Located close to the Connecticut state line, the 18-hole layout at Longmeadow Country Club is divided by a main road with holes 2 to 9 laid out on the north side and the remainder set out on the other side. Largely unheard of beyond the boundaries of the Bay State, the course is one of Donald Ross’s stronger designs, featuring as it does seven par fours that measure at least 425 yards in length.
Highlight holes ay Longmeadow include the 439-yard 2nd (doglegging left to the target), the 315-yard 5th (playing across a gully to an offset green) and the downhill 425-yard 8th, where the fairway crosses an old creek en route to a narrow green.The course was chosen by the USGA to host the US Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship in 1995 and the male equivalent, the US Junior Amateur Championship in 2005. A new millennium restoration by Ron Pritchard has breathed new life into this classic old course and the results of this project will surely see it continue to thrive up to and beyond its centenary in 2022.
Longmeadow is celebrating the 100 year anniversary as a club with the course completed in 1924. Some might say it gets slightly overlooked due to its location in the golf-rich state of Massachusetts as well as due to the size of the portfolio of courses designed by Donald Ross. This a course that balances very well a requirement to appeal to a diverse membership of women and men for repetitive play while being difficult enough to challenge the best players over a week long tournament. I would note this year it hosted the 112th Massachusetts Open, having done so three previous times. In previous years it also hosted two USGA junior events. This indicated those in a position recognize its worthiness.
There are two qualities to the course that one takes away. The first is the land movement noticeable on holes 3-9 and 16-18. Secondly is the use of tiering on many greens.
I was hosted by a very well informed member who showed me pictures of the original design as well as a time when the course was defined by a near forest of trees. Thankfully, the club has invested in substantial tree removal with more to come although now it’s efforts will be more selective than wholesale.
The routing is interesting with holes 2-9 on one side of Shaker Road. Holes two and three are the only consecutive holes going in the same direction and even those two are not quite the same. The routing incorporates more shallow ravines on several holes which add to the interest and visual appeal of those holes. However, I was a little surprised that the more significant ravines defined by both width and depth are not really a factor in the routing. Instead these ravines run parallel to the holes they are aside and set well back from the fairway. I thought of Shoreacres and how its ravines are a primary characteristic of that course yet play at Longmeadow they play a limited role. Was this a missed opportunity or was there not additional land at the course’s conception to do so?
Of the two nine’s I preferred the front nine due to its land movement as well as overall having the more challenging holes. However, as we discussed potential changes to the holes they would certainly narrow the gap of the two nines and perhaps even make the back nine as equally challenging. The par 3’s are already slightly better on the back nine than the front and should these changes be made, they could produce at least two of the finest par 3’s in the state.
The greens are good defined more by their tiers. There are several false fronts that I recall although most greens are not “raised.” They are of sufficient size to the hole and are nicely contoured.
One weakness to the course are the bunkers which are not adequately penal and sometimes lack imagination. The club has this on their list to undertake. Another weakness is the inconsistency of clever green surrounds. Too often the same type of shot is required for recovery when missing a green.
We did not play the course in ideal conditions as it as wet from an overnight downpour. However, nearer the end of the round we could see a pickup in the speed of the greens.
The course is somewhat short by today’s standards at only 6756 yards from the back up tees, par 70 rated 73.3/135. The gold tees are 6594 yards rated 72.4/132. Members often play the blue tees at 6255 yards rated 70.8/130. Certainly the ratings indicate this is a challenging course.
