Bostons Best Courses Rich in History

By Mike CullityAugust 31, 2009, 8:00 pm

Granite Links Golf Club at Quarry Hills

BOSTON – When tourists visit Boston, they confront history at nearly every turn. Only in the cradle of independence can one can sip a Samuel Adams lager in a pub across the street from the final resting place of Adams, Paul Revere and other American patriots.
Boston also claims its share of golf history. At The Country Club in Brookline, young amateur Francis Ouimet incited golf’s American Revolution in 1913, defeating British pros Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff to win the U.S. Open. Up the road in Peabody, LPGA great Babe Zaharias came back from cancer surgery to win the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open at Salem Country Club. And who can forget Justin Leonard’s Ryder Cup-clinching putt in 1999 on the course Ouimet made famous?
While a round at The Country Club or Salem (both private) requires connections, Boston visitors hungry for golf have plenty of daily-fee options. Two facilities in particular – George Wright Municipal Golf Course and Granite Links Golf Club at Quarry Hills – offer first-rate experiences less than 12 miles from the heart of the city.

George Wright Golf Course
Boston, Mass.
Web site

Style: Municipal
Price: $44

In character, the two places couldn’t be more different. An 18-hole Donald Ross design opened in 1938, George Wright attracts a largely working-class clientele, while Granite Links, a 27-hole John Sanford creation that opened its first nine in 2003, caters to players seeking a country-club-for-a-day atmosphere.
But like Boston itself, both courses have compelling histories. In the late 1920s, a group of citizens commissioned Ross to design a course for a private club in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood. The 1929 stock market crash scuttled the project, but it resumed a few years later under President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. It took the labor of 1,000 men – and $1 million in WPA funds – to transform the site from ledge and swamp into a municipal golf course named for George Wright, a Hall of Fame shortstop for baseball’s first professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. Wright, who later played baseball in Boston, laid out New England’s first public course at the city’s Franklin Park and founded Wright and Ditson, the sporting goods store where Francis Ouimet worked in 1913.

From the 10th fairway at George Wright, one can see Granite Links’ clubhouse perched atop a hill in nearby Quincy (pronounced Quinzy). In the 19th century, Quincy was known for its quarries, which supplied granite for many prominent statues and monuments. In the 1990s, developers began transforming a 540-acre site in Quincy and neighboring Milton that comprised several former quarries and two landfills. To fill quarries and cap the landfills, the developers used 13 million tons of soil excavated during Boston’s Big Dig highway construction project, and in 2000 they hired Sanford to design a links-inspired layout on the site. Rising 300 feet above sea level at its highest point, Granite Links offers breathtaking views of the Boston skyline to the north, Boston Harbor to the east and the 7,000-acre Blue Hills Reservation to the west.
When Granite Links opened, George Wright was hurting. Years of neglect had taken a toll on course conditions and in 2003 the city of Boston resumed operational control after having leased the course to management companies for two decades.
Six years later, George Wright’s conditions are drastically improved. Under the stewardship of head professional Scott Allen, whom the city hired in 2003, and superintendent Len Curtin, who came on in 2004, the course’s tees, greens and collars have become as pristine as most private clubs’. And the fairways, long plagued by an improperly installed irrigation system, are now respectable.
By scorecard standards, the par-70 layout isn’t imposing, measuring 6,440 yards from the blue tees and 6,096 yards from the whites. A wide-open first hole reinforces the impression that the course might be a pushover.
Soon enough, however, the fairways narrow, the blind shots arrive and the challenge is on. At No. 4, a 165-yard par-3 to an elevated green, two deep pot bunkers straddle the green, hidden behind two larger bunkers visible from the tee. During George Wright’s reclamation, the teenagers who work at the course as part of the city’s summer jobs program restored these eroded Ross hazards to devilish luster.

The course’s midpoint has a pair of stout par-4s – No. 9, a narrow 453-yarder, and No. 10, a 462-yard dogleg left with a blind, downhill approach. Other memorable holes include No. 12, a 412-yard par-4 with a fairway interrupted by a cliff, and No. 17, a signature 170-yard par-3 with an elevated green guarded by four fearsome bunkers.
Although it’s a city course, George Wright abuts the Stony Brook Reservation, a 475-acre forest preserve, making one feel removed from the urban jungle. On weekends, non-residents can play here for $44 (cart extra), with tee times accepted four days in advance. During the week, it’s $37, first-come, first-served, but the course is typically closed for outings on Mondays and Fridays throughout the season.
While George Wright offers the intimacy of a local beer joint, Granite Links appeals more to the martini-bar crowd. The expansive clubhouse is bathed in mahogany, and the golf carts have GPS yardage monitors that stream real-time sports scores. And the skyline view from the granite-topped bar in the club’s 19th hole is outstanding.

Granite Links Golf Club
Quincy, Mass.
Web site

Style: High-end public
Price: $125

Such trappings come at a price, of course – a round at Granite Links costs $125 (cart and range balls included), with tee times accepted four days in advance. A semiprivate layout with 340 members, the club reserves one of its three nines – Quincy, Milton and Granite – exclusively for member play. The private nine rotates periodically, giving the public a chance to experience all 27 holes. But on weekends, tee times are for members only until 11 a.m.
On a Thursday in early August, the Quincy and Milton nines were open to the public. A par-71 combination that plays 6,873 yards from the tips and 6,379 yards from the blues, Quincy/Milton challenges players with drastic elevation changes while snaking its way through wetlands and past the occasional quarry.
On No. 2, a 180-yard par-3, golfers must play across wetlands to a green guarded by a native granite wall. And on No. 7, a 296-yard, dogleg-right par-4, architect Sanford offers players an enticing choice: lay up with a mid-iron to the fairway visible straight ahead or cut the dogleg to a blind green.
The course also gives golfers options around the greens with its sloping, closely mowed chipping areas. For many greenside shots, a trusty Texas wedge is the best choice. Players must beware of the ball-eating fescue that skirts several holes, including a seemingly magnetic area left of the 18th fairway. And beware also of the wind, which can whip unmercifully across this unprotected hilltop.
Despite a few eyesores – an apartment complex along the first fairway, the ugly nets that separate the practice range from the course and a mammoth communications tower that rises beyond the clubhouse – the views from the course are spectacular. From the harbor islands visible from the fourth tee to the postcard skyline beyond the 14th green, Granite Links offers great visuals.
But don’t let the views lull your game to sleep, especially on 14. Skull a wedge into the fescue over the green, and your good round will be history.
Mike Cullity is a freelance golf writer based in Manchester, N.H. Email your thoughts to him.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.