Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton Massachusetts started out in life way back in 1882. Many of the original "horsey" members were bespectacled, so they decided to call the club Myopia.
In the early days, golf was played on a rudimentary nine-hole course, but in 1896 Willie Campbell became Myopia’s professional and the Scotsman helped to establish the beginnings of a new course for the club before moving back to The Country Club in Brookline the following year. Over a period of five years, Herbert Corey Leeds (one of Myopia’s original members), implemented the plans. The club’s new 18-hole layout finally opened for play in 1901.
Leeds certainly fashioned an unusual and perhaps quirky course but it’s a layout that is full of character with no two holes the same. An unusual feature of Myopia Hunt is the random almost haphazard use of bunkers which appear in odd places and in numerous shapes and sizes. There is no other course that features such a mixture of bizarre and often cruelly penal bunkering as Myopia Hunt.
In the book Golf’s 100 Toughest Holes by Chris Millard, the par four 12th is described as “the toughest hole on the toughest course in Open history”. The author continues: “A 447-yard par four, it was originally designed as a par five. The tee is set high on the property and offers a magnificent New England view. But even the view can’t soften the hole.
“Guarded on the left by thick woods, the hole features a large rock on the right that blocks the view of the landing area. Given that the fairway slopes from right to left, a fade off the tee is the best way to stay in the fairway. But miss the fairway to the right and you can do is hope. The approach is played to (what else?) a small, crowned green that slopes away from the player.”
Host to four early US Open Championships – the most recent in 1908 – Myopia Hunt Club is one of the most important historical courses in the US. If you are only mildly interested in golf course architecture, this is the one to study. Myopia Hunt Club is yet another private US golf club but if you do manage to secure a game you are guaranteed an exciting treat.
This is absolute gem is starting to get the respect it deserves, but I'm sure that I always will think it is underrated. This course could not set up any worse for my game but I could not have cared less. The greens are incredibly small and severely sloped, clearly being built when greens were slower. These strange greens are guarded by small but deep bunkers surrounded by very playable rough which you will find yourself in a lot. Every shot requires clear thought and planning, but even the most difficult shots felt extremely fair. There is truly never a dull moment at Myopia. You need to hit every shot in your bag and you may still not have enough. Regardless of the length of each hole, it is a collection of golf holes that both strategically matchup better than the majority of Top 100 Golf Courses in the World and might be the most engaging round I've ever played.
At the turn of the 1900’s there were three golf courses in the USA felt to be architecturally significant: Oakmont, Garden City Men’s, and Myopia Hunt Club. Newport CC was not included on this list.
If there is a single “classic” course in the USA, then Myopia Hunt Club is it. Since the eighteen holes were completed, it has barely changed through the years. Every now and then the greens get slightly smaller, then they are enlarged back to the original size. The bunkers might shrink a bit or get less deep, then they are re-shaped. Trees might grow, but later they are taken away. The course is presented very much as it played during the early U.S. Opens that were held there.
What has changed is technology regarding clubs and balls that have made many of the par 5’s become par 4’s and several of the par 4’s become a definite birdie opportunity. For the longer players whose swings take advantage of the improvement in technology, the course becomes more like a par 67-69 instead of par 72. This is not to imply that a good player will go out and shoot those scores because they rarely will due to the strength of the contouring of the greens as well as the tall fescue. When it was finally completed as an 18 hole course, the yardage of 6555 was one of the longer golf courses. Now, of course, it is considered very short.
I will not go through the history of the course as Colin Braithwaite’s has posted a thorough review. I will add only two comments. The farmhouse (now the clubhouse) was used during the Revolutionary War. Secondly, it is only until recently that golf has become as important as horses and polo for the club.
This was my second time playing Myopia Hunt. This time I got to play it with a very good amateur who has played in many to the top amateur events, including the US amateur and mid-amateur, and many of the top amateur events in the New England area. He still hits a pretty long ball and has a chipping/bunker game to be envied. I liked having him as my partner as I got to see firsthand the clubs he hit and what he thought of the holes (the same happened the next day at Essex County). The area had been hit with three issues of rain the previous day, but other than a few wet areas in the rough, the course was relatively dry. However, my amateur partner did say that several of his tee shots would have gone another 30 yards had it not rained.
