Considered to be the "signature" hole at Clifton Springs Country Club, the par-4 17th is a dogleg right that has a prominent tree guarding the approach to the green on the right side of the fairway, above. No. 17 is one of the challenging closing holes at Clifton Springs, which will be hosting the 2016 RDGA Junior Championships on August 2 through 4.
FOLLOW THE ACTION FROM THE 2016 RDGA JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS:
For Michael Basch, the PGA Head Professional at Clifton Springs Country Club, the fact that his club is hosting the 2016 RDGA Junior Championships feels like something of a homecoming...well, sort of.
When Clifton Springs hosts the RDGA Junior (ages 15-17), Sub Junior (12-14) and Pee Wee (7-11) Championships for both Boys and Girls on August 2 through 4, it will be just the second time that the club has hosted the District's major championship for juniors - the first time coming four years ago, in 2012.
But for Basch, the RDGA Junior Championships offer a trip down memory lane - back to when the second-year head pro played in the event himself 20 years ago.
"I remember playing in the RDGA Junior Championships for a few years in a row," he says, recalling being in the event between 1995 and 1997. "I also remember playing against some great golfers, including Davidde Giordano and Kevin Haefner."
That era produced many top juniors who participated in the RDGA Junior Championships - players who later went on to careers in golf, either as club profesionals or as tour pros.
"It's such a great championship," adds Basch. "I know I always looked forward to it when I played. I'm very happy to have it here this year."
Playable, Yet Challenging, for Every Skill Level
As one of the Rochester area's most well-established private country clubs, Clifton Springs Country Club draws its membership from all over the region, not just from the northern Finger Lakes area where it is located. But - just like the names in the District Junior Championship change over time, so too does the membership at the club.
"We have some new blood here now, it's a fun place to be," says Basch. "Our membership is on the rise and the course is in perfect shape. Right now, the greens are rolling around 11 to 11.5 (on the Stimpmeter)."
In fact - thanks to the dedication and efforts of Golf Course Superintendent Keith Kelley - one of the outstanding features about Clifton Springs are the greens. Through the years, many golfers have noted how the course's greens are among the best in the Rochester area - being fast, yet consistent, and having many breaks and undulations which make for interesting pin placements during tournaments.
"Don't let the course's length fool you," Basch adds. "It's not quite 6,600 yards from the back tees, but it's NOT a wide-open golf course - you'll use every club in the bag. It's a real test of golf."
To prove a point, even though the back nine is the shorter of the two (listed at 2,970 yards from the white tees - where the Junior (15-17) division wil play from), it requires the most attention from golfers, especially as a competition or match comes down to the final holes.
"No. 17 is our signature hole," says Basch. "It isn't very long (372 yards), but there's a pond along the left side of the fairway and trees along the right - and just before you reach the green, there's a tall tree guarding the approach. I'm sure that hole will make or break a lot of matches during the Championship."
The final four holes at Clifton Springs can prove a challenge to most golfers, according to Basch.
"On No. 15 (a short par-4), you'll want to hit driver - BUT, the fairway is narrow, so you'd be better off hitting Hybrid or a 3-wood. No. 16 is a long par-3 (180 yards); 17 - our signature hole is a tough dogleg right, although it has one of the flattest greens on the course; and No. 18 is a great finishing hole."
The view from the 3rd green at Clifton Springs - called the "toughest green on the course" by PGA Head Pro Michael Basch.
That said, the front nine is no bargain, either.
"If you can play the front nine in even par, you'll be in good shape," says the pro, adding that the greens on the front side are the trickiest - including No.3, which he describes as the toughest on the course.
"But, once you go to the back nine, you'll have an opportunity for a couple of early birdies," Basch notes. "No. 10 is a birdie-able par-5; 11 is a short 3 - in fact, that's where most of our holes-in-one are scored - and No. 14 is another 'gettable' par-5."
Then again, there's those last four holes that have the potential to erase any progress you've made on holes 10 through 14.
"The course is really a 'tale of two nines,'" Basch adds.
A Colorful History
Clifton Springs Country Club has enjoyed a long history in the surrounding community.
The present course was completed and opened in 1959 - designed by the noted and prolific local golf course architect "Pete" Craig, who also designed other popular courses in the area, including Deerfield Country Club and Wild Wood Country Club, as well as portions of Eagle Vale Golf Club and The Golf Club at Blue Heron Hills, among many others.
The location chosen for the club was on the site of a former stone quarry - in fact, for years after the course first opened, members were picking out rocks from the sides of the fairways and stones would even turn up from time to time when new pin placements were set on the greens, according to Basch.
But prior to being built at it's present location, members of the club originally played on an earlier version of the club, located near the hospital in the village of Clifton Springs.
"Back then, the club was called 'The San' - short for the Sanitarium, or hospital, where it was located," says Basch. "People would go there for relaxation and their health, including the natural springs there in town."
In the 57 years since it has been at its present location, Clifton Springs has developed its own history and has produced many top amateur golfers, including 1983 RDGA District Champion Ken Andrychuk and, more recently, junior standout Erika Tillotson.
Another long-standing tradition at the course is the annual Two-Man Scratch Best Ball - otherwise known as "The Fabrizi" - which attracts many of the top amateurs from around Rochester, as well as New York State.
One of the challenging closing holes at Clifton Springs is the 15th, which features a wall made from stones unearthed from a quarry that once occupied the site.
Multiple Formats for the Junior Championship
The 2016 RDGA Junior Championships get under way on Tuesday, August 2. Essentially a combination of five distinct championships - Junior Boys, Junior Girls, Sub Junior Boys, Sub Junior Girls and Pee Wees - the Championship takes on several different formats.
The Junior Boys (ages 15-17) and Sub Junior Boys (12-14) compete in single elimination match play brackets over the three-day Championship, with the Junior Boys (who play from the Blue Tees) beginning with a 32-player bracket and the Sub Juniors with a 16-player bracket (and playing from the White Tees). The starting fields and seedings for each of these Championships was determined through an earlier stroke-play Junior Championship Qualifier, held at Parkview Fairways, as well as a Junior points system, based on tournament performance so far this year. Play begins on August 2 with two rounds of match play, followed by two more rounds on August 3 and the Championship final match on August 4.
Although the Junior Girls and Sub Junior Girls used to compete in match play for their RDGA District titles, those formats have changed this year to stroke play. The Girls Junior Championship will feature two 18-hole rounds, on August 3 and 4, while the Sub Junor Girls will play three 9-hole rounds (for a total of 27 holes) over the course of the three-day Championship.
The Pee Wee Championship - which includes both Boys and Girls, ages 7 to 11 - will include two 9-hole rounds, one on August 2 and the second on August 3.
The Start of a New Chapter
Although Clifton Springs has hosted a number of RDGA Championship tournaments in the past, including 3 District Senior Championships as well as the two Junior Championships - PGA Pro Michael Basch hopes that this year's Junior Championship is the beginning of a new trend.
This article was written by RDGA Communications Director Dave Eaton.