Golf Course

Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club to open

A $20 million golf course that is opening in western New York in late June is expected to receive rave reviews and attract golfers from Canada and various American states.

The opening of the Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club, located in Lewiston, N.Y., has been highly anticipated since the construction of the facility began in the summer of 2007.

The course, a project of the Seneca Gaming Corporation, is designed by Robert Trent Jones II, a world-renowned architect who has built more than 270 courses in 40 countries.

The original plan was to open the course last summer. But construction delays and inclement weather thwarted that.

The club is now scheduled to have a VIP opening June 28. The course will then be open for public play starting July 2.

“The allure of a Robert Trent Jones II course is something that will pique the interest of the golfing public,” said club spokesperson Philip Pantano. “This is going to be a destination golf course.”

Besides golfers from the state of New York and the neighboring Canadian province of Ontario, Pantano believes the course will also attract its share of curious players from Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as other northeastern states.

Another course benefit is Niagara Falls is about a 20-minute drive away.

As expected, Jones, who has won countless awards for his course layouts throughout the world, also praised the course following a recent visit.

“This will be a wonderful golf experience when it opens. Hickory Stick will be a golfing test … you are not simply going to overpower the course … but there will be risk/reward options. The natural elements of trees and water most certainly will come into play, as they should. Most importantly, the course fits in with and feeds off of its natural surroundings to create an experience that those who play the course will appreciate and enjoy.”

The course, which is located on about 251 acres of previously wooded and undeveloped land, is partly getting its name from the shellbark hickory trees on site.

The Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club is the first one in western New York that Jones has designed. It has added significance for him as his father grew up in nearby Rochester.

Among those who are eagerly awaiting the club opening is Gerry Doolittle, the golf course superintendent.

Doolittle, a member of Minnesota’s Ojibwe Fond du Lac Reservation, has been in the golf business since he retired from the U.S. Navy, following 22 years of service, in 1999.

“This course right now is my biggest project,” said Doolittle, who has worked at various courses in Minnesota and Virginia in recent years.

Doolittle added the course’s later-than-originally-anticipated opening has not dampened the excitement.

“Yes it is,” he simply said when asked if the wait will be worth it.

The course will be a par-72; it will be 7,026 yards long, from the furthest black tees. The course will also feature four other sets of tees, with the shortest being the 5,395-yard gold tees.

“Any capability of player will be able to play,” Doolittle said.

The course also offers blue (6,697 yards), white (6,337) and silver (5,956) tees.

The challenging course will include five par-5 holes. Three of these are on holes 12, 14 and 18, which will require some solid attention down the stretch to record some decent scores.

Also, some power will be needed on the second hole, which is 620 yards long from the black tees. The 9th hole is the shortest at 159 yards, again from the black tees.

A rather unique feature … at least among North American courses … is that the 9th and 18th holes will share the same green. This layout is more common on some European courses.

The Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club is the first development project that the Seneca Nation of Indians has undertaken off its territory. The Seneca Nation acquired the property to complement its gaming and entertainment facilities, including the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel.

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