From the hills and bucolic countryside of the Blackstone Valley east to the Boston you will find some of the finest daily free golf course the Bay State has to offer.
Summer is a marvelous time of the year to spend a few days, a weekend, or a week sampling all the golf (and more) the area east of the Connecticut River to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The courses are in pristine condition after a half season’s worth of care by superintendents and their grounds crews. The warm days are perfect for growing grass, as any super will tell you. We find stunning natural beauty on a golf course at this time of the year.
This is high time to visit courses on Golfing Magazine’s Course Play Stimulus promotion, with a number of those layouts on the list being in eastern Massachusetts. Thanks to Golfing Magazine’s fabulous “Free Golf” subscription offer you’ll get a complimentary round of golf on a number of courses in Massachusetts. Check out the details of this awesome offer in this issue, call 860-563-1633, or visit www.FreeGolf.net to sign up. There is lots of time to enjoy all the courses on our list.
Let’s start a little past mid-state. Pine Ridge Golf Club (http://pineridgegolf.net/videttagolf.html), located just south of Worcester in North Oxford, is a shot-maker’s delight, with several drivable par-fours, reachable-in-two par-fives, and tough par-threes that demand sound club selection and pinpoint accuracy. A pleasingly eclectic mixture of relatively easy and demanding holes can be found right out of the box. The first is a 308-yard par-four; number two is a short, 150-yard par-three; the third is a beefy, 202-yard par-three; and the fifth is a demanding, 403-yard par-four.
Maplegate Country Club (www.MapleGate.com), located in a scenic, quiet area near Bellingham and Franklin, features a challenging 6,815-yard, well-conditioned layout that hosted a U.S. Open qualifier in 1998 and 2001. The course has a great mix of holes; from short par-fours that may be drivable by big hitters to difficult fours. Water comes into play on a number of holes and makes tee shots and approaches to the rather large and undulating greens occasionally dicey.
The par-five fourth hole is only 522 yards from the back tees. But the lay-up must be hit as close to a pond as possible if you entertain any thoughts of getting on in two shots. Number five, a 431-yard par-four, has water running across its fairway and a fairway bunker guarding the right side of the landing area.
The backside has several superb holes. Take number 11, a medium length par-four, for example. It has a pond protecting the left side of the green and three bunkers guarding the right.
Blackstone National Golf Club (www.BlackstoneGolfClub.com) in Sutton was designed by noted architect Rees Jones, and is tucked into the wooded countryside of the Blackstone Valley area of southeastern part of the Bay State. Blackstone National, which can stretch to almost 7,000 yards from the tips and plays to a par of 72, has some good short holes. One of the most stunning par-threes is the 173-yard 11th, which demands a tee shot over a small pond.
The par-fours are solid and can be tough, like the 486-yard 15th for example. It bends to the left after a large ridge that cuts across the fairway. Hit a tee shot to the right side of the fairway and the ball will tumble down the hill and shorten the hole by 50 to 100 yards.
The par-five 18th at Blackstone National measures just 485 yards from the tips, but the hole is loaded with all kinds of trouble if you wander. The tee shot must be true to find a landing area protected by wetlands and woods. Big hitters can reach the putting surface in two shots after a strong drive, but the approach is uphill and there are a number of deep bunkers guarding the putting surface. The smart play is to lay up in front of the green and knock the ball onto the putting surface with a wedge.
Nearby, Blissful Meadows Golf Club (www.BlissfulMeadows.com) in Uxbridge is a Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva design and winds its way through mature stands of tree.
The course is not long, playing around 6,700 yards from the tips. Surrounded by the aforementioned woods as well as open meadows, the course presents a unique and secluded golfing experience. The front nine is more open than the back, which features several dramatic elevation changes and two of the best par-threes you’ll find anywhere. The conditions are always very good.
The opening hole is a 353-yard par-four that demands a precise downhill tee shot to find a fairway that bends slightly to the left. The approach is to an elevated green with bunkers guarding the right side.
The par-three 13th and 15th holes are stunning, a bit intimidating, and demand accurate mid- to long-irons off the tee in order to clear waste areas below and in front of the greens. Rock outcroppings lend a natural feel to the design of the two holes.
The varied natural topography of Wentworth Hills Golf Club (www.WentworthHillsGolf.com) in Plainville presents a beautiful round of golf, with rolling, tree-lined fairways, large, receptive greens, ponds and lakes protecting holes, and 60 strategically-placed bunkers. Well conditioned and designed by Howard Maurer, the 18-hole, par-71, 6,202-yard layout offers multiple tees to accommodate golfers of all skill levels. Classic risk/reward decisions dare low-handicappers to “go for it,” and all holes allow alternate routes for less experienced golfers.
The course, while playing just over 6,200 yards from the tips, has a slope of 128 and a rating equal to its par of 71. That tells you something about the demands the track places on proper club selection and accurate shot making.
The greens are on the large side–between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet–and are designed with speeds, contours and angles to meet incoming shots. The bunkers are placed in strategic locations. Good golfers can fly some of the fairway bunkers, while less accomplished players have enough room in the fairways to avoid trouble. There is water on the twin par-threes, eight and 17, as a lake is shared by the two holes.
