Fall in New England is a beautiful time to visit the U.S.A to play golf
When the leaves turn rusted and golden, Massachusetts reveals itself as a world class golf destination.
- Golfing pilgrimage on Cape Cod
- How Boston’s Big Dig produced a world beating course
- Mob Feuds at Granite Links
- Crumpin Fox: Pine Valley gone public
- Smokin’ good Blackstone Burgers
- Feel free on Boston’s historic trail
The footprint of British colonial history in America is strongest on the north eastern seaboard.
For people who love history there is no better place to visit than New England, Massachusetts – its capital Boston – and the peninsula of Cape Cod, where the first English pilgrims landed in 1620.
This is where the “Boston Tea party” and America’s War for Independence came to life and where the British left a rich cultural legacy. in New England, many places have English sounding names, Plymouth, Sandwich, Falmouth on Cape Cod and Worcester in the west of the state, and even that great Metropolitan superpower New York city.
It’s another historical debate about whether the Scottish or the Dutch invented golf, but, what is true is that in New England golf seems to be as popular as it is in the British Isles and the “Home of Golf.”
On Cape Cod alone, a tiny hook-shaped peninsula of 15 towns spanning 64-miles, there are more golf courses within 30-minutes drive of each other than anywhere else in the United States bar Myrtle Beach.
That’s quite a fact. Boston’s Logan airport is the main air hub for international flights into Massachusetts and the descent over the ocean is as spectacular as the Boston city skyline.
A window seat is a must. Swooping in over the Atlantic breakers, the wheels barely clear the white sand beach before hitting the runway.
Golfing pilgrimage to Cape Cod
The “Cod” is the easiest and best place to begin a golf break after arrival at Logan Airport.
The furthest most easterly tip of Cape Cod, the “lower cape” can be reached within 90-minutes from I-93 and Route-3 out of Boston. It was Englishman Bartholomew Gosnold who gave the cape its name after he discovered plentiful supplies of cod there in 1602.
Cape Cod is a favourite playground for America’s high society and there many second home owners who holiday on the island throughout the year.
Even so Cape Cod is modest compared to its smaller wealthier island neighbours Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
The Ocean Edge resort and country club in Brewster off route 6A is an ideal place to spend your time on the cape.
If you’ve brought the family or a group of golfing friends, the resort offers elegant townhouses which sleep up to six or eight people. The houses are comfortable, spacious and modern and give the feeling of a home from home experience.
This 400-acre property has a 700-foot private beach easily accessible from the townhouses. A morning stroll or brisk jog is the perfect way to prepare for a round at one of Cape Cod’s fine public courses.
Ocean Edge has its own 18-hole course designed by Jack Nicklaus. At the time of my visit, it was closed for renovations and so I headed back West.
Brookside Club and Ballymeade Country Club
First to The Brookside Club and then to Ballymeade Country Club – a favourite haunt of retired Boston Bruin’s ice hockey players.
Brookside is a young course, originally designed by Michael Hurdzan in 1986 and then improved by Florida based architect John Sandford. It has an impressive Mansion style clubhouse which sits on a hilltop looking down on the first hole – a snaking dogleg par-four with an eye catching pond short of the green.
The course favours an intelligent golfer who chooses a conservative strategy over those who blast driver at any opportunity. The highlights of the round are the long par-four 8th, which at 440-yards is one of the sternest on the cape, and the short but pretty dogleg 14th.
Not far away in North Falmouth is Ballymeade Country Club, where an impressive entrance and stately clubhouse is an appetizer to a golf course that won’t fail to impress. Designed by Chi Chi Rodriquez – Ballymeade requires a laser accurate game from the tee and finesse around the greens.
From the clubhouse you can look out to Martha’s Vineyard and Buzzard’s Bay, and the Hawk’s Nest lounge is an ideal 19th hole. Like Brookside, golfers need to approach this course with respect and aim to keep the ball in play and away from the many water hazards that feature at Ballymeade. The members are proudest of two holes among a terrific card.
