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.
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.