While playing golf at my home club in Atlanta with John, he mentioned that he had a friend in Boston that could host me at the Boston Golf Club. From the first moment that I spoke with his friends George it was clear that he was committed to helping me reach my goal of playing the Golf Digest Top 100 Courses in America in one year. My two weeks of golf in New England was coming to an end. The weather forecast had been bad during the entire two weeks but somehow, I had escaped the rain and played all the rounds that were scheduled. The most challenging forecast had been the Saturday forecast for Boston.
George and I had been in contact throughout the week discussing the weather forecast. At one point we discussed the possibility of me playing unaccompanied earlier in the week after my round at the Country Club. I told George that I’d rather play the round with him because meeting new people was a part of the experience. I was willing the take the risk of having to return to Boston for that one round prior to my deadline. Besides, I didn’t feel like I had another 36 hole day in me after playing as much golf as I had over the week. George then committed that come rain or sunshine we would be out on the course on Saturday.
I awoke on Saturday morning to a beautiful New England morning. While there was still rain in the forecast, the day started with blue skies. I left my hotel in search of a small rectangular stone with the number 19 on it. That small stone is the only thing that marks the entrance to the Boston Golf Club. I found the sign, made the turn and wound my way through the trees to the clubhouse where I met George.
While the skies were beautiful for the moment, the rain was still looming. George and I were anxious to get our round started. He took me to the pro shop where he introduced me to Boomer Erick, the Head Pro at Boston Golf Club. We then went to the locker room to change into our golf shoes before heading to the driving range to warm up. Evan, our caddie joined us on the range.
After we hit a few balls we headed to the first tee to start the round on my 13th course in twelve days and the 84th course of my one year quest to play the Golf Digest Top 100 courses in America. George and I were playing from the member stakes which measure 6436 yards with a rating of 72.1 and a slope of 133.
The Boston Golf Club opens with a short par five. The first hole which measures 485 yards with its undulating fairway that narrows significantly at 280 yards off the tee is carved out of the trees. There are bunkers that cut into the fairway from the left and the right at 290 yards off the tee. I ripped my first drive 250 yards down the middle.
The path to the green from 240 yards out is filled with perils. There are trees tight off each side of the fairway, a hazard at 40 yards from the front of the green and several bunkers around the green, including two just short of the green. Evan and I agreed that the smart play would be to lay up to my favorite distance of 100 yards.
At 100 yards from a middle right pin and a sand wedge in my hands, I was licking my chops with visions of another opening hole birdie dancing in my head. It was not to be, I hit Boston before hitting Titleist and left the ball short of the green and plugged in the front right bunker.
I managed to muscle the ball out of the bunker, but it landed to the left of the green.
I pitched on to within five feet of the cup and made the putt for a disappointing bogey.
The 387 yard par four second hole has a fairway that winds its way through trees on the left and right and around rocks on the right. There is a fairway bunker on the left at 200 yards off the tee. George said the best line was at the rocks off the right side of the fairway. I hit my drive right at them leaving 174 yards to a middle back pin.
The remaining fairway slopes from right to left with two bunkers on the left at 90 yards from the middle of the almost perfectly round and slightly uphill and very undulated green. I cut a six iron off the right end of the green. The ball was on a beautiful line, but it was like one of the putts where you fall in love with line and fail to hit it hard enough to get to the hole. The ball landed just short of the front edge of the green.
My birdie putt mimicked my approach shot. I hit it on a good line but not hard enough. The ball came up eight feet short of the cup. I then missed my par putt to record my second straight bogey of the round.
The par four third hole parallels the second hole. Trees separate the two holes. There are thicker trees to the right of a fairway that slopes severely from left to right. The hole measures 420 yards with fairway bunkers on the left at 200 yards off the tee and on the right at 240 yards out. As we made a 180 degree change in direction we went from a helping wind to a hurting wind. I hit my drive into the wind. It traveled just 210 yards to the right fairway.
The left to right sloping Redan green was 210 yards away. The fairway stops at 90 yards from the middle of the green and resumes on the other side of segment of thick rough. With the pin on the right side of the green I attempted to start the ball off the left side of the fairway and bring it back toward the flag with my five wood. I hit behind the ball and it landed 75 yards out just short of where the fairway picks back up just beyond the rough.
With the pin on the front right portion of the green, I attempted a three-quarter shot right at the flag with my lob wedge. The ball landed just past the hole but rolled out leaving a very long putt.
I two-putted for my third bogey in a row after hitting the first three fairways.
Our walk from the third green to the fourth tee box was a beautiful one on a boardwalk through the trees. For a moment you forget that you are on a golf course and imagine yourself on a serene walk through the woods.