At the 11th tee you stand at the highest point on Cape Cod and play a tough par-three of 174-yards. Views of shimmering Buzzard’s bay distract even the best players and the hole is often played into stiff breeze.
The 18th is the perfect finish.
A risk reward par-five that captures the true challenge of Ballymeade in one simple stern test.
If you’re staying at Ocean Edge Resort a good option for golf the following day is nearby Captains Golf Course.
O’ Captain! My Captain!
Captain’s Golf Course, Cape Cod
In 19th century Brewster, the town was home to a number of salty seadogs who captained ships sailing the world’s ocean trade routes. The municipal owned golf complex is named after them.
Captains’ pays its own tribute with each of the 36-holes at the Port and Starboard courses named after a famous sea captain. Carved out of a pine forest stretching into the Nickerson State Park, Captains plays like Brookside and Ballymeade in requiring accurate drives and safe clubbing decisions.
Cape Cod itself is only between one and 16 miles wide, narrow to say the least, a fact that seems to have inspired golf course architects when they laid out fairways on the peninsula. The cape has lots of accessible golf for the holidaymaker, but the areas around Boston’s city limits and further west along the Massachusetts Turnpike also boast terrific must-play public courses, like Redtail, The Ranch, Blackstone National Park and Granite Links.
Head off the cape along the I-3 and back towards Boston, America’s small iconic city home to the “Freedom Trail,” The Bunker Hill monument and some of the nation’s most important historical sights.
Stop at Quincy, ten-miles short of Boston’s centre, and follow signs to Quarry Hills.
How the “Big Dig” was good for Boston Golf
Here, a former landfill site has been reshaped into Granite Links Golf Club, a place often talked about as one of the best Massachusetts golf courses.
From Granite Links you can see sprawling views of Boston’s iconic skyline.
Around 2005, a big construction project called The “Big Dig” or Central Artery/ Tunnel project made a lot of golfers in the area happy. The project was meant to replace expensive toll roads and join up segmented neighbourhoods.
It ran overbudget, leaked, but crucially produced masses of dirt that needed to be disposed of. Where better than a golf course? Around 13-million tonnes of earth was poured into a pristine emerald layout, bordered by gnarly fescue, rolling hills and links-like bunkers.
That course is Granite Links, it measures 6,818-yards and is fit to be graced by any tournament.
Floridian architect John Sanford,who also remodelled Brookside, got the job to build Granite Links and calls it his toughest project yet in 20-years of golf course architecture. It’s front nine sweeps down into a valley floor before climbing back towards the clubhouse.
It passes over Fuller’s Quarry – a former swimming hole and alleged graveyard for victims of Boston’s mob feuds – to the 9th green and then turns into a breathtaking back-nine, the second of its 27-holes. The closing nine plays over the flatlands at its highest point and looks over to Boston and its harbour.
A brief drive down I-93 into Boston and you connect with the Mass Turnpike, whose signposts are marked with a black pilgrim’s hat. Take the route past Worcester, the state’s second city, and west to fine golf courses and luxury accommodation in relaxing settings.
The Berkshires are rolling mountainous hills in Berkshire County in South Western Massachusetts. Here, close to Hartford Conneticut, are several quality courses like that at Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox.
Ideal for beginners, the Golf Digest Instructional school at Cranwell is everything you’d need if you want a golf tuition holiday.
The Spa is renowned as a premier destination at which to relax, enjoy massage and revitalising treatments.
The front nine of the golf course is equivalent to a gentle toning massage, softening the body, before the knots tighten at the difficult ninth and the fearsomely tight closing nine starts to explore the deep tissues of your golf game.
This is a fun course, in good condition, but imbalanced in that holes 10-18 are fiendishly hard in comparison to the opening nine.
In the foothills of the Berkshires, at Southwick, on the site of a working farm that dates back to 1896 is The Ranch Golf Club.
