One of the real staples in Western New York golf, Grover Cleveland Golf Course is steep in tradition. It was the site of the 1912 U.S. Open, won by John McDermott.
That was a long time ago.
Now mainly considered a breeding ground for people learning the game and elders not wanting to walk longer, hilly venues, Grover is hardly a skilled tournament-level golf course. In fact, you’re as likely to see gentlemen in sandals and tee shirts shanking iron shots while enjoying a few “pops” as you are witnessing accomplished veterans spinning wedges back towards the flag.
Still, the public course offers a good time if you play when not overly crowded, and it won’t cause your wallet to take a whipping either. Also, if you’re putter is not cooperating, don’t be shocked to come off the 18th green with the same amount of strokes as the places you play perceived as much harder.
Here’s a hole-by-hole look at Grover Cleveland.
Hole 1: Par 4, 350 Yards- Like the majority of the tee shots on this course, the task on the opening hole is fairly simple; keep your ball straight and you’ll be in excellent shape. There is out of bounds on the far left and trees lining the right side. Depending on how far left and deep your drive is; there’s a large tree that could affect your approach. Assuming you start off the day with a good nerves-free drive, you have a relatively flat green to provide an excellent opening birdie chance. Just don’t shoot your ball over the green or you’ll find yourself trying to whack out of a bush… and make the people on the second tee happy you’re playing behind and not in front of them.
Hole 2: Par 4, 422 yards- According to the scorecard, this is the hardest hole on the course. Bombs away on the tee shot as its mostly open and need to hit the ball far left to end up penalized for out of bounds. However, that’s where the easy time ends. Unless you’re very long off the tee, you’re going to find yourself with a sizeable second shot. It’s made harder by the green being tiny and partially elevated. Nearly anything left of the green will find your ball on the wrong side of the fence, and there is no room for error on overshooting the putting surface. Take your par and be happy with it. It’s far too easy to card a double bogey or worse as you head to the third tee.
Hole 3: Par 3, 160 yards- If you’re not off to a good ball-striking start, this tee shot may rattle your nerves. The hole is straight away and there’ s no trouble in front or behind the green, but if you put your shot even 15 yards left of the green you’ll hear the clanking of your ball bouncing up Eggert Road (and hopefully not landing on a moving car). Even if you hit the extremely elevated green, it’s nearly a given you’ll be left with a taxing birdie putt. The ridges and sharp breaks on this surface more than make up for the lack of difficulty landing your tee shot on it.
Hole 4: Par 4, 415 yards- The early trend continues of not being able to smack your drive far left. This hole presents one of the few challenging tee shots on the course. If you’re long and even a little left you may have mounds to deal with in the rough grass for your approach. Push it right and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll find a tree altering your approach. If you’re in good position off the tee, the conclusion is much easier. A large, mostly flat putting surface similar to the first is easily accessible and the opportunity for a birdie on your scorecard is there for the taking.
Hole 5: Par 4, 320 yards- The last of the opening stretch of “don’t go left” tee shots, there are trees lining a fence down the left hand side. With the hole being straight away and not far, it’s foolish to hit a driver (though I usually can’t help myself) as going too long will have you in a grassy mound. A mid iron shot should find you within a short iron or wedge to a fairly large green. If you don’t give a shot away with stupidity, this is a comparatively easy par hole.
Hole 6: Par 3, 230 yards- The first of back-to-back par threes, this starts a stretch of three holes that will typically make or break your front nine score. On a busy day, this is where the pace of play gets a little backed up, so don’t be surprised to see a mini gallery watching your tee shot. Besides being a longer par three, the only real trouble is if you bomb a drive green high but left. There, you may find your ball resting in the bushes that separate the next tee. Be aware; you’re hitting your shot into a tricky green and you don’t want to go past the flag, especially if the pin rests in the first half of the green. If you’re long, a two putt is not a given.
Hole 7: Par 3, 194 yards- The good news is it’s wide open with no obstacles to overcome if you’re short. The bad news is unless you get a hole in one, you WILL be tested on your birdie putt. Arguably the hardest green on the course, the putting surface is elevated from top to bottom and regardless of pin location your putt is going to include some major break. I’ve played this course numerous times and I can assure you I see more three and four putts here than any other. Unless your fortunate enough to get a great look at the cup, try to hit your first putt close and run off the green and to the concession stand that follows by getting home in two.
Hole 8: Par 5, 483 yards- Birdie lovers rejoice; this is your kind of hole. A sizeable tee shot will give you a realistic look at reaching the green in two and putting for eagle. There are a few sand traps to the right side of the fairway approaching the green that provide the only real potential trouble. If you’re driver is working on this day, bomb it and go for the wood or low iron shot onto the flat putting surface. Whatever you do, don’t overshoot the green. There are long bushes behind the green that will see you go from birdie to bogey or worse in no time.
Hole 9: Par 4, 380 yards- The front nine ends with one of the more challenging tee shots on the course. Large trees to the right create no room for error, and the long grass that makes up the rough on the left is no picnic either. The green is severely elevated from top to bottom, so it’s critical to keep the ball below the flag to have a makeable birdie or par putt.
