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I’m going to be in Boston for 1 or 2 rounds of golf in mid-July. I know you’ve got the lowdown on the best places to play. Can you help me out? — Jeremy R., Denver
I’ve got the lowdown because I researched this very topic for the August 2007 issue of GOLF. If you’ve got a few bucks to spend and don’t mind a 45-minute drive, I recommend either course at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth (pinehillsgolf.com, 508-209-3000; $60-$105). Both range and clubhouse are excellent, and while some consider the Jack Nicklaus II track more scenic and player-friendly than its Rees Jones-designed sibling, they’re equally strong layouts.
Closer to the city, try the semi-private Granite Links at Quarry Hills in Quincy (granitelinksgolfclub.com, 617-689-1900; $100-$120), or for a bargain, Boston style, head to George Wright Golf Course in Hyde Park (georgewrightgolfcourse.com, 617-364-2300; $28-$57), a 1938 Donald Ross-designed muni.
I had the pleasure to play Oconomowoc Golf Club in Oconomowoc, Wisc. It’s a Donald Ross course and was recently in the news due to Mark Wilson’s win at Honda. He played a lot of practice rounds there in his younger days. Are there any public Ross designs within a day’s drive of Southern Wisconsin? It was a gem and I’d like to see some of Ross’ other handiwork. — Steve S., Brookfield, Wisc.
Ah, you’ve been seduced by Ross’ wiles, as have 100 years worth of design fans. I’m sorry to say that unless you’re Larry Leadfoot with the gas pedal, you’re out of luck. However, if you’re willing to drive 350-450 miles to indulge your new whim, I can recommend four courses in the Midwest.
Closest to you, in Detroit, is Rackham Park (rackham.americangolf.com, 248-543-4040; $25-$47), a muni just north of downtown that Ross crafted in 1924. Age and lack of funds/know-how have eroded some of the sharper Ross features, but its small greens and mature landscaping give this 6,555-yard, par-71 layout its bite.
Southern Indiana — French Lick, to be precise — is your next best bet. Sixty miles west of Louisville, in the heart of Larry Bird Country, is the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort (frenchlick.com, 812-936-9300; $75-$110). Native Hoosier Lee Schmidt added sumo-sized bulk to it in 2006, but also restored the Ross shot values in the process. Rolling, open farmland greets players today just as it did when Walter Hagen captured the 1924 PGA Championship here, but he didn’t have to conquer three par-3s that check in these days at 240-plus yards. He did have to survive one of Ross’s wildest greens, the easily four-puttable eighth, which features a seven-foot fall from back to front.
If you can make it as far as Ohio, two nifty Ross publics await. The first is Manakiki Golf Course in Willoughby (clemetparks.com, 440-942-2500; $25-$42), a Cleveland Metropark course that was private from 1928 until 1961. Manakiki held PGA Tour events in the 1950s, and while today it is considered one of Ross’ gentler efforts, it holds its own thanks to a wooded, water-filled routing and to holes such as the 443-yard, par-4 8th and the 215-yard, par-3 15th, both area standouts.
Finally, check out Granville Golf Course (Granvillegolf.com, 740-587-4653; $25-$53), 35 miles east of Columbus, Ohio. Its 6,559-yard length won’t frighten anybody, but vintage Ross greens and soaring elevations, such as the 120-foot drop from the 18th tee to the fairway, will have you clamoring for more. Even the recent addition of houses on the back nine can’t wipe away the charm that this 83-year-old layout exudes.
My wife and I, both older than 50 and both 95-105 players — I refuse to call myself a high-handicapper — are traveling to Portland the third week of July. We have played Pumpkin Ridge and loved the Reserve at the Vineyard. We have no other real knowledge of the area. We belong to Ventana Canyon, so we are familiar with Fazio courses. We will probably play 3 to 4 times. Thanks. This is a really great service you provide. — Pete R., Tucson, Ariz.
Escaping the July desert heat for Portland’s comfortable confines, eh? You lucky dog — I’m right behind you. First off, if you’ve played only one course at The Reserve (reservegolf.com, 503-649-8191; $45-$103), whether South or North, make sure you play the other. The South played host to the Champions Tour’s JELD-WEN Tradition the past four years, but they’re both worthy.
There’s no Fazio to be had nearby, but if you like the Bob Cupp/John Fought style at The Reserve, you’ll also fancy Langdon Farms in Aurora (langdonfarms.com, 503-678-4653; $39-$105), a linksy layout framed by soft mounds whose most memorable hole is the long par-4 8th, with its landmark old red barn and an Oakmont-style church-pew bunker.
On the value front, don’t miss Heron Lakes (heronlakesgolf.com, 503-289-1818; $22-$54). Its service and amenities are muni all the way, but the golf is all you want. Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed both courses, and while the Great Blue is the superior layout, treat Greenback simply as a little brother. Both have plenty of water peril and surprisingly quick, smooth greens.