Bang for your buck: Massachusetts

There is much more to the fascinating history of golf in Massachusetts than Francis Ouimet’s victory over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline. Those who have a spirit of adventure will find munis and family-owned courses throughout the state that feature interesting design, beautiful scenery, and a richness of backstories that, when contrasted against the modest greens fees, add up to incredible value.

This is not a final list. Over time, courses will be added and removed depending on research and experience. This is meant to be a guide to help golfers find affordable and architecturally-interesting golf courses that might be overlooked and underappreciated.

Requirements:

  • The highest rate charged for walking is less than $100.00

  • Must have regular tee times available to the public

  • Must have architectural interest beyond your typical local course

George Wright - Donald Ross - Boston, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $52

George Wright Golf Course

Created as a WPA project during the great depression, Donald Ross and thousands of laborers blasted George Wright out of the granite in the Hyde Park neighborhood, and shaped a golf course that is now considered one of the best munis in America. It plays over dramatic terrain, with bunkering and greens that even the most stalwart Ross aficionados will love. The course had fallen on hard times, but successive Boston Mayors, Superintendent Len Curtin, and Golf Course Architect Mark Mungeam have peeled back the layers of this old course to reveal her beauty and brilliance. Great history here, and even better golf.

William J. Devine (Franklin Park) - Donald Ross - Boston, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $52

Boston’s other city course is actually the older of the two, and the second oldest public golf course in the U.S. Donald Ross re-designed Franklin Park which plays over gentler meadow land than GW. It was Bobby Jones’s favorite spot to work on his game during his Harvard days, and now thanks to the hard work of Superintendent Russ Heller and his crew, it is home to both high-level amateur tournaments and happy groups of local duffers.

South Shore Country Club - Wayne Stiles - Hingham, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $50

This 1920’s Stiles design was private but is now open to the public. The course meanders over rolling land, is well conditioned, and thankfully doesn’t suffer from the terrible over-treeing of so many similar clubs. A nice opportunity to experience the creative work of one of the Golden Age’s more under-the-radar architects.

Highland Links - J. Henry McKinley - North Truro, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $65 (18 holes)

The 5th green at Highland Links

This nine holer is the only true links on America’s East Coast. Built as an amenity for hotel guests around the turn of the century, the course has not changed much since 1913. Stepping onto the first tee is like stepping back in time, when the game was much simpler. Splashes of quirk on various holes complement the expansive and breathtaking views of the ocean and the lighthouse.

Bass River Golf Course - Donald Ross - Yarmouth, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $73

Scenic and relaxing Cape Cod golf is what Bass River is all about. The Ross design has not been tricked up over the years, and there is no need, with holes playing along and even over the Bass River. A beautiful spot that lifts you up, instead of beating you down.

Cape Cod Country Club - Devereux Emmet - Falmouth, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $57

Cape Cod is family owned and operated, but that does not mean that it lacks interest or sophistication. The course moves from open space to wooded corridors, with artful bunkering and interesting greens. The Friel family loves the game and their course, and it shows.

Cape Ann Golf Club - Eugene Wogan - Essex, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $39 (18 holes)

 The 4th at Cape Ann photo credit: Cape Ann GC

The 4th at Cape Ann photo credit: Cape Ann GC

We stumbled upon Cape Ann while visiting one of its well-heeled neighbors, and what a find. An absolutely beautiful piece of land, with a 9-hole course laid gently upon it. Nothing is overdone, and fortunately, trees have not been allowed to encroach obscuring the views of the surrounding area. A perfect spot to sweep the dew or chase the sun.

Crumpin-Fox Club - Roger Rulewich - Bernardston, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $99

The Fox was designed and built by the right hand man of Robert Trent Jones, with the philosophy that enjoyment in golf is intertwined with challenge. That challenge takes the form of holes that play in a variety of directions, with contoured fairways and greens, and sometimes devilish hazards. If your desire is to test your game, rather than have a relaxing walk in the park, Crumpin-Fox is a great opportunity to experience the meaning of the phrase “difficult par, easy bogey”.

Pembroke Country Club - Philip Wogan - Pembroke, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $50

Pembroke was the home course of Jeremy Roenick in his youth, and in the spirit of coming full circle, he is now its owner. JR is supporting the efforts of Superintendent Patrick Sullivan to bring the course back to the condition of its heyday, and we support their commitment.

D.W. Field Golf Club - Stiles & Van Kleek - Brockton, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $45

This course is sited beautifully within a Frederick Law Olmstead park, and serves as a retreat from the burbs. Greens are small and demanding in their own way with interesting land forms and features that must be navigated.

Southers Marsh Golf Club - Stearns Family - Plymouth, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $37

 The 4th green at Southers Marsh Credit: Southers Marsh

The 4th green at Southers Marsh Credit: Southers Marsh

In the ‘90s, the Stearns family decided that they needed to repurpose a portion of the land on which they had been farming cranberries for 100 years, so they built a golf course. The course is completely homemade and meanders through their remaining cranberry bogs. We challenge you to watch the creation story video on the Southers home page and not get infected with the spirit of the game. If you don’t want to run out and plunk down a green fee to support folks like this, we probably can’t be friends anymore.

