The Kittansett Club
I arrived at the Kittansett Club in Marion, Massachuetts on a damp, chilly, and misty Tuesday morning. I had driven to Boston from New London, Connecticut on the afternoon following my round of on Fishers Island. Prior to starting my Quest to play the Golf Digest Top 100 Course in America, I had never heard of this historic club, the eastern most course in the top 100.
My access to Kittansett resulted from a chance meeting at my club. On the few occasions that I played golf at my club in Atlanta, I would keep my caddie, Melvin, updated about my quest. Melvin is a strong supporter of my quest and is as passionate about golf as I am. He talked up my quest to practically everyone he caddied for. On an early March afternoon, he caddied for a group guys who were in Atlanta on a business trip. They were also seeking refuge from the harsh Boston winter and they were very happy to be on a golf course. As coincidence would have it, Melvin was assigned as their caddie.
When they told Melvin that they were from Boston, he told them about my quest. Two of the guys told him that they were members or knew members of some of the courses in the Boston area that were in the top 100. Melvin asked for their contact information so that he could pass it on to me. I coincidently arrived at the club as Melvin was leaving. He was excited to tell me that he had caddied for some guys from Boston who might be able to help me with some of the courses there. As we were talking one of the guys that he had mentioned saw Melvin talking to me as he was leaving the club. He came over and introduced himself. He told me that he was a member at Old Sandwich. He said he thought what I was doing was exciting and offered to host me at his club. We exchanged contact information so that we could follow-up.
Melvin then told me that the other guy that he’d met, Ben had a friend that is a member at the Kittansett Club. Melvin gave me Ben’s contact info. Later that evening I texted Ben and we discussed my quest. I told him that my plan was to play the five top 100 courses in the Boston area in late May. I told him that my hope was that the winter weather would break by then and the clubs would be open for play. Ben said “bro’ we will make it work.” We agreed to follow-up once I started to finalize my schedule.
Ben and I reconnected in April as the schedule for my final twenty five courses started to firm up. During the discussions I learned that Ben’s wife had studied at Harvard Business School and knew some of my wife’s colleagues from when my wife was a visiting Professor at HBS. Ben introduced me to John via email. John agreed to host me at Kittansett.
John and I exchanged emails and talked by phone. By now I had arranged to play the other four courses during the week of May 14. Unfortunately, John and I couldn’t find a date during that week that worked for both of us, so he said he would work on finding someone else to play with me or failing that, arranged for me to play at the club as an unaccompanied quest. John and I were able to meet for breakfast during my week in Boston where he presented me with a Francis Ouimet head cover to commemorate my quest.
When I arrived at the Kittansett Club, set just off Buzzard’s Bay, on that chilly and windy Spring morning I went to the Pro Shop where I met Tyler and Jimmy McMullan. Jimmy is an assistant pro at the club and a friend of John’s. John had worked with him to get me on the tee sheet and ensure that I got very knowledgeable caddie. Jimmy worked with Michael, the caddie master to ensure a senior caddie would be assigned to me since I’d be playing unaccompanied. Jimmy took me to meet Shawn who had been assigned as my caddie. Shawn and I went to the practice range to warmup. Following my warm up we made our way to the first tee.
I chose to play from the white tees. The course measures 6400 yards from the white tees with a 71.9 rating and a slope of 134. The Kittansett Club opens with the two longest par fours on the course. The first and second holes both measure 415 yards from the white tees. The hole looks pretty innocent from the tee, but there is more to it than initially meets the eye. The fairway is level, there is a very narrow creek about 15 yards to the left of the fairway. The only hint of it were the birds gathered along it. The cart path is off the right side of the fairway. There is a hazard to the right of the cart path.
I hit my drive to the right. The ball flew into the hazard, but we were able to find it. I hit out of the hazard to the rough just beyond the end of the first part of the fairway but short of the waste area that cut across the fairway.
I was left with 135 yards to a front right pin on the small round green. There is a small bunker off the right side of the fairway at about 45 yards from the front of the green. This is also a very long one off the left side of the fairway that starts at about 40 yards out but continues along the left side. I hit my third shot to just short of the green.
