One of the delightful things about South Shore golf course is that it provides a mixture of challenges and opportunity for golfers of all skill levels. For every hole that has you scratching your head if you fail to make par, there’s another waiting that’ll have you fist pumping if your score matches what the scorecard says it should.
As is the case with most public courses, South Shore has a number of holes that hardly will test how far your game has come along. But as I’m rapidly learning with most courses where anyone with a set of a clubs and a few bucks in their pocket can play, the trials and tribulations that lie on these greens are as strenuous as the prestigious clubs you must be a member to play at.
One of the first courses that are open during golf season and among the last to shut it down, South Shore is easily accessible and a fun course to play. The scenery at times can be majestic and the walk across the bridge at No. 14 can make you feel like you’re playing Augusta—or trying to avoid Michael Myers, depending on your perspective.
Here’s a hole-by-hole look at South Shore.
(Note: capsules are from the white tees. There are also blue tees (tournament play) and red tee (women’s) that vary in hole length. The other thing worth noting is I don’t believe a lot of the yardages on their official scorecard. Some holes play considerably longer than the yardage indicates.)
Hole 1: Par 4, 274 yards- There really isn’t much in way of danger on the opening hole unless you have a tendency to hit your ball to the left. Don’t do that on your opening drive or you’re view to the green will be severely hampered. If you go right you’re second shot will be longer but doable. Being nice, long and straight off this tee gives you a straight-on approach from under 150 yards with no strings attached. The first green is kind with its breaks and ridges, giving you a chance to get your round off to a fantastic start.
Hole 2: Par 3, 181 yards-If you perceived the opening hole as easy enough to not need your undivided attention, I highly suggest getting it back before stepping on this tee. It usually plays longer than the 181 yards listed, and there’s little room for error if you’re hoping to start your round off with consecutive pars. Missed tee shots will result in trouble almost anywhere. There’s a small creek that runs about 20 yards short of the green. Hit it right and you’re likely to find your ball obstructed by a tree. Go too far left and it’ll be bouncing along Southwestern Boulevard. The green is also protected by sand, mainly to the short left of the putting surface. Once you’re on it’s no picnic either. I’ve seen many disappointing two and three putts on this green, so keep your focus and be done with this hole as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Hole 3: Par 4, 392 yards- Remember when I said some holes play farther than what your scorecard tells you? This is definitely one of them. This is ranked as the hardest hole on the course and with good reason; there isn’t an easy shot to be had on the third. If you hook or slice your tee shot, odds are you’ll be taking a penalty stroke before your next ball strike. There are woods to the right and vehicle-filled pavement to the left. Now isn’t the time to get conservative either as a short tee shot will make it nearly impossible to reach the green in regulation. In fact, chances are greater you’re second shot will find the downhill running creek or be left with a severe uphill lie for your third. The play is here is to hit a confidently struck bomb off the tee, get near the green with your second and hope your chipping and putting will be an asset on this day.
(Every course has consecutive holes where your score is made or broken for the day, or at least for a front/back nine stretch. At South Shore that comes in the form of holes two and three)
Hole 4: Par 4, 331 yards- As long as you don’t stray too far to the left with your drive, there really isn’t much to this hole. It’s short enough to hit a wood or long iron off the tee and have a short look with your approach. This is a very easy par or better hole, as the scorecard indicates it’s the second-easiest hole on the course.
Hole 5: Par 3, 214 yards- The length of this par three is fairly long, but the difficultly really isn’t. The one thing you can’t afford to do is go too far off to the right. There’s a small creek and some trees that will give you trouble with your pitch. The left side has out of bounds but shouldn’t come into play if you’re even slightly on your game. There are bunkers that protect the green on the front of both sides, but you should have a makeable putt and a decent go at birdie or par.
Hole 6: Par 4, 382 yards- Get ready to bomb away. This hole is wide-open with not much in the way of hazard. The green is pretty flat without a lot of putts containing a great deal of break. If you’re hoping to score well, this is the last of three consecutive holes on the front nine that doesn’t come with big opportunity to watch your score blow up.
Hole 7: Par 4, 308 yards- If this is your first time playing South Shore and you glance at the scorecard, you see the 308 yardage and conclude you’ll be marking down a birdie. Guess again. Birdie is salvageable on any hole but doesn’t come easy on seven. You absolutely must hit an iron off the tee and you better make sure your accuracy is at a premium. If you hit it fat or push right you’re going to find your ball in the drink or sitting behind an annoying single tree. If you go far over your projected yardage you’ll be looking for your ball in the woods, not to mention having an impossible angle to the green. You’re second shot will be short in distance but more than just a little testy. The green is greatly elevated, doesn’t present a big target to hit and there are trees all over if you miss. Once you’re on the surface, it’s one of the quickest putts on the course. Whatever you do, don’t approach this hole coming from the left side or you’ll find yourself with a double or worse in no time. If you don’t execute a solid game plan, that’ll be your score no matter where your tee shot ended up.
Hole 8: Par 4, 376 yards- If you walk off the tee frustrated with seven, you better get it out of your head before you tee off here. There are trees to the left if your weak on your drive and plenty more where that came from if you overpower a shot to the right. The card says 376 yet any approach shot always seems 160 yards or more. The green is fairly easy on this hole, but getting there never seems to be.
Hole 9: Par 5, 461 yards- The last hole on the front nine is your first par five. All the par fives on this course is relatively the same—short and straight. A good tee shot gives you the opportunity to get home in two. Of the four par fives, this is the hardest green. It seems no matter where the flag is lined up; it comes with a putt that requires some major break. Having said that; there’s no reason to not score at least a par on this or any of the par fives.
