I had the pleasant opportunity to sit across from Rhode Island-based Robert MacNeil at a dinner table recently and got pick his brain a bit about where the future of golf is headed (see Page 8).
Robert believes that we may be headed to an era where we will see some 18-hole courses become nine-hole clubs, and some new nine-hole courses built that will include such traditional amenities as tennis, a pool and a restaurant (and perhaps some non-traditional amenities). It’s all about time and spending what free hours we have with family. Unlike 18 holes, which sometimes takes five or six hours, getting nine holes in can be done in a few hours without losing an entire day of work or precious family time.
I have to admit, playing nine holes is a relaxing exercise for me. Even if the foursome in front is moving like a group of snails, I figure I’ve only got a few more holes to play, so I’m not going to freak out at their slow pace. I just chill out and take it easy.
Connecticut and Massachusetts have some fabulous nine-hole layouts, some of them quite historic, to enjoy this summer. These courses can play as tough as a modern track because of small putting surfaces and often very deep bunkers. There is also a delightful quirkiness to many old nine-hole courses that you don’t find at newer tracks. Here’s a factoid for you: Fully a quarter of all golf courses in the country are nine-holers, and many have storied pasts and are wonderful places to play. If Robert McNeil is correct in reading his crystal ball, that percentage will increase in the coming years.
Let’s check out places to play when there is only time for nine or you want to relax and enjoy the day without wondering if you are going to finish before dark.
The Blandford Club (413-848-2443) in Blandford, Ma. is a delightful nine-hole layout nestled in the scenic hills of the western portion of the Commonwealth State. Only 2,722 yards from the tips and playing to a par of 35, this a fun track for all level of players. The course is one of the oldest in the region, having opened in 1910. It was designed by William Dexter.
Maynard Country Club (www.MaynardCC.com) in Maynard, Ma. offers a pleasing atmosphere and a very solid test of golf, with the course playing more difficult than its overall yardage of 2,783 yards suggests. The ninth hole is a 280-yard par-four and has a green that can be reached off the tee by longballers.
The owners and operators of Hillside Country Club (www.HillsideCountryClub.com) in Rehoboth, Ma. pride themselves on the conditions of the course that features rolling fairways and splendid greens. The ninth hole is a great par-four, measuring 358 yards, with a stream bisecting the fairway and causing headaches off the tee.
Worthington Golf Club (www.WorthingtonGolfClub.com), nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in the Massachusetts town that it takes its name from, features small, sloping greens, tight fairways, and a welcoming staff that provides a fun atmosphere in which to enjoy the game, whether you are an accomplished player or a beginner.
Designed by Geoffrey Cornish in the early 1950’s, Hopedale Country Club (www.HopedaleCC.com) is well-bunkered greens and offers challenging approach shots. The par-35 course measures around 3,000 yards from the men’s tees and 2,675 yards from the forward tees.
Brookstone Golf and Driving Range (www.Brookstone-Park.com) in Derry, N.H. is a nine-hole, par-three golf facility. Brookstone Park Golf Course was sculpted into the existing landscape to create a blend of nature and architecture that resulted in a course that is truly unique. The design was created by noted golf architect, Howard Maurer who worked to preserve the natural characteristics of the site. The finished product is a course with large greens, sand traps, rolling hills and water hazards that are strategically placed to create “target style” greens.
Green Woods Country Club in Winstcd, Ct. (www.GreenWoodsCC.net) is a former private track that went semi-private a half dozen years or so ago. Thus, the conditions are very good, even on this early season day. Typical of the old nine-hole courses in New England (Greenwoods was built over 100 years ago as a summer haven for wealthy New Yorkers vacationing in the area) the layout is on the short side, with small, tricky greens as its only defense in these days of powerful drivers and juiced golf balls. The club actually has 10 holes, as a par-five is played on the back instead of a par-four that winds in the opposite direction.
Copper Hill Golf Club (www.CopperHillGolf.com) in East Granby, Ct. is a very good test of golf, with a nice mix of short and long par-fours, two very demanding par-threes, and two par-fives that are reachable in two for long hitters. Copper Hill measures 3,030 yards and has two par-fives, the 473-yard fourth and 459-yard eighth, that are reachable in two for the big hitters, and a cool par-four, the fifth, measuring 265 yards, where you can drive the green.
Pomperaug Golf Course (www.HeritageSouthbury.net) is a sweet little gem located near the Pomperaug River in Southbury, Ct. The conditions are nice and, while the course isn’t long, there is water on pretty much every hole that can mess up either your tee shot or approach to the modest-sized greens. The finishing hole is a fun par-four. The drive must lay up before the river to set up a wedge across the water to a very wide green. Get too greedy if the pin is tucked up front and you’ll be bouncing back into the river.
Minnechaug Golf Course (www.MinnechaugGolf.com) in Glastonbury, Ct. offers excellent conditions and a fun test of golf. It also has one of the few true island greens in New England, the 126-yard eighth, which some consider to be the first of its kind in the nation. Graham Clark did the original routing for the course, and Al Zikorus and William F. Mitchell undertook some redesigns years later.
Nestled along the I-91 corridor between Hartford and New Haven is Middletown’s Miner Hills Golf Course (www.MinerHillsGolf.com), an “executive” track that features three par-fours and six par-threes.
Conditions are very good and this is a great place for the entire family to enjoy a round. Better players will like working on their iron play.
Historic Woodstock Golf Course (www.WoodstockGC.com), situated in Woodstock, Ct., is one of the oldest nine-hole layouts in the state.
Originally built in 1896, Woodstock celebrated its 100th birthday more than a decade ago. The course is a modest 2,397 yards in length, providing golfers of all skill levels with the opportunity for a fun, relaxing and enjoyable round of golf. The track features narrow, tree-lined scenic fairways. Small greens present a challenge to all golfers. With only one moderate hill, the course is relatively flat and is quite easy to walk. It’s a natural for seniors and juniors.
Brooklyn Country Club in Brooklyn., Ct.
(www.BrooklynGolfCourse.com) is a sweet little gem that is tucked into the rolling countryside, affording almost leisurely and peaceful round of golf. It’s on the short side as many nine-hole layouts are, only 2,783 yards from the back markers, and several of the par-fours are reachable with driver for big hitters especially the 250-yard ninth, which demands that the tee shot be struck true as it has to clear a pond that sits in the middle of the fairway.