Share this article

print logo

Seneca Hickory Stick is quick to score an ace on national scene ; Ranked No. 6 of new courses by Golf magazine

Golf courses pour years of time and loads of money into getting listed by Golf magazine as one of the best courses in the nation.

For course owners throughout the country, this is the Grammys, the Emmys, the ESPYs.

But at Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course -- a scenic course still in its infancy -- the honor didn't even seem like a possibility.

"We weren't even thinking about getting rated this year," Hickory Stick General Manager Fran Roach said. "We opened in July."

The course opened for public play July 2, and five months later it's ranked No. 6 on Golf magazine's Best New Courses in America.

Ten total courses were listed in the category, with Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon earning the top spot and The Prairie Club in Nebraska finishing second.

Hickory Stick was the only course from New York State to make the list.

It's obvious what differentiates this 18-hole, par-72 course from others -- the atmosphere.

Designed by golf mastermind Robert Trent Jones Jr., the course capitalizes on the topography of Western New York. Jones, the brain behind more than 250 courses in 40 countries, didn't force anything. Instead, he let nature speak for itself. The Shellbark hickory trees, five lakes and open meadows all stand out on the 250-acre plot.

Three years in the making, Hickory Stick has become an instant attraction.

"Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed a wonderful course, that's the first step," Roach said. "And we wanted to create an experience for our golfers. Right when they drive into the property, we're taking their clubs out of their cars, we're putting them on the cart, we're cleaning them when they're done.

"It all adds up to creating a memorable experience. That's what we're striving for."

In the Golf magazine piece, Senior Editor Joe Passov highlights the 152-yard, par-3 final hole as particularly appealing, calling it a "petite, yet drama-filled end to the round."

On the organic feel to the course, he added, "What you won't find are homes, forced features or anything remotely artificial."

Everything adds up to a round of golf that demands strategic planning and shot-to-shot research.

Eric Bloom, a 46-year-old golf junkie, travels to about 10 courses a year.

Immediately, the design of Hickory Stick stood out to him.

"You can't just grip it and rip it," Bloom said. "You have to think about every shot, and that's the signature of a Trent Jones course."

A landscaper of 27 years, Bloom has a general idea about how golf courses progress from a structural perspective. Usually, courses take time to mature, to build an identity. This one, he says, is ahead of the game.

"I've played at a local private club, and what's nice about Hickory is that it's as nice as, if not better than, a lot of private clubs," he said.

So, what's next?

At Hickory Stick, everything is happening fast. Roach says that the course is currently in discussions to host a high-profile event in 2012.

"We're still in the due-diligence stage of that," Roach said. "We will probably determine that within the next three to four weeks, I suspect that we'll have some major-type of events. It's a golf course that can handle major events."

This year, a new clubhouse and restaurant were finalized. Innovations and renovations are sure to continue. But, as Roach said, his emphasis, his vision, will remain on maintaining the majestic nature of the course.

Golf magazine's ranking is a testament to that.

"We're extremely delighted about that ranking," Roach said. "There's a lot of excitement around here."

e-mail: tdunne@buffnews.com

There are no comments - be the first to comment