The 119-year-old Hamburg, N.Y. property recently completed extensive drainage and irrigation work, added tees, expanded greens, rebuilt and repositioned bunkers, recontoured fairways and removed approximately 500 trees to enhance the course’s views of Lake Erie. The club’s hosting of the New York State Mid-Amateur September 28-30 marks its first major state tournament since 1999.
Wanakah Country Club in Hamburg, N.Y., which was founded in 1899 with a golf course designed by William Watson, will feature its renovated golf course when it hosts the 35th New York State Mid-Amateur from September 28-30. It is the first time since 1999 that Wanakah will host a state “major.”
“It is a real honor to host such a prestigious event on our newly renovated golf course” said Pete Augustine, Wanakah’s President.
If it were not for the recent renovation, the course may not have attracted such a high-caliber event. “The course sits on relatively flat coastline and was constructed on heavy clay soil, so drainage was poor, which resulted in agronomic and playability challenges,” said Rich Gladhill, Wanakah’s Grounds Superintendent.
Those challenges were addressed in 2005 when the club created a master plan in conjunction with golf course architect Arthur Hills and Hills’ then-partner Chris Wilczynski. That plan was revamped four years later and this year, Wilczynski completed the renovation of the entire 18-hole course.
“The main reason for the master plan in the first place was to improve the drainage on the golf course,” Wilczynski said. “It was always about drainage and trying to improve the conditions and allow for more days to play golf.”
Adds Michael Karnath, CCM, now in his fifth year as Wanakah’s General Manager and Chief Operating Officer: “There were years when carts could not be used for weeks at a time. Now we have carts daily, regardless of the amount of rain.”
In addition to the extensive drainage and irrigation work that was completed, tees were added to both lengthen and shorten the course, greens were expanded, bunkers were rebuilt and repositioned, fairways were contoured and approximately 500 trees were removed to help enhance the course’s views of Lake Erie.
“[Wilcyznski] has transformed a few pedestrian holes into holes that now really wow those who play,” Karnath added. “Some good holes became great, and some great holes became spectacular. The course is challenging for scratch players, yet fair for high handicappers.
“Everyone has been thrilled,” Karnath said. “The course now has great playability regardless of the season, and it really makes you think about all shots. Overall, everyone who plays leaves smiling.
“We have also received an increase in demand from state and local golf associations to host events,” Karnath noted.
Most of the renovation work was done in the spring and autumn shoulder seasons, keeping the course playable throughout the prime summer season. “Our season is short in western New York,” Karnath said. “We wanted to offer members the ability to play and enjoy the course and not lose a full year.”
Earlier in the season, Wanakah dedicated an elaborate pedestal clock to commemorate the completion of the master plan.
“Even before the renovations, Wanakah was a very good golf course,” said Andrew Hickey, Director of Rules and Competitions at the New York State Golf Association, which holds the Mid-Amateur competition. “But it’s clear that the club prioritized improvements that as a whole elevated the course layout to one of the best in western New York. Our players are going to enjoy the course and the test that Wanakah will provide.”
Wanakah’s management team is now excited to see how the best golfers in the state will fare on its newly renovated course. “With our location right on the shore of Lake Erie, the wind here can affect everyone’s strategy and play a major role in shot decision-making,” said Marc Rosa, Wanakah’s Head Golf Professional. “Combine the wind, length, new bunkering, and challenging greens, [and] the course should be a good test for the Mid-Am participants.”