Buena Vista Country Club is an excellent blast from the past. The course, built in 1957, stood as the standard bearer for tough layouts in this area until the 1990s building boom. Two decades later, it remains a formidable challenge at a reasonable price. Most midweek rounds with a cart cost $43, with twilight rates arriving in mid-afternoon.
Buena plays difficult from a back-tee length of 6,854 yards, and is no pushover from the mid tee boxes of 6,390. The course demands length off the tee, with precision required to navigate sharp doglegs.
"This is similar to golfing in the Carolinas," says Jeff Pellegrini, the head professional at Buena Vista. "We have the doglegs, smaller greens than you would normally see in this area and plenty of character. You will use every club in your bag here. This is also a good risk-reward course. You can try to place a drive over the corner on a dogleg but if you miss, a potential birdie can become a double bogey.
"You can play this course a million different ways."
Buena's signature hole is the 10th, which is both aesthetically pleasing and visually intimidating.
The 506-yard par 5 has enough sand to require a beach badge if it were at the shore. Bunkers dominate the landscape, starting with a long trap running along the left side of the hole. This creates havoc for any hook hit during the first 200 yards off the tee. Numerous sand traps border the right-side fairways, and a small elevated green sits behind four more bunkers. Many players land in the trap for every shot on this hole.
One common mistake here is hitting the approach shot too close to the green. It leaves players with an "in-between" club selection for a shot of about 50 yards to a sand-trap marked, Fort Knox-guarded green, rather than with a more comfortable 100-yard pitching wedge.
Although prevailing wisdom says to hit the ball down fairway as far as possible, placement is more important than distance on this hole.
"You are better off hitting your second shot to about 100 yards of the green rather than 50," Pellegrini says. "Give yourself a full pitching wedge to the green."
Bogey is an excellent score on the 10th.
Pellegrini also enjoys the second hole, a tight and tough dogleg right at about 411 yards. A straight drive of about 250 yards is required to gain a good look at the green. If the ball strays right, thick woods eat it up.
The fourth hole is a slight dogleg left playing 420 yards from the back tees. It sports a large bunker on the left and two bunkers in front of the green. As with many other holes, players often hit a mid- to long-iron into the green. Those clubs, designed for distance rather than height, make it hard for players to keep their shot on the smallish green.
Overall, this is a strong test of golf. Buena is fair, but relatively short on forgiveness. The woods often are deep, rarely affording the option to punch out of difficulty back onto the fairway. There are more penalty strokes here than on many other courses.