The land is steeped in history. It was the special province of the Senecas who were called Keepers of the Western Door. To the east of the lands of the Senecas was the land of the Cayugas, the Onondagas, the Oneidas, and finally the Mohawks. Each occupied a different part of the state. These five tribes or nations formed the League of the Iroquois about 1450 or 1460(1). In the day of the Indian, water was a prime means of moving by canoe. Lake Ontario, especially along its shore, was an important way of moving furs and supplies to and from such places as Quebec, Oswego, and Fort Niagara. The French, the British, the Mohawks, the Senecas, and many others if they haven't plodded over or near what is now the course have gazed upon it from the lake's edge.
In 1788, Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham purchased some 2,600,000 acres of land from the Iroquois. There were two parts; a small parcel 12 miles wide on the west side of the Genesee River; and extending 24 miles up the river. The City of Rochester started in this parcel of land. The second part extended east from the Genesee River to about Seneca Lake and from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border. In 1907, Dr. Henry S. Durand, who lived in a concrete block house (2) (since demolished) on what is now Zoo Road and George Eastman, offered to give the city "to be used as a public park forever, a tract of land of about 484 acres situate in the town of Irondequoit on Lake Ontario. " This was the beginning of Durand Eastman Park. Records published in 1929 indicate there was a nine-hole course in Durand Eastman Park in 1917(3). It was the third public golf course in the city of Rochester. The city was one of the first four in the United States to provide public golf facilities having established its first course of nine holes at Genesee Valley Park In l899 (4).
The original clubhouse at Durand was an old barn. Most of it was storage area for maintenance equipment, but a small room in it served as a Pro Shop.It was located 25-30’ toward the lakeside of the practice green,(not the putting green), near the present clubhouse. Indentations in the ground, still today, help to define the location of the original foundation. According to an article in the Times Union of May 21, 1940, “a modern clubhouse was erected in 1931, but was completely destroyed by fire in November of that year”. Construction of the next clubhouse was started the same year and completed in 1932.
First Nine Holes
A layout of the first nine holes course at Durand Eastman Park was published in the Democrat and Chronicle on July 14, 1918. The caption read: "You golfers who haven't gone down to Durand Eastman Park to play on the new nine-hole course because you haven't known where to start or what direction to take if you make a start at the first tee you happened upon, here is a map of the course, the first to be published. The few enthusiasts who have played the course say it offers opportunities for all kinds of golf. It hasn't yet all that a golf course should have in the way of finish, but it is well on its way to smoothness of green and fairway, and to play on it is worthwhile. It promises to becoe as attractive a course as can be found in Western New York." (2) A Times Union clipping of May 21, 1940, stated: "Donald Ross, well-known architect, of Holyoke, Mass., laid out the original nine holes." Donald J. Ross, one of the country's famous golf architects, designed a lot of courses in the pre and post World War I era. Perhaps his most famous being Pinehurst No. 2 at Pine-hurst, North Carolina. Other than the Times Union clipping of May 21, 1940 mentioning Donald Ross, it has not been confirmed that he was involved in the design of the first nine; but it could well be possible.
In response to questions and a request for information, GOLF DIGEST replied in a letter dated December 20, 1977: "Donald Ross was one of the best known and most accomplished golf course architects in the first-half century. He did, however, die in 1949. He designed and renovated about 600 courses, most in the East and Southeast." The yardages for the first nine are shown below and in the layout in Figure 1. Note: there is no Lake Shore Boulevard. The 1st tee is down in the area of the present first green.
The 2nd tee was near the front of the present clubhouse; you hit down into the valley to a green off to the right of the present 3rd hole. You then played back across the creek and up the hill to the 3rd green located in the area of the present parking lot. The 5th hole is the current l8th hole but played In reverse. The 6th hole paralleled the lake. According to Jack Briddon the temporary green for the present 1st hole is the original 9th green of the original nine.Lake Drive which meanders in and around the course continued in a round about way east to Culver Road. The road entering the course from the south is Kings Highway.
