The Boston Golf Club – located in Hingham, Massachusetts – is a private members golf club and has been routed across more than 300 acres of prime golfing terrain. Designed by Gil Hanse and opened for play in 2005, Boston Golf Club is already a modern classic and has received many accolades including reference to some holes looking like they belong to Pine Valley.
Holes are laid out in two nines on either side of a road that passes through an old rock quarry, with sharp elevation changes, sheer rocky ledges and thick forests all coming into play along the way. It’s a tough track and one that many will choose not to walk due to the physical demands along the way. Be very careful which tees you play from if given the chance to tee it up here as this is a course that takes no prisoners.
Here’s what Hanse Golf Course Design have to say about Boston Golf Club: “The owners provided us with a great opportunity to pay homage to the early courses of New England, on a very interesting piece of property. The terrain varies and rolls, and pitches in every direction. The only consistent part of the property is its wonderful sand and gravel base which afforded us a great deal of flexibility in how we could utilize the native contours.
The course stresses fun and interest in the individual golf holes, and this theme is meticulously carried out in all elements of the club. This course has been lovingly crafted, and the owners made sure that we had the opportunity to dwell on the details which is apparent in the final result.”
In the book Planet Golf USA, author Darius Oliver writes: “The overwhelming highlight of Hanse’s work here is the believability of his shaping. The sand and gravel base made it easier for the design team to create contours that match the existing natural terrain, but the work done was first class.
Fairways crash and fall with great irregularity, the holes enhanced by beautifully constructed bunkers that are often fringed by bracken or shaggy tufts of native grass. The varied and heavily contoured greens are another standout feature; the targets are generally open at the front, yet consistently more difficult to approach the safer you drive from the tee.”
You could never imagine you are but a dozen miles from Boston when you play this course. It meanders over a hilly landscape and offers some fabulous playing fields. The conditioning is superb and the staff is overly welcoming. There are numerous fabulous holes. The bunkering with native grass edges is a feature I love. The par 3's are awesome and often I downgrade a course based on uninteresting par 5's but Boston has some excellent 5's. If one were going to point out a knock, one might point out the too numerous massive false fronts/sides. It's a dominant feature but my preference would be for them to be tamed slightly. Often a near perfect shot is punished severely. But this is a special place and worth every effort to get to.
Consistently considered one of the best courses in the state, and often considered Hanse's best original design, which is becoming more and more difficult to say as Gil’s portfolio expands at an eye-opening rate.
While much of Gil’s portfolio is based on renovations and restorations, there is zero doubt whatsoever in his splendid ability to create a world class golf course from scratch. At Boston Golf Club, the rolling topography is ideal for glorious golf holes that sit naturally on the tumbling land. Each time I play here, my admiration for the routing multiplies – especially when you see the incredible marriage of challenge and beauty.
This low-key club will guarantee an increased heart-rate as you navigate the plummeting fairways, the natural rock cropping and many holes with forced carries that demand perfect ball-striking. This is a place for real golfers who want a stern test from start to finish.
Eastern Massachusetts had gone decades without a new top tier golf course and then in 2004 Old Sandwich debuted and the Boston Club in 2005. The Gil Hanse design in Hingham, MA is outstanding. He was able to capture classic and contemporary and blend them for an exemplary golfing experience. One design feature is somewhat of a paradox, from many tee boxes the holes look extraordinarily tight and perhaps even intimidating. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised at how generous some of the landing areas are.
