Situated just a few miles north of the Pennsylvania border along the Susquehanna River is the charming town of Owego. Did you ever want to play two very, very different style and entertaining golf courses in quick succession? Well, I did. Playing the hilly wooded Tioga Country Club and the expansive links-like flat Links at Hiawatha Landing in a single day was a real treat.
As you climb the hill and enter the Tioga Country Club, you realize that you are in for a golfing treat. Below is the approach to the small crowned first green and a closer shot of putting surface.
My day started as the sun was just coming up only a few minutes west of town at the Tioga Country Club. Not actually a “country club,” but rather more of a pure golf facility, I counted but four flat holes on the lower flood plain area of the property. Tioga is essentially a mountainous “Billy Goat gorgeous” layout with head-twisting views and some fascinating little challenges. The course is only 6,080 yards from the tips, but you had better bring all the shots. The Hal Purdy-design features elevation changes, uneven lies, and small greens that often play even smaller with edges that bleed off into their surrounds make you keep your attention on the task at hand. And you had better hit your tee ball straight. While there are a few holes where you feel that you can let out the shaft, careful accurate driving will take down many a big hitter here.
An intimidating tee shot on the par-five 4th at Tioga features out-of-bounds immediately left of the fairway.
A look back up the par-four 5th fairway reveals some of the sharp sloping elevation changes at Tioga.
I almost stumbled over my putter when I learned of the course’s annual maintenance budget, but Tioga was in very good, no make that excellent condition. Fast, true greens and closely cropped fairways along with those sublime views.
The downhill par-five 10th makes you feel as if you can drive the ball forever, but don’t miss it left.
Tioga is simply golf; there are no tennis courts or swimming pools, but the value is outstanding. I also enjoyed that for whatever reason, the pace of play seems to move right along. What fun!
The dogleg-right par-four 18th tumbles back down the hill toward the Tioga Clubhouse.
And still more fun awaits you on the eastern side of Owego with The Links at Hiawatha Landing. Brian Silva and Mark Mungeam built this special layout on flood plains directly adjacent to the Susquehanna River, and this course offers a contrast to Tioga. Whereas Tioga is hilly, tightly wooded with small greens and far-reaching vistas, the Links at Hiawatha is expansive with long native fescue grasses, deep bunkers, much bigger greens, and an engaging meadowland look to it. Home to the Owego First Tee Program, it also has a huge practice facility, short-game area, and even a three-hole warm-up course in addition to its feature offering. While trees surround the property, the layout is open and features water as well.
Above and below is the par-four dogleg-left 11th that seems to naturally unfold – one of several of my “favorites” at Hiawatha Landing.
Big hitters will be reaching for their drivers most of the time here as the distance is a robust 7,104 yards from the tips. There is no shortage of solid holes and lots of choices to be made, but I found the finish from the 14th hole on particularly exhilarating. Here the bunkers make both more of a visual and strategic statement and both par-fives on the incoming nine feature lots of strategy. On the 610-yard 12th, one can cut over the long fescue grasses and a deep greenside bunker thereby greatly reducing the effective length for a chance to putt for an eagle, while the 523-yard 18th invites you to cut off as much of a water hazard as you dare. While a brave well-executed tee ball can turn this finishing hole into a par-four, too much hubris can backfire into a disastrous finish as well – just the kind of drama most of us golfers enjoy.
You can make or ruin your round on the par-five 18th. The hole sharply doglegs left, but fail to make the carry to the fairway in the middle of the picture and an eagle turns into a double-bogey or worse.
Interestingly the green speeds for the two golf courses were fairly similar, and like Tioga Country Club, The Links at Hiawatha Landing is another exceptional value. Again like Tioga, The Links at Hiawatha Landing also offers membership as well as daily fee play and the conditioning is superb. With the East-West travel highway conveniently located to both courses, only a few minutes will find traveling golfers rejoicing in their choice of either of these fun layouts!
Below: with the Susquehanna River immediately to the right of the trees and a water hazard the entire way down the left side, the par-five 7th hole spells caution.
Below is a view of the par-four second hole, the beginning of a loop through the 8th that follows the flood plane portion of the property.
Below: the par-three 17th at Hiawatha Landing.
Below: The par-four 10th at Hiawatha Landing.