While the golf course has changed over the years, it's very interesting to note that the roadways in and around the course are the same. While they're paved now, and names have been added, or changed, the basic location of roads today is identical with those shown in the 1918 layout. However, most of Horseshoe Curve Dr., shown in Figures 2 and 3 is not used for vehicular traffic today. A clipping from the Times Union of May 21, 1940 states, "...it remained as erected nine holes until 1930. Durand's second nine was completed in 1931"
First Eighteen Holes
A layout of the second nine completed in 1931 has been located by MC Director of Golf Greg Klem in 2015. Prior to that, it was been possible to put one together. With the help of Jack Briddon, who has been a club member since 1930 (he was 16 years old), the first 18 holes which combined parts of the original nine and the new nine holes is shown in below. There is no current record of a golf architect being involved in the design and construction of the second nine. A close examination of this original 18 hole layout compared with the original nine tends to indicate that while part of the course was expanded south toward Rainbow Drive, virtually all 18 holes still remained on the east side of Kings Highway. There were quite a few fairways crossing the creek meandering through the course.
The result of combining the original nine and the new nine was 18 holes in an area which was not much larger than that occupied originally. It was a little tight; Bud Habes and Cliff Goodrich, both Life Members who played the course as boys, confirm this fact. The yardages and pars of the resulting first 18 holes as best it can be recalled by Jack Briddon are as follows: In the original 18 hole layo(Figure 2) note that the 1st tee was near the side entrance to the clubhouse, the fairway was down the hill (now well wooded) with the green being in the area of the present 2nd tee.
The 2nd hole was a short par three (95 yards). The 3rd tee and fairway was on the east side of the creek; the present 2nd hole is played today on the west side of this same creek, the east side being largely rough. This original 18 hole layout-not long-but a little tight, remained the same for a relatively short period of time, 1931-1934. In 1935, the course as we know it today (with some exceptions) went into service.
The Redesigned Eighteen
Jack Tucker, former sports editor for the Democrat and Chronicle in a 1935 article (date uncertain) wrote: "Parks Director, Patrick Joseph Slavln, and a young man named Robert Trent Jones, golf architect who went to Cornell University and learned all about how to build a golf course, got their heads together. When their huddle was over Mr. Jones had sold Mr. Slavln a bill of goods. A new course arose. A beautiful golf course. A veritable beauty spot, and a place where good golfers could be developed." As many may know, Robert Trent Jones was born in East Rochester, spent most of his early youth around Rochester, and was a pretty fine golfer in his day.
Building Number 18
Figure 3 shows the Durand Eastman Golf Course much as Robert Trent Jones redesigned it. Yardage and par is noted below.
A brief article-People In Golf-in GOLF DIGEST, September 1975 said: "At 68, Trent Jones has reshaped nearly 56,000 acres of land into 400 new or remodeled golf courses, including all or part of 33 of Golf Digest's 100 Greatest Tests." "The sun never sets on a Robert Trent Jones golf course." A few he has created or redesigned in addition to the Durand Eastman Golf Course are: Peachtree in Atlanta, Oakmont in Pennsylvania, Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Firestone in Akron, Spy Glass Hill In California, and recently, Bristol Harbor Golf Course at Canandaigua.
The revamping of the Durand Eastman Golf Course by Robert Trent Jones during the depression years of 1933-34 was a major change. The physical area of the course was increased with the result that the present llth, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and l7th holes were now on the west side of Kings Highway. This move allowed a better arrangement of holes on the east side of Kings Highway, eliminated the tightness of the original eighteen, and resulted in the lengthening of many holes.
Minor changes in the course since it was redesigned are noted below: There used to be a small pond in front of the 5th tee-and it caught a lot of golf balls. Jim Johnson, Golf Course and Park Superintendent, believes this was filled in about 1965. The present 5th hole (par 3) is not the 6th hole of the Jones layout.