The fourth hole was playing at that that measured 353 yards from the middle of the green. The hole has a wide fairway with bunkers off the right side and in the left side at 160 yards out. There are also two bunkers off the right side at 235 yards out. I pushed my drive to the right. The ball hit a tree and kicked into the middle of the three bunkers at 160 out.
I played it safe and hit out of the bunker to the middle of the fairway leaving 118 yards to the pin. As I walked to my ball I enjoyed the sounds of nature as the birds sang on this earlier spring morning.
I hit my third shot to pin high left of the flag. I slight pull left me with another longer than desired putt.
I again left my par putt a couple of feet short of the hole and had to settle for another bogey. I wasn’t playing well, but I wasn’t playing poorly either. I just couldn’t get the ball to the bottom of the cup in the number of strokes required for a par.
As we enjoyed the natural scenic views on the course and the lovely sounds of nature, we moved on to the very short fifth hole. The narrow fairway which curves from left to right has no room for misses. Misses to the left go into the trees and misses to the right go into one of the deep ugly irregular bunkers that line the right side of the fairway. The perfect line on a drive on this hole is along the left edge of the fairway. I was told this, but I couldn’t comply. I pushed my drive to the right into the bunker at about 200 yards off the tee.
Evan provide me with a good line to the pin, but again I hit the ball off line. The ball landed well left of the green. I was left with a 60 yard pitch shot to the hole.
The pin was left on the upper back tier of the green. My pitch shot didn’t quite make it up the slope to the back of the green. The ball rolled back down the slope and off the front edge of the green.
I putted from off the green on a line directly toward the flag, but left the ball just inches short of the cup. As I picked my ball up for a bogey, George said that this short hole was one of the most difficult holes on the course to par.
My string of bogeys came to an unceremonious end on the 157 yard par three sixth hole. The hole plays over a waste area to a bicycle seat shaped green. There are bunkers off the front corners of the green, along the right side and off the back. Despite there being nothing but trouble short of the green, trying to get that elusive hole-in-one I hit the club matching the distance to the flag rather than playing it safe with a slightly longer club. The ball landed in the bunker on the left front corner of the green and plugged. It was my seconded plugged ball in six holes.
I hit down hard on my sand shot. The ball popped out and flew into the back bunker. The only good news was that it didn’t embed. I hit my third shot onto the green and two putted for my first double bogey of the round.
Like the fourth hole, the par four seventh hole offers a couple of options off the tee. We played from the back tees at 423 yards making for a very long hole with a 180 yard carry across a gully with a sandy bed. The curvy fairway with a sandy area off to the right and a pond off to the left gets very narrow past the 255 mark off the tee. It ultimately doglegs left before curving back toward the green. I continued to struggle with my drive. I hit a low ball off the tee into the gully.
I hit a five iron out of the gully to the fairway leaving 170 yards to the middle of the green.
My third shot fell just short of the green and then rolled down the slope away from the front of the green.
I chipped to 12 feet past the flag and two-putted for another double bogey. Those five opening bogeys were not looking so bad now.
The eighth hole is the longest par three on the course. It measures 193 yards and is framed by trees that run almost the full length on both sides from the tee box to the green. Hidden behind the trees on the left is the pond that was off the left side of the fairway on the previous hole. There is just one solitary bunker on the hole. It’s small and off the back left of the green. I hit my tee shot directly at the flag but left the ball just short of the green.
I hit my putt from off the green a little to hard. The ball rolled to five feet past the flag.
I missed the comeback putt and recorded another bogey.
My last opportunity for a par on the front nine wasn’t going to be an easy one, but at least it would be on what I thought was the most beautiful hole on the front nine. That’s saying a lot after seeing the first eight holes, but the view from the perch on the tee box on the 429 yard par four ninth hole is spectacular. Perhaps Mr. Hanse designed such a beautiful hole to take your mind off it being the most difficult hole on the course.
The rippling but bunkerless fairway flows through the trees and around a marshy area off the left as it heads toward the green. There is more room between the edges of the fairway and the trees than on most of the previous holes. This not only adds to the playability of the hole but also to its beauty. I hit my drive to the left rough leaving 175 yards to a back right pin.
My ball was sitting down in the rough. I didn’t stay down enough to dig it out. The ball came out low and to the right. I was now blocked out by the trees and still 105 yards from the back pin.
I hit a low pitch shot with my eight iron but didn’t hit it hard enough. The ball stopped just short of the front edge of the green.
I putted from off the green to five feet and made the putt to save bogey yet again. I completed the par 35 front nine without a single par and a score of 46.