The course is beautifully routed to take advantage of the hilly terrain. The course goes up, down, flat for a bit, then over rises before climbing again, then falling before a dramatic uphill, followed by one final downhill. I do not think this course could have been routed any better. It takes perfect advantage of the wetlands, ponds and streams on the course.
One could quibble today about the lack of length on holes, or some holes where the only defense is an overly tilted green, but one will always have fun and enjoy the walk on this golf course. Having played in on October 14, the colors of the trees were near a peak, so the beauty of the course was at times a distraction. Regarding the lack of length, unless one wanted to move tee boxes to the other side of a different fairway or close to it, there is no land available on the boundaries of much of the course due to the Miles River/wetlands, Miles River Road, and Essex Street. One would have to purchase houses between Walnut Road, Overhead Drive, and the eleventh/fifteenth/seventeenth in order to find land, but this would mean abandoning many of those holes. It would also be very expensive.
Simply put, there is no reason to change a classic course. Who cares if a few gifted players can score under par here? They still enjoy it much like the rest of us average index players. A simple solution is to change the pars of the second and eighth from par 5’s to par 4’s given their yardages of 488 (and very downhill) and 473 yards. You flip a hole from an easy birdie/par to a demanding hole. And you continue to play the same course.
From the Red tees the course is a par 72, 6555 yards rated 72.7/138. The White tees are 6190 yards rated 71.1/134. I have played both sets of tees.
1. Par 4 – 276/263. Many people criticize the first hole at Myopia due to the blind nature of this very uphill tee shot, the width of the fairway as well as the length. Some say it is “the worst first hole on a great golf course” in all of golf. Certainly, if one plays it conservatively taking a line just inside the large tree to the right of the green, one should have no worse than a short pitch with a chance at birdie or a routine par given this green is not as complicated as some others. However, this hole tempts the longer hitters and if they end up on the wrong side of the green to the right, they will likely make bogey or worse. Indeed, I know several long, good players who have taken a triple on this hole. In my mind, this is a hole that favors the average length player who doesn’t try for the green, and in that regard, it has its merits. The fairway goes sharply uphill but also tilts sharply to the left as you need the left side. This is where high fescue awaits. Halfway up the hole is a bunker on the right that should never be in play unless the wind is howling in one’s face. More troublesome are the two bunkers on the back left and the two bunkers on the front right that are placed on a knob that block a bit of the green if coming in from the right side. The green is small and balls hit short will not release onto the green. While I do not think it is a good hole, it does ease one into the round.
2. Par 5 – 488/460. The view from this elevated tee is wonderful as you see as much as parts of eleven holes. This hole plays sharply downhill for the tee shot with two bunkers on the right as well as mounds to be avoided. The left side has trees that come into play. Bigger hitters have to avoid going so far as to run into a ditch that bisects the fairway and stops it for about twelve yards. Longer hitters will likely reach the green with a seven iron to wedge. The green sits in a punchbowl with two fronting bunkers before a rise that blocks the view of the flag unless it is placed in a small opening. Shots hit over this rise will find a green placed below you so the better shot is to land slightly short of the green and have it release. The green does have a back to front and right to left tilt with some good swales in it. My longer hitter amateur partner feels he should have a putt for eagle on this hole and was somewhat dissatisfied with his birdie.
3. Par 3 – 252/242. This hole is simply long, playing from an elevated tee across a valley. Both times I have played Myopia the wind has been in my face making this hole feel like it is 280 yards long. There is a sizeable bunker that begins about 80 yards short of the green set diagonally to the right. Behind that large bunker are two small bunkers placed short of the green. Off to the left is a single bunker short of the green and one placed at the back left with a 4 yard separation from the green. The green is small for the length of the hole and has a horizontal spine running through it. This is a difficult hole for anyone.
4. Par 4 – 385/364. This sharp dogleg left gets criticized for its green. There are two bunkers on the turn in the fairway about 180 yards from the green. At the green there is a bunker right ten yards short of the green but it should not be in play. The real trouble are the collection of bunkers on the lower left side of the green, the first one beginning about twenty yards short and snaking its way to cut the access to the green in half. There are three other bunkers on lower ground off the left side. Finally, there is a small hidden bunker in the back middle. The green is sharply tilted to the left and back to front. The long hitting amateur nearly drove the green, finding his ball between the bunkers on the left. His chip landed slightly above the pin but slowly worked its way down into the bunker. Another player who was short middle at the front of the green putted 15 feet to the right of the flag but not high enough and it also ended up in the same bunker. The issue with the green is whether it is fair and whether there are an adequate number of pin positions. I do not quibble much with this green if one knows it, for me the bigger issue is that there are five greens on the course like this. From the tee and playing into the green this is a beautiful golf hole.
