Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


2016 Geeked on Golf Tour

A pattern seems to be developing.  As I watch the snow fall out my window, I reflect back and think, “It can’t get any better than this year’s golf tour.”  And then the next year comes around, and it does.  That was the story of 2016.  Just when I thought golf adventuring couldn’t get any better, it did.

I got around quite a bit this year.  First the stats: Played 51 courses (30 for the first time), including 6 U.S. Open Venues, in 15 states.  Gloriously exhausting, and tremendously rewarding.

Before getting into detail on the courses played, a few takeaways from the year:

This was the year I realized that I don’t like playing alone all that much anymore.  I would rather be in the company of a fellow geek or two.  Being able to share these adventures with kindred spirits makes the experiences richer, including geeking out about golf on long car rides or over a well-earned meal and drink.  This year, I had the good fortune of deepening existing friendships, and creating new ones around the country.  Golf is magical that way.

Golf has always been a walking sport for me.  This year, I came to realize that riding in a cart takes too much away from the experience for me to do it.  Even if it means that my game suffers a bit from fatigue, I prefer to walk.  Hiking around Sand Hollow, 81 holes in a day and half at Prairie Dunes, 45 holes at Sand Hills – sure, these walks were taxing.  But I like the exercise and the experience of the courses is significantly more vivid.  There might come a day when I am no longer able to walk and play.  On that day, I will take a cart.  Until then, it’s walking for me.

Although I did play in quite a few fun matches with friends, I did not keep score once this year.  In 2016, it didn’t seem to matter, so I didn’t bother.  It was quite liberating.  I was still plenty happy to make pars and birdies, but there was no pressure to do so.  Instead, I was freed up to attempt creative shots that, when pulled off, are the golfing memories I cherish the most.

Finally, I fell in love with the replay this year, or as my buddy Peter says, “Going around and around.”  My weekend at Prairie Dunes, and replays of great courses like Shoreacres, Crystal Downs, Sand Hills, and Boston Golf Club brought this into focus for me.  Playing new courses is great, but I find myself yearning more and more for the depth of experience that comes from the replay.

Enough philosophizing, on to the course highlights of 2016.

One course cracked my Top 5 favorites this year – Sand Hills.  Those who have been know how magnificent it is.  It is perfect.  Beautiful land, with 18 wonderful holes laid upon it.  For a photo tour, check out my September to Remember post here.


Two additional courses cracked my Top 10 – Myopia Hunt Club and Prairie Dunes.

Playing Myopia is like stepping back in time to an era that pre-dates formal architectural styles.  It is a special place.  For much more on Myopia, check out Jon Cavalier’s course tour and my June Buddies Trip Recap.


My weekend at Prairie Dunes was an all-timer.  After 81 holes in a day and a half, I got to know the course well, and I am grateful for the chance.  Strategy and variety abound, and those greens…oh my.  For a complete tour of Prairie Dunes, check out my visit recap here.


Four additional courses cracked my Top 20 – Philadelphia Cricket Club, Oakmont, Kittansett Club, and Ballyneal.

Keith Foster’s work restoring Tillinghast’s Philly Cricket is off the charts.  It is breathtaking and all the right kinds of challenging.


Oakmont is of course, Oakmont.  It was a neat treat to get to play this incredible course in a U.S. Open year.  Many hours of sleep were sacrificed for the experience, and it was worth every minute.


Kittansett Club, with the benefit of a Gil Hanse restoration, blew me away.  This William Flynn design might be the best flat-site golf course in America.


Like so many do, I fell in love with the Ballyneal experience.  Great golf-geeky membership, and my favorite Tom Doak course to date (yes, I have played Pacific Dunes).


My quest to play all of the U.S. Open venues continued this year, and I knocked six more off the list – Glen View Club, Myopia Hunt Club, Philadelphia Cricket Club, Oakmont, Erin Hills, and Inverness Club.  A wide variety, all wonderful courses.

(Click images to enlarge)


I had high expectations for most of the courses I played this year, but there were a handful that exceeded my expectations.  My biggest surprises of the year were Orchard Lake, Sand Hollow, Whitinsville, Highland Links, George Wright, and Sweetens Cove.

After coming across a photo tour of the newly renovated Orchard Lake Country Club on GolfClubAtlas, I was dying to see it.  What Keith Foster and Superintendent Aaron McMaster have done there is jaw-dropping.  For even more on Orchard Lake, check out my C.H. Alison appreciation post here.