Gannon Municipal Golf Course - Wayne Stiles - Lynn, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $47

Wayne Stiles was both a golf course and landscape architect. Fitting that his Gannon course would be located within Lynn Woods, also home to Thoreau’s cherished Walden Pond, and one of the largest municipal forests in the country. The course was carved out of the rocky forest and remains simple, and mostly unchanged to this day.  

Dudley Hill Golf Club - Devereux Emmet - Dudley, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $44 (18 holes)

The routing of this 9-holer won’t blow your mind, but there is plenty of Emmet quirk and character around the greens to make it worth a visit. Classic courses like this are exactly the kinds of places we like to visit at twilight after playing a bigger course earlier in the day.

Blissful Meadows Golf Club - Brian Silva - Uxbridge, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $55

 Blissful Meadows 13th Green Credit: Blissful Meadows

Blissful Meadows 13th Green Credit: Blissful Meadows

The course plays through both forest and meadow land, in equal parts. Silva’s design is somewhat benign, letting the land do the talking. However, there are playful flourishes, like the green site on the 13th.

Green Harbor Golf Club - Manuel Francis - Marshfield, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $40

A stone’s throw from the grave of Daniel Webster, Green Harbor was built by the Francis family and shares space with their bentgrass turf farm. The course is somewhat simple in its design, but given that these folks have been supplying bentgrass to private clubs across the country for decades, and given that they grassed their own greens with that same bent, you can be assured that putts will roll true.

Rockport Golf Club - Eugene Wogan - Rockport, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $40 (18 holes)

This 9-holer was originally designed by Eugene Wogan, who was then the Head Professional at Essex County Club, and a champion of the game in Massachusetts. The course is simple, with few hazards, but does feature exposed rock formations that are a part of the play as much as they are scenery. Superintendent Bill Yanakakis now tends to this historic treasure and keeps in in fine playing shape.

The Ranch Golf Club - Damian Pascuzzo & Steve Pate - Southwick, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $89

TheRanch.png

With more of a polished, modern feel to the greens and bunkering, The Ranch was built on an old dairy farm. The course begins in the pasture and works its way up into the more wooded surrounding land. Generally considered to be one of the better upscale publics in the state that doesn’t break the bank to play.

Waubeeka Golf Links - Rowland Armacost - Williamstown, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $59

Waubeeka is set in the shadow of the Berkshires, with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Greylock. The large and undulating greens are largely as local architect and builder Rowland Armacost created them. Especially in the autumn, with the leaves turning, this is lovely a spot for golf as you will find anywhere in Mass.

Marion Golf Club - George Thomas - Marion, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $22 (18 holes)

 Little Marian - George Thomas’ first design

Little Marian - George Thomas’ first design

Little Marion, as it is called by the locals, is the first design of George Thomas, who went on to create Riviera, Los Angeles CC, and several other of the world’s greatest courses. This is architecture without rules, and it is a must visit for for any golf geek in the area. Nevermind the hardscrabble conditions - grab a few balls and clubs and go get lost in the early ideas of a man who would become a design genius.

Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort - Stiles & Van Kleek - Lenox, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $79

The course is a part of the historical Cranwell Estate that has changed owners and purposes many times over the past 100 years, and is now home to a toney Berkshires getaway. You don’t have to stay at the resort to enjoy this classic design. Go get a taste of good life, while taking in some good golf in this beautiful setting.

Amesbury Golf & Country Club - Wayne Stiles - Amesbury, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $32 (18 holes)

This nine-holer in the northeast corner of the state near the New Hampshire border opened its doors to the public a while back. Stiles used the land nicely to create a routing that changes directions and wanders, providing an adventurous feel for a small property.

Beverly Golf & Tennis - Donald Ross - Beverly, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $43

Yet another Donald Ross gem accessible to the public, brilliantly routed for variety over lovely terrain. There is still plenty here of the master’s work to appreciate. And for those looking for a multi-sport outing, clay tennis courts are available for a post-round whack.

Olde Salem Greens - Stiles & Van Kleek - Salem, MA
Peak Walking Rate: $37 (18 holes)

Olde Salem is another Stiles 9-holer routed through the undulating landscape to provide maximum variety and interest. It is a walk in the woods with little clutter to detract from the simple enjoyment of hitting shots while connecting to nature. Make a point of stopping in town after your round to experience the gravity of the memorial to the Salem Witch Trials.

Honorable mentions to both Red Tail GC and Waverly Oaks GC, both designed by previous guest on The Fried Egg Podcast, Brian Silva.  These courses are at the higher end of public offerings we considered in MA, and their peaks rates are $105, which includes cart and range balls.  We inquired and confirmed that Red Tail will wave the $11 cart fee if you ask. Waverly Oaks said that there is no separate walking rate, but we suspect that a polite request will get that total price under our $100 threshold on the weekend.  

Honorable mention also to Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, a private club that allows unaccompanied guest play. Our experience says that any time you can play a Donald Ross course in MA for $104, it is a worthy option to consider.

 

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