Crag Burn is located in East Aurora, NY, just east of Buffalo. It is, in my opinion, a fantastic example of RTJ penal architecture.
I would love to hear from those that have played Crag Burn their opinion of the course as whole and the holes as they are posted.
One thing that I noticed is that the style of architecture used made it very difficult to predict how to play the golf course. In many cases, the bunkers were not used as an element to be challenged to gain some sort of advantage for the next shot, but as a penalty for a shot missed in the wrong place. However, on some holes (3 and 16 for example), significant advantage was gained by challenging the bunkers. This course is fantastic and requires many plays to get a real feel for each hole's strategy.
All yardages are from the gold tees (second from back, CR: 74.2, SL 135).
Hole 1: Par 4, 416 Yards
The first tee offers a very generous fairway, with flanking bunkers left and right. The view of the flag from the tee tempts the player to try to carry to fairway bunkers on the right to leave a short iron into the green, but the carry is much longer than it appears. Even a tee shot that carries the bunkers, will likely find thick rough. The green opens up more from the left than from the right. The prudent play is down the middle. This is but the first example of bunkering that despite enticing the player, should not be challenged.
View from a tee shot missed right
View from fairway
Hole 2: Par 5, 595 Yards.
A beast of a par 5. Off the tee, it felt appeared as though the rough jutted into the fairway in several places to narrow it. However, when reaching the DZ it became clear that what appeared to be rough jutting into the fairway was actually subtle mounding that would serve to help keep balls near the rough in the fairway. A clever visual trick.
The second shot, from 300+, gives almost no visual clues. It is not until 225 yards out that the green (and the large water hazard in front of it) comes into clear view.
The approach over the hazard looks much more difficult than it plays. On several occasions, RTJ was able to make very large greens appear very small. Standing in the fairway I thought I was hitting into a #12 at Augusta-esque green. When reaching the green I was amazed at how deep the green was. Another clever visual trick.