Autumn in New England evokes thoughts of multi-colored leaves, sweeping vistas of dazzling mountainsides, quiet country back roads and delightfully cool weather.
For golfers, autumn is also a time to enjoy what’s left of the season, a chance to get one last road trip in before the cold north winds starts to blow and we are chased inside for several months.
The crowds of summer have long since gone, the courses are in peak condition and the daytime temperatures are still warm enough to make a round pleasurable.
Here’s a look at a few Western Mass gems to play this fall.
The Ranch Golf Club in Southwick has gained a reputation as one of the top daily fee clubs in the region.
The Ranch is a mix of open and woodland holes that never fail to surprise and challenge. The layout plays 7,175 yards from the tips.
The first hole, a 510-yard par-five, 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.
The 540-yard par-five ninth and 618-yard par-five 16th play 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, may be the best short hole on the track.
The Crumpin-Fox Club was carved out of the forest close to the Vermont line in Bernardston.
Many of the holes here are tree-lined with ample bunking and enough water to create a few jangled nerves as the round proceeds. Some of the greens are elevated, further complicating proper club selection, especially when the breeze kicks up.
The 550-yard, par-five eighth is one of the more celebrated holes in New England. A lake runs along the entire left side of the fairway towards the putting surface, necessitating an eventual approach shot over water to an undulating green.
There is no shortage of great holes at “Crump,” designed by noted golf course architect Roger Rulewich, who lives nearby and maintains an office on the property.
The 18th is wonderful. The drive needs to stay clear of trees left and right to set up a daunting mid-iron across a pond to a snake-like green that can be almost impossible to find depending upon pin placement.
Donald Ross designed half of Tekoa Country Club, located at the foothills of the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts in Westfield.
Ross created an original nine holes in 1923 and five of these remain intact, the second, third, fourth, 14th and 15th. Geoffrey Cornish, one of the most prolific of all New England architects, redesigned the course in 1961 and added 13 holes of his own to today’s present routing.
Recent work has added about 400 yards of length to the layout, refreshed the course’s classic bunkering system, and enhanced several greens.
Playing just 6,215 yards from the tips, Tekoa’s small and undulating greens are difficult to find and a good short game is essential to scoring well here.
All four of the course’s par-fives are under or around 500 yards in length and reachable in two for big hitters, further adding to the pleasure and challenge of a round here.
While on the short side, just 6,285 yards from the tips, Shaker Farms Country Club in Westfield is a unique track that contains some of the most interesting holes you’ll find anywhere.
Routed through mature stands of trees, where wildlife and solitude are abundant, this 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 somewhat eclectic 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. It’s one of the toughest short par-fives in the area.
The Ranch Golf Club
Tekoa Country Club
Crumpin’ Fox Golf Club
Shaker Farms Country Club