A Pleasing Mix of Daily Fee Courses in Western Massachusetts Await
From the rolling farmland and meadows of the Pioneer Valley to the Berkshire Hills, western Massachusetts boasts some of the finest daily fee golf courses in the region.
The cool thing about playing in western Massachusetts is that within perhaps an hour you can enjoy a varied natural setting, as well as some of the oldest (and newest) public courses in New England. Of course, the Berkshires are alive during the summer with great restaurants, music festivals, parks and museums, and shopping outlets for aprŤs golf.
Letís check out the best daily fee courses in this special part of the Bay State.
When you visit the Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club you are treated to a classic Wayne Styles and John Van Kleek-designed tract built in 1926, a state-of-the-art spa, an Old World dining experience at the resortís Wyndhurst House.
Located in Lenox, Cranwellís hotel was built during the Gilded Age and welcomed wealthy industrialists and writers of the day. Frederick Law Olmstead, the man who created New York Cityís Central Park, was commissioned to design the grounds at what was then a mansion called Wyndhurst owned by the furniture baron John Sloane.
Cranwellís 18-hole course ( actually 19 holes) is a picturesque, traditional New England resort course routed over the hills surrounding the resort and through mature woodlands of the area. The course features some great views of the Berkshire Hills.
The course features tree-lined fairways and naturally contoured greens that have been carefully preserved in the more than 80 years since the course was built. Management recently undertook considerable renovations to its course, which has improved fairway conditions and restored the classic bunkering of Stiles and Van Kleek. The fifth, a 233-yard par-three, is one of the most demanding short holes you will find anywhere and the only hole where you will find water.
The eighth hole is one of the neatest on the course. You tee off next to the resort hotel and can cut the distance to the hole on the 273-yard par-four dramatically if you take the drive over trees that hug the left side. Itís all downhill to a small green that is easy to miss if you donít concentrate on the pitch shot.
The par-70 is not long even from the back tees, measuring just 6,204 yards from the tips.
One of the most scenic and challenging golf courses in New England is tucked into the rolling hillsides and mature woodlands of northwestern Massachusetts, the Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston.
Accomplished course architect Roger Rulewich took an original nine holes, reworked them, and added a new nine holes in 1990 to create what many consider one of the toughest tests of golfing ability in New England.
The course winds over hill and dale and blends perfectly with the stunning natural landscape. The track plays a little over 7,000 yards from the tips and has several of the best holes in the region.
The eighth is an amazing par-five. The hole starts from an elevated tee box and a lake plays a factor on the first, second and third shots, as it must be cleared on any approach to a rather large green protected by bunkers.
Waubeeka Golf Links in South Williamstown, has always been known for its stunning views, and under the ownership of Jim and Jody Goff and the care of superintendent Greg Tudor, the golf course is living up to its gorgeous surroundings.
During 2009 to 2010, there were renovations of the 1st, 2nd, 8th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes. Renovations ranged from the addition of new tees and bunkers on existing holes to completely new holes being created. The Goffs also increased day to day spending on maintenance and superintendent Tudor and his staff have done wonders to improve the quality of the track.
Waubeeka is a highly rated course by Golf Digest, which gave it 4 out of 5 stars, along with receiving numerous accolades from New England Magazines and players.
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 of the hole.
Nestled at the foot of the Berkshires, Shaker Farms Country Club is located only 15 minutes from West Springfield, the Connecticut state line, Route 91 and the Massachusetts Turnpike.
While on the short side, just 6,285 yards from the tips, Shaker Farms Country Club is a unique track that contains some interesting holes.
Routed through mature stands of trees, where wildlife is abundant, the Geoffrey Cornish design is being brought back to its original luster by new ownership.
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 17th, a par-five measuring only 457 yards from the tips, is a dramatic dogleg right that plays downhill off the tee and then back uphill to an elevated green. A stream wanders along the left side of the fairway landing area and bisects the fairway about 180 yards from the green. Itís one of the toughest short par-fives in the area.
Legendary golf course designer Donald Ross designed an original nine holes at Tekoa Country Club, located in the foothills of the Berkshires, in 1923.
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 Rossís touch remains a big part of their courseís appeal. Geoffrey Cornish, one of the most prolific of all New England architects, redesigned the course in 1961 and added 13 gems of his own to todayís present routing.