1. Par 4 - 436/411. This straight hole is remembered more for its length and large green. Out of bounds is down the entirety of the left although trees can prevent one’s ball from going onto Shaker Road. There is a collection of bunkers in play off the tee down the right side with these bunkers shared with the tenth hole. A single tree and hummock is in the middle of these bunkers with one bunker before the tree and four after. The hole would be improved by removing the tree and either adding more defensive hummocks or two additional bunkers. Two flanking bunkers are roughly 75 yards from the green with a final bunker on the front left. The green surrounds are generally flat although a slightly raised drop off at the rear. Overall a player of above-average length should find this hole to be a good warm-up while shorter hitters will face an immediate challenge,
2. Par 4 - 439/421. This hole doglegs left with the left side blocked to the green by a single tree. The fairway has some nice rolls in it farther up the fairway. The rough is thick down the left and a tree will influence your shot into the green, As you near the green there are flanking front bunkers. There is a fall-off on the front left. The green has a slight shelf on the right and a tilt from front to back. I liked the hole although I wondered if the fairway should be moved twenty yards left to bring the ravine into play. However, this would be expensive due to the required amount of tree removal and maintenance of that ravine.
3. Par 5 - 601/557/540. This hole plays somewhat as a double dogleg to the left then back to the right. Bigger hitters have the possibility of making it to a steep downhill slope where at the bottom is a small stream that later forms Country Club Pond fronting the sixth hole. The stream is not reachable from the tee for any length of player. After the stream the hole climbs sharply to where the green rests atop the hill. The green has a false front so one must get onto the surface. To the right of the green is a deeper bunker placed about 60 yards short with another bunker greenside left. The green is a good one with a slope to the higher back tier as well a shallow swale on the front right. A par here is well earned. As there are only the two par 5’s on the course, it’s good that the first one is a splendid hole.
4. Par 3 - 134/126. This hole plays downhill to a green with a higher left half. The green is fronted by two deep bunkers. This hole is likely the most fun of the par 3’s.
5. Par 4 - 318/299. This short par 4 is drivable for long hitters while shorter players will likely find their ball somewhere near the two rolling ravines where the left side is deep enough to result in a semi-blind shot to the green. The safe play is out to the right half of the fairway where there is a better view of the skinny green on this dogleg left. The green is protected by long bunkers on either side. The rear of the green has some micro-contouring that can result in a more challenging recovery shot. The green also features a second tier and lower left side. This might be the most fun par 4 on the course.
6. Par 4 - 453/426/397. This hole plays straight with the fairway falling down to the pond. The green is nestled halfway up the side of the hill placed in a bit of a dell. The ground fronting the green is steeply banked so balls landing short might come back down the hill possibly 30 yards on a dry day. A single bunker is on the left side of the green. The green is confusing with the front half seemingly breaking right but the back half going towards the lower ground off to the left. This hole mixes fun and challenge very well. Much like the third hole, the sixth incorporate the change in land movement very well.
7. Par 3 - 185/177. You climb up atop the rise behind the sixth green to play to a downhill green backstopped by a hill. There are two bunkers right and one left. Years ago the pond on the left was much closer to the green and it should be put back the way it was designed and built as there was still adequate room to clear it before the beginning of the green. This would add to the visual appeal of the hole. The green is defined by perhaps the sharpest rise to its second tier and is very quick if having to putt from back to front.
8. Par 4 - 447/425. This “cape” hole plays across a valley as a dogleg left with trees framing the tee shot although they should not be in play given the width of the fairway. However, longer hitters trying to shorten the hole could find the trees on the left. The hole has a single fairway bunker on the right about 80 yards from the green set inside the fairway. The only greenside bunker is on the front right. The green has a higher tier and higher right side.
9. Par 4 - 439/415. Easily my favorite hole on the course is the ninth which has length, challenge, a very good contoured green, good bunkering, ravines and ripples in the fairway, and strong visual appeal. The challenge is both in the length due to out of bounds down the left with Shaker Road, and terraced bunkering fronting the raised green with a more gradual false front. One also cannot go long over the green as the ground falls away and you will be left with a speedy chip. Off the tee are two bunkers down the left that should not be in play. There is a slight speed slot for longer hitters down the left. As you near the green the land heaves and rolls where a single bunker is on the left and the two terraced bunkers are on the right. The first of these two bunkers likely results in a blind shot onto the green. The green has a higher right side with an overall tilt back to front. It is a splendid hole.