Inaugural Tee Shot
Original 9 hole overlay (red)
Changes to the Redesigned Eighteen
The tee to the original Jones 6th hole (par 3) is roughly 30-40' south of the present 6th tee. The green, "and a pretty one at that," was built out of the hill you see when you stand at the 6th tee and look south. After you played the hole you hiked a path up the hill completely covered by trees. It was a real hike up to the 7th tee. In 1965 the current paved path from the present 6th green to the 7th tee was cut through the hill which divides these two holes. According to Jim Johnson, both 6th greens were used alternately until about 1971, when the original 6th green of the Jones layout was finally phased out. It was an interesting and pretty par 3, with a creek bisecting the fairway. There are those who still feel the amphitheater appearance of this short hole was quite a loss. But this is really the story of most golf courses; they're dynamic and not static.
Old number Six
There are very few that do not change over the years. After revamping by Robert Trent Jones in 1933-34, the Durand Eastman Golf Course had 10 holes on one side of Kings Highway and 8 on the other. This lasted until 1979 when a new fairway (par 3) was prepared paralleling the path from the 16th green to the 17th tee. A new 16th green was installed at the base of the trees where the paved path goes up to the 17th tee, after a Pure Waters connecting line was run through this area. The same line also cut across the 10th fairway, through the llth tee, and paralleled the llth fairway along the road to the Pure Waters Pump Station. This was accomplished in the Spring of 1978. Eventually, there were changes on the first nine-combining the 4th and 5th holes into one, a par five. The end result was nine holes on each side of King's Highway.
A Times Union article of May 21, 1940 said of Durand Eastman: "It is often called the mountain goat course and is said to be one of the sportiest, if not the sportiest and most scenic in the land." Figures 1,2, and 3 give no real idea of the hills and slopes of the Durand Eastman Course. With a couple of exceptions, those who play the course know the fairways are relatively flat to pleasantly rolling. Most of the fairways are in valleys surrounded by hills. While there is no way to avoid the hills, its not the golf course which is hilly; most of the climbing is involved in getting from several of the greens to the next tees. It can be hard on those who are not used to it. Along with a new Pro, 1978 was expected to be the year carts were introduced to Durand Eastman Golf Course. Judgement on this will be reserved until later. However, it could increase the play of those who have given up because of the hills.
Old number Five (1960)
Number Two (1960)
Old number Eight and Nine (1960)
The Beauty of Durand Eastman GC
Alvan R. Grant, former County Director of Parks, in a brief pamphlet on the history of Durand Eastman Park prepared in 1971 had this to say: The area contained in the 500 acres of Durand Eastman Park originated as a delta deposited by the Genesee River; subsequent stream erosion produced a series of steep-side narrow valleys. At the time of its acquisition in 1908 for park purposes.. .most of the cultivated land had been abandoned due to the low productivity of the soil.. .An important contribution to the present stabilization of erosion with grass and vegetation was made some years ago, when carloads of manure were brought in from the Buffalo stockyards to build up the humus content of the soil. Durand is probably the most picturesque of all Rochester's parks. Very little has been done to change the natural configuration of the land, and the planting was undertaken to show every tint of green in spring and summer and every hue of autumn color.
In this park there are 15,000 coniferous evergreens, 1000 mixed plums, 60 varieties of Japanese trees, with about 200 plants, 3000 azaleas and rhododendrons, a collection of 200 different species and varieties of willows, and 66 species and varieties of poplars. The total of all trees and shrubs set in Durand Eastman Park is about 500,000. In 1921 about 300 larch and tupelo trees were planted on the east side of Pine Valley Road. South of the zoo (no longer in existance) about seven acres have been planted to a collection of 62 species and varieties of crabapples and 39 species and varieties of pears." It seems unreal today but almost all of the trees in Durand Eastman Park and along the fairways of the Durand Eastman Golf Course were deliberately planted over a period of years. It just didn't happen naturally. Abounding In wildlife--deer, ducks, geese, and with a wide variety of birds of all sizes--Durand Eastman Golf Course and Durand Eastman Park are enjoyed year round. Skiers and other winter enthusiasts enjoy its slopes and hills in winter while golfers, hikers, and picnickers enjoy it spring, summer, and fall.