The Ranch Golf Club – private club experience at public prices
This daily-fee golf course is the closest thing you will experience to a day at one of America’s elite private courses.
Everything from the greeting and friendly site-lowdown you receive at the bag drop to the complimentary towel, razor, comb and locker in the shower rooms, helps create a sense that your custom is valued and appreciated. Those small details leave lasting impressions, like the ochre yellow barns – 104-years-old and property of the Crane Paper company.
They are now an exclusive clubhouse and restaurant as popular with local diners as with visiting golfers. Californian architect Damian Pascuzzo’s Ranch course is visually breathtaking.
Each hole demands careful thought to find a way among links-like bunkers and waving fescue rough to reach the safety of the smooth fast greens. The course has lots of tough short holes, all around 200-yards in length, and delightful risk reward par-fives like the 1st, 9th and the 16th – called “Ski-Hill.”
At 618-yards, this downhill par-five is reachable but only if you avoid the lake which flanks the left of fairway and green. The Ranch was once owned by Crane Paper company, whereas Crumpin Fox in Bernardston about 90-minutes drive from the Ranch, drew its name from the Crump & Fox soda company that dates to 1853.
Bottles of soda were found on the golf course site development inspiring the name for a public course that is consistently rated in the top-five public courses in Massachusetts.
Crumpin Fox: The Pine Valley of U.S public courses
The Fox is rare, both for its secluded rustic clubhouse and devilishly designed layout.
Architect Roger Rulewich has created a public course that draws comparisons with Pine Valley, a fixture in the world’s top-three courses, and having played both I can vouch this is no idle talk. It’s best to stick to Soda the night before playing Crumpin Fox.
This tight tree-lined gem requires maximum concentration and commitment to hitting long-irons into small well defended greens. A player’s course for a bargain fee, “The Fox” is fantastic.
Smokin good burgers at Blackstone
Rees Jones designed Blackstone National Park in Sutton is also a terrific new golf destination. Blackstone is a credit to the 1995 Golf World “Architect of the Year.”
The course is hard but fair. The forest setting is pleasing to the eye and the clubhouse is full of pictures of Hogan, Nicklaus and Palmer. The Blackstone Burger was also easily the best I’d tasted the entire trip.
With historic Boston at the centre, the cool climate and white sandy beaches of Cape Cod in the East, the classy Berkshire resorts and bustling Worcester in the West, Massachusetts is a destination to rival any on the North Atlantic seaboard.
If you happen to be taking a fly-drive vacation and fancy playing the odd round of holiday golf — or you choose Massachusetts as a dedicated golf break — you cannot fail to enjoy this historic American state.
It’s more likely you’ll follow the English puritans of the 17th century and become a regular pilgrim to these shores.
WHERE TO PLAY – MASS, USA
The Brookside Club
Ballymeade Country Club
Captain’s Golf Course
The Ranch Golf Club
Blackstone National Golf Club
Granite Links Golf Club
Cranwell Resort and Spa
WHERE TO STAY
Ocean Edge Resort and Club on Cape Cod
The Ocean Edge Resort and Spa has a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course and is situated in idyllic Brewster. There is a choice of townhouses or rooms in the main hotel and a choice of fine dining or traditional American dishes served in Bayzo’s Pub.
Cranwell Resort and Spa
A converted Jesuit training college for Catholic Priests, now a luxury golf resort and spa and a perfect place to relax.
Super-luxurious, modern hotel with first rate gym and fine dining restaurant
The Fall in Boston and Massachusetts is a time for cooler weather but with regular spells of sunshine. You can expect temperatures between 15 and 25 C, and some days can be cooler than expected.
Boston’s “Freedom Trial” is a red line running in a circuit around the city past all of its major historical monuments and landmarks like The Old State House, Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s House and the USS Constitution Ship.
All these places are significant in America’s struggle for Independence and a wonderful way to spend a day. (www.thefreedomtrail.org)