In our series of exploring the best playable courses around the United States, this time we’re checking out the best public golf courses in Massachusetts.
We know Massachusetts has some outstanding private golf courses, of which The Country Club in Brookline is considered one of the best in the world. But add to that Old Sandwich in Plymouth and Essex Country Club, both ranked in the U.S. Top 100.
But as is always the case, finding those nuggets you can play is always the challenge. When you’re visiting the state and have a spare half day, finding the best courses which will accept the public is key. And that’s what we like to do here.
So without blabbering on for any longer, let’s jump into the best public golf courses in Massachusetts.
The best public golf courses in Massachusetts
|1||Taconic Golf Club|
|2||Farm Neck Golf Club|
|4||The Ranch Golf Club|
|5||Miacomet Golf Club|
|6||Red Tail Golf Club|
|7||Pinehills Golf Club (Nicklaus)|
|8||Granite Links Golf Club|
|9||Waverly Oaks Golf Club|
|10||Butter Brook Golf Club|
|11||Pinehill Golf Club (Jones)|
|Value for money||Crumpin-Fox Club|
|Groups||Pinehills Golf Club|
|Clubhouse||The Ranch Golf Club|
|Views||Farm Neck Golf Club|
1. Taconic Golf Club
Pretty much as far northwest as you can get in the state, hugging the state line with Vermont to the north and New York to the west, is the town of Williamstown. It is here you’ll find the sensational Taconic Golf Club, which is owned by Williams College.
Taconic has been part of the landscape for well over a century, with the first rudimentary 9-holes opening for play in 1896. Some thirty years later, the 18-hole layout was designed by Wayne Stiles of Stiles & Van Kleek.
Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek are arguably two of the least recognised names in the Golden Age of course architecture. Yet their impact was huge in the Northeast, with particularly Stiles designing well over one hundred golf courses.
In fact many of their creations are often mistaken for a Donald Ross design. Never overly long and most greens having false fronts, these are top class classic designs.
Taconic Golf Club is the highlight of their work. There is a degree of gentle undulations throughout the round which from the back tees will reach just over 6,800 yards. The overall layout is just divine, meandering through the parkland with magnificent mountain views.
Most people can play and will enjoy Taconic, especially if not playing from the back tees. But to score well, it is all in where you position the ball on the fairway and having a hot putter. The greens are wickedly fast and inevitably tilted in some devilish fashion.
In 2009 Taconic was renovated by none other than Gil Hanse, giving the course a much needed breath of fresh air. Fairways and green sites were widened slightly, drainage improved, bunkers added plus a few other tweaks.
It’s not cheap with your first unaccompanied round costing $200. But if you decide to play a second time, it drops to $100.
2. Farm Neck Golf Club
What a test of golf this is and heck, what a setting! Farm Neck Golf Club is a world apart from most other golf courses, with a location to die for.
The club is located on Martha’s Vineyard, a small island just seven miles south of Cape Cod in southeast Massachusetts. The only way to access the island is by boat, getting the ferry from Woods Hole over to Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven.
Farm Neck is conveniently located just a five minute drive from Oak Bluffs, so couldn’t be easier to get to. It occupies a sensational plot of land overlooking the Atlantic.
The course was designed as a collaboration between Geoffrey Cornish, Bill Robinson and Patrick Mulligan. Maybe not the most well-known trio, but boy did they pull one out the bag at Farm Neck.
Granted a good golf course is helped immensely by the plot of land it’s positioned within. But that only makes a good golf course. Whereas to become a great golf course, it also needs to have a top class design. Here at Farm Neck there is both.
The routing covers various different types of topography including salt marshes, open meadows and woodland. And of course there are holes which run right up to Majors Cove and offer ocean views.
The course is consistently voted as one of the best public golf courses in Massachusetts. Granted it is a little more challenging to get to. But boy is it worth it!
3. Crumpin-Fox Club
Far from anywhere, hidden away in a majestic forest, is Crumpin-Fox Club. The nearest towns are Bernardston and Northfield, some fifteen minutes drive north of Greenfield.
This sensational layout was the vision of one man, David Berleson. Berleson wanted to create his own version of Pine Valley in the forested hills of north Massachusetts.
There was already a nine-hole layout onsite which had been built in 1969. Therefore Berleson commissioned Robert Rulewich of Robert Trent Jones Inc. to create the second nine holes, which eventually opened in 1990.