After not making a single par on the front nine I was very concerned about my pattern of running out of steam on the back nine during the last several rounds. Again, I hadn’t played that poorly, I just couldn’t score, so what would happen to my score if my muscles tightened and my swing got worse? It didn’t take long to answer that question.
After a brief stop at the turn, we headed to the back nine. The 10th hole is a 383 yard par four with a tee box set in a beautiful setting. A gap in the trees at the back of the tee box provides a nice view of the Boston skyline in the distance.
Off the front of the tee box is a two-tiered undulating fairway with the first tier running out at about 250 yards off the tee. The second tier drops off significantly and doglegs to the right. There is a bunker off the left side of the top tier of the fairway at just 140 yards off the tee and two more off to the right just as it ends. I hit my first drive out of bounds and had to retee. I hit my second drive to the right side of the fairway just before it ends and drops off. That second golfer in the line-up could play on a mini tour. I was left with 135 yards to the middle of the green.
The lower tier is narrower than the upper tier but just as undulated. There is a bunker off to the right at about 35 yards from the front of the green. There is another bunker just short of the right front of the green and yet another off the right side of the green, but well off. My approach shot landed just short of the green.
I putted to eight feet below the cup and made the putt. That equated to a par on my second ball but when I played in Scotland several years ago they told me that they call that a double bogey, so that’s what I wrote on my scorecard to start the back nine. It was only my third double bogey of the round, but in the absence of any pars, that was way too many.
The 178 yard par three eleventh hole plays over a brush filled gully requiring a full carry to the extremely undulated green. The green is down hill and protected by bunkers across most of the front and two off the back right. I tried to cut my tee shot around the bunker by hitting the ball on a line just inside the left edge of the green. The ball neither cut nor went far enough. It landed off the left front of the green in the only area off the front of the green that wasn’t protected by the bunker.
With the pin set in the back right corner of a very undulated green, I had a tough chip. I missed my line and pushed the chip much farther to the right than I intended. The slope kept the ball from getting back to the flag.
I was left with a long putt for par. I missed the par putt and recorded another bogey.
I needed to right the ship, but George told me it wasn’t going the be easy. He said the stretch of four upcoming holes was the toughest stretch of holes on the course. It stated with the 398 yards par four twelfth hole. It is rated as the second most difficult hole on the course. The hole measures 398 yards. It does however have a wide fairway, especially in the landing zone. While the fairway is wide, it has trees lined up against the right edge, separated by a low stone wall.
The left side has more sparse trees and is partially connected to the adjacent sixteenth hole. There are bunkers along the left side at about 220 yards out and more at about 270 yards out. I hit my drive to the trees on the right.
I caught a nice break. There was an opening in the trees that provided a line to the green. The ball was resting on the bare ground. I caught that ground first before catching the ball. I got the ball back to the fairway, it stopped short of a bunker in the middle of the fairway about 50 yards from the front of the green. I was left with 100 yards to a back left pin on an unprotected green.
I hit my sand wedge to 20 feet to the right of the hole.
I missed my par putt but made an easy bogey.
The thirteenth hole is rated as the second most difficult hole on the course. This 407 yard par four has a sweeping fairway the bends from left to right as it cuts through trees tight off its left and right sides. There is a small bunker off the right side at about 220 yards off the tee. I finally got my controlled fade working and hit a nice drive that started along the left side of the fairway and faded to the middle.
I was left with 180 yards to a front right pin. With my fade working as expected on my drive, I thought I could hit another controlled fade to the pin. I double crossed. The ball started just left of the green, moved further left and missed the green.
I chipped on and two-putted for another bogey.
The difficult stretch of holes continued with what I considered as the most beautiful hole on the course. The par four fourteenth hole measures 390 yards and is rated as the sixth most difficult hole at the Boston Golf Club. The hole has two sets of tee boxes separated by a line of trees. We played from the tee box to the left of the trees. Those trees and trees to the left of the tee box formed a nice alley that framed the fairway perfectly to provide a spectacular view. George told me that, John Mineck, the founder of the club was not satisfied with Gil Hanse’s first rendition of the hole, so he had him redo it. It was the last hole completed on the course and in my opinion, it was worth it. Gil Hanse’s final rendition leaves you awe struck.
The fairway on the hole has a slight right to left bend. There are bunkers along the beginning of the fairway on the right, but they can be easily cleared by a drive of just over 210 yards. George said that If I could hit my drive to the right side of the fairway, I’d hit a speed slot that would give me extra distance. I hit my drive perfectly. The ball rolled down the slope leaving just 160 yards to a middle pin.
Unfortunately, I continued to work on a par free scorecard. I hit well behind the ball on what should have been an easy approach shot. The ball traveled just a little over 100 yards.
