BOSTON GOLF CLUB – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION
Hingham, MA – Gil Hanse
Boston has long been known as one of America’s best cities for golf. With classic gems like Myopia Hunt Club, The Country Club at Brookline, Essex County Club, Salem Country Club, Kittansett and Eastward Ho!, as well as modern entries like Old Sandwich by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the best of Boston-area golf can rival anywhere.
Enter Boston Golf Club. I had the privilege of seeing this 2004 Gil Hanse design on a beautiful late-October afternoon, and while I had heard good things about the club previously, to say that Boston Golf Club exceeded my expectations would be a dramatic understatement.
Every hole at BGC offers something worthwhile. The golfer is put to strategic decisions constantly. Despite its location, the playing corridors are wide, encouraging thoughtful placement of one’s ball. And the setting is gorgeous. Boston Golf Club is the best work I’ve seen by Gil Hanse, and I would recommend it without reservation to any golfer looking to play in the Boston area.
I hope you enjoy the tour.
The first thing a visitor notices upon arriving at Boston Golf Club is the wooded setting. After turning into the entrance, marked only with a stone post engraved with the number “19”, the visitor winds his way up a curved drive to the gravel lot and walks up to the wooden-shingled clubhouse, built to look like a relic from the revolutionary war.
The club has a well-appointed golf shop, locker rooms and a second-floor bar and grill with a view overlooking the 18th green. Such tastefully done facilities that mesh well with their location are always a refreshing sight in today’s game. Now member-owned, Boston Golf Club clearly puts the focus where it belongs – on the golf course.
In sticking with the revolutionary war motif, the club’s logo is a simple red and white striped flag. It’s one of my favorite modern golf logos.
The golf course itself plays to a championship distance of 7062 yards, par 71, while the members generally play to a more reasonable 6740 yards (the distances used in this tour) or a composite yardage of just over 6300. The course slopes out to a robust 139 (74.8 rating) at the tips and a 136 (73.4 rating) from the next set of tees.
As seen in this overhead, the course is divided by a public road – the front nine plays out across the loop to the east of the road, while the back nine plays on the western side where the clubhouse is located.
Though the road is not visible from any part of the course and is completely unobtrusive during play, the unique routing does present a rather long initial walk from the clubhouse to the first tee, and from the ninth to the tenth tee. But the course itself is very walkable.
Superintendent Rodney Hine and his staff expertly tend to BGC with firm, fast greens and fairway and short rough, with an assist from the goats kept on property.
Need trees removed . . .
Happy to help! Any course with goats on the maintenance staff gets extra points in my book.
Now, on to the golf course…
BOSTON GOLF CLUB
Hole 1 – 485 yards – Par 5
The course begins with a short but challenging par-5 that plays up over a blind rise to a fairway hidden largely from view.
From the very outset, the player gets a sense of what they will encounter at Boston Golf Club – wide, heaving fairways and an abundance of gorgeous scenery – both natural and, in the case of the stone wall seen here, man-made.
Though this sub-500 yard par-5 is reachable in two for some longer hitters, the challenge in attempting the hero play is stiff. The elevated green is ringed with bunkers and fronted by a ribbon of gunch that will likely result in a lost ball for those whose attempts at the green come up short.
Laying up presents its own challenges, and the elevated green is partially hidden from view from the end of the fairway.
The view from behind the putting surface reveals the substantial undulation in the first green and the ample width of the playing lane, which while often appearing tight, always provides the player with room to maneuver.
Hole 2 – 407 yards – Par 4
A beautiful two shot hole, the fourth calls for an ideal drive either short of or over the rocky outcropping that cuts into the fairway from the right side.
Indifferent tee shots will find trouble on both sides of the pinched fairway.
Once beyond the choke point, the fairway tumbles hard down to the large green, which is open in the front to allow golfers to use the slope and attack the green on the ground.
As this view from the right rear corner of the green shows, both the putting surface and the surrounding mowed areas are rife with movement. The deep valley to the left of the green adds considerable challenge to approaches hit to left pins.
Hole 3 – 420 yards – Par 4
The outstanding third hole begins with another blind tee shot to a fairway that swells up before dropping and bending slightly to the left.
Care must be taken to choose a line and a shot shape that will both enable the player to hold the fairway and to position himself to approach the angled, sloping green.
A ravine divides the fairway from the large third green, which is angled from short left to deep right, and which is also sloped hard from left to right, making the angle of approach critical.
The view from behind the green shows the exceptionally undulated fairway, uncommon elsewhere but frequently seen here.
After bagging his (hopeful) four, the golfer sets off on this footbridge through a wooded marsh to reach the fourth tee.
Hole 4 – 413 yards – Par 4
The third of three consecutive two shot holes exceeding 400 yards in length, the fourth hole requires a drive over the large framing bunker to the left over another rise, which hides . . .
. . . these traps guarding the left side of the fairway, and which should be avoided at all costs. Beyond this hazard, the fairway drops into a valley before rising again to meet the green.
