The Berkshire Hills and the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts boast some of the best semi-private and daily fee courses in New England.
And what a beautiful place to spend a day playing nine or 18 holes! The area’s courses are routed over open land and gently rising hills that seem to climb into the blue skies of summer. After golf, spend a few hours visiting the quaint villages and towns of the area, where you will find a variety of restaurants, shopping, museums and landmarks, and miles of hiking trails, if you are so included. Why don’t you make a week’s vacation out of if, play as many courses as you can, and drink in this special part of the region?
Thanks to Golfing Magazine’s comprehensive Course Play Stimulus Program, our subscribers can try out a multitude of courses in this portion of Massachusetts. Check out the details of this can’t miss offer in this issue. Call 860-563-1633, or visit www.FreeGolf.net to sign up.
New to our fabulous line-up of Program courses this year is Cold Spring Country Club (www.ColdSpringCC.com), an 18-hole semi-private course located about midway between Springfield and Worcester in Belchertown.
Designed by Mary Armstrong, completed in 2010 and opened for play in 2012, Cold Spring Country Club is a par-71 course with 6,521 yards set on rolling hills that boast of vistas in nearly every direction. Each hole has up to five sets of tees, enabling golfers of all levels to play an exciting mix of six par-threes, seven par-fours and five par-fives.
It all starts with a tough 216-yard par-three. From the highest tee box on the course, enjoy a panoramic view of central Massachusetts facing south. Normally you will need one less club because of the steep drop, but watch the wind here. If prevailing winds are in player’s face it will require one or two more clubs. The trees on either side of the tee box will keep players honest, by making them hit down the chute. But there’s lots of wide open room the rest of the way.
Also in Belchertown you will find Mill Valley Golf Links (www.MillValleyGolfLinks.com), which features some of the toughest par-threes in the area, with one playing 240 yards from the back markers. The course starts with back-to-back par-fives, both of which are reachable in two for big hitters. There is a great mix of short and long par-fours and those tough par-threes, including the aforementioned fifth hole. The 468-yard par-four 14th demands two lusty shots to find the putting surface on the dogleg right hole. The layout ends with a long par-four, 422 yards, and a short four par, the 323-yard 18th, where a birdie will be a nice way to finish a round.
Greenock Country Club (www.GreenockCC.com ) in Lee dates back to 1895. Redesigned in 1927 by the legendary golf architect Donald Ross, the nine-hole course is an example of craftsmanship and original style. The club is located just one mile from Exit 2 off Interstate 90, within minutes of the historic town of Stockbridge, and just a few short miles from Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The sixth hole is a risk-reward par-five, measuring only 465 yards, but there is water left and right of the green if you are thinking about going for it in two.
The Links at Worthington Golf Club (www.WorthingtonGolfClub.com) is actually a 10-hole course with small sloping greens and tight tree-lined fairways, a bothersome creek, thick rough, and 15 strategically placed bunkers. It provides a challenge for the low handicappers, as well as an enjoyable round for the recreational golfer.
Great Barrington’s Egremont Country Club (www.EgremontCountryClub.com) features an 18-hole course surrounded by rolling hills, beautiful views and winding streams. The track is on the short side and there are a number of modest par-fours where birdie awaits after a good tee shot and careful approach. The ninth is a fun hole, a par-three playing 165 yards. The tee shot must carry a pond that fronts the green.
Gardner Municipal Golf Course (www.gardnergolfcourse.com ) is considered one of the “hidden gems” of the region. The layout is nestled compactly along the shores of Crystal Lake on the north side of the city, and offers challenging approach shots due to its small, fast greens. Several of the holes, the 311-yard par-four 10th and 480-yard par-five 11th, play near Crystal Lake and afford golfers a nice moment of relaxation before tackling both.
Agawam Golf Course (www.AgawamGC.com) in Feeding Hills claims to be a “user friendly” track with a rolling terrain and undulating greens. The course can play anywhere from 4,658 to 5,679 yards. A number of the par-fours are reachable or almost reachable, for big hitters and are perfect opportunities for birdie. The number one handicap hole is the fourth, a 430-yarder that plays as a four or a five. As a four it’s a tough par, but as a five a birdie chance awaits.
Hickory Ridge Golf Club (www.HickoryRidgeGC.com) in Amherst is a well-conditioned semi-private track full of interesting holes. The first hole is a medium-length, 501-yard par-five. It requires a player to hit two accurate shots to leave a short iron or pitch to an elevated green. The 337-yard par-four seventh is short and presents a birdie chance, but there are dangers. Your drive you must carry a river that cuts across the fairway. Use a club that will carry approximately 225 yards. The second shot will only be a short wedge, but be careful, there is a small green and any errant shot will produce a difficult pitch or sand shot. There is a water hazard over this green, so don’t get too aggressive.
Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club (www.Cranwell.com), located in Lenox, is a traditional New England course that is over 90 years old and designed by the noted architects of the early 20th century, Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek. The course features tree-lined fairways and naturally contoured greens that have been carefully preserved. The first three holes wander near a small clubhouse. The tee box on the third hole, a little 152-yarder, has a huge pine tree guarding the left side of the putting surface. The 11th is one of the course’s signature holes, a 200-yard par-three that plays from a chute of trees to a severely slopped green. Huge bunkers guard the putting surface.
The Crumpin-Fox Club (www.GolfTheFox.com) in Bernardston, 7,007 yards long from the tips and with a par of 72, is considered one of the most challenging tests of golfing ability in the Northeast. Many of the holes are tree-lined with ample bunking and enough water to create a few jangled nerves. The eighth hole is one of the best on the course. It begins from an elevated tee box and a lake plays a factor on the first, second and third shots, as it must be avoided and then cleared on any approach to a rather large green protected by bunkers.
The Ledges Golf Club (www.LedgesGC.com ) in South Hadley is routed through woodlands and over and around wetlands and natural areas. You won’t find two holes alike and they range from long and difficult par-fours, like the 448-yard second, to the 106-yard par-three third, short par-fours, such as the back-to-back drivable 15th and 16th holes, long par-threes, and very good par-fives that range from 489 to 579 yards. You have to think your way around the track and proper placement off the tee will likely leave you with a very solid shot at making birdie, especially on the short par-fours. But wander with the driver and you’ll pay a steep price.
The Ranch Golf Club (www.TheRanchGolfClub.com) in Southwick is considered one of the top tracks in the state. The conditions are always top notch as is the routing. The 540-yard par-five ninth and 618-yard par-five 16th roll dramatically downhill and afford great views of the surrounding countryside. A well struck tee shot on the ninth will tumble down a hill and leave the player with a choice of either laying up for a short third shot, or going for the green in two by challenging a wetlands area in front of the putting surface. The 195-yard par-three 17th, which plays across water, is the best short hole on the track.
Westfield’s Tekoa Country Club (www.TekoaCC.com), located in the scenic foothills of the Berkshire Hills, can trace its lineage back to Donald Ross. He laid out the original nine holes of Tekoa, and although only five of the original holes remain intact–the second, third, fourth, 14th and 15th–the owners of Tekoa have taken great care to insure Ross’s touch remains a big part of their course’s appeal. Gene Cornish, one of the most prolific of all New England architects, redesigned the course in 1961 and added 13 holes of his own to the present routing.
While on the short side, just 6,285 yards from the tips, Shaker Farms Country Club (www.ShakerFarmsCC.com) in Westfield is a unique track that contains some interesting holes. The front side has two great par-threes, the demanding 225-yard seventh and the 165-yard ninth, the latter playing across a small pond. The back side features a nice mix of holes. The 318-yard par-four 10th plays uphill from the fairway landing area. The 12th, a 144-yard par-three, has a green flanked by tall pines and is the first of two very pretty short holes on the side.
The Blandford Club (www.MassGolfTennis.com) is a nine-hole private layout. Only 2,722 yards from the tips and playing to a par of 35, this is a fun, playable track for all levels. Beginners will enjoy the friendliness of the routing and rather short overall distance, while more advanced players can work on their iron and short game skills. The course is one of the oldest in the region, having opened in 1910, and was designed by William Dexter.
Waubeeka Golf Links (www.Waubeeka.com) in South Williamstown is known for its stunning views. There have been renovations of the 1st, 2nd, 8th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes, which ranged from the addition of new tees and bunkers to completely new holes being created. Two of the best holes are the 11th, a 420-yard beast of a par-four that has a deep bunker to the right side of the green that makes getting up and down from there very difficult, and the 501-yard 17th, which has out of bounds the entire length along the right side and a lateral hazard almost all the way on the left side.
Oak Ridge Golf Club (www.OakRidgeGC.com) in Feeding Hills is another approachable course for players of all skill levels. The15th hole is a great par-four, playing as a dogleg right. Your tee shot must be hit as close to a pond as possible to leave a manageable approach shot over water to the green. The course hosts prominent tournaments and charity events each year. In addition to golf, Oak Ridge Golf Club offers an exceptional banquet facility.
Edgewood Golf Course (www.Edgewood4Golf.com) in Southwick is an 18-hole course in Southwick, at the foot of the Berkshire Hills. It’s a family and senior-friendly course. Geoffrey Cornish designed the course, and it measures 6,500 yards from the championship tees, with a par of 71. The course rating is 69.1, with a slope of 115.While the front nine gives one room to warm up because of its openness, the back side is carved out of woods and includes three scenic par threes.