extra tree. A hardwood up the right side, some sixty yards away from the tee, handcuffs shots from that side. A bit farther up, on the left, another maple semi-blocks shots from that side. In other words, start it straight and keep it straight! The green is protected by sand and is sizable.
Holes 16-18: 386, 517 & 387
And the course comes to a close with three unique holes. Sixteen is a sneaky dogleg left, whose fairway is easily breached, leaving a blocked approach on the right. Left is swamp land, so the only option is straight and precise.
The approach comes in over a creek, to another green set in the side of a hill. The slope of the green makes number sixteen a cracker. Seventeen is a cross-country par five, heading up and across the side of a hill, then cutting rightward, into the hill, up to the green. The elevation change is never drastic, but it is noticeable. The home hole, number eighteen, is an enjoyable descent to the clubhouse, reminiscent of the final ski run of a pleasurable day on the slopes. Doglegging slightly right, let the cannons loose and hit a bomb. A wedge in to a receptive green and a final run at birdie is your reward.