A common theme at Boston Golf Club is that many of the areas surrounding the greens are mowed to fairway height, accentuating the use of the ground game, providing recovery options for near-misses and exacting a heavier price for poorly hit shots that will not have the benefit of tall grass to stop the ball near the green.
Once again, the green is open across the front, allowing a variety of shots to be played.
Hole 5 – 313 yards – Par 4
One of the best modern short par-4 holes that I’ve seen, the fifth plays out through a chute of trees to an upsloping fairway with troublesome bunkering and mounds encroaching from the right.
While the tendency of most from the tee will be to play safely out to the left of the open fairway to avoid these bunkers, which will certainly add at least a stroke to most cards . . .
. . . those who do are confronted with an approach from a difficult angle to an extremely narrow green backed by a deep, tight bunker.
At the same time, the closer one plays to the trouble up the right side of the fairway, the better the angle into the difficult green. From the right edge of the fairway, the player has the benefit of playing down the long axis of the green.
The narrowness of this green and the shape of the bunkering to the rear is reminiscent of the ninth green at Myopia Hunt. Though most will have but a wedge in, this is one of the most difficult approaches on the golf course.
A brilliantly designed short two-shotter in every respect.
Hole 6 – 157 yards – Par 3
The first of an exceptional quartet of one-shot holes at Boston Golf Club, the sixth plays from an elevated tee to an elevated green across an ocean of sand and shrub.
The wide, shallow green is shaped almost like a figure eight and plays more like two small greens than a single large one.
The left pin placements play easier than those to the smaller but shorter right side.
As is the case with all of the par-3s at Boston Golf Club, the sixth perfectly balances visual appeal with a demand for quality shotmaking.
Hole 7 – 423 yards – Par 4
The tee shot at the seventh must carry an expanse of sandy waste area, and a hidden valley on the right side (a smaller version of a similar feature on the second hole at NGLA) should be avoided.
The wide fairway gives way to a reverse redan-like green that is one of the most severely sloping on the course.
Serious trouble awaits the weak cut that misses the green short. Even shots that hit the front right portion of the green risk being repelled into the bunker below.
One of the more difficult pars at Boston Golf Club – a four here is an excellent outcome.
Hole 8 – 210 yards – Par 3
The longest one-shot hole at Boston Golf Club, the eighth green is partially hidden from view by chocolate drop-style mounding that fronts the putting surface and makes this tee shot appear much more difficult than it is.
As seen here, there is ample room between the drops and the green, which allows for the ball to be landed short of the green and bounced on to the putting surface.
Likewise, there is substantial room to miss the green short or left and still have a good chance at par.
Missing this green long, however, is quite bad – this nasty little bunker is more than ten feet below the putting surface.
The green itself is rippled and mounded. A wonderful par-3 hole.
Hole 9 – 440 yards – Par 4
From an elevated tee, the golfer gives back the nearly 100 feet of elevation gained over the first eight holes.
Though the elevation change and the angle of the fairway make this shot look rather tight, the fairway is wider and more accommodating than it appears from the tee.
From the fairway, the player must first avoid a small area of hazard intruding from the left side as he approaches one of the more scenic and interesting greens on the property.
The large green is nestled into a cove bordered in the front by the raised fairway and in the rear by a stone wall. Missing this green long is not an option.
The green itself contains substantial movement, and hitting it in regulation is no guarantee of a par.
A tough, fair and pretty hole – a fitting end to the front nine.
Hole 10 – 390 yards – Par 4
From a tee bordered by the foundation of an old ruin, the tenth plays out to a fairway sloping downhill and to the right. The raised mound on the right of the fairway complicates this drive.
As seen here, the ideal tee shot favors the right side of the fairway, as anything left bears a risk of running off or through the fairway.
From the left edge of the fairway, the green is revealed. Long is not an option, and the bunkers short of the putting surface make for a challenging recovery.
The result is one of the more difficult approach shots on the course.
Despite these challenges and the visual difficulties presented by the setting of the green, as is often the case at Boston Golf Club, there is more room to maneuver than first appears.
All in all, an outstanding par 4 and one of my favorites of the inward nine.
Hole 11 – 178 yards – Par 3
The penultimate one-shotter and the last until the eighteenth hole, the eleventh is a gorgeous par-3 playing out over a large wasteland to a green benched into the side of a hill.
The large putting surface is heavily sloped, and the high mound to the left of the green again provides for redan-like characteristics and the availability of an indirect route.
Today’s pin, which sits at the base of the elevated left side of the green, is one of the most player-friendly, but . . .
. . . pins on the back left side of the green are difficult in the extreme.
This is neither the hardest green to hit nor the easiest green to putt, but one thing is certain . . .
. . . this is a beautiful golf hole.
Hole 12 – 424 yards – Par 4
The tee shot here is over a long stone wall to a fairway angled from left to right away from the tee.
The fairway itself is one of the most undulating on the entire course, and level lies are seldom found here.
Bunkers guard the left side of the fairway, and a principal’s nose feature sits some 50 yards short of the green in the middle of the fairway.