In a GOLF DIGEST article in March 1976, "The Changing Face of Public Course Golf" the Durand Eastman Golf Course was listed as one of "Three Dozen Top Courses." The article referring to the great tests available to the public goes on to say, "Outstanding municipal layouts include Durand Eastman in Rochester, N.Y., Rancho Park in Los Angeles and San Diego's Torrey Pines, a regular PGA tour stop which the touring pros feel is one of the best courses they play." This is an accolade for which we should all be proud. Rochester is a city rich not only in its golf history but also in its golf traditions.
The Durand Eastman Golf Course opened in 1917 and the Durand Eastman Golf Club, established in 1930-almost fifty years-have contributed to this history. As members of the Durand Eastman Golf Club we are fortunate to be able to play and enjoy the many beauties of this fine public golf layout. All the more reason to replace the divots and repair the ball marks, so others may continue to enjoy the course for a long, long time.
Gard Mason. DEGC 2/78
In 1979, Durand eastman Golf Course was changed again. The old configuration of 10 holes on the east side of Kings Highway and 8 on the west side was altered to the course we play today (1989). Durand presently has 9 holes on the front side and 9 on the back. This was accomplished by eliminating the short, but scenic par three third hole and the dogleg left par four fifth hole and combining the two making the present par five fourth hole. By eliminating one hole on the front side it was possible to add the present 16th hole to the back side, thus creating a standard course with nine holes on the front and nine on the back. While the present fourth hole is entertaining and challenging as a par five, there are those who moan the loss of the old par three and the two-tiered green on the old fifth hole. In addition to the unquestioned beauty of the old holes, there is the fact that Durand was the creation of two of the foremost golf course designers who ever lived-Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones. Tampering with their work will always generate heated discussions, especially in Rochester where golf courses are steeped in tradition. This was never more evident than in the 1989 U.S. Open held at Oak Hill, another Donald Ross designed course. Much criticism was leveled at Oak Hill and the USGA for allowing the Fazio Brothers to redesign a few holes. To quote Ben Crenshaw," If you have the good fortune to have a Donald Ross or Robert Trent Jones course, you certainly don't alter it." Since Durand was probably originally designed by Donald Ross and since it is today primarily a Robert Trent Jones designed course, any changes to the course are sure to generate controversy. It has now been ten years since carts came to Durand Eastman Golf Course and the old concerns regarding the hilliness of Durand seems to have been resolved. In a conversation in 1987, Golf Course Superintendent Brendan Knauf said that more than 60,000 rounds of golf per year are played at Durand. This makes Durand the most heavily played golf course in Monroe County and probably one of the most heavily played courses to be found any where in the country where golf is played between April and October. The increase in play at Durand has created, however, the serious problem of slow play. The average round of golf at Durand now takes between 5 and 6 hours. This is a problem the county has yet to tackle and it is a problem that will, in all likelihood, be with us for some time to come.
