The Hotchkiss School is an independent boarding school, surrounded by the Hotchkiss Golf Course. Seth Raynor designed this 9-hole layout in 1924, forming a friendship with English teacher Charles Banks that would later develop into a design partnership.
I was a bit surprised to see Hotchkiss School's course ranked on this site. Its history is fascinating and it was a truly special experience for me as a pilgrimage to the former home of “Steam Shovel” Charles Banks, the architect of Annapolis Roads, which was one of my favorite golf courses of all time. However, the course itself isn’t particularly spectacular outside of some interesting green complexes, many of which appear to have been reduced in size for maintenance purposes. Presumably it has been minimally updated by the prestigious prep school since Seth Raynor and Banks built it in the 1920s aside from a few tweaks I'll cover later.
The odd part about Hotchkiss as far as a Raynor course goes is that it’s hard to tell what is a template hole and what isn’t. The course begins with a long, uphill par four with a green that falls off steeply to the right; perhaps it’s a reverse Redan template, but the slopes aren’t quite right. #2 is a short downhill par three with a mound and ridge bisecting the front right portion of the green. I believe #3 is an Alps template, although the second shot isn’t completely blind – it’s a dogleg left par four whose fairway slopes heavily from left to right, with a massive Sahara bunker fronting the green. Another interesting feature of #3 is the multiple narrow ridges/humps bisecting the green from left to right. The fourth hole is an unremarkable but fine short par four with a nasty greenside bunker. #5 seems like a Short template with what was once a much larger green with a false front into a large bunker; now it is a small oval only representing part of the old green complex. #6 is a medium par four with a similar shape to #3 (but not as blind) featuring the craziest green on the course which contains a small ridge and “notch” in the mounding in its rear right portion. #7 is a rather mundane but short and narrow par five which, according to research, does not have its original green complex due to some campus reconfiguration. #8 is a long downhill par three that has one of the larger greens on the course, with another weird “notch” in the front of the green for drainage purposes. The finishing hole is in my opinion, the worst hole on the course. It is a short dogleg right par five that features a “Road grass bunker” and bunkers behind the heavily sloped green complex, but getting there is the problem – the hole is entirely too narrow until just shy of the green, and the dogleg is only at about 200 yards from the back tee.
Overall, Hotchkiss was well worth the visit. The Berkshires region is beautiful and serene with tons of fun things to do – our stop at Hotchkiss was only a blip on a whirlwind trip to New England. I’ll throw out a recommendation for a place about a half hour away in Great Barrington, Massachusetts called The Bistro Box (http://www.thebistrobox.rocks/) – it’s a gourmet “roadside shack” that produced the best burger and fries I’ve ever eaten.
As for the course, I liked Hotchkiss for what it is, but it’s likely a shadow of its original self. The views of the campus and nearby lakes are lovely, and the bones of a neat historic course are there, but the two par fives are not good holes and the greatness of many of the green complexes has been taken away by the maintenance reductions. For roughly $20 (cash only) with a cart it’s a decent value, but not a great course by any stretch of the imagination. It pains me to give a golf course that meant so much to me a three-ball rating, but so life goes.
Played June 17, 2016