Sand Hollow is one of the most unique golf courses I have ever played.  The terrain is amazing, it has great holes – it is just plain cool.  I already have a return visit planned for February, 2017.  For more photos, check out my Las Vegas trip recap here.


My golf buddies were a little skeptical when I added a 9-holer they had never heard of to our Boston itinerary.  After the first time around Whitinsville, they asked if we could stay the whole day.  They simply do not make courses like this anymore.


The early morning trek out to the end of Cape Cod was worth the effort.  The Highland Links waits there, nearly untouched by time, and perhaps America’s only true links course outside of Bandon, OR.


Boston has an embarrassment of riches in private golf, but it was a public track that pleasantly surprised me the most this season – George Wright.  The story of its creation as a WPA project, with Donald Ross as architect blasting holes out of the rock with dynamite is terrific.  In recent years, this gem has been getting the polish it deserves.


Every golf geek I know who has made the pilgrimage to Sweetens Cove has come back a convert.  Count me among them – Sweetens Cove is everything that is great about golf, and golf course architecture, all packed into 9 holes.  For more about Sweetens Cove, check out my interview with Rob Collins, including his course tour.


Toward the end of the season, it became evident that I have developed a fascination with 9-holers.  Winter Park CC, The Dunes Club, Whitinsville, Marion GC, Highland Links, Sweetens Cove, and Eagle Springs were all highlights for me in 2016.  I intend to include as many 9-holers as I can in my adventures going forward.

After another year of unbelievable golf experiences with great people, I am tremendously grateful.  Many thanks to those who have pitched in to make these adventures possible.  Time to start lining up 2017…

Happy New Year!




Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


A September to Remember – Oakmont, Ballyneal & Sand Hills

2016 has been yet another wonderful year of golf adventures.  The season culminated in late September with a stretch of dreams come true in this golf geek’s life with visits to Oakmont Country Club, Ballyneal Golf Club and Sand Hills Golf Club.

In a word, Oakmont is mystique.  From the turn into the parking lot, through the clubhouse, and on each of its 18 holes, a palpable aura surrounds and permeates the place.


In a word, Ballyneal is joy.  Golfing the ball around this wonderful facility is guaranteed to reawaken a childlike love of the game.


In a word, Sand Hills is majesty.  On land that is as big and beautiful as the sky above, it sits like modern minimalist royalty on a throne.


Although these clubs and courses are quite distinct, they share common threads.  They are all breathtakingly beautiful.  Each features a wealth of interest from the grand scale all the way down to the smallest details.  They possess an enjoyable combination of challenge and fun.

And perhaps most important, their memberships love and respect golf, are welcoming, and have just the right kind of pride in their home clubs.  The spirit of the game is alive and well at Oakmont, Ballyneal and Sand Hills.


For a golf history and architecture geek, there is simply too much to take in in one visit to Oakmont.  Especially with a knowledgeable and gracious host like mine, sharing stories as we walked the fairways, my head was spinning.  Having had the full experience, I hope to make a return trip some day to get to know the course better and just play.

In discussions of Oakmont, much attention is paid to the group of holes across the turnpike, which includes the par-4 3rd, with its iconic church pews.  And of course, the closing stretch from the par-4 15th through the par-4 18th is as strong and storied as they come.

I found myself particularly taken with the holes that occupy the center of the property between the clubhouse and the turnpike – the 9th through the 13th.  The ground has surprising elevation change and beautiful movement to it, and the holes are packed with interest and variety.

#9 – Par 5 – 462 yards


This three-shotter plays much longer than the yardage on the card, uphill and often into the wind.  The drive is blind, the fairway guarded by bunkers and ditches, and the large green transitions seemlessly into the practice putting green.  Playing up this hole toward the iconic clubhouse is awe-inspiring.

#10 – Par 4 – 440 yards


The tenth tumbles downhill through a minefield of bunkers over some of the most undulating ground on the property.  Approaches into the green, which runs away, are extremely difficult to judge.

#11 – Par 4 – 328 yards


The eleventh heads back uphill and the player has to decide how aggressively to flirt with the ditch that cuts across the hole at an angle.  The elevated green needs to be approached deftly, especially when the wind is blowing.

#12 – Par 5 – 562 yards


This beast can play in excess of 650 yards downhill to a fairway that slopes severely from left to right.  Simply put, hit three good shots here or you are looking at a big number, as the green is not one that allows for easy up-and-downs.