The first hole is a welcoming straight away semi-blind tee shot par 5. It is tree lined on both sides, something you will get used to and has fairway bunkers on each side. It is absolutely reachable but that is fraught with risk. The green is perched above a couple of greenside bunkers and a creek. For good measure there are two bunkers left and a steep drop off right. My advice, play it conservatively as a three shotter and start off even. The 2nd looks tougher than it is. It is rated the 5th hardest. Off the tee there is a forced carry, but well under 200 yards. In the distance you can see a fairway bunker left and rock outcroppings right. Don’t worry you can’t reach them. Just hit it straight to set up a mid-iron to a large green that is naked, no protection other than the false front left and multiple tiers. The 3rd is a golfer’s golf hole. Not sure why it is rated easier than the 2nd. A long par 4 with a fairway that slopes hard left to right. The high payoff play is down the left side over the heart shaped bunker, which is about a 220 yard carry. This is the short way home, the right is much longer. The second half of this hole is split fairway, left high, right low. Left is more better. Having said that the green is a redan with huge slope left to right. As much as I would like to say this is a fun golf hole, I think I best leave it as I respect this golf hole. The 4th is a good birdie oppty. Be aware of the hidden bunker on the right about 230 yards out from the tee. There is also a stone wall that meanders down the right side. The green is slightly down hill two tiered and balls landing short right usually end up pretty good. I loved the short uphill drivable 5th. Yes, there is a boatload of danger right. If you come in from the left, good luck holding this green that is very thin, about 12 feet across. Big hitters should go for it, because…why not. Otherwise aim just left of the flag and hope you hit it straight and the pin is back. Fun and tormenting golf hole. The first par three is really a short island green. The tee shot is over sandy wasteland and if you are long, more of the same. The 7th is a very demanding long dogleg left par 4. There is a water hazard left, bunkers right and a steep dropoff right. The 8th is the longest par 3. There is a bent pine tree behind the green on the left side, hence the name of the hole, ”Bent Pine”. I was told that it was insured for $1M. Seems peculiar to me. The 9th is the number one handicap hole and it deserves it. From a very elevated tee this is still a long downhill par 4. A gunch hazard sneaks into the fairway. For this long approach there is a large bunker left and large oak tree. A much easier approach from the left. The green is sunken from both the front and the left.
The back starts with a downhill dogleg right. A drive over 240 yards will through the fairway plateau and may end up with a downhill lie in the fairway, at best, or downhill in the sand gunch. The green tilts strong left to right, while there are 3 bunkers, they are not very close to the green. A fun hole. The 11th is supposed to be the easiest hole on the course. A mid-length par 3 it is all carry over gunch, bunkers right and rear and the green slopes back to front. The 12th is a tough hole, long par and the number two handicap hole. Straightaway with the tee shot through a chute and over an old stonewall with generous landing areas. Take an extra club as this green has a hellacious false front. The 13th is a long par four dogleg right. In addition to tall pine trees on the inside corner there are two bunkers, as well. The pot bunker behind the green was dug by the owner, John Mineck. The 14th is a downhill dogleg right. A generous fairway with bunkers on the right the fairway narrows as you get closer to the green. The green runs away from you and depending upon pin location, you may want to land well short. The 15th is my favorite hole. A par 5 with an uphill tee shot the challenge is on the 2nd and 3rd shots. A Pine Valleyesque “Hells 1/3 Acre” cross bunker with a twist as it continues down the left side of the holeasa vertical bunker. To compound the decision making process there is another bunker on the right side about 80 yards out from the green. The contour slopes towards the left and the green sits in a depression. This is a golf holes golf hole. Fantastic. Finally, the 16th, a birdie hole. Short par four with the “Principals Nose” bunker, a la St. Andrews, in the middle of the fairway about 240 yards out. Fly it, lay up or left or right. This is small tabletop green with protection from 3 bunkers. The 17th is a good risk reward. There is Quaker Ridge type island mound of rough in the middle of the fairway. You want to be left of it. From there one has a good chance to get home in two. There is waste bunker right and a couple of large fairway bunkers about 75 yards out. This green runs left to right. I am normally not a fan of courses that end with a par 3, but The Boston Club is the exception. A mid-length uphill par 3 with a green that slopes back to front with bunkers front and right. With the clubhouse above the green right it is a great viewing hole as well.
My favorite Hanse design.
Boston Golf Club is an oasis amongst the trees. From the moment you drive up and see the clubhouse with its contemporary aesthetic that is rare to see amongst clubhouses anywhere, let alone in the Northeast, you realize this place is different. It's not a clone of anything else, it's something truly unique.
Built out of a rock quarry BGC is hilly and extremely undulated. While I'm a big fan of the course this undulation does at many times become punitive. Considering the undulation it is quite a surprise that this course is walking only, especially as there are many holes where you must walk through the woods to get from tee to fairway or green to tee. The conditions when i played were excellent and made the course all the better though I've heard from others that at times they can be quite poor. In general, if you like being challenged and surprised you will likely enjoy the BGC experience. If you have trouble with carries over 50 yards you will have significant difficulty with this course but if neither of those apply you'll be delighted to enjoy a course that is definitely a treat. If you have an opportunity to play BGC you must go play.
