It was 2010 and Coca-Cola Field was set to undergo a major renovation with the installation of a new drainage system. Once the Buffalo Bisons’ season was over, the field was ripped up.
So members of the Bisons’ front office took the opportunity to turn the baseball field into a makeshift golf course.
“We just chipped around on the field,” Bisons general manager Mike Buczkowski recalled. “It was cool being down there, because at that point we weren’t worried about the field, so we put a flagstick in and made up our own holes, and it was fun.”
Fast forward five years when Buczkowski was reading about what the San Diego Padres did in the 2015 offseason, creating The Links at Petco Park – a nine-hole course where 1,600 golfers hit shots from all over Petco Park.
“I read about what the Padres did and thought that would be cool, hitting from the club level, hitting from home plate. We took their plan, made some adjustments to our ballpark and brainstormed some ideas for themes and made it our own.”
And so on Friday, the Bisons announced The Links at Coca-Cola Field – a three-day event from Sept. 16-18 turning the downtown Buffalo ballpark into a unique nine-hole golf course experience. On the first day of registration, one quarter of the tee times already were booked.
Here’s how it works:
There are eight tee boxes set up around the stadium, including the Bully Hill Party Deck, home plate and the club level. Golfers get one shot and are scored based on where there tee shot lands. A hole in one, is, well, a hole in one. A birdie (2) will be awarded for tee shots that land in the marked area around the hole, par (3) for those on the green, bogey (4) outside of the green and double bogey (5) for hitting a hazard.
The No. 8 hole will be back in the Bisons’ indoor batting cages for the only putting on the course. Golfers will use a special hockey-style putter, akin to the kind used in the movie “Happy Gilmore.”
Hole distances range from 70 to 133 yards.
“If you’re a serious golfer we want you to be able to out there and say, ‘Man this is going to be a cool shot,’ but then we also want to make it fun and raise money for charity,” Buczkowski said. “I think that’s what makes it a home run.”
Of course with the format, you don’t need to be a serious golfer. And while trying to figure out how to best hit a tee shot on Holes 3 and 4 from the club level, there’s plenty of hijinks along the way.
Golfers will have their name and hometown announced to the gallery on Hole 1. A craft beer tasting will be at Hole 2, an homage to Caddyshack. At the 133-yard No. 3, golfers can purchase a mulligan for $5 to benefit the Bisons Charitable Foundation. Deal with crowd distractions (“Noonan!”) at Hole 4 and weather issues on Hole 5. Show your BuffaLove at No. 6 by taking your swing wearing a football, hockey or baseball batting helmet. No. 7 is another opportunity to donate to the Bisons Charitable Foundation -- and win a prize for a birdie. The putting challenge on No. 8 features the Happy Gilmore inspired hockey stick putter, while No. 9 features a $250 Bisons gift card for a hole in one.
While Links at Coca-Cola Field is a new event, it fits in with the desire of the organization to utilize the ballpark outside of Bisons’ games and makes the best out of the Bisons missing the playoffs for the 11th straight season.
“The Bisons are the main focus of the ballpark, but we’re always looking for how else can we use the ballpark,” Buczkowski said. “We have the chicken wing festival coming up, we’ve had concerts, youth baseball games. We’ve had presentations where people use the video board. I think this is a unique way to use the facility on a day that otherwise people wouldn’t be here.
“We’re always looking for these kinds of things, but they have to be things we can execute without killing the field. You can’t do a monster truck event out on the field because you’ve got to have grass when you’re done. So this was a good way at this time of the year to pull off this event.”
Tee times are for groups of two or four and are available from 6 to 10 p.m. beginning Friday, Sept. 16 through Sunday, Sept. 18.
A round at the event is $50 per golfer and includes a special Links at Coca-Cola Field cap, a logo ball/poker chip ball marker, a post-round beverage and snacks at Pettibones Grille, parking and two tickets to Bisons Opening Day 2017. The premium package for $80 also includes a limited edition Links at Coca-Cola Field log Nike golf polo. Online registration is open.
Golfers must bring their own wedges and 9 and 8-irons.