Beyond these hazards, the fairway dips into a wide gully before rising steeply to meet the green.
The resulting false front can repel even marginally indifferent shots well back into the fairway.
After negotiating these many difficulties, the golfer is rewarded with one of the most difficult putting surfaces on the course. Putting from the rear of this green to a front pin can easily result in one facing a 30 yard chip on the following shot.
A very difficult hole, and the first in a string of three.
Hole 13 – 415 yards – Par 4
Playing over a framing bunker to a wide fairway, the ideal tee shot here is to the left of the fairway so as to provide room to clear the dogleg.
Cut shots will often have to contend with the trees down the right side, but the green is sloped from left to right to aid such shots.
In a vision of dark comedy, Hanse turned this old ruin located on the inside corner of the dogleg into a bunker. While few find this diabolical hazard, even fewer of those who do escape.
A welcome sight – yet another green open across its full width to the fairway.
As this view from the left side of the green shows, the thirteenth is no pushover when it comes to putting. A hard left to right slant and internal undulations provide a stiff test.
In return for providing a green open to the fairway, the thirteenth severely punishes the overly aggressive golfer who ends up long. As is the case with so many holes at BGC, the thirteenth strikes an ideal balance in strategic concerns.
Hole 14 – 418 yards – Par 4
The last in a difficult three hole stretch, the fourteenth plays gently downhill and slightly to the right along the eastern edge of the property.
This alternate tee to the left of the primary teeing ground provides the members with a different look at this hole.
Once more, the ideal line off this tee is to the left side of the fairway, avoiding the bunkering . . .
. . . and providing a straight-on approach to this green, which slopes away from the player.
Again, the green is hospitable to a ground attack which, given the slope of the green, is often preferable here.
An excellent two-shot hole.
Hole 15 – 545 yards – Par 5
The longest hole on the course and the first par-5 since the opening hole, the fifteenth is also one of the more dramatic holes at BGC. From the tee, the it plays out to a largely blind fairway that bends slightly right.
The second shot must carry Hanse’s rendition of a Hell’s Half Acre bunker complex, which divides the fairway.
Once clear of the cross hazard, the player confronts a gorgeously sloped fairway that pares down to a mere ribbon of short grass that bends left and dives down to the green.
The beauty of the landscaping done on this hole cannot be overstated.
Arriving at the green, the golfer confronts a putting surface that slopes up from front to back and which is riddled with small mounds and internal slopes. The intricate green is a fitting culmination to this wonderful three-shotter.
One of my favorite par-5s in New England.
Hole 16 – 340 yards – Par 4
The final par-4 at BGC, and one of the shortest, the sixteenth doglegs left through a fairway punched full of rough bunkers, including a proper principal’s nose.
The elevated green is fronted by several bunkers, including one of the largest and deepest on the course.
Hazards surround the putting surface, and a raised ridge running around the green from the front right to back left provides a half-punchbowl effect, and makes reading this green difficult.
Though a short par-4, the sixteenth is by no means without its teeth.
Hole 17 – 538 yards – Par 5
The final full tee shot at BGC plays out to a wide, mounded fairway with a large, rocky mound down the center line.
Once this initial hill is crested, the remainder of this downhill par-5 is revealed.
One of the more straightforward holes at BGC, the sixteenth is a rather simple proposition – keep the ball in the middle of the fairway and avoid the many hazards dotting its edges.
Yet again, this green will accommodate a shot played along the ground. The putting surface is cut by a valley that bisects nearly the entire green and provides for some interesting and challenging pin locations.
As this view back up the seventeenth shows, the fairways at BGC are some of the wildest this side of Eastward Ho!
The view from the seventeenth green across the 14th fairway is one of the best on the course.
Hole 18 – 180 yards – Par 3
Often, courses that finish with a par-3 are referred to as “controversial.” But if a one-shot hole best fits the land and the location, as it does here, an architect does the course a disservice if he forces a hole that doesn’t fit. The final hole at BGC plays uphill to a green located in the shadow of the clubhouse. It is a difficult par-3 and a fitting test to conclude a medal round or a match.
The green is fronted by a stone wall and deep bunkers – short is not an optimal miss here.
As evidenced by today’s pin location . . .
. . . and the mounding within the green, the final hole is no pushover, and provides a fitting finish to this brilliant golf course.
Few courses that I played exceeded my expectations more than Boston Golf Club, and I had high expectations going in. What I found here was an expertly designed golf course that was extraordinarily interesting in its strategic demands and, most importantly, extremely enjoyable to play. Every hole, and every shot, at BCG offered a strategic challenge that required an evaluation of the various options available and the risks and potential rewards of each possible play. As soon as I finished my round, I wanted to head right back out for another loop – only darkness prevented me from doing so.
Boston Golf Club has my highest recommendation and is a must see for any devout golfer in the Boston area. Simply put, it is one of the finest modern golf courses that I have yet to play.
I hope you enjoyed the tour.
– Jon Cavalier / @linksgems
Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf