When the buds begin to shoot forth on the maples and oaks and the grass turns to a rich emerald hue, the thoughts of Bay State golfers turn to fairways and greens.
How fortunate, indeed, are those who seek birdies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There are a number of fabulous courses to enjoy, from the hills of the Berkshires to the west, through the rolling land of the Blackstone Valley, to the Boston area and on to that magical peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Cod, the state offers some of the best daily fee golf in the entire Northeast.
Here’s a sample of what we like to call Bay State Beauties to sample this spring.
Cranwell Golf Resort
, located in Lenox, has had much of it original grandeur restored, and offers a relaxed and elegant approach to life. There’s an extensive golf practice facility on the premises manned by PGA pros.
Cranwell’s 18-hole course was designed by Wayne Styles and John Van Kleek in 1926. This is a picturesque, traditional New England resort course routed over the hills surrounding the resort and through mature woodlands of the area.
Number five, a 233-yard par-three, is one of the most demanding short holes in the region and is the only hole on which you will find water. You had better score well on the front side because the inward nine is much more difficult, with several brutal par-fours and some very good par-threes waiting.
Number 11 is perhaps the course’s signature hole, a 200-yard par-three that plays from a chute of trees to a wildly slopped green below. Massive bunkers guard the putting surface.
The Ranch Golf Club
in Southwick has gained a quite deserved reputation as one of the elite daily fee clubs in the region, and management makes a visit an extremely pleasurable, stress-free experience.
The Ranch is an enjoyable routing--a mix of open and woodland holes that never fail to surprise and delight. 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.
The Ranch Golf Club
While difficult, you can score at The Ranch, as long as you hit the ball straight off the tee and don’t 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 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 and maybe all of New England. 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.
Spring is a great time to sample The Ranch, as greens fees are $50 until April 15 and $70 from April 16 to May 6.Blackstone National Golf Club
in Sutton, a Rees Jones-designed gem, is tucked in the wooded countryside of the Blackstone Valley area of southeastern Massachusetts, not far from Worcester and Boston.
Blackstone National, which always has some great membership deals, is a beautiful track that winds easily over a hilly landscape, through mature forests, and past old stonewalls.
Blackstone National Golf Club 8th Tee
While there are some forced carries at BNGC, Jones incorporated large fairways into the layout, which allows mid- and even high-handicappers to enjoy the experience. The ample fairways allow a player to stay in the hole even after a less than perfect tee shot. There is ample bunkering guarding medium sized greens, making it important to choose the proper club to find the target.
Some of the best holes at Blackstone National, which can stretch to almost 7,000 yards from the tips and plays to a par of 72, are the par-threes. One of the most stunning is the 173-yard 11th, which demands a tee shot over a small pond.
But the par fours are also very good, as evidenced by the 486-yard 15th, which bends to the left after a large ridge that cuts across the fairway. If you hit your tee shot to the right side of the fairway, the ball will tumble down the hill and shorten the hole by 50 to 100 yards. The drop from tee to green is almost 80 feet, creating a magnificent view from the tee box.
The owners and operators of Blissful Meadows Golf Club
in Uxbridge pride themselves on the player-friendly environment their facility exudes.
The club has great golf and lunch deals throughout the week and there is a Frequent Player Package that provides prepaid rounds with a discount and added privileges. A $500 package includes 11 anytime rounds and the privilege to play in member events. A $1,000 package includes 22 anytime rounds, MGA handicap service, and the privilege to play in member events.
The club’s pro shop has received a face-lift for 2010, with new flooring, paint and wall space added.
Blissful Meadows Golf Club
Blissful Meadows, a Cornish & Silva design, plays to around 6,700 yards from the back markers and has won plaudits for its overall condition from a number of publications. 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.
Number 17, a 400-yard par-four, is a perfect set up to the finishing hole. The toughest shot is the approach, with a pond guarding the green to the left.
Blissful Meadow has a splendid finisher. The par-four measures 420 yards from the tips and calls for a nervy approach shot over a pond that guards the front left side of the putting surface.Red Tail Golf Club
in Devens hosted the United States Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship last summer and the reviews were off the charts.
Red Tail is one of the more picturesque and challenging courses to open in the U.S. within the last 10 years. The layout flows over rolling wooded hills and meanders among numerous streams and ponds that will grab errant shots both off the tees and on approach shots to rather large and undulating greens. There are also numerous bunkers to contend with.
One of the best holes is the 171-yard par-three third. A massive bunker fronts the green and there are two smaller bunkers near the putting surface. The classic, 426-yard par-four 17th has a ribbon of fairway amid a sea of sand and is nicknamed (“Bunkers”) after ammunition storage bunkers, several of which can still be seen well to the right of the green.
There are no Mickey Mouse holes at Red Tail. It’s tough but fair and there are some great risk/reward par-fours. The layout has stretches where it is typical New England, others where you feel like you could be in the sandhills region of North Carolina.