All three of the track’s par-fives are reachable in two for the big hitters, and there are back to back par-fours–the 268-yard 12th and 288-yard 13th–that dare you to take driver out of the bag and try to get on the putting surface in one shot. Perhaps the toughest hole on the course is its 10th, a 428-yard par-four that plays downhill.
Heather Hill Country Club (www.HeatherHillCountryClub.com), also in Plainville, offers one regulation 18-hole course and one nine-hole course. The North Course (nine holes) has a few hills that can cause uneven lies. The fairways are narrow, and the greens are small. The South Course (18 holes) has many more hills than the North Course, but doesn’t have a lot of sand bunkers. The fairways are wide open, but most are tree lined, so you just can’t spray it around and get away with it. The greens are large, and water hazards come into play on three holes.
The 18-hole course plays around 6,000 yards from the tips and has a mix of short- and medium-length par-fours, tricky par-threes, and two par-fives that can reached in two shots by big hitters. One of those par-fives is the 478-yard third that is very straightforward with few hazards complicating matters, although there are two bunkers near the putting surface. The seventh and eighth are solid back-to-back par-threes, playing almost 200 yards and 180 respectively. The eighth demands an accurate and well hit tee shot, as water fronts the green.
The back side has three short par-fours that allow you a real chance at birdie, the 334-yard 13th, the 317-yard 14th, and the final hole, a 317-yarder. Number 12 is a good par-five that plays 516 yards from the tips, with the hole doglegging to the right, which may demand a precise layup shot to set up a wedge approach.
The nine-hole course measures 3,368 yards from the tips and isn’t a pushover. It begins with a 157-yard par-three, and the toughest stretch of holes comes at three through five. The third, a par-four, plays 400 yards, while the fourth is a challenging 500-yard par-five. The sixth is the toughest hole on the course, a par-four that measures 440 yards from the back markers.
Let’s head toward “Beantown”. Newton Commonwealth Golf Course (www.SterlingGolf.com) in Newton is an exceptionally groomed course located just minutes from downtown Boston. The course, which opened in 1907, was redesigned in 1920 by the renowned architect, Donald Ross. The layout offers a short, but challenging round of golf, featuring quick greens and relatively narrow fairways. Course management is essential, as many a big hitter has discovered, with water and sand bunkers scattered about.
The layout has benefited from constant upgrades and beautification under the management of Sterling Golf. Several tees have been rebuilt and landscaped and bunkers have been renovated. The sixth hole, a 276-yard par-four, can be reached by the longest of hitters, but a narrow fairway slopes severely from left to right, and the hole features the most difficult green on the course. There is no such thing as a “straight putt” on the multi-sloped and undulating green.
The seventh is a pretty par-three playing 173 yards from the tips. The steep downhill hole features a difficult tee shot, especially on a windy day. A small green slopes from back to front and is heavily bunkered on the front edge. The safe shot onto this green is to aim for the left side where a bail-out area is provided. Miss this green to the right and you are left with a difficult pitch shot back up onto the putting surface.
Norwood Country Club (www.SterlingGolf.com) in Norwood is a decidedly fun and interesting layout to play for players of all skills. Designed by Sam Mitchell, built by Frank Simoni and opened in 1975, Norwood Country Club is one of the best kept golf secrets in the area. A par-71, 5,630-yard layout, the track has fairly flat terrain with medium sized, well-manicured greens. The course features a number of short par-fours and reachable-in-two par-fives, but don’t let its overall short length fool you, as it has enough bite to keep even the best players on their toes.
The ninth hole is a par-five/par-four plays only 455 yards from the tips, making it short for a par-five. But it plays to an elevated green guarded by a deep bunker short-right. The safe miss on the approach shot is short as the green slopes back-to-front. Missing long should be avoided, as the green falls away sharply.
The 16th, a 416-yard par-four, is easily the toughest hole on the back nine. A big draw off the tee avoids trees and a creek on the left and gives you the best look for your second shot. Short shots should avoid right bunker.
Established in 1936 in Gardner, Gardner Municipal Golf Course (www.GardnerGolfCourse.com) is an 18-hole facility featuring outstanding conditions and excellent greens. Four sets of tees meet the playing abilities of all golfers. Beginners can shorten the course to a playable 4,898 yards, or you can challenge yourself and step back to the tips (par-71, 6131 yards).
Bedrock Golf Club
(www.BedRockGolfClub.com) in Rutland is a nine-hole course operated by the Carr Family. Former PGA Tour Professional and current PGA of America member Joe Carr has served as Bedrock’s Golf Professional since the club’s inception in 1992. This is a scenic course carved through the Rutland woods, and has a fully stocked pro shop, a practice putting green, and the “Back Nine Pub”, a full service bar and grille. The course plays 3,463 yards from the longest tees and was designed by Bill Greene and Joe Carr.
Ellinwood Country Club
(www.EllinwoodGolf.com) in Athol was opened in 1929. The original Donald Ross design consisted of nine holes. With the help of local and renowned designer Geoffrey Cornish, Ellinwood grew to 18 holes in 1965, and Cornish, carefully shaped and placed 9 new holes in and around the existing nine. The 10th is a brutal par-three that plays 225 yards from the tips and demands a fairway wood from even the best places to fine the green.
To take advantage of these course try Golfing Magazine’s Free Golf offer, call 860-563-1633, or