Bring your A game if you ever get the invite to the Boston Golf Club. The course demands brawn. The walk over the hilly terrain is a demanding one, and it is matched by the demands placed on the golfer to hit long and accurately. There are not many flat lies on the property. Memorable holes (?) include the par four twelfth with a green that is over the top. A course with relatively slow putting surfaces can have massive slants, breaks and undulations, but when the greens are as fast as they are here, a hole like twelve become a head scratcher. The 317-yard par four firth hole is also a potential card wrecker, even though it is very short. I have never had a sand wedge in my hand before and have the caddie tell me that I couldn’t go for the (blind) green, that is was wiser to lay up! The course shines with the beautiful par 4 14th hole which plays down a hill and gets progressively more narrow as it does so; visually stunning. The 15th is a par five reminiscent of Pine Valley’s Hell’s Half Acre hole and may in fact be better than the original. The understated and low-key nature of the club makes it a treat to visit.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
I think you missed much of the joy of Boston. It is supposed to be fun, if your card is wrecked, maybe your reach exceeded your grasp. I've never tired of teeing it up at BGC.
You might give thought to avoiding Gil's course in GA, Ohoopee - you're not allowed to post a score!
I had heard of Boston being described as Pine Valley’esque and yes there are certain similarities but I feel pigeon holing it like this is doing a dis-service to the extraordinary vision of Gill Hanse at this breath-taking piece of New England property. Hanse along with a couple of other modern architects are part of posse of New kids on the block so to speak, who have revolutionised golf course architecture mixing modern techniques/knowledge with old school/traditional design elements, a minimalist approach is how it is described, with little earth movement and the focus being on using natural contours to create a playing surface. I am not usually an advocate of solo golf, I feel one of the core elements of the game is the camaraderie and bond formed over the course of 18 holes. Normally I would much sooner spend 3 hours on the practice ground than play alone, but sometimes when on the road sneaking in a late afternoon round I am left with no option, so armed with a great caddy I headed for the first tee.
Upon reflection I feel this enhanced my appreciation for the course, for I was able to take extra time exploring the playing corridors and complexes, really soaking everything in. Interestingly they have two ranges at Boston Golf a small warm up area near the first tee that has limited flight balls, the primary function being to make a few full swings to loosen up, while there is also a magnificent full practice ground located behind the 6th green and 7th tee, a very nice concept if a club can afford the upkeep. The player must have most certainly utilised the aforementioned warm up facilities prior to the opening hole, for once you place the peg in the ground there is very little respite. The opening hole is a less than straightforward par 5. Hanse’e genius is evident from the outset for the player is pushed toward the side he can see best(left side), however this is far from ideal with deep woods, sandy scrub and a hazard lurking just a few paces from the fairway, as at the Second at RCD the optimum line is down the blind side. From here the hole gets no easier, the green sits high above the level of the fairway and a crucial question is already being asked of the player at this very early stage in the round. A shot of 250 yards must carry an expanse of scrub, hazard and waste-land to reach a green that is seemingly perched in the clouds, think 18 at TPC Boston to an elevated green!
The second again forces the player to make a decision from the tee, a huge mound/sand dune pinches the fairway at 260 yards, the smart play is to take a hybrid/fairway wood and keep short in the fat part of the fairway leaving a medium iron to a blind green or else risk the driver threading it into the narrow part of the fairway but leaving a much easier approach. An awesome mix of strategy and risk/reward by Hanse. Two very strong par 4’s follow this, both requiring well thought out tee shots to the correct section of the fairway in order to obtain the best angle of the approach, the 3rd green is almost like a reverse redan, sloping from left to right, with a huge fall of on the right side. My caddy informed me that the developer behind the project told Hanse to go out and find the 18 holes first, that he would worry about the clubhouse and other facilities afterwards. This something I am a huge fan of, for similar to Pat Ruddy at the European Club’s philosophy, he didn’t’/t want the layout to be compromised by peripheral factors as Ruddy said “no-one comes to play a course because of the clubhouse”, other developers take note this is the ONLY way to ensure you get the most of your property.