My pitch shot was right at the flag, but the ball rolled past it leaving an 18 foot putt.
I missed my par putt and tapped in for another rotten stinking bogey.
The last hole in the stretch of difficult holes is the 517 yard par five fifteenth hole. The hole is rated as the fourth most difficult hole. The uphill and undulating fairway slopes from both sides toward the middle. I hit a short drive into the wind that landed on the edge of the rough on the left side.
The fairway is interrupted at 230 yards from the green by a waste area. Once the fairway resumes the waste area continues along the left side past the green. With my short drive, I had to lay up short of the waste area. I hit an 8 iron to the fairway, leaving 260 yards to the middle of the green.
I tried to lay up again to 100 yards but pulled the ball. It almost rolled into the waste area to the left of the fairway.
My fourth shot to the green landed short of the flag and almost rolled into the cup. The ball stopped just six feet past the flag.
Unfortunately, I again failed to make par. I left my putt just short of the cup and settled for yet another bogey to complete the stretch of tough holes with all bogeys.
The course finishes with three of its easiest holes. The first is the par four sixteenth hole which measures just 340 yards. The flag is visible from the tee box so everything on the hole is right there in front of you. This includes the tight trees on the right, bunkers on the left and three bunkers clustered together in the middle of the fairway at 240 yards off the tee. My fatigue was starting to show. After a couple of good drives, I’d hit a short pull on the fifteenth hole. On this hole I pushed my drive to the trees on the right.
With overhanging branches right next to my ball and trees between me and the fairway, I had no room for a full swing and no shot. The best I could do was to chip out sideways. I chipped to the fairway leaving 105 yards to the pin.
The sixteenth green is a very protected green. There are bunkers all around it. I missed the green to the left on my third shot. The ball landed between the left edge of the green and the left green side bunker.
I chipped on to three feet.
I made the putt to save bogey. It was my sixth bogey in a row.
The seventeenth hole is the last of the par fives at the Boston Golf Club. It measures 500 yards. The fairway is wide but there is very little room between its edges and the trees that line it. The fairway plays uphill with no bunkers in play off the tee. I hit my drive to the left side of the fairway.
The remaining fairway between my ball and the green curved between trees on the left and a vast waste area on the right. The curve shifts it to the left. As a result, I needed to draw the ball around the trees to avoid the waste area on the right. I hit a control draw around the trees. It was one of my best shots of the day. The ball landed in the middle of the fairway.
I was left with a 140 yard shot to back pin on an uphill green with fairway bunkers at 60 yards from the front of the green but no greenside bunkers. I pulled my approach shot and missed the green to the left.
I chipped on the perfect line but left the ball six feet short of the hole.
I had missed shorter putts, but I was very confident that I had the right line and would make this one. I could taste the par. It would be my first par of the round. It was not to be! I hit the putt on line but left the ball two inches short of the cup. I now had made 7 bogeys in a row.
As I stood on the 18th tee box, I had but one opportunity left to make a par. I can’t recall another round during my entire quest where I didn’t make a single par. I was about to shoot a score over 90 with just two double bogeys. I had not played poorly, I just hadn’t played well enough to get the ball to the bottom of the cup for a single par. Most of the bogeys were tap ins. But the scorecard had no space for almost pars.
The closing hole at Boston Golf Club is a 165 yard par three with an uphill green guarded by bunkers along the right side. However, with the pin positioned on the back right side of the uphill green, the hole was playing 185 yards and the bunkers along the right side were in play. I tried to fade my ball around the bunkers, I didn’t hit it far enough. The ball hit in the middle bunker just short of the green. One addition yard in the air and the ball would have landed on the green run back to the flag.
I hit my sand shot past the flag leaving a dastard downhill left to right breaking putt.
Evan studied the line and gave me a good read, but I couldn’t make the putt. Putting is all about confidence. I made a timid putt and missed the hole. I settled for another easy bogey and closed my round at Boston Golf Club with my worst score of my week in Boston, a 92. I made fifthteen bogeys and three double bogeys. Not a good score but an enjoyable round nonetheless.
I’d like to thank John for the introduction to George. I’d also like to thank George for hosting me and for his commitment to ensuring I got the round in before I left New England. The round was a wonderful walk through the woods. Gil Hanse designed a challenging yet beautiful course. Making the walk with George and with Evan on my bag was a nice way to end my Northeast swing. I played 13 courses all in New York and Massachusetts over twelve days. I now had 16 courses and 23 days left to reach my goal of playing all 100 courses in one year.
It was now time to return home for a couple of days before heading out for the final stretch. I had twelve of the remaining courses scheduled, but still needed to get firm tee times for Shinnecock and Pine Valley.