Apalachin, N.Y. - The Links at Hiawatha Landing's status around the state was confirmed when the Apalachin course was selected to host the New York State Amateur in 1996, just its third year in existence. A year later, Golf Digest honored The Links at Hiawatha Landing with its Junior Development Award.
The ability of the facilities to accommodate virtually everyone from beginners to championship contenders is where Hiawatha truly separates itself from many quality facilities. Holes 2 and 5 through 7 work their way around water, giving a clear example of how the course fits a variety of skill levels.
If you know that your game cannot match the risk of playing near the water, there is plenty of room to work away from the hazards. Brian Silva and Mark Mungeam's course design does not force any carries over water. It is when you think your game is worthy of challenging the water that trouble can be found if your assessment is wrong.
The second hole, a 377-yard, par-4 from the white (middle) tees, features water guarding the left side for approach shots that are well wide of the target. A long, narrow pond separates the 345-yard, par-4 fifth and the 188-yard, par-3 sixth, running along the right side of both holes.
On 5, the water on the right runs from the tee to near the front of the green, ending 11 paces from the right front of the green. This writer knows it is possible to hit the bank between the water and green and roll back into the hazard.
At 6, the mid- to long-iron tee shot and the way the bank again slopes to the water make it dangerous for those who go for the middle or right side of the green. The fairway is wide on the 476-yard, par-5 seventh, but out-of-bounds lining the right side make the pond all the way up the left a little more significant.
The water from the left eventually cuts in front of the green, especially for those going for the green in two. Approaches to the right can avoid dealing with much or any of the water on a short third shot.
Although there is far more to the course than the well-placed water, which also comes in to play on 14, 17, and 18, its use signifies the way the course can be played strategically. Many modern designs seek the type of playability Hiawatha has achieved across many levels of skill.
The par-72 Links at Hiawatha can play to 7,104 yards, a course rating of 73.5 and a slope of 131 from the championship tees. The back tees play to 6,586 yards, the middle play 6,195 yards, the forward are 5,801 yards and the front are 5,101 yards.
With many approach shots hit into a slight slope, the greens are very receptive to well-struck shots. Those same slopes make for many short- to mid-range putts with the subtlest of breaks to negotiate.
Most notable and distinctive from the Southern Tier of New York and its other quality options in the Binghamton area is the classic links style. The course plays over gentle rolling hills. Mounds, wind-swept sand bunkers (67 in all) and ornamental grasses surround the holes, giving definition to the fairways and creating an array of trouble shots to be negotiated after wayward tee shots.
The small touches that add to an enjoyable round of golf have all been taken care of, from a large practice area to the phones on the ninth tee that allow you to order lunch at the turn without slowing down play.
Although yardage books are available for $4, the course is easy to learn on your own. Discs clearly mark the yardage at 100, 150, 200 - and even 250 on par-5s - on each side of the fairway along with posts that make the 150 visible from the tee.
Six sets of pin positions are posted at the clubhouse and charted on the scorecard, which includes the depth of each green to further assist in club selection. Better yet, there are not any blind shots into greens or, for that matter, blind shots off the tee.
Only the back nine's par-5s, 12 and 18, create any confusion on the tee. At 12, golfers may not be sure that there is indeed room to land for the many who can carry the large fairway trap that cuts in diagonally from the left in the landing area.
The 18th doglegs sharply to the left around a large water hazard that is easily visible from the elevated tee. The question becomes how much daring players want to cut out over the water to reduce the length of their second shots. While daring attempts can make the hole play much shorter, distance control can be a problem since many of the shots that can carry the water are a threat to run through a narrow fairway into trouble.
In short, it is the type of shot that is a lot better to attempt with a little knowledge and experience of where the tee shot will land, but also the type of question that can bring an exciting conclusion to a competitive day on the course.
The number-one handicap hole is the 375-yard, par-4 eighth which plays tough because of the positioning of a trap on the right side of a narrow fairway and two more guarding the left and front of the green.
Following the 517-yard, par-5 12th, the easiest hole is 13, a 144-yard, par-3 with room to get over a pair of bunkers in front on a slightly uphill tee shot. The 14th has trouble, including a small water hazard on the left, but is so short at 322 yards and downhill that the hole can be played with many different clubs off the tee to minimize the trouble.
When the pin is left, shots that don't go over the front left trap end up on the wrong side of a two-tiered green, eliminating one of the course's best birdie opportunities.
Excellent course conditions, combined with a layout that creates the type of decisions that golfers come back for, make The Links at Hiawatha Landing an attractive choice to golfers well beyond Binghamton, which sits 15 miles to the east.
Situated 65 miles from Scranton, Pa. and Syracuse, the course is a convenient one-day trip from much of eastern Pennsylvania and central New York. It also offers stay-and-play packages through some local hotels and motels.
2350 Marshland Road
P.O. Box 451
Apalachin, N.Y. 13732
In Season (May 12-October 15) $39 Mon-Thurs $50 Fri-Sun
In Season Specials
$32 before 9 a.m. and Twilight Mon-Thu
$38 Twilight Fri-Sun
(March 15-May 11, October 16-Dec. 1)
$29 Mon-Thurs $38 Fri-Sun
Packages, which include some meals, range from $150 per person double occupancy for two rounds and one night midweek to $325 per person double occupancy for three rounds and two weekend nights.
The Hiawatha Golf Project became an official member of The First Tee national program June 9, 1999 and is now known as The First Tee at Hiawatha Landing. It offers instruction for beginning juniors, camps for juniors up to the advanced level and a course that hosts some of the most competitive junior tours in North America.
Part of The First Tee program is Hiawatha Landing's willingness to offer free golf instruction to kids on Saturday mornings from May through September. Teaching moves on to a higher level in a series of five-day camps.
"We are dedicated to provide junior golfers the opportunity to learn the sound fundamentals of the golf swing and the short game," Director of Golf Bernie Herceg Jr. said. "We also incorporate sportsmanship, honesty, integrity and all the positive values that golf provides. We are confident in our experienced teaching staff, that they will provide future golfers with the best overall instruction."
Much of the teaching of juniors is done on a large chipping and putting practice area, separate from the driving range that players use to warm up for a round. As beginners advance through clinic stages, they are certified to move on to two par-3 holes and a par-4 that are set up for use by the juniors not far from the ninth hole of the main course.
"The next thing we'll add for the First Tee program is its own clubhouse," Herceg said. (TR)