Dennis Grange Secretary-1989
A lake in front of and to the right of the fairway was created and gives number nine its current definition. From the clubhouse the lake is very esthetically pleasing and the lake does catch errant second shots. The back nine also received a face lift, starting on number ten. The tenth tee was rebuilt and the sod from the old sixteenth green was used to create the new tenth tee. Again, the fill dirt from the railroad line at the lake was used to raise the fairway about six feet and solve the wetland problem that used to exist when balls used to plug. Now golfers enjoy rolling fairway that will allow a ball to run in the fairway. Number 11 received a new tee as did number 12 and 13. The number 14 fairway was raised, again with fill dirt from the old lakeside railroad bed to eliminate wet fairway areas in front of the green. The old par three on hole 16 was removed at the base of the hill and a new green was created further up the hill and a new tee area was built on the hill adjacent to the 15 th green, creating a new short but testy par four.. Numbers 17 and 18 both received new tees. Other cosmetic changes of note took place in 1995 when trees were planted between the fourth fairway landing area and the new tee on five, along the new cart path. Trees also were planted between the seventh fairway across the creek, and the eighth tee, and between the twelfth fairway and the thirteenth tee. In 1997 another change was implemented and that was the "privatization of the three county courses, Durand, Genesee Valley, and Churchville. Control of all three courses was given to Jack Tindale who was the professional at Genesee Valley. Control of the restaurants, green fees, cart rentals, and lessons was turned over to Mr. Tindale in return for a fee paid to the county.
Dennis Grange Secretary-1989
The past ten years, from 1990 to 2000 brought more changes to Durand. Monroe County hired several consultants to look at Durand to make changes to speed the pace of play and to make the course safer. From 1995 to 1997, the course was under constant construction. Playing Durand during those years meant putting up with temporary tees and temporary greens. Virtually every tee on the course was changed in one way or another. Tees were rebuilt, moved, raised, or lengthened. New tees were built on most holes, while primary changes were made on holes one, four, five, nine, ten, and sixteen. The number one tee was moved forward 100 yards and the hole was shortened from a par five to a par four, changing Durand from a 71 par course to a 70 par course. On hole number one the new tees were elevated and lengthened. Many knowledgeable golfers objected to this change because Trent Jones designed the green which slopes away from golfers to accept a third shot as a par five. Now most players are hitting five-six-seven irons to a green not designed to accept them. New tees were built on number two, and new drainage tiles were laid across the fairway. On number three, trees were cut down to allow more sun to reach the green. The fourth fairway was raised close to eight feet with dirt and refuse brought in from the old Hojack railway line in front of the lake. This eliminated the old problem of a swampy landing area, but created a mounded fairway the runs both ways from the center hump. A wetland collection area was created on the left of the landing area, while the stream that used to cut across the fairway now guards the right side. A new fifth hole was created in an attempt to recreate the par three that existed back in the 1950's. The old fifth hole was maintained and now golfers have two par three's and the course superintendent has the option of switching back and forth. Holes six and seven both received new teeing areas and on number nine, significant changes were made to the fairway.
Dennis Grange Secretary-1989
At the end of 2014, Mr. Tindale ended his tenure by mutual agreement with Monroe County Parks Department. On 1/1/15, Kless/Myers Management Company contracted to oversee operation of the 3 county courses through 2017, with the base of operation being the refurbished clubhouse at Genesee Valley. Monroe County would oversee maintenance of each location, with a concerted effort to dramatically improve conditions at each course. To oversee this effort, the County hired former Webster Superintendant as the new Parks Golf Course Super. Greg Klem. Phil Kless and Andy Myers are veteran PGA of America Professionals who recently undertook a successful two-year turnaround of what was a financially troubled Lyndon Golf Course, located in Fayettville. Previous experience included their work together at prestigious Turning Stone Resort. At the beginning of the 2016 golf season, the nines were changed back to the original redesign by Mr. Jones in 1934. Needless to say, county golfers and DEGC members were looking forward to a new era beginning at Durand.
Updated 3/15 Gary Siwicki, DEGC Board
2018 brings another dynamic change to the operation of the three county courses. Monroe County continues to oversee maintenance of all 3 County courses, Additionally, County personnel have taken over operation of all golf related management including Pro shop and food services. It is with great admiration that we recognize Greg Klem, Dave Granata and Don Bloom and their entire team for the hard work and passion they have put into making Durand Eastman the beautiful golf course we all knew it could be.