I chipped on to 18 inches right of the flag and made the putt to save bogey on the opening hole.
The second hole gives no false pretense off the tee of being simple. As we looked out into the fog Shawn said there is a bunker off the left side of the fairway at about 200 yards off the tee and a whole lot of trouble off the right side of the fairway. There is a creek, rough, a tree and the cart path. There is absolutely nothing good to the right. I caught the ball a little thin on my drive. The ball stayed low and traveled just 180 yards as it got caught up in the rough just short of the fairway.
I was left with 260 yards to the middle of the green. The fairway ends at 130 yards from the middle of the green. It picks back up at 95 yards from the middle. There is a bunker on the left and rough on the right in the area between. I decided to play it safe and lay up short of where the fairway ends. I pulled the ball. It went farther than I expected and landed in the left part of the area in between where the first part of the fairway ends, and the second part picks up.
I was left with 110 yards from the pin on another round green with a bunker short of it on the right and one along the left side. I tried to muscle a sand wedge out of the rough to the flag. Somehow, I got spin on the ball, it landed on the green and rolled back off.
I chipped on to about 4 feet right and slightly past the flag.
I made the putt to again save bogey.
The par three third hole is the toughest of the four par threes on the course. It measures 155 yards and is all carry over a corner of Buzzard’s Bay. The pin was positioned on the right side of a green that was like a raised island in the middle of a sea of very coarse sand. With the pin and nothing else good on the right, I took aim to the left of the flag and tried to hit a fade. The ball flight was fine. The distance was not. The ball landed just a few feet short and almost plugged in the bunker.
I hit my bunker shot to twenty feet left of the flag.
I two-putted for my third straight bogey.
It didn’t get any easier on the 360 yard par four fourth hole. I completely misunderstand the layout of the hole. I saw a flag in the distance. It looked a whole lot farther than 360 yards away, but it was the only green I saw. Shawn’s instructions off the tee made no sense to me since I thought I was looking at the green. He told me to hit my drive to the left edge of the fairway. I thought that would leave me blocked out from the green. I aimed along the right side of the fairway to get a better look at the green.
The hole was playing into the wind. I hit my tee shot toward a bunker that was 240 yards off the tee. My ball landed in the rough short well short of the bunker.
As we approached my ball I then saw another green to the right. I had looked at the wrong green off the tee. I told Shawn that I wanted to go back to the tee and replay the shot. The fairway makes a dogleg to the right at about 250 yards off the tee. My second drive off the tee went too far right. I was now blocked out by trees.
I tried to hit under the trees on my third shot but hit the trees. I hit my third shot into the left green side bunker. I chipped on and two-putted for the first double bogey of my round. By now it was clear that the rhythmic swing that I had on Fishers Island didn’t get on the ferry with me when I left there. I couldn’t find the right tempo.
As we stood on the tee box it was clear that we were on the interior part of the course. The fierce wind that was coming in off Buzzard’s Bay was blocked by the trees. I was also very clear as to which green I was playing on this 395-yard par four fifth hole. The fairway was right in front of me through a wide alley formed by trees on both sides. The fairway starts just beyond the trees. There are two bunkers past the start of the fairway. There is one off the left edge and one in the middle. My drive went right between the two bunkers and landed in the fairway leaving 179 yards to the pin.
There is a fairway bunker on the right just 35 yards short of the front of the green and another one across the fairway on the left. There is a small bunker off the right side of the green. My approach shot leaked right and landed in that small bunker.
I didn’t catch enough sand on my bunker shot. The ball flew over the green. I pitched back on and one-putted to save bogey.
The 385-yard par four sixth hole has a fairway that looks open but is fairly tight as the trees on both sides come close to the edge. The fairway also has three mounds in its right side. My drive hit a tree on the right and came down to the right of the mounds in the fairway.
I hit my second shot fat, the ball landed in the fairway, 95 yards from the pin.