10. Par 5 - 483/471. Easily the weakest hole on the course as it s a flat hole playing slightly out to the right. The hole features six bunkers with four of them on the left side, not including the five shared with the first. There is a deep ravine set well for to the right and it is not in play. The ravine does bisect the fairway about 300 yards out but it is not a difficult obstacle. The green rises to the back but with a wide opening it is accessible. Perhaps the hole should be changed to a par 4 or the green raised 4-5 feet to make it more consistent with the rest of the holes on the course or the two green side bunkers should be moved to the edges of the green.
11. Par 4 - 422/385. This straight flat hole has out of bounds down the left and two bunkers in play from the tee set inside the fairway on the right. A bunker is nearly hidden on the left about 70 yards from the green. The green has flanking bunkers with a rise to the back. T here is a long area of short grass behind the green.
12. Par 4 - 449/428/387. This is a strong hole as there is decent land movement as you near the green. Thick trees are down the left while the right features two staggered bunkers near three trees. The fairway cants to the left. The green has a false front, two flanking bunkers, and a significant tier on the back third. It is one of the more difficult greens on the course. It’s a fine hole as is but it once featured a large center-line bunker about 40 yards from the green which should be put back to both add additional difficulty, starved and visual appeal to the hole.
13. Par 3 - 228/207/190. The longest par 3 has a false front, two bunkers on the left front and a long bunker down the right that is not deep enough to present a test. Off to the right are various mounds. The green also features a gradual higher back tier. The back right has a fall off. To the left and rear of the green are shelves preceding a more severe drop-off that would be perfect for short grass. There is a thought to move the tee to the left to create more room between the current tee and twelfth green while lowering the tee box. While this is already the most difficult hole on the course, these changes would make it one of the better par 3’s in the state.
14. Par 4 - 362/349. This hole once featured a large series of bunkers relatively short off the tee on the right side of the fairway, more in play for women and seniors. It was removed years ago but a very good idea would be to add them back at 150-200 yards off the tee. Today there are two separated bunkers left and one on the right. I liked the green c9molex with four bunkers on the corners and a fair amount of slope to the green.
15. Par 4 - 401/380. A relatively straight hole with the ravine and trees set off to the right although the tree line can come into play a bit farther up the fairway. There are no fairway bunkers. This is a good green with all three bunkers on the left side and a significant tilt to the right.
16. Par 3 - 140/132. The green features four terraced bunkers again fronting the green and a bunker on either side. From the slightly raised tee you play across a deep valley. If one topped their shot into the early bunker they will have a blind recovery shot. The green has higher ground to the right and rear. The green surface has a significant tilt to the front and left where the lower ground is. It is a visually appealing hole. There is a thought again to perhaps clear out tree on the right of the fifteenth green, transforming this hole to perhaps as much as 200 yards. It would require a fair many of tree removal but would make a fun hole even stronger.
17. Par 4 - 426/406. My host told me this is a “licorice” hole in that you either love it or hate it. I loved it with the exception of the flat green. The hole is without bunkers. The hole plays downhill and big hitters have to wary of hitting too far if straight as their ball could get stuck on the steep downhill and not make it to where the fairway begins we’ll below. The green is hidden from the fairway as it is nestled behind a hill on the left and sited between two hills. The longest hitters play out to the eighteenth fairway to get a glimpse of the green because even though this is essentially a straight hole it plays more as a dogleg left.
18. Par 4 - 393/374. After climbing a short but steep hill you arrive at the final hole which plays uphill. The right side of the fairway falls off although most players will hit it to at least to where their bigger concern are the two bunkers on the right. The green sits higher with a false front and backdropped by the hill upon which the clubhouse and parking lots are situated. There is a bunker on the right about fifteen yards short and one on the left. The green tilts to the front and left.
I liked Longmeadow for both its difficulty and the interesting green surfaces. The course is routed to incorporate nearly all of the land movement on holes 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 16-18. Much of the land movement is dramatic. Donald Ross built many fine courses, and Longmeadow is certainly at the top end of his portfolio. With cont8 used improvements, this course should break into the top fifteen in a very competitive state.