#13 – Par 3 – 153 yards


Finding the green on this beautiful little three-par is just the beginning of the adventure.  The putting surface is both canted and contoured, which means a line/speed guessing game when attempting to hole an elusive birdie putt.

To conclude that Oakmont is just a hard golf course is to miss the subtle brilliance of Mr. Fownes’s design.  Oakmont is not a one-dimensional brute.  For those who can maintain focus, think strategically and execute boldly, Oakmont is a multi-dimensional puzzle beckoning to be solved.

For much more on the history of Oakmont Country Club, its course and championships, visit the video archive here for Kyle Truax’s compilation.


From the moment we passed the front gate, my companions and I were grinning from ear to ear.


I have never experienced a friendlier reception than the one we got at Ballyneal.  Every member we met seemed happy to see us, and genuinely excited for us to experience all aspects of their club.   It is the golf-geekiest place I have been to date, and I loved it!


The course map hanging in the pro shop illustrates how Tom Doak routed a wonderful adventure through the Chop Hills. Of the eight TD courses I have played thus far, Ballyneal is my favorite.  It has the boldness of Pacific Dunes coupled with the adventurous feel of Apache Stronghold.  It has variety aplenty, some unique and creative holes, and just the right amount of Doak funk.


(Click on images to enlarge)

#1 – Par 4 – 350 yards


Walking to the first tee, we discovered one of the many aspects of Ballyneal that makes it a joy to play – no tee markers.  Holes have multiple teeing areas and players are given the freedom to choose their own adventure.

We played the opener from the left tee which requires a carry over a valley up to the angled fairway.  The green is guarded by bunkers left and tight runoffs right.

#2 – Par 4 – 483 yards


The fairway on the second is wide, but angles do matter when approaching the green, which is surrounded by slopes and bunkers.

#3 – Par 3 – 135 yards


The first of Ballyneal’s strong one-shotters is a shorty played over a sea of sandy gunch to an island of beautifully contoured green.

#4 – Par 5 – 562 yards


The par-5 fourth features a thrilling downhill tee shot to a rollercoaster ride of a fairway.

#5 – Par 3 – 160 yards


With the wind blowing, judging the distance on the tough fifth is a challenge.  I can imagine playing anything from a pitching wedge to a 3-iron on this hole depending on the conditions.

#6 – Par 4 – 420 yards


The uphill sixth is straightforward off the tee, but challenging on the approach.  Running approaches are a fun option into the firm green complex.


#7 – Par 4 – 341 yards


The seventh is one of the coolest short-4s I have ever seen.  Wind and pin position combine to pose strategic questions from the tee.  The green is divided into three distinct sections and is nestled between a large mound left and bunkers right.  There are many ways to play this hole, but no “right” way.  Brilliant.

#8 – Par 5 – 470 yards


The evening light reveals the sea of mounds and ripples that extend from the tee of the 8th all the way through the back of the green.  No level lies to be found here.

#9 – Par 4 – 351 yards


The short ninth provides options off the tee.  A large mound cuts in front of the green, reminding the player that an architect doesn’t always need bunkers to mount a defense.


#10 – Par 4 – 475 yards


The tee shot on the tenth is tough.  Players that don’t summon the courage to take on the nasty looking bunkers that guard the right side of the fairway will find their ball coming to rest in a deep swale left.  The approach into the big green is blind from down below.


#11 – Par 3 – 177 yards


The par-3 eleventh was one of my favorite holes on the course playing uphill to a green that looks as if it is impossible to hit and hold.  I love the thrill of trying to overcome the story my eyes are telling me, letting the shot fly, and then walking up to discover the outcome.

#12 – Par 4 – 335 yards


The 12th is another devilish short par-4 whose contours create a riddle of tee shot, approach and putt that must be solved over repeat plays.

#13 – Par 4 – 420 yards


I am a sucker for centerline bunkers, which feature in the minefield that must be navigated from the tee on the thirteenth.  Pick a line, and let it fly!

#14 – Par 4 – 340 yards


Plenty of room right is afforded to the player who desires safety on the short dogleg left fourteenth.  Opportunity for a pitch and putt birdie on the elevated green are available to the bolder of spirit.

#15 – Par 3 – 212 yards


The wind and length conspire to crush weakly played tee shots on the 15th.  A large, undulating green leaves plenty of flatstick work to be done for those who find the putting surface.