I missed the green to the left on my third shot, chunked my chip, then chipped on to within a couple of feet and made the putt for my second double bogey.
As I approached the 505 yard par five seventh hole it appeared that the fog had thicken. While the wind was still calmer than it was on the first four holes, the air was still damp. Trees are tight along the right side of this the number one handicap hole on the course, from the tee to the green. They are tight on the left side of the hole for the first three hundred yards but opens up after that. There are two fairway bunkers along the left side at about 210 yards off the tee and one along the right about 250 yards off the tee. The fairway ends at 290 yards off the tee and picks back up 40 yards later. A horseshoe shaped bunker cuts into the remaining fairway on the right just as it picks up. There is a cross bunker on the left at 100 yards from the green. I hit my drive into the mist and down the middle of the fairway.
With 300 yards to the flag, I attempted to lay up short of the cross bunker at 200 yards out from my ball. I pushed the ball to the right. It landed in a patch of thick rough on a small mound off the right side of the fairway leaving 110 yards to the front pin position.
The round green is protected by two bunkers. There is a long bunker on the right that starts at 35 yards short of the green and end just off the front right of the green and one that runs along the left side of the green. To make up for pushing my second shot, I pull my approach shot. The ball landed short and left of the green but right of the left green side bunker.
I chipped to five feet below the flag and made the putt for my first par of a ho hum round.
I moved from the toughest hole on the course to the second easiest hole on the course. The 190 yard par three eighth hole is wide open. The trees on each side are far enough from the middle of the hole to not be a worry. At least so I thought. The green is well protected by bunkers and not perfectly round for a change. There is a bunker at 45 yards short of the front of the green followed by long bunkers on the left and the right that run midway along the sides of the green.
I hit my tee shot close to the trees on the right that I thought were out of play. That put not only the low hanging branches in play but also the bunker on the right side of the green.
I hit a pitch shot under the branches and almost over the bunker. The ball hit the bank and kicked back into the bunker. I hit my bunker shot to 8 feet below the hole.
I made the putt to save bogey on the hole and continue my ho hum round.
The front nine ends with a 380 yards par four that ends at a halfway house and comfort station. The hole is on the northwest perimeter of the course and likely the farthest point from the clubhouse. As with many of the previous holes, the fairway is lined with thick trees on both sides, albeit that they are a little farther off the edges than some of the other holes. There is a bunker in the right side of the fairway at 250 yards off the tee. I hit my tee shot to the right side of the fairway well short of that bunker.
I was left with 175 yards to a back-right pin on a green with a creek crossing the fairway 80 yards from its middle and with long bunkers along the left and the right. The one on the right starts 55 yards before the green and doesn’t end until it reaches the back. I hit my approach shot right at the flag. It was the best approach shot that I’d hit during the round. The ball landed near the flag and rolled 15 feet past.
I missed my birdie putt when the ball broke more than Shawn and I expected. I was happy to end the front nine with a good swing and a par. I shot a 44 but was headed to the back nine with hopes of playing better.
The tenth hole is a short par four with one of the widest fairways on the course. It measures 330 yards from the white tees. The fairway has a series of three mounds in the left half of the fairway at about 160 yards off the tee. There are bunkers in the right fairway at about 170 yards off the tee. I decided to hit a three wood off the tee in hopes of ensuring that I would hit the fairway and clear the mounds. I hit the ball straight down the middle of the fairway but didn’t hit it far enough. The ball landed in the rough to the right of the second mound.
I had just 160 yards to the pin but also had an awkward stance. The ball was well below my feet. I took one extra club for my approach shot. I didn’t catch the ball well. I pulled it into the rough off the left side of the fairway leaving 75 yards to the pin.
The green was slightly elevated with a lazy “w” bunker on each side. I left my third shot just short of the green.
I pitched on to a few inches from the cup and tapped in for a bogey. So much for getting off to a better start on the back nine!