Hole 10: Par4, 360 yards- After a quick bite to eat and beverage in the clubhouse stationed off the ninth green, you’re ready to regroup and begin your back nine. Just as the two biggest tests on the front come early at South Shore, the same goes for the back nine. Holes 10 and 11 can be brutal and impact the rest of your day in a negative way if you’re not careful. The tee shot is open and invites a bomb, but your second is one of the most demanding you’ll find on this day. There’s water that comes into play on your second from nearly everywhere. There’s also a dilemma by missing the green from either side or going long. Basically, if you’re not on the green in two, consider yourself lucky to walk off with par.
Hole 11: Par 3, 202 yards- As all the par fives provide a chance for red marks on your card, the par threes are the polar opposite. This is another difficult tee shot with an awfully narrow path to the green. Anything to the right is almost guaranteed to see you punching out with your second. The green is long and there is an annoying bunker that protects the front left side. Par is good… very good here.
Hole 12: Par 5, 464 yards- It’s pretty much the same case as the ninth, but this time there is potential tree trouble looming on the right. If you could avoid that, you should have no problem reaching this green in regulation or better. It’s not a terribly taxing green either, giving you have a chance to make up for early back nine trouble with a birdie.
Hole 13: Par 4, 374 yards- Another reasonably open tee shot. The biggest mistake you can make here is going over the green on your approach. If you find yourself behind the flag you may be losing a shot after having your ball go in the woods. At the very least, you’re going to have one heck of a delicate high pitch up a green that’s tremendously elevated and makes your ball run downhill. For the record, I hit my best shot of the day—and the season here. I was behind the green, hit a perfectly luckily placed pitch that landed on the fringe and saw my ball trickle down on an angle all the way to the pin and in the cup. Frustrated, my playing partner who lost a few skins on the shot, promptly ensured my ball would rest permanently in the woods.
Hole 14: Par 3, 109 yards- This hole has the feel of a country club course. The 109 yards is already ridiculously short to begin with. Then you have to factor the green being radically downhill for the tee, which makes it play even shorter. Take your wedge and delicately, and I do mean delicately, put a confident stroke on the ball. I’ve seen countless players take too much club and put such a weak swing on the ball that they find the ravine that gobbles up balls 15 yards short of the green. Anything more than a dozen yards left or right of the putting surface provides tree trouble as well. There’s also bunkers protecting both sides, making this hole far more challenging than it appears to the naked eye. Another thing of note on this hole; you have to park your cart and walk across a small bridge that’s straight out of a scene of a horror movie. This hole is what you make of it, double is just as easy to achieve as birdie.
Hole 15: Par 4/5, 396 yards- From the white tees this is technically a long par four, but most elect to play a par-72 over 18 holes and count this as five. Regardless, it’s straight as an arrow and doesn’t produce a lot of drama. There’s no reason to walk away with more than a five. If you do, it’s likely you aren’t finishing with a good scoring round.
Hole 16: Par 4, 379 yards- This hole is ranked as only the 11th hardest hole because it’s easy from tee to green. But I promise you will not have an effortless time executing a two-putt unless you hit your approach or chip extremely close. For me personally, this hole has a very Grover Cleveland’ish feel to it; very simple from tee to green but annoying trying to putt the ball into the hole.
Hole 17: Par 5, 460 yards- The last of the four par fives on the course, it plays as easy as any of its predecessors. A pair of solid ball strikes gets you to the putting surface in two and a shot at eagle. I know this because I carded a (rare for me) three on this hole. There’s a bunker to the left of the surface but if you avoid that you’re fine. In fact, good bunker players may try to launch their second shot into this sand. It’s even with the green and typically will have plenty of green to work with.
Hole 18: Par 4, 335 yards- The final hole is one of the few (most notably seven) with some kind of dogleg to it, though you can shorten the already diminutive length of the hole by bombing away right and steer clear of getting unlucky with a tree. Even for high handicappers this is a two-shot hole. However, don’t go losing your concentration when it’s time to putt as this surface generates few easy straight putt opportunities. Of course, the last thing you want to do is walk into the clubhouse with a three-putt stewing in your mind.
Summary: While South Shore as a whole is more difficult overall than public courses like Grover Cleveland or Brighton, you certainly don’t have to be at the height of your golf game to be delighted with your final score. If you could avoid blowups on No.’s 2 and 3 on the front and 10 and 11 on the back, you have a good chance to shoot below your average. Your shot making ability will be challenged on holes like No. 7 and 14, but the drastically short par fives give you opportunity far greater that most courses to take back shots that were squandered earlier. Nonetheless, take note again that as I’ve found on a lot of the public courses, the greens and putting skills required are every bit as challenging as a lot of the prestige country club courses.
Play South Shore If: You want to play a public course at a reasonable price that at least demonstrates hints of country club feel… You want realistic chances to card a rare eagle; the par fives will present you that opportunity… Are feenin’ to play in inclement weather as the course always seems to be one of the last to shut down in Western New York when the weather is bad…
Don’t Play South Shore If: You like to be tested on par fives… You have a strong tendency to yank your tee shot left and don’t’ want to whack a car on holes two and three… Are having a bad ball striking day and only have a couple of balls in your golf bag…
Course Information: Located at 5706 Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg, NY. The phone number for tee times is (716)649-6674. Fees are $25 for walking and $38 for riding on weekdays and $33/46 on weekends before 1pm. There are specials for season passes and group outings. For more information, visit their website here.
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