#16 – Par 5 – 494 yards


My favorite hole on the course, the sixteenth features a blind drive to a narrowing fairway.  The elevated green is reachable, but guarded by slopes and a funky little bunker that is immensely cool.

#17 – Par 4 – 464 yards


Depending on the wind, the par-4 seventeenth can play longer that the par-5 sixteenth.  There is plenty of room to play, and it looks straightforward, but contour throughout provides ample challenge.

#18 – Par 4 – 425 yards


One last heroic tee shot to an angled fairway awaits at the closer.  It plays down and then back up to a green set at the base of the hills.

At times throughout the round, I was not sure if holes were par-4s or par-5s.  I completely lost track of what hole we were on on both the front and back nines.  These are signs to me of the greatness of Ballyneal.  It is a place where one can get deeply into the joy of planning and playing each shot.  It is a course that brings you powerfully into the joy of each moment.  What a gift.


The Mulligan course is taking shape and growing in.  It appears to be packed with fun and heroic challenge.  The main course and The Commons putting course were reason enough for a return visit, but the short course conveniently provides an imperative to plan another trip.


If there is perfection in American golf, Sand Hills is it.

What is more difficult for an architect – squeezing good holes out of a mediocre piece of land, or finding the best holes on a piece of land so great that good holes are everywhere?  That is a question for geeks to debate that cannot be definitively answered.  At Sand Hills, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw took on the latter challenge and uncovered 18 great holes that work beautifully together and inspired an architectural renaissance for which geeks like me are eternally grateful.

There is not a remotely weak hole at Sand Hills, but the course is much more than the sum of its parts.  I was particularly struck by the rhythm of the routing and order of the holes, specifically with the 6 straight par-4s in the middle.  The course begins dramatically, settles down a bit in the middle, and then ends with a closing stretch that is my all time favorite.  Playing Sand Hills is like listening to a perfectly composed symphony.  It is transcendent.

Conditioning is not typically high on my list of determinants of greatness, but it is appropriate to give credit where it is due in this case – the work that Kyle Hegland and his team do at Sand Hills is outstanding.  The course plays firm and fast, the greens are as true as they come, and they fight the good fight against the wind to keep the bunkers looking beautiful.  They are an A-team of pros, and I know that the membership at Sand Hills is grateful to have them.


On the day of our visit, we played from the morning until it was too dark to see.  If the day had been six hours longer, I would have happily kept playing.  The course is beautifully routed and a delight to walk.  Paths cut through the native areas, and the green-to-tee walks are surprisingly short for a course that feels so big.

Sand Hills is a place to get lost, blissfully going around and around and around…

(Click on images to enlarge)

#1 – Par 5 – 521 yards


The opener is a stunning introduction to the scale and movement of the land, complemented by blowout bunkers.  The tee shot is played to an angled fairway and the approach well uphill to a green set in the saddle of two hills.  The first of many wows to come.

#2 – Par 4 – 368 yards


The blind tee shot on the second plays up to a windswept fairway that sits atop one of the highest spots on the property.  The hole culminates with a two-tiered infinity green, the setting for which provides endless views of the surrounding hills.  This green is not only my favorite at Sand Hills, it is one of my favorites from C&C anywhere.

#3 – Par 3 – 216 yards


This long one-shotter plays shorter than the yardage on the card as the left front slope can be used to run shots into the green.  The player has to catch a bit of luck to end up in the right section of the green, which features a large contour that makes long putting extremely difficult.

#4 – Par 4 – 409 yards


A tee shot to another angled fairway followed by an approach into a green elevated and benched into the side of a hill with a huge blowout bunker.  As do several of the holes at Sand Hills, this par-4 brings to mind the work of the Maxwells at Prairie Dunes.

#5 – Par 4 – 387 yards


The center bunker on this four par must be challenged and the wind judged expertly in order to get into position for the approach to the green.  A tee shot in good position leaves the player with options for a ground or aerial attack.

#6 – Par 3 – 198 yards


Being such a fan of Coore & Crenshaw, it was fun to finally to see the “original” holes that have since inspired others.  The canted and contoured green on the sixth looks almost triangular from the tee, bringing to mind other favorites of mine from Old Sandwich, WeKoPa, and Sand Valley.

#7 – Par 4 – 283 yards


The seventh is the first of two straight drivable par-4s.  The player can lay well back, or have a go at this well-defended green that has a large bunker left and deep runoff right.  Missing right leaves the player with another set of choices on how to try and navigate the slope to gain a birdie chance.  So much substance to such a little hole.

