In the early 1930's, Frank H. Goodyear II, a prominent Buffalonian and his wife, Dorothy Knox, daughter of Seymour Knox, one of the founders of the Woolworth Corporation, frequently enjoyed horseback riding and entertaining at Crag Burn, their summer home in East Aurora. Crag Burn gets its origins from Scottish words "Crag" meaning "top of the bluff" and "Burn", meaning "small stream." This is an apt description of this beautiful property with its house, magnificent stables and grounds that were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, whose work includes New York City's Central Park and Buffalo's park systems.
By 1950, the land near the stable was seeing very little use. Goodyear's son Bobby, who was an accomplished sportsman with a passion for golf, had an idea to change the overgrown polo fields into a world class golf course. Bobby enlisted the help of family friend and prominent American golf course architect, Robert Trent-Jones, who agreed to design a golf course for the Crag Burn property. Bobby then enlisted the help of his sister and brother-in-law, Dottie and Clint Wyckoff, and their sons Peter, Ranny and Kevin to convince their friends to help fund the construction of a club where "a group of friends could play golf," and the course was on its way.
Bobby was adamant after seeing other Trent-Jones designed courses that Crag Burn was to be kept small and manageable. Given the combination of heavily-wooded sections and open fields, it was decided to build a course that would capitalize on the terrain of the property. The front nine would be a parks style course and run through the wooded section. The back nine would have more open, traditional feel of a links course. To add topographical drama, Trent-Jones said, "We'll make it interesting by adding ponds."
Dirt was moved, and a sophisticated valve system was installed to regulate the flow of water between the ponds. Trent-Jones had hired the best people in the business, among them contractor Bill Baldwin, who had some of the world's best equipment operators on his crew. In fact, the man who put down the final layer of soil on the greens was able to translate a hand scrawled Trent-Jones sketch into the delicate undulations that characterized Crag Burn's greens today. The clubhouse was fashioned from the original stable, immediately lending a sense of history to the new club. Many of the original details of the stable were kept; including the magnificent slate roof and horse stalls that made unique alcoves for dinner guests.
By May 1, 1972 Crag Burn was ready for its first foursome. That honor went to Ranny Wyckoff, Peter Wyckoff, David Smith and Edwin Johnston. The course was in excellent condition and set a perfect stage for that dramatic moment when the first shot was hit by Peter Wyckoff, the club's first treasurer. The foursome proceeded to have a great match and wonderful time - Crag Burn had become exactly what its co-founders had imagined!
Membership grew throughout the 1970's and by 1979 the club adopted a new structure to assure its future health. A group of members led an effort to raise capital and invest in the club and the course. Doris Gleisner, club manager, Ned Booth, course superintendent and Lonnie Nielsen, head professional, were hired at this time. Over the years, numerous course improvements have been made while maintaining the ingenuity and integrity of the original design. The practice facility at Crag Burn is widely considered to be one of the finest in the country. As members say, "If you can think of a shot, you can practice it at Crag Burn." In 1999, Crag burn was sold to the membership. This milestone is a testament to the hard work and the vision of Bobby Goodyear and the Wyckoff family and later Jim Smith, Jay Wattles, Barry Snyder and Gary Grelick.
Today, Crag Burn reflects the original vision of Bobby Goodyear as the finest golf course in this part of the world. Far from pretentious, the club is simply a place where good friends can gather and golf on a world-class course.