The resulting design is superb, modern and full of variety. The fairways weave in every direction with every water feature and hazard considered to precision.
Similarly to Pine Valley, fairways have been crafted through dense corridors of woodland, requiring absolute accuracy off the tee. With dog-legs, narrow fairways and intricate approach shots, this is a shot-makers dream layout. If however you’re a little inconsistent off the tee, this could be a long day.
The course is unapologetically challenging from hole 1 to 18. But boy is it worth it. This is a heck of a design and above all, being so secluded it is an embodiment of golf and nature as one.
4. The Ranch Golf Club
Approximately twenty minutes drive from central Springfield, in Southwick, is The Ranch Golf Club.
The Ranch is consistently voted as one of the best public golf courses in Massachusetts, and often nationwide. It is consistently revered by all the major golf publications.
The course was designed by Damian Pascuzzo and opened for play in 2001. Pascuzzo has led a hugely successful career in golf course design, albeit slightly under the radar. But any new courses or course renovations he is involved in, consistently get high praise.
And The Ranch Golf Club only goes to further emphasize this point.
The course is routed across a vast plot of hillside which consists of open fields, wetlands and woodland. Despite originally being part of a housing development, the course has very little real estate killing the vibe.
Things start with a bang, with the opening hole a ‘slap in the face’ par 5, with a split fairway tempting golfers down the tricky left hand side. As the round entails, the layout just keeps you engaged and thinking. Whilst the last four holes are sublime and really round off the day.
This high end public course couldn’t be more down to earth and friendly. There is a rustic and rural feel with the clubhouse barn being a great place to settle post round.
5. Miacomet Golf Club
Similar to Farm Neck Golf Club earlier on in this list, Miacomet Golf Club is located on an island south of Cape Cod.
This is Nantucket Island, 48 square miles and a hugely popular tourist destination. So much so, the island’s population literally quadruples during the summer months.
The island is home to four golf courses. There are two outstanding private ones; Sankaty Head and Nantucket Golf Clubs. Whilst there is also a 9-hole layout called Sconset Golf Club.
And for those of us not a member or without member privileges, we have the superb Miacomet Golf Club to enjoy.
The land that was to become Miacomet Golf Club was purchased in 1956 with the view to raising cows. Fortunately, the owner had a change of heart and decided to construct a 9-hole golf course.
Miacomet remained a 9-hole course until in 2003, after a change of ownership some time earlier, Howard Maurer was engaged to add a further nine holes. Miacomet officially became, and remains the only, 18-hole public golf facility on the island.
The same Maurer was then engaged some five years later to completely renovate the original nine holes. And this has resulted in Miacomet being firmly recognised as one of the finest public golf courses in Massachusetts.
The layout is links-style, albeit a mile or so away from the coast. Tall fescue grass lines fairways of varying sizes while the rolling terrain epitomizes the traditional links characteristics.
In typical links fashion, there are multiple ways to approach the greens, which vary in size, contouring and openness. Flop a shot up or run a low stinger? Is it windy, is it not? Oh the decisions.
Playing peak time in the summer will set you back a good couple hundred dollars. But if you’re flexible and willing to play a twilight rate, you could pick yourself up a real bargain.
6. Red Tail Golf Club
Red Tail Golf Club came to life in 2002 and even in its short lifespan, is already considered one of the best, if not the best public golf course in the Boston area.
The only reason there is some debate, is because it is a good hour and a bit’s drive from central Boston. Can it be called a Boston course?
Regardless, it is a damn fine golf course which was designed by the incredibly talented Brian Silva. Silva has an in-depth understanding and regard for the classics of golf course architecture. But when he needs to design something modern and playable, he sure as heck delivers.
Red Tail is exactly that. Playable, big and fun. There is a whole range of different hole variations which makes playing here a roller coaster ride. Add to that some fantastic green complexes with all sorts of undulations and contouring.
From the back tees, the Blacks, the course stretches out to just over 7,000 yards. The landscape is heavily wooded with birch, maples and oaks lining fairways. So spraying the ball off the tee isn’t really an option and you could be in for a long round.
7. Pinehills Golf Club (Nicklaus & Jones)
Just fifteen minutes drive south of the city of Plymouth, is the outstanding 36-hole golf club of Pinehills.