#8 – Par 4 – 293 yards


The short eighth features a fantastic green surrounded by bunkers, and fronted by a lion’s mouth.  Again, line and distance options abound from the tee, with the pin position and wind factoring heavily.  Strategic golf at its best.

#9 – Par 4 – 371 yards


The third of six straight par-4s, the ninth has a blind tee shot followed by an approach into a green set below Ben’s Porch.  The green and surrounds have subtly maddening contours that must be overcome.

#10 – Par 4 – 426 yards


The two shot tenth flows gently downhill to a green that doesn’t look like much from the fairway.  Watching too-bold approaches and putts roll and roll and roll some more reveals just how difficult this green can be.

#11 – Par 4 – 348 yards


A huge, gorgeous bunker guards the entire left side of the eleventh and dictates play from the tee.  To gain the advantage of a short approach into the elevated green, that bunker must be challenged as the fairway slopes hard from left to right.

#12 – Par 4 – 354 yards


The twelfth is wide from the tee, but tee shots must be placed precisely in the right third in order to avoid having to deal directly with the large bunker that flanks the right side of the green.  Like many holes at Sand Hills, slopes short and in the green surrounds are there to be used for the creative shot-maker.

#13 – Par 3 – 185 yards


The par-3 thirteenth sits majestically atop a hill, completely exposed to the wind.  The setting provides a thrilling tee shot, beautiful views of the surrounding hills, and an exciting start to the all-world final stretch of holes.

#14 – Par 5 – 475 yards


The three-shot fourteenth winds over heavily undulating ground, through nasty bunkering, to a tiny green set partway up a hill.  Balls above the hole on this green are dead – plain and simple.

#15- Par 4 – 453 yards


The fifteenth plays over a cross bunker and then uphill to a saddle green.  The right must be favored off the tee to earn the ideal approach angle.

#16 – Par 5 – 563 yards


This might be my all-time favorite par-5.  The player has to decide on the tee how much of the enormous bunker left to take on.  A speed slot awaits beyond as a reward for the boldest of tee shots.  The firm slope short and left of the green, makes it reachable in two for the longer player.  Those laying back have to decide how to contend with a pronounced mound right in front

 #17 – Par 3 – 150 yards


There is good reason why this is considered one of the best shorties in the world.  The elevated green is incredibly difficult to hit and hold in the wind.  Par is truly a good score here, and birdies are to be cherished.

#18 – Par 4 – 432 yards


The finisher at Sand Hills provides one last WOW, as the player has to face the gigantic bunkers running down the entire left side of the fairway.  The eighteenth plays uphill to a green set in a punchbowl among the hills.  Plenty of challenge, visual stimulation and a lasting impression of the experience of this masterpiece.

I must admit that I was a bit skeptical that Sand Hills could wow me more than Friar’s Head, Essex County, and my other favorites.  My skepticism was greatly misplaced.  For me now, there is this course, a gap, and then the other greats that I have been so fortunate to experience.


A brush with history, a club that felt like home, and my new all-time favorite golf course – with experiences like these, it is tough to imagine a month ever being better than September 2016.

Wherever my golf adventures take me going forward, the memories of this magical month will endure and continue to bring a smile to my face.





Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


Buddies Back in Boston – Annual Trip Recap

Last year’s eastern buddies trip was such a winner that we decided to return to Boston again this year to play Myopia Hunt Club, Essex County Club, Whitinsville, Kittansett Club and Wannamoisett.  The trip had a wonderful little wrinkle as we were hosted on our first day by a group of members from Myopia and Essex with whom we had casual and fun four-ball matches.  Great guys, great courses, great times.


Before getting to the courses, a side note:  My golf adventuring continues to include a social aspect for which I am grateful.  These experiences are much more rewarding when shared with other golfers who “get it”.  In fact, one of our hosts commented that he found our group to be enjoyable because we weren’t just a bunch of belt-notchers, but rather guys who loved the game and appreciated its special playing fields.

Since our trip had a twist, I am adding a twist to the recap.  I picked my favorite 18 holes from the 5 courses we played, by number, and hit Jon Cavalier up for photos.  This New England Great 18 is followed with the course photos I took, and some additional commentary.  Disagree with my selections?  Leave a comment here, or hit me up on social media.