Recent work has added about 400 yards of length to the layout, refreshed the courseís classic bunkering system, and enhanced several greens. While not overly long at 6,215 yards from the tips, Tekoaís smallish, undulating greens are difficult to find and a good short game is essential to score well here.
Tekoa was originally built around 1890. When the four-hole course on Western Avenue opened it was one of the first golf clubs in western Massachusetts. A clubhouse was added in 1911 on property now owned by Westfield State College.
Ross was commissioned to redesign the course and made it nine holes in 1923. The classic features of Rossís original holes remain intact, the retention of the natural characteristics of the land, small, raised, undulating greens that place a premium on chipping and putting skills.
You can score well at Tekoa, provided you hit the ball straight off the tee and on approach shots and bring your short game with you.
The Ranch Golf Club in Southwick is in its 11th year of operation and is one of the most acclaimed daily fee tracks in the region.
The golf course is fun, interesting and challenging for all ability levels. The conditions are outstanding tee to green and the service is friendly and upbeat.
The Ranch Golf Club has gained a reputation as one of the elite daily fee clubs in the region for good reasons. Management takes great efforts in making a visit an extremely pleasurable, stress-free experience.
The Ranch has several sets of tees, and is a mix of open and woodland holes. The layout plays 7,175 yards from the tips and has a rating of 75.4 and a slope of 143 from the back markers.
While difficult, you can score at The Ranch, as long as you hit the ball straight off the tee and donít get too greedy on approach shots to the undulating greens that are usually well protected by sand, water or rough.
The first hole is a pleasant 510-yard par-five that has a massive fairway that shrinks as you approach the putting surface, which is guarded by water to the left.
The 441-yard par-four fourth is one of the prettiest holes on the course. It starts with a carry across a small ravine to a fairway that flows up toward the green. The hole is framed by tall pines and guarded by fairway and greenside bunkers.
Mill Valley Golf Links in Belchertown is one of the regionís newest 18-hole layouts.
The course has some really solid par-threes, with one playing a whopping 240 yards from the back markers. The track is not overly long--6,583 yards from the tips-- but demands precise club selection and sound shot making.
The layout 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.
The back nine has two par-fours, the 319-yard 11th and the 316-yard 15th, that the big hitters can think about reaching the green with driver.
The 468-yard par-four 14th is a demanding hole and requires 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.
Bas-Ridge Golf Course in Hinsdale, near the city of Pittsfield, is one of those fun courses you stumble upon every so often.
Playing to a par of 70, itís only slightly over 6,000 yards long from the tips and a number of par-fours measure 300 yards or less. However, donít get lulled into thinking you can just let it rip and hit half wedges into the greens here. Despite its yardage, the course record is a modest six-under-par 64, which gives you an indication that this is a track that has a little more bite than first appears.
The course was built on hilly terrain and opened for play in 1998. Since that time it has come to be loved by locals and visitors to the area alike, who enjoy its pleasingly straightforward routing, good conditions, nice views and undulating greens.
There is water that comes into play on five holes and only a smattering of bunkers, the largest of which borders the right side of the fairway on the good 481-yard par-five 16th hole, one of only two par-fives on the layout.
Several of the par-fours are drivable for big hitters, with the opening hole, a 353-yarder, probably being the sternest of the bunch. Itís a slight dogleg to the right and youíll need a precise tee shot to leave a clear approach to a rather large green.
The Ledges Golf Club in South Hadley, Ma. is an enjoyable routing that will make you hit every stick in your golf bag.
The course can stretch to 6,507 yards from the tips and has a most interesting mix of holes, from short par-threes and par-fours to long four pars and challenging par-fives.
Howard Maurer designed a layout that flows easily over the somewhat hilly terrain, and he placed a premium on proper club selection and skill on and around the modest-sized greens.
Thereís the little 106-yard par-three fourth hole and a 230-yard par-three at the 12th hole. Several of the par-fours are reachable off the tee with driver for big hitters, such as the 287-yard15th and the 298-yard 15th. But four other par-fours measure over 400 yards and are real testers.
The par-five, 524-yard finishing hole is a great way to conclude a round. An accurate tee shot is a must, as bunkers guard the side of the fairway. More fairway bunkers must be avoided on the layup about 60 yards out from the putting surface. Birdie is a good possibility with three strong shots, but you can also make a number here and ruin your day.