The club runs spring specials until early May and will feature an entire new fleet of golf cars this season. The club has also expanded its banquet facility in order to accommodate a wide variety of functions, from weddings to corporate meetings.
Waverly Oaks Golf Club
in Plymouth has been in the news as the site of a proposed movie studio, with plans for an elaborate operation to be built on land where the course now sits, including a number of sets, sound stages, hotels, restaurants and housing for some 2,000 employees and those associated with television and movie productions that will be filmed there.
But the course remains open for at least another five years and perhaps longer. Plans for the movie studio are progressing, but initial work, if and when it begins, will not impact the club’s Championship 18-hole facility.
Whatever work would be done to begin with would be centered near the nine-hole Challenger Course, and the Championship Course can remain open. Plans for the movie studio could be altered to such an extent that the Championship layout may remain open even if the facility is built.
The club’s commitment to providing outstanding conditions, service and attention to detail that has made Waverly Oaks a brand name in the Boston area.
Waverly Oaks, located 45 minutes from Boston and an hour from Providence, R.I., is offering $60 greens fees Monday through Thursday and $75 Friday through Sunday until mid-May, when the in-season rates of $75 and $95 respectively kick in. The club will run specials as it did last year to make playing more affordable in these challenging economic times.
Waverly Oaks’s Championship Course offers a challenging yet approachable routing that will test you but won’t beat you up.
The best hole the front side might be the 529-yard, par-five fourth, which has water guarding the green, making it risky to go for the putting surface in two.
Much of the beef on the layout comes from its very good par-threes, three of which play over 207 yards, including the 234-yard third and the 251-yard 17th, with the latter being perhaps the most difficult short hole in the region. It demands a lusty tee shot over a waste area and a yawning bunker that sits some 15 feet below the putting surface.
In fact, the 17th is the culmination of a three-hole stretch that will test even the best players. The challenge begins with the demanding 474-yard par-four 15th and moves to monstrous, 636-yard par-five 16th before concluding at the 17th. Come through this trio of holes even par and can brag about it in the comfortable clubhouse after your round.
Waverly Oaks Golf Club
Waverly Oaks’ 18-hole course plays around 7,100 yards from the tips but there are four other sets of tees.
The club’s Challenger Course is still a great spot for beginners and high-handicappers to have some fun. The layout plays only 2,264 yards from the back and is a par-33. Conditions on the Challenger track are just as good as on the Championship Course.
The club has a beautiful 22,000-square-foot, shingle-style clubhouse overlooking the golf course, where many special weddings and other events have been and continue to be held.CranberryValley Golf Course
, located in Harwich, is one of Cape Cod’s most respected layouts.
The well maintained course features a superb routing that flows easily over beautiful terrain, which includes marshes and, of course, a few cranberry bogs. The club plays host to several high profile tournaments and is generally considered one of the purest and most stringent tests of golf on the Cape. The scenery is pretty darn nice as well.
Geoffrey Cornish and Bill Robinson designed a course with a varied routing and no two holes are the same. Large greens and tough par-threes are a strength, but the final three holes are extremely challenging and make the finish strong.
Management enhanced the course a few years ago through an extensive bunker redesign and restoration, overseen by noted architect Mark Mungeam. Several fairway bunkers were relocated so as to come into play to protect par against today’s modern equipment, although the best players can still dare to fly the traps off the tee. Within the past eight years, the club has also added a clubhouse, maintenance building and a new irrigation system to enhance playing conditions. There’s also a new practice facility, and the club continues to redo the course’s tee boxes.
To kick off the new season, the club is offering low mid-day rates during April and May. Golfers can access information on the club’s website.
Cranberry Valley GC isn’t overly long, 6,745, but there are a number of dogleg holes that add invisible yardage and demand proper club selection and shot placement off the tee. Par is 72, with the course rated 73.4 and a slope of 133 from the back tees, which tells you something about the challenge you will find here. There are four sets of tees in all to meet the playing ability of any visitor.
If you are going to go low you are probably going to have to do your scoring on Cranberry Valley’s par-fours and par-fives. Most of the par-fours measure less than 400 yards, including the 309-yard 15th, which is approachable off the tee for the long hitters. All of the par-fives, except for perhaps the 18th hole, are reachable in two for the longballers. The par-threes here are very demanding, none more so than the penultimate hole, a brutal 229-yarder.
Both par-fives on the front side are reachable in two for big hitters and there is a nice mix of par-fours on the way out, ranging from the 347-yard sixth to the demanding 409-yard fourth.
The back side is full of great holes. Ten through 12 are modest length par-fours where you can score, providing you keep the ball in the short grass in order to set up a mid- or short-iron second shot into the greens. The 12th is a 198-yard par-three and the 1th is a 483-yard par-five, where birdie and perhaps even eagle awaits two strong shots.
The Ranch Golf Club
Blackstone National Golf Club
Blissful Meadows Golf Club
Waverly Oaks Golf Club