5. Par 4 – 417/387. The fourth hole plays straight and gently downhill. The trees are very thick on the right side and can possibly block a line at the green. There is a cross-bunker on the left side but it should be cleared and a tiny bunker on the right a bit farther up. A stream interrupts the fairway with a rough area of taller grass being able about 25 yards wide in total. There is a small bunker left while the green has three bunkers encircling it. The green tilts to the right consistent with the fall of the land and has a back right plateau.
6. Par 4 – 255/246. This is one of the more fun holes on the course. There is a pond on the right that formed by the stream from the fifth. The pond then exits to another stream that cuts diagonally across the fairway. Bigger hitters will definitely have a go at the green, perhaps with as little as a 5 metal or hybrid. Two of our players drove the green but none of them stayed on, one going over and the other ball releasing back down the front of the green. The green is surrounded by five bunkers, including a V-shaped bunker at the rear middle. This green is crowned a lot. I laid up short of the stream and hit an 80 yard shot onto the green with a reasonable birdie putt which I missed. None of us birdied the hole and one of our group made a 5 as his tee shot went down the left side. Coming out of the taller grass it takes a deft touch to stop a ball on the crowned green. The front slope is especially steep nearly all the way back to the stream. Is the hole fair due to the green? Absolutely
7. Par 4 – 401/395. This is a nice hole that plays plenty tough for average length players. The fairway rises before dropping to the green. If one does not have the length to make it to the top of the fairway it will be a blind shot to a green set slightly to the left side. There is tall fescue down both sides of this fairway as well as a tree line to the right. This is the heaviest bunkered hole on the front nine with three down the right side, including the second placed inside the fairway. There are seven placed down the left side. The final two bunkers on the right and left are placed at the front of the green which seems to be sloped away from the approach shot with a fair amount of interior contours.
8. Par 5 – 473/466. This hole plays essentially straight. For bigger hitters it is a driver and 8-iron or less due to the run-out on the ball as the land goes downhill towards a raised green with a significant false front. There are three bunkers on the right but the final one is the only one that should be in play for average length players. There is a large bunker on the left that is in play for the longer hitters trying to catch the speed slot. The green is very tilted to the front and to the left. We had a center right pin and with a 52 degree wedge I landed 5 feet right of the flag on higher ground. The members of my foursome congratulated me for my shot. It was only as I started to walk towards my ball that I saw in had gone all the way down the hill to the left nestled against the collar of the rough. Is this green fair? Probably not but it is interesting.
9. Par 3 – 138/132. One of the classy holes in all of golf. This par 3 plays over a pond to a green slightly above you. The pond runs out about 25-15 yards from the front of the green as it is diagonal. The green is only 10 paces wide with seven bunkers surrounding all but the back left. Each bunker is shaped differently and very non-standard with the exception of the one running from the back right to the entirety of the back. This is a tremendous golf hole that requires absolute precision. Being long on the green will lead to a speedy putt based on location of the flag.
10. Par 4 – 404/363. This hole has the skinniest fairway on the course with a tree line down the entire left. There is a forced carry of about 150 yards over fescue with three bunkers right at the beginning of the fairway. It is a blind tee shot due to a shorter rise in the fairway. There is a larger bunker on the right about 225 yards off the tee that is a danger area. About 15 yards from the green is a “sock” shaped bunker that angles towards the green. It is very deep. I was told this is the bunker that former President William Taft got into and he could not get out even with caddies pulling and pushing, so they had to get a harness and a horse to get him out. This bunker now has stairs in it. To the right of the sock-shaped bunker is a large bunker placed in the fescue. Following the deep bunker is another bunker short of the green on the right and finally one bunker down the right side. It is brilliant bunker placement given one does not want to miss to the left in the tree line. The green will not hold a shot struck with any pace and a ball will go through it leaving a tricky downhill chip onto the green. It might be my favorite hole on the course.
11. Par 4 – 349/321. This hole, much like the sixth, is all about the green. The hole plays uphill. Bigger hitters can almost drive the green despite the uphill slope as the ground is firm. There are two small bunkers placed to the right as the fairway tilts left to right. These bunkers are spaced 30 yards apart and begin at 200 yards. A deep diagonal bunker goes left to right across the entirety of the fairway about 30 yards from the green on the left ending 15 yards short of the green on the right. There is a bunker middle left and front right. The green is very sloped back to front and a bit to the right. Balls struck into the left side bunker will led to a very tricky shot while the front right bunker can receive balls putted too hard from above the green. The play on this hole is to always be below the pin. I think this hole is great fun, even if it can be maddening.
12. Par 4 – 451/444. The third is a famous hole for its difficulty, the fourth is a famous hole for its difficulty due to the green, and the ninth is a famous hole due to the narrow green. Yet, the twelfth stands above all of this. From a very elevated tee, one sees exactly what they need to do. Trees line the left side with a small width of fescue and rough ground. The right side has taller fescue. There is a large rock on the right that one needs to clear. The hole weaves its way relatively flat to the green. The first bunker is about 100 yards from the green on the right, very much in play for shorter hitters or those finding the fescue on the right. A bunker is then placed short of the green on either side. The green is somewhat flat but with definite depressions and mounds in it. Going long leads to a fall-off at the rear. Going left is another fall-off. This is one of the better visually exciting and breathtaking holes one will play on an inland course.
13. Par 4 – 358/326. This hole is the final big climb on the course, dramatically uphill. My long hitting partner had a go at the green and had he hit it straight he likely would have come close. There is a forced carry of about 180 yards to a fairway tilted uphill with a single bunker on the right. The green is about 60 feet above you, after you have already climbed at least 25 feet. There are flanking bunkers at the front of the green which get a lot of activity as the green is sloped significantly back to front with a substantial false front. Anything hit short of the front half will come back off the green. This is another hole that some will decry the green for being unfair, while others give praise for the precision required of one’s short game. It is the last of the five greens on the course that are steeply sloped.
14. Par 4 – 393/351. This hole plays basically level now that you are on higher ground. There are twelve bunkers on this hole as well as tall fescue down both sides. In sum, there are four bunkers on the left and seven on the right, with a final bunker at the rear of the green. From 30 yards in, there are six of the bunkers, with three encircling the green. The green is large with subtle undulations in it and it allows a shot to be run-onto to it. The fairway narrows about 100 yards from the green so the longer hitters have to be very precise.
15. Par 5 – 529/492. The weakest hole on the course is the fifteenth as it lacks length and has a relatively benign green. There are plenty of bunkers on the hole, but are they in the right place? The fairway is wide. About 200 yards out there is a small bunker left and four small bunkers on the right. About 275 yards out there are two large bunkers on the right, one coming into the fairway. This is followed by two small bunkers about 100 yards from the green. The green has two fronting bunkers and one on the right. This is another green that feels flattish but has a fair amount of movement. Perhaps this hole needs more bunkering down the left side.
16. Par 3 – 192/181. Set downhill with the pro shop to the left and the clubhouse behind it, this charming par 3 is well defended with three bunkers built into the side of the hill fronting the green, nearly invisible from the tee. The right side has a deep bunker at its front, there is a rear bunker, and a bunker on the left goes the entire length with a spur coming out to increase the size of it. Balls that carry the front bunker but land short of the green will propel onto the green. This is a good par 3.
17. Par 4 – 394/388. The final two holes are separated from the rest of the course with the seventeenth having the driving range to the left. There is a wonderful bench behind the tee to relax as others take their tee shots. The fairway tilts to the right where a tree and a bunker about 220 yards out is placed on the right. The left side has scattered trees. Three bunkers are set on the left front and side of the green with a single one on the right front. The green runs flat but feels like it is front to back. Because the hole is back-dropped by trees and you see only one other hole, it feels very different.
18. Par 4 – 400/369. The home hole is classy with a balloon in the width of the fairway at the beginning with two small bunkers. These should not be in play. Farther up the skinny fairway is a cross bunker about 50 yards short of the hole. The green has a bunker off to the left front but the more troublesome ones are the two deep bunkers placed right at the front of the green. If someone hits a wayward shot out to the right into the fescue, their line to the green is likely blocked by a large