(click photos to enlarge)

#1 – Whitinsville GC – Par 5 – 526 yards


Hello Mr. Ross!  That was the feeling I had stepping onto the tee of the 1st at Whitinsville.  It is a grand par-5 that rolls over hills up to a big green beautifully set on a hilltop.  It is the perfect opener – it doesn’t punish, but it does require good shots to score.


#2 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 5 – 463 yards


The first at Myopia gives a preview of the quirk.  The second gives a preview of the grandeur and strategy of the rest of the course.  High on the hill of this reachable par 5, picking a route through the mounds, the player knows that thoughtful shot-making is the order of the day.


#3 – Wannamoisett CC – Par 3 – 131 yards


This is the spot where the player realizes just how much Ross got out of the Wannamoisett property.  The short 3rd embodies the beauty and intimacy of the course, along with the truth that big challenge often comes in a small package.


#4 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 4 – 380 yards


Slopes and angles are the name of the game at the dog-leg 4th.  The safer play right off the tee leaves a much more challenging approach from a fairway sloped high right to low left, into a green sloped even more severely in the same direction.  This hole requires shot-making – two thoughtless straight balls in the middle won’t get the job done.


#5 – Kittansett Club – Par 4 – 395 yards


The fifth heads inland to the windless area that the caddies affectionately call “The Oven”.  This two-shotter features imposing center bunkers that must be challenged to get a full view of and the best angle into the green.


#6 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 4 – 244 yards


I missed driving the green by less than ten feet on the short 6th, but found my ball on the closely mown upslope with the green running hard away front to back.  After carding a bogey 5, it occurred to me that I might not have mastered the strategy on this hole just yet.


#7 – Kittansett Club – Par 5 – 505 yards


The first and only par-5 on the front nine at Kittansett is a rugged beauty with some of the coolest bunkering on the course.  Navigate that bunkering with an aggressive tee shot and second, and a birdie is there for the taking on the canted green.


#8 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 422 yards


Full disclosure – I have played this hole twice and it kicked my butt both times, and yet I love it anyway.  It begins with a blind drive to a wild split-level fairway.  It ends with a green that is both canted and contoured.  A truly unique hole.


#9 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 3 – 130 yards


A fair case can be made that this is best short par-3 on the planet.  It is at once mesmerizing in its artistic appearance, and terrifying in the narrowness of its green surface.


#10 – Wannamoisett CC – Par 4 – 403 yards


This uphill par 4 features a mine field of artful Ross bunkering.  Approaches that crest the hill short tumble down to the beautifully set green.



#11 – Kittansett Club – Par 3 – 220 yards


MacDonald & Raynor, Langford & Moreau, and any other architects who have built crazy-bold greens would stand up and applaud the 11th at Kittansett.  Coupled with the length, this one-shotter chucks the concept of “fair” right out the window.


#12 – Wannamoisett CC – Par 3 – 195 yards


The punchbowl green on this long, uphill one-shotter is fronted on the right by an enormous bunker.  It demands a confident swing with a longer club.  Those shots that are up to the challenge feed into birdie putt territory.


#13 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 375 yards


The natural beauty of this hole is off the charts.  The narrow fairway, flanked by native flowers, grass, and trees opens to a green wonderfully benched into the base of the rocky hill.


#14 – Kittansett Club – Par 3 – 175 yards


Sneaky tough bunkering defends the final one-shotter at Kittansett.  A player who judges the effect of the wind properly and finds the green is rewarded.  For those who do not, a recovery crap-shoot awaits.


#15 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 349 yards


The 15th at Essex County is set out on the open field shared with the opening stretch of holes.  Wind is a big factor approaching the elevated green fronted by a large bunker.  The green is one of the boldest at Essex with a large swale creating multiple plateaus.


#16 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 3 – 175 yards


The green on the downhill 16th at Myopia looks almost unhittable from the tee.  To make matters worse, it is surrounded by nasty bunkers that do not yield sand saves easily.  If you manage par here, happily take it and run for the next tee.


#17 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 328 yards


Higher and higher describes well the penultimate hole at Essex County.  The player is asked to play a tee shot straight up the hill that anchors the back nine, and then follow it with a blind second uphill to one of the smallest greens on the course.  One of the most thrilling climbs in the game.


#18 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 414 yards


The climb on the 17th at Essex County is followed by the winding descent of the home hole.  The routing of the fairway between fescue covered hills is visually confounding on the tee shot.  Finding the fairway affords the player a reasonable approach to a subtly contoured green that will yield birdies.