It got worse not better on the drivable par three eleventh hole. Yes, at 220 yards, I needed a three wood to reach the green. There is a pond off to the right just past the last tee box and trees beyond that. The left side of the hole is wide open once you get past a few trees. It’s almost a full carry to the green. There is a bunker about 45 yards from the front of the green. There are also bunkers on the left and right sides of the green. I pulled my tee shot. The ball landed in the 7th fairway which is adjacent to the 11th hole.
I hit my second shot over the back of the green. I then chunked my first chip. My second chip almost went in. I tapped in for my third double bogey of the round.
The first three holes on the back nine are laid out like a triangle with the 10th and 12th holes as sides and the 11th hole as the base. The 380 yard twelfth hole is rated as the second most difficult hole on the course. There is a short 140 carry to get past the trees that stand as sentries guarding the beginning of the fairway. There is a cross bunker at 170 yards off the tee and a fairway bunker on the right at 270 yards out. I finally made another good swing and hit the ball down the middle of the fairway.
I pushed my second shot way right of the green leaving a 40 yard pitch shot over the right green side bunker to the pin. I pitched the ball over the bunker. The ball rolled below the flag back toward the front of the green leaving an 8 foot putt for par.
I hit a good putt that caught the edge of the cup but didn’t drop. I tapped in for a bogey.
The 13th hole is a short par four. It measures just 355 yards, but that doesn’t make it an easy hole. It the sixth handicap hole on the course. The hole has a narrow fairway that doglegs right. At its widest the fairway is probably about 35 yards across. The trees that line the hole are tight along the sides of that very narrow fairway. Starting at about 200 yards off the tee there is water off the left side of the fairway and bunkers off the right side just before it doglegs right. I topped my drive and hit a very low ball that got caught in the rough that precedes the fairway. Buzzard’s Bay is behind the green on the hole, so we were starting to feel the effects of the wind again. I wanted to hit a low drive, but not that low.
I was left with 235 yards to the green and still had to deal with the dogleg. I decided to lay up past the bunkers on the right and the water on the left. I was left with 115 yards to the green, but with the wind blowing in off the bay it was playing more like 135 yards. The narrow green slopes slightly uphill and has bunkers off the left and right. I hit the ball right at the flag. I thought I took enough club to overcome the wind, but apparently not. My ball dropped short of the green.
I putted from off the green. I hit my putt on a good line, but the putt was slowed a little by the resistance at the edge of the green. The ball stopped five feet below the hole. I made the next putt for another bogey.
The fourteenth hole is the final par three on the course. At 155 yards, it is not the shortest one, but it is the easiest one. Trees line the hole on the right but the tree line bends away as it approaches the green. There are fewer trees on the left, so it’s pretty much wide open. There are two long bunkers on each side of an apron leading up to the green. There are also small bunkers on each side of a green that bends right to left. I made a nice balanced swing and hit the ball on a line just to the left of the flag. The ball held its line, landed on the green before rolling just off the back.
I putted from off the green. Had we pulled the pin, the ball would have dropped into the cup for a much-needed birdie. Unfortunately, I hadn’t asked Shawn to pull nor tend the pin. The ball skimmed the side of the pin and stopped 2 inches past the hole.
I tapped in for a par.
The fog looked thick as I looked down the very narrow tree lined fairway of the fifteenth hole. The hole measures 515 yards and is the longest par five on the course. It is also rated as the fourth most challenging hole. There are three fairway bunkers off the right edge at 200 yards, 290 yards, and 370 yards from the tee. There is also a cross bunker on the right next to the fairway bunker at 370 out. The left side of the fairway has just one fairway bunker at 260 yards out. I made another good swing and hit a nice drive just left of the middle of the fairway.
I tried to lay up with my five iron to just short of the last fairway bunker on the right and the cross bunker. That should have left me with 120 yards to the flag. I hit the ball fat, so it only flew 140 yards leaving 160 yards to a middle right pin on another round green. This one however has no bunkers to worry about.
I hit my approach shot to forty feet below and slightly right of the flag.
I hit my putt on a good line but didn’t hit it hard enough. I left the ball short of the cup and tapped in for my second par in a row.