The next trio of holes were my favourite on the whole course. The 5th is one the great short par 4’s that this author has ever played. The view from the tee makes you scratch your head, for there is no obvious right or wrong way to play the hole. A narrow fairway snakes its way uphill, flanked by sandy wasted areas and dense pine trees left and right. The green is most certainly within reach from the tee, but the margin for error is very small. Should you opt for a more conservative play you are left with a blind approach to a fantastic green, postage stamp in size, which sits parallel to the line of play. The 6th is frequently compared to the 3rd at Pine Valley, in one way this is a compliment but on another hand I feel it is a dis-service to Hanse and his creativity. Yes it is similar but in no way a copy and more an outstanding mid length par 3 in its own right.
7 is the Index one hole on the golf course, a soft dogleg left a well struck tee shot will still leave you 185+ into a green where the best play for the average golfer is to use the bank on the left work the ball back toward the putting surface, for anywhere short and right is all but an automatic bogey at best. The front nine finishes with a long par 3(8th) to a long green, which is a lot narrower than it appears from the teeing area, if I could find fault with any hole on the course this would be it as the angles from the teeing ground just don’t seem to fit the line of play correctly and a short par 4(9th) where the player is afforded a spectacular view from the tee to a right to left sloping fairway below.
As we walked to the 10th tee, I asked my caddy how old the course was, “7 years” he replied, I was completely aghast, I knew it was relatively young, but I imagined it was a mid 90’s creation, the place does really look like it has been there forever and blends into the landscape perfectly, a great piece of land matched with a designer who had the right philosophy. The back nine begins in slightly more straightforward fashion than the front. A fairway wood and a short iron should see you safely to the 11th tee relatively unscathed. The next is a terrific par 3, mid length played to a green built into the hillside, the brave but not so intelligent player will be drawn toward the flag, especially when I is located on the right side of a deep trap, the smart player will use the contours of the putting surface to work the ball toward the target, cocky swings at conservative targets, as they say! From 12 in there is a definite element of give and take from the golf course. Two par 4’s at 12 and 13 which dogleg left to right both possess great greens almost a combination of Eden/road hole design.
From 14 in the golfer can make some birdies if his game is on but also run up some big numbers if he is off. The playing corridors are more open in this last stretch, with great views across a plain, which reminded me of the views seen at the great heathland courses back home. At 14 the aggressive route is still most certainly the most certainly the most treacherous, the best play is the down the left side which leaves a second shot being played straight down a narrow deep green as opposed to a shot that gets caught down the right side having to play diagonally across the green. 15 was my favourite par 5 on the course, for there are numerous ways to play the hole none of them right or wrong. Do you take a 3 wood from the tee making your mind up from the outset to play as a three shotter laying up well back to give yourself a full third shot, or do you take driver and have a lash at the green and take your chances with an up and down , or else do you try and sling a hooky second shot up the right side where the fairway opens out a quite a bit, leaving yourself a great angle playing straight up the green but at the awkward 50-75 yard distance. As said there is no right or wrong answer, but in all instances it is the green which makes this hole most enchanting, three tiered it is almost reverse punchbowl like, posing a challenge this author has rarely witnessed before, could this be a new concept coined by Hanse?
As mentioned above birdies most certainly can be made in the finish, the 16th is a very interesting short par 4, the green being the hole’s main defence, where those sufferers of claustrophobia be warned it is a tiny, back to front pitched surface, which can make the best of players look foolish. The 17th is a par 5, where aging the brave player who hits toward the trouble down the right will be rewarded with a good view of the green, which sits on a crest similar to the 18th at Baltusrol. The home hole is not what I expected, if you have read any of my previous posts I am not a huge fan of courses that close with a par 3 (see my Lough Erne review) but in this instance given the philosophy behind the development of the place, of finding holes and then building a clubhouse, it rests a little easier with me, especially if it has given rise to 18 good holes. The 18th is a good par three, requiring a precise well struck long iron to find a great a far from routine putting surface.
From the moment I drove in the gate at Boston Golf Club I knew I would be happy. Everything about the place has been done in the right fashion, with golf at its epicentre. Gill Hanse is a modern day genius in my book, the restoration at Plainfield he conducted is outstanding, his re-design of TPC Boston has elevated it to the best TPC Course in my book and at Boston Golf Club his work is phenomenal. This may well be the best “new” course that I have played, minimal earth movement, pure golf, a throwback to the Golden Age with some modern day touches mixed in. The layout embodies strategy and risk/reward with a penalty present but not in the sadistic sense. Playable for the high handicap but a stiff test from the tips for the elite player, Boston Golf Club has it all. P.S It might be time to give up on my par 3 finishing hole gripe too!