No other course is quite like Myopia.  It has a look and feel of pre-dating the Golden Era architecture, much like The Country Club.  It has a rugged, lay-of-the-land natural beauty about it.  It has plenty of quirk, of all the right kinds – blind shots, mounds, hummocks, and a variety of bunkering.

None of the above is meant to imply that Myopia is not sophisticated.  In its own unique way, it is one of the most strategic, artistic, and challenging courses that I have ever played.  It takes deep thought, confident decision-making, and solid execution to score.  I suspect that a player could spend several lifetimes joyfully trying to unlock all of its secrets.

In a word, Myopia is evocative, and I loved every minute of walking its fairways and trying to meet its challenges.



There have been times in the past year that I have wondered if I have oversold myself on the greatness of Essex County.  This return visit dispelled any doubts – Essex County is brilliant, and the back nine is a masterpiece.

With guidance from Bruce Hepner, Superintendent Eric Richardson continues his pursuit of perfection, including removal of thousands more trees on the rocky hill that is the centerpiece of the property.

It became clear on my second time around Essex that its variety is part of its charm for me.  The course wanders through distinct zones – holes 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-13, 14-16, 17-18 – each with their own feel and natural beauty.  Add to that variety the obvious love that Donald Ross poured into tinkering with the greens and surrounds, and you have one special golf course.



Whitinsville is thoroughly pleasurable to play.  It is the kind of course that doesn’t need to wow, because it produces a sustained sense of happiness, hole after hole.  If I lived within an hour drive of Whitinsville, I would have submitted a membership application immediately after walking off the 9th green.

Working off of a Master Plan created by Gil Hanse, with assistance from Forse Design, Superintendent Michael Hughes keeps the course in perfect condition.  Nothing is overdone, and yet everything is just so.  It is a combination that allows the subtle elegance of Ross’s work to shine through.

A specific note about the trees at Whitinsville – I can’t think of a course that is a better example of ideal tree management.  It is right up there with Crystal Downs in that regard for me.  There are gorgeous specimen trees throughout the property in stands and singles, every one of which is nicely highlighted.  The property feels both intimately wooded and wide open at the same time.  Whitinsville strikes the perfect balance and should be studied by course stewards everywhere.



If there is a better flat-site golf course than Kittansett, I would like to see it.

The course plays through two distinct zones – a largely treeless coastal zone open to the stiff wind, and an inland zone among the trees which plays much calmer, but is no less challenging.  Gil Hanse’s restoration and Superintendent John Kelly’s care have uncovered the unique character of this New England gem.

Although Kittansett has a wild and rugged beauty, it makes no attempt to impress with visual eye-candy.  Instead, it uses ground features and bunkers to make the player think from tee-to-green on every single hole.  Impatience, indecision, and lapses of concentration are punished, but the player who plots a course and executes can score and have great fun doing so.



We made a quick stop after Kittansett at Little Marion (as the locals call it), which I had learned about in Anthony Pioppi’s wonderful book, To the Nines.  This early work of George Thomas was everything I had hoped it would be.  Quirky, raw, and just the kind of community course where I would love to go whack it around with my kids.



When I think of a classic golf course, a place that ought to host national championships, I think of a course like Wannamoisett.  At Par 69, tuned up to tournament conditions, I imagine that it can beat you senseless with a steady line-up of tough par-4s, and highly varied par-3s.

Wannamoisett is a prototypical Donald Ross golf course, but with some wonderful twists.  Ross’s creativity in the bunkering and ground features throughout is beyond anything that I have seen elsewhere.  He made the absolute most of this beautiful, but small, piece of property outside of Providence.  The course winds in and out of every nook and cranny, and it is a joy to explore.

With Superintendent Mark Daniels’s steady hand at the helm, this wonderful Ross gem gets the reverent care that it deserves.

In conclusion, it is safe to say that it doesn’t get any better than this.  I hope to get back to the area during the fall so that I can experience the natural beauty of these courses during another season.  Until that day, the fond memories will be close at hand.





Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


Myopia Hunt Club Tour by Jon Cavalier


South Hamilton, MA – Herbert Leeds

I had the pleasure of playing an early morning round at the one-of-a-kind Myopia Hunt Club outside Boston.  To put it mildly, it was well worth the drive up from Philly (smooth sailing when you leave at 1am).