Hole 10: Par 4, 312 yards- Do you have guts? If you’re long off the tee and having success keeping your ball straight, you’ll be invited to go for this green with your drive. The opening to the green is protected on each side by bunkers, but there’s enough room to get the ball past them and if not hit the green, at least flirt with the fringe. Trouble is presented via tree lines on both sides of a missed fairway and like so many holes on this course, making a birdie putt is far more challenging than getting to the surface. Hit a good chip shot and you have a tremendous chance to start your back nine in the red.
Hole 11: Par 4, 339 yards- As any hole should be, this is another that rewards a good tee shot and penalizes a bad one. There is a tree line down the right side and depending on where you end up if you go long and left, a wooded area that makes seeing the flag on your second shot impossible. If you hit a decent tee shot, don’t be conservative on your approach. Sand traps appear on both sides about 20 yards short of the green. Once you’re on the surface it’s large, flat and doesn’t have a lot of break, so you’ll have a good chance to start out with consecutive birdies.
Hole 12: Par 5, 524 yards- Unless you’re very long off the tee, this is certainly a three-shot hole. The one thing you don’t want to do with your drive is nail it left. There are trees about 15 yards off the fairway and depending on how far left you go, the only real pond on the course comes into play at about the 150 yard mark. If you hit a good drive and decide to get aggressive with your approach, keep in mind there’s a large sand trap short left of the green and a large mound to the right of it. The smart approach is a solid drive; hit a mid iron to your favorite wedge distance and take aim at an open, flat green that yields many one putts. This is the only par five on the back nine and the last thing you want to do is walk off it with an unnecessary snowman.
Hole 13: Par 3, 142 yards- Unlike a lot of holes we’ve stressed to not be long, this is a tee shot you don’t want to be short with. Sand traps and grassy mounds gobble up weak tee shots. There’s plenty of room to go left or even behind the green. If you don’t let everything visually in front of the green get you intimidated, you’re hitting into a large surface that provides ample birdie opportunity.
Hole 14: Par 4, 319 yards- It’s mostly wide open off the tee, though I don’t suggest going left. If you do, you may be forced to deal with a large, annoying tree that will alter your second shot. The real trouble begins and ends with the green. Along with seven, this is the hardest putting area on the course. Simply put, if you go over the green you’re going to be disappointed with your score. There are a couple of huge ridges and the pin always seems to be near the top of one. I’ve seen countless golfers, including myself many times within a pitching wedge approach; walk off with an irritating double.
Hole 15: Par 4, 300 yards- Even though this plays a little farther than the scorecard indicates, it’s definitely an easily accessible green. There are no sand traps or mounds protecting this green, so if you’re feeling confident you can fire away at the flag stick. A good tee shot puts you within a makeable chip and putt of adding a birdie to a scorecard. You’ll go to the next tee frustrated with any score in the black here.
Hole 16: Par 4, 260 yards- Eagles on a par four are very rare, so if you’re looking to add that notch to your golfing belt, here’s your chance. The hole is completely open from tee to green and a soundly struck driver or three wood could get you within a putt of carding a two. The green has a lot of modulation so be wary of what part of the green you want to hit into, depending on pin placement of course. A bit of advice from experience and seeing it from many others; the lure of being capable of hitting the green in one may get the adrenaline going a little too much. I’ve seen many golf balls go ridiculously far right or left here, mainly because people swing out of their shoes from this tee box.
Hole 17: Par 3, 145 yards- This isn’t a long par three by any means, but it presents plenty of challenges. Sand traps surround the left side of the green and if you go long over the putting surface, you’ll be left with an incredibly tough second shot. Putting is no picnic on this elevated surface either. Par is a very good score as you get ready to wrap up your day.
Hole 18: Par 4, 325 yards- Unless you’re trying to make up a stroke or two on the final hole, you should keep the driver in your bag. The pin is too elevated and protected by sand to reach off the tee, and you’re begging for trouble if you attempt it. A solid iron gets you within a wedge of the surface, which is protected throughout the middle and front right by a huge bunker. Stay on the front half of the surface with your approach and you should walk into the clubhouse feeling good with your finish.
Summary: Let’s be realistic here; Grover Cleveland is anything but one of the more demanding golf courses you’ll play in Western New York. Compared to most it’s wide open, short (listed at 5,621 yards with par at 69), basically no water and very few bunkers that should come into play.
Having said that, it’s one of the more underrated putting challenges you’ll find anywhere. Believe me, it’s easy to have an excellent ball striking day and still walk off perplexed at your final score because of all the putts you’ll feel you left out there.
Play Grover Cleveland If: You’re a novice to mid-level player…. If you’d like to play a course more challenging than the various par threes around town, but aren’t quite ready to play the tougher venues… Want to work on your putting…. Want to play golf but don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Don’t Play Grover Cleveland If: You’re impatient; there are a lot of hackers on the course and you could find yourself with prolonged waits at the tee boxes…. Mind seeing people on the course dressed in tank tops and jeans shorts… Are used to playing some of the nicest courses in the Erie County region and are expecting the same on a county-run course.
Course Information: Located at 3781 Main Street, Amherst 14226. Phone Number is 836-7398. Fees range from $16-18 depending on what day it is. Carts cost $24. You cannot reserve tee times unless you are a club member.
(This is the first in a long series where we’ll be reviewing golf courses throughout the Erie County and Niagara regions. If you’re interested in having your golf course reviewed, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information)