The club’s two courses are routed through 300 acres of dense New England woodland. It was here that the vision was to create an upscale golf club to rival some of the best private clubs in the state. And boy have they done it.
The two courses were designed by two of the biggest names in golf course architecture, Jack Nicklaus and Rees Jones. Although it must be said Jack’s son took main design duties for the Nicklaus layout.
Naturally due to the endemic landscape, both courses are heavily wooded. The Nicklaus course features wide, expansive fairways and bold bunkers. It opened in 2002, just a year after the Jones course.
Although slightly shorter, The Jones course is definitely the more challenging of the two. Deep bunkers, meticulously crafted fairways and a routing which will have you constantly double-checking what club you’ve pulled out the bag.
One thing which has to be admired is the conditioning which is really second to none. Likewise, the practice facilities are impressive as is the welcoming Grille Room for your post round drink.
8. Granite Links Golf Club
In the town of Milton and city of Quincy in southern Boston, is the wonderful and ever popular 27-hole Granite Links.
The history of the club reaches back to 1989 at the start of a project to reclaim 540 acres of the former quarries. Fast forward some fourteen years at which point the first nine holes opened, having been designed by John Sanford.
This was the Milton 9 whilst a year later in 2004, the Granite 9 opened for play. Immediately the course started receiving acclaim from some of the major golf publications as one of the best new golf courses in the country.
It also wasn’t long after that that Granite Links started hosting some pretty major tournaments with the LPGA Legends Tour visiting in 2005.
And finally in 2006, the final 9-holes opened called the Quincy 9, alongside a new clubhouse completion.
The setting really is spectacular with sensational views back across to the city. Clearly being a reclaimed quarry with a copious amount of landfill used to craft the routing, there are numerous changes in elevation throughout. This encourages a whole range of different shots and creativity in approaching greens.
It is also one heck of a challenge, especially for first time players. There are a number of blind shots, as mentioned before elevation changes, and dog legs. From the back tees especially, the course is a menace and incredibly tricky.
But with views to die for, a super fun layout and a sublime clubhouse, there are few better places to play in Boston.
9. Waverly Oaks Golf Club
Waverly Oaks is another Brian Silva creation to the south of Plymouth and next door to Pinehills Golf Club. It sits in a little cluster of golf courses which includes Crosswinds Golf Club and one of the best golf courses in the world, Old Sandwich Golf Club.
Granted Waverly Oaks may not quite reach Old Sandwich’s heights. But it more than holds its own and credibly upholds itself as one of the finest public golf courses in Massachusetts.
We know Brian Silva is immensely talented with his creation at Red Tail also on this list. Here at Waverly Oaks, he crafted the routing through 240 acres of rolling woodland, with natural hills and valleys characterizing the landscape.
This smart layout gives players a degree of freedom off the tee with wide sprawling fairways. But the real challenge comes in the diversity of approach shots you’ll need to take on, and the variety of shaped greens.
From the back tees, the course will reach just over 7,100 yards, so choose your tee carefully.
General conditioning is outstanding and with a litany of awards from all the major golf publications, this is one special place I couldn’t recommend more.
10. Butter Brook Golf Club
The last golf course in our list of best public golf courses in Massachusetts, is Butter Brook Golf Club. The course is located between Lowell and Littleton to the south of Interstate 495. This is the Boston suburb of Westford whilst being a forty minute drive to downtown.
The course was designed by the relatively unknown Mark Mungeam, opening for play in 2004.
Mungeam might not be a signature course architect. But he has extensive experience over a number of decades working on many renovations and new course builds. One of the renovations he might be best known for is the restoration at Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago prior to the 2003 U.S. Open.
Here at Butter Brook, Mungeam has created a delightful routing through the dense pine woodland renowned in this area. You can tell an inordinate amount of time has gone into carefully using the natural topography to create the best hole shapes.
An example of this would be the 6th hole which rewards aggressive tee shots. If you can carry the two bunkers on the hillock, your tee shot will run happily down to the green. And there is no shortage of vast bunkers, creeks and ponds coming strategically into play.
From the back tees, 6800 yards. But there are four tee options on each hole, so the course is approachable to all levels. A fine course which I’d happily label a hidden gem.
What is the best public golf course in Massachusetts?
The best public golf course in Massachusetts is Taconic Golf Club in the town of North Adams. It was designed by Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek and is a fantastic example of Golden Age architecture.