Suffice it to say that I loved Myopia.  There is a vibe emanating from certain of these old clubs that I find quite appealing, and Myopia, like Garden City, has it in spades.  The building that houses the bar and dining areas was built in 1772.  The course is virtually unchanged from 19th century origins, save for a bit of added length.  It’s an incredible place.  I hope that you get a sense of that in these photos.  Enjoy.

The Entrance

You know when you arrive at Myopia that you are in for a special day.  As you make your way down the long entrance drive, you pass polo fields and horse barns and other areas that reveal that, unlike many other clubs of its ilk, Myopia still maintains strong ties to its equestrian roots.  And then there’s that outstanding logo.


Like Yeamans Hall, Myopia’s entrance road lets you know right away what kind of experience you’re in for.  Horse barns are to your left as you drive in.  No parking, please.


Horses are not the only creatures roaming the grounds at Myopia.



That said, there are plenty of horses.  The 18th fairway is in the background, bordering the grounds.


The Scorecard

In fitting with the overall theme of the club, even the scorecard looks old.



The Clubhouse


This view from behind the 18th green shows the wraparound clubhouse/locker room building, along with the putting green.


No bartender – serve yourself.



Fireplace signage

I can honestly say this is the first advertisement for a sled dog race I’ve seen at a golf course.



Myopia’s weathervane

Locker Room

For me, Myopia’s locker room facilities rank right up there with Garden City, Merion and National Golf Links.  Myopia’s facilities have a more modern feel, but they’re still very unique.



Hole 1 – “First” – 276 yards – Par 4

Myopia opens softly, with a short, uphill par-4 with a blind but wide fairway.  The small green is easily reachable for some, but it can be treacherous, with its severe right to left slope.


The angle that most wedge approach shots will see into the first green reveals the necessity of avoiding the miss right.


The view from the first green – wow.


Hole 2 – “Lookout” – 488 yards – Par 5

A very unique half par hole, the elevated tee allows a full view of the all the interesting obstacles presented.  The first in a three hole stretch of great golf.


The second shot is blind to the green, as is the cross-bunker between the two mounds.  The flag in the background is on the 7th green.  The 2nd green is sunken below.


The green and bunker are revealed.  This hole reminded me a bit of Emmet’s 4th at St. George’s on Long Island.


The 2nd from behind shows the recessed nature of the green.


Hole 3 – “Brae” – 252 yards – Par 3

A monster par-3 reminiscent of the 8th at Oakmont, only short doesn’t work well here.  In truth, the third of three half-par holes to open the round.  Anything long is dead.


A small green for such a long par-3.


Hole 4 – “Miles River” – 385 yards – Par 4

A fantastic and beautiful par-4, and one of the most widely recognized holes at Myopia.


Beautiful bunkering.  The photo does not reveal just how much the green slopes from back right to front left.  I was told that this green has less pinnable area than even the tiny green on #9.


From behind the green.


Hole 5 – “Lone Tree” – 417 yards – Par 4

The fifth is a tough par-4 divided by a stream.


The approach, with the morning dew still glistening.


The reverse view reveals hints at the subtle demands of the fifth.


Hole 6 – “Brook” – 255 yards – Par 4

Another brilliant short par-4.  By this point, the player knows he’s playing a course meant for match play.  This hole is drivable, with the caveat that the green slopes from front to back.


The look back, with the rock wall as yet another reminder of Myopia’s timeless New England style.


Hole 7 – “Myopia” – 401 yards – Par 4

The course’s namesake provides a capsule view of what you’ll find at quirky Myopia.  Good luck finding a level lie in this fairway.


The approach view on the 7th from the top of the hill.


The view from the green back shows the elevation change and side-slope.


This panoramic view of the 7th hole, taken from the 4th fairway, gives a good idea of the challenge of the slope in the approach, and shows the many background elements that add to the experience at Myopia.


Hole 8 – “Prairie” – 473 yards – Par 5

The hole begins with a drive over a small rise to a blind landing area.


The second shot is obscured by an Alps-like rise in the fairway that hides the green.  The very top of the flag is visible here.


Like the 4th, the bunkerless 8th green is built with severe slope from high right to low left.  Anything to the right of this pin can easily be putted all the way off the green.


Hole 9 – “Pond” – 136 yards – Par 3

One of the best short par-3s in golf.


The green is a mere 9 paces wide at the middle, and the creative bunkering results in some interesting recovery shots on misses.


Hole 10 – “Alps” – 404