There is no shortage of classic Donald Ross courses in Massachusetts, in fact, this region is blessed. Longmeadow is in the southwestern part of the State, with the golf course occupying a piece of land with relatively gentle changes in elevation.
The opening par 4 is a stout beginning to a course which has a great reputation for being long and challenging. As you depart the first green, you cross Shaker Road to play the remainder of the front side across the road. I loved the tree removal on the front nine which has exposed magnificent views across the property. Standing on the second tee, you can get a feel for the journey ahead as you play over ridges, over creeks and meander the ever-present doglegs.
Ross discovered a very intelligent routing, highlighted by the mowing patterns as fairways are dissected by ridges with heavier grass, emphasizing the need to be very thoughtful with distances. This is a consistent design feature on both nines. Beautiful contours, mostly back to front, were found on the greens, but the scale of the Longmeadow CC greens was a tremendous bonus as course set-up allowed for many wonderful pin positions. I was most fond of the long par 5 3rd hole as you drive to a plateau and must determine how aggressive to be with your second shot given the need to cross a creek and face an uphill 3rd shot.
The slightly downhill par 3 4th is a wonderful short hole with the green tilted from left to right, offering up plenty of changes to make an ace if the pin is in a bowl on the right side. Many regarding the par 4 5th as one of the most exciting holes on the opening side as it’s driveable for longer hitters but offers up a fairway with large swales. You could have a blind shot from less than 90 yards if your drive ends up in a deep swale. The approach shot into the epic par 4 6th was one of my favourite shots on the course as it requires a long iron over the country club pond to an amphitheater green setting. The remainder of the outward half offers a long downhill par 3, a wonderful dogleg left with a dissected fairway and a closing par 4 with a merciless false front. Longmeadow certainly deserves its standing as being one of the most challenging, and respected courses in the Bay State.
You cross back over Shaker Road to play the entire back nine. Holes 10-12 play along the boundary of the property but continue the theme of no two consecutive holes playing in the same direction. You head South, West and North, before turning around on the par 3 13th tee. The short holes on the back nine were delightful, especially the aggressive bunkering on the short 16th. Nerves will be jangling as the green sits below a prominent viewing area near the clubhouse for spectators to catch a glimpse of ambitious tee-shots.
The design of the 17th hole may be my favourite on the course. It’s superbly unique and highlights the importance of understanding Ross’ routing talents. Knowing the yardage of when any fairway ends is a key element of strategy for this course, as players will get punished for hitting it too far. This is one of the clever tactics employed to prevent the course being overpowered. The drive on 17 requires a shot of approximately 240 yards (depending on your tee box), but the land drops sharply after this point with longer grass occupying steep slopes. The second stretch of fairway is a boomerang shape before reaching one of the smallest greens on the course. The setting for the green is magnificent given the stadium feel dunes that surround the putting surface. There is no other hole on the course that looks like the 17th and is going to be a memorable highlight as your round comes to a crescendo.
Club selection off the 18th tee is strongly influenced by a diagonal fairway that falls off on either side before rising back up to the final green.
I was thrilled to play this excellent course and continue my education of the Ross portfolio.
They could have called it Two Tier Country Club. No fewer than five greens (in an 11 hole stretch) have a second tier. On three of them (7, 11, and 12), the shelf is at the back of the green, while on two others (5 and 12), the shelf is on the left and right side respectively.
Despite this repetition, I enjoyed my round at Longmeadow. There’s a road through the middle of the course, but the routing is intuitive with holes running in a variety of directions. The greens (other than the 17th, a rather flat replacement of the original) are nicely contoured, providing for some challenging putting. And there are enough doglegs and fairway bunkers to keep the player thinking on the majority of her/his tee shots. The par 3s are a particular strength, going in four different directions and requiring the golfer to hit 4 different clubs.