Kittansett finishes with a soft landing. The sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth holes are all wide open and present a reasonable opportunity to finish the round with pars and birdies. The sixteenth hole is a 390 yard par four. A drive of 220 yards or more gets you past the trees that are tight off the fairway on the right. The left side of the hole is free of trees. There are fairway bunkers on the left and the right, but they are not in play. The one on the left is only 180 yards off the tee and the two on the right are issue for the approach shot. Remember what I said about pars and birdies on the last three holes? Well you can forget about that if you top your drive and hit it to the rough short of the fairway.
I hit my five hybrid out of the rough to the fairway 180 yards from the flag. I could barely see the flag on the right side of the green through the fog. Shawn also told me that there were two cross bunkers short of the green. One coming in from each side.
With the two cross bunkers to worry about I hit my three hybrid toward the middle of the green expecting a slight fade after getting beyond the bunkers. The ball stayed straight and landed 20 feet to the left of the flag.
I continued my trend of hitting good putts on line but leaving the ball short of the cup. I made the second putt for a bogey.
The seventeenth hole is a 375 yard par four. The tee box is offset to the left of a fairway that bends slightly from right to left. As mentioned before the hole is free of trees, but there are a couple of fairways bunkers at 170 yards off the tee. There is one off the left side of the fairway and one off the right. I made solid contact with the ball on my drive but pulled the ball to into the rough well left of the fairway leaving 150 yards to the middle of the green.
A creek crosses the fairway at 115 yards from the middle of the green. Like most of the other greens on the course, the seventeenth green is small. Also, as with most of the greens on the course there are bunkers on each side of the fairway that start before the green and end about midway through the green. I thought I had a good lie in the rough, but I caught too much grass between the ball and the clubface. I left my approach shot well short of the green and still in the rough albeit much shorter rough.
I hit my approach shot over the back of the green.
I chipped back on and made a one-putt to save bogey on the hole.
Kittansett ends with a short par five. The closer we got to the clubhouse, the thicker the fog got. The eighteenth hole was engulfed in dense fog. If the holes at the Kittansett Club had names, this one would likely be called the road hole. The road that leads to the clubhouse and separates Buzzard Bay and the houses along it from the course, runs just a few yards off the right edge of the fairway. The first hole is off the left side of the fairway. If there wasn’t a creek separating the two fairways, they would be reminiscent of the first and eighteenth fairways on the Old Course at Saint Andrews. The eighteenth hole measures just 460 yards. I hit a nice drive to the right side of the fairway.
I thought I could reach the green on my second shot with my driver off the deck. I thought wrong. I didn’t catch the ball cleanly enough. The ball also didn’t fade. It landed in the left rough about 140 yards out.
I hit my approach shot off the hosel. The ball skirted to the right across the cart path.
I pitched back over the cart path and a large bunker off the right side of the green to within five feet of the cup.
I missed my par putt and ended my round with a bogey and a 44 on the back nine to match my 44 on the front nine for a total score of 88.
As I walked off the green, Jimmy was waiting for me with James Burns, the general manager of the club. Since Patrick Gunning, the Head Pro was away, Jimmy asked James to come out and greet me following my round. James was kind enough to give me a very nice tour of the clubhouse and share the history of the club with me. I appreciated James taking the time to show me around.
After my tour with James, I sat at the bar and had a cup of hot chocolate. As I sat there a couple of other guys who were visiting the club stopped by and struck up a conversation with me. They were at the club as a guest of Raymond. They introduced me to Raymond when he came in to get them so that they could start their round.
While my trip to Kittansett was dampened by the fog, I still appreciated the opportunity to play the course. I could tell that on a clear day, it is a course with beautiful vistas. I’d like to thank Ben for introducing me to John, and John for hosting me. I’d also like to thank Jimmy, Tyler, and James for taking good care of me onsite. I told Jimmy that Michael assigned the right caddie to me on a day I didn’t have my best swing. Shawn did a great job on my bag. Finally, it was very nice of Raymond’s guests to come into the bar to chat with me.
Following my round, I made the drive to Boston to spend the night ahead of my return to the Country Club of Brookline.