Located on the Susquehanna River, between the Finger Lakes and Catskill Mountains, the Links at Hiawatha Landing is a public pay and play golf course production where water comes to the fore at seven of the holes.
Opened for play in the early 1990s, the fairways are arranged around an interesting site, featuring a front nine that’s draped across a floodplain and a back nine set across a more rolling landscape.Mark Mungeam handled most of the onsite work during construction of this links-like course and the punchbowl green that he installed at the 11th has since provided the inspiration for design partner Brian Silva to fashion many more distinct – and often entirely blind – greens like this on subsequent projects.
There's nothing worse than a course pretending to be something which in all reality it cannot be. Such is the case with another facility embracing the term "links" when nothing remotely close in the Southern Tier area of New York State could ever exist.
Putting that aside the layout from Brian Silva and Mark Mungeam is quite good and much of that is tied to having a wide array of different hole types. There's plenty of movement in the fairways and the bunkering is placed in enough strategic locations to keep players on their toes.
The test players face starts immediately at the opening hole. The par-4 plays 419 yards and turns left in the drive zone with bunkers place strategically for those who go too far in either direction. The 2nd ups the ante even more so. Playing 439 yards the hole slides right off the tee with heavy timber waiting for those who go too far in that direction. The green is angled well and is also guarded by a nearby pond.
Silva and Mungeam make it a point not to replicate greensite shapes. There's a good bit of variety and when pin placements are located in hard to reach areas the need for solid execution for approaches is a must requirement.
Hiawatha Landing does have a number of risk/reward holes. The long par-3 6th is protected all along its right side by a pond. The green is angled superbly so that the boldest of plays must rise to the highest level of performance. The same happens in playing the par-5 7th. On this hole there's not one bunker but the same water faced on the 6th runs parallel to the line of play on the 525-yard hole. Even those who don't go for the green have to be mindful of the narrow landing area for most second shots.
The inward half is even better with plenty of hole movements and the overall routing is very good as hole are constantly changing direction and shot requirements.
When you arrive at the 18th you face an ultimate dilemma. The hole boomerangs left around a massive wetlands area. The player has to decide -- just how much do you dare cut off? Those cutting the corner are left with a far shorter approach shot but when the pin is placed to the far right the approach will be tested. In fairness, there's an ample bailout area off the tee for those looking to play conservatively and reach the green in the three shots.
Hiawatha Landing provides a fine test and is quite elastic to handling varying handicap levels. If the facility were to ever jettison the word "links" it's likely it would fare even better.
by M. James Ward