Edie Dref was minding the snack bar at Bob-O-Link Golf Club a few weeks ago when a couple stopped in for lunch. They sat down and then, shyly, asked her if she would take their picture.
“They said their first date had been at Bob-O-Link, 50 years ago,” she said.
She marveled: “They still had their old scorecard.”
Small wonder that the couple – now long married, with children – had kept that souvenir. It’s hard to imagine a more romantic setting than this 18-hole, par 3 country golf course on Transit Road in Orchard Park. Named after the bobolink, a bird seen often around here once upon a time, Bob-O-Link has a fairy-tale loveliness.
Especially at night.
At Bob-O-Link, in a rare twist, golfing goes on until midnight, and occasionally beyond. When the sun goes down, someone flips a switch in the clubhouse basement, and on goes a galaxy of huge lights.
On a recent Thursday, the lights competed with a spectacular sunset. The green hills grew dark and the lake turned gold. In the center of the lake, a fountain bubbled.
It felt like being in Middle Earth, or the Hundred Acre Wood. A previous 100 Things adventure, the Porter Cup at the Niagara Falls Country Club, had illustrated the uniquely leisurely nature of golf. Now, in this hushed twilight, time again stood still. All we heard was the chirping of crickets and the splash of the fountain. The highway seemed a million miles away.
The first two golfers we met, Steve Swederski and Clint Adams, live in Orlando, Fla., work for the defense industry, and come to Buffalo on business. They love Bob-O-Link.
“This is the only place I know where you can golf under the lights,” Swederski said. “We spent every day this week cooped up in an office. And to be able to get out and do some golfing like this, it’s awesome.”
He pointed out that often, thanks to the lights, you have two shadows. It was true, and eerie.
Ryan Zasowski, a UB student golfing with a friend, also appreciated the opportunity to fit golf into a crowded schedule.
“You don’t have to stop when the sun goes down,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
How charmed this place was, how sweetly silent. By now, the sky was inky except for sparkling stars and a bright, stunning moon. A fanciful willow tree could have been sketched by Maurice Sendak. From somewhere came a whispery trill, like a bird stirring in its sleep.
Then a new sound intruded – a kind of croaking or buzzing, coming from a line of silvery trees. What was it?
“It’s really weird, ‘cause it’s everywhere,” Zasowski said. “I mean, not just in these trees.”
Edie Dref had said that sometimes golfers see wildlife. Zasowski said that was true.
“Once last year, a couple of deer ran in front of those trees,” he said, pointing. “It was really cool.”
Golfing at Bob-O-Link will become even more cool as the year goes on.
The bobolink flies south for the winter, but Bob-O-Link doesn’t fear falling temperatures. As long as the weather permits, it is open.
“Last year, we were open on Christmas Eve,” laughed Edie Dref’s daughter, Jennifer.
Bob-O-Link is a family enterprise. Jennifer works the golf equipment side of the clubhouse. (Glow-in-the-dark golf balls, anyone? They’re $10.) Edie runs the newly improved snack bar, complete with beer, wine and attractive salads and wraps. Edie’s husband, PGA golf pro Jimmy Dref, teaches at the course, along with another pro, Peter Fenn.
Golf is first come, first served. The last tee time is 9:30 p.m. It’s not cheap but not exactly expensive, either: $21 for 18 holes, or $16 for nine holes. (Daytime costs a bit less.)
Don’t golf? Tag along with someone who does. Get dinner or a drink. Stop to admire the vintage scorecard on display in the clubhouse. And the framed map, a half century old. Wait till the sun goes down. Then, just enjoy.
Moonlight and magic are par for this course.