Played a round this morning at the charming Churchville Park Golf Course, which is located about half an hour west of Rochester, NY, and accordingly, a solid 75 minutes away from my humble abode. Churchville is one of Monroe County’s three municipal courses (Durand Eastman, reviewed here, is another), and is a delightful 27 hole layout.
Early AM golf is the preference for all dedicated golfers, and I had hoped to get out very early; I would have left at 5 if I was able. However, golf as a social activity requires tact; it requires all sides making concessions. As in all good deals, the best are the ones where each side feels as if they gave up just a bit too much. So then, while I was willing to depart at 5, my buddies certainly were not, and 8:32 it was. By this time, the day would be half over, and the golfing day should easily be half over. Nevertheless, I agreed to the time, as an 8:32 tee time meant a return to Buffalo by around 2 o’clock. I could still do something this afternoon.
Waiting upon my porch in the still of the quiet city morning grew tiresome, and eventually a series of text messages confirmed that we would certainly never make it by 8:32 – my buddy had overslept and we needed a backup plan. Things were kicked around, but eventually the fact that our transplanted buddy now living in Rochester would be joining us sort of locked us in to getting over that way. It was our luck that a 9:36 tee time was available, and we took it.
Having all the time in the world to get there, we took local roads rather than the interstate. Our journey included jaunts through a few small towns, and past many greasy spoon diners and rickety old burger joints. These are small towns and divey restaurants that I have at least some familiarity with and the charm of these particular towns and eateries has long since worn off. I would love to get off the interstate and see my country during my trip – the possibilities for experiences and people to meet on the old state and national highways far outweigh the opportunities presented by the Interstate, and I will certainly make it a point to get off the interstate for at least portions of my trip. It’s just a shame that you can’t go 65 on 2 lane highways.
The round at Churchville was mundane – I shot another 84. Far tighter ball striking wise, this round featured 8 pars, 8 bogeys, and 2 doubles. Both doubles were simply careless idiocy around the green. My putting was atrocious – 38 putts was my worst effort of the season. Of course, the number of putts is also reflective of long the putts are, and the amount of greens I hit in regulation (9) was far higher than my usual. There were some longer putts. However, I couldn’t make anything over 10 feet, and missed a few 4 footers as well. Dreadful day on the greens.
The course itself is one that deserves to be in at least the “light” portion of any WNY or CNY golfer’s rotation – it offers 3 nines, the South and West 9’s certainly feeling like the original 18, while the East 9 features some very well designed holes.
The 14-15 (5 and 6 on East) turn is the most brutal. 14 is a 532 yard par 5, which doglegs severely to the right. There is a lake which runs the entirety of the right side, preventing all but the most massive hitters from going at it in two. There is also OB left. The lake is sneakily invasive into landing areas as well, as my buddy Marty found out. A crisply struck 3 iron for his second shot was tailing nicely towards a yardage marker, only for a splash to emanate from the seeming center of the fairway. The shore of the lake is not a straight path, but rather juts in and out, and around the moguls which line the right side of the fairway. I was green high in 3, but duffed a chip and ended up making one of my two doubles. Terrible.
15 is a 370 yard par 4, with a pond to the left of the landing area. The pond runs from the tee towards the green, and requires a carry of 270 on the drive. If you are deciding to play towards the right side of the fairway, and are a big hitter, you need to watch out for the same lake on 14, as it sits within reach at about 300 yards from the tee, and angling sharply to the right. I played a safe tee shot to about 115 in the middle of the fairway. My reward? A shot over water, then over a pot bunker, to a pin in the middle of the very wide, shallow and kidney shaped green. I stuck it to about 15 feet, and of course, missed the putt.
While these 2 holes stick out, most of the holes are nicely designed, with trees acting as the most prominent defense. There are several short par 4’s with trees IN the fairway, requiring a very precise tee shot to be successful. There are also some long par 4’s at the course, and all told it measures up to just over 6600 yards from the blues.
At $22 to ride on a weekend morning, it should come as no surprise that Churchville is in only decent shape and lacks most modern amenities. The greens and fairways were in playable condition, and while far from perfect, there were no spots that were under repair or otherwise so damaged as to present a problem. It had rained the night before, and the course was wet, but the drainage was fairly impressive – there was little to no standing water. However, the ground was very receptive, as I spun the driver back on several occasions. The clubhouse is cash only, and the equipment offered is limited to gloves, tees and golf balls.
For all that it is lacking, Churchville is clearly a course which caters to a wide audience, and will continue to do so for decades to come. Adorning the walls of the clubhouse are the various club championship plaques, which dated back to the 1930’s. Simple and elegant, it appears pretty certain that they will remain there ad infinitum. The players at Churchville varied widely. The group in front of us teed it up from the blues on 1, and proceeded to show off 3 pretty heinous swings before quickly moving up to the whites by 3 or 4. There were several groups of younger players learning the game, but there was also a player chasing us down in the latter stretches of the front 9. The kid had a swing, pounded his drive, and while it was just one hole we observed him on, appeared to have a pretty well developed short game. There is something for everybody at Churchville.
In the end, our delayed tee time caught up to us with the result being a 4 hour and 45 minute round. The group in front of us wasn’t very fast, but we didn’t push them too hard, and, barring the single player behind us mentioned above, we were not pushed at all. There were, of course, no rangers to speed things up even if we had wanted to. While the pace was dreadful, it was befitting of the course – the course hasn’t changed in 50 years – and that slow pace of both change and play, is okay in the right spots, of which Churchville is one.
The drive home was perfect – my buddy is an Orioles fan, I’m a huge Phillies fan, and both of our clubs were playing Sunday afternoon games. Flipped back and forth on the radio – and they both ended up winning. Nothing better than baseball on the radio, and I certainly look forward to plenty of that on the trip.
The delay in tee time was great – it’s naive to think I will be able to get on at my preferred time every day, and plans will need to be altered. Delays like this one will give me the chance to hop off the interstate, find a local road, and get some eggs and toast at a greasy spoon. Can’t wait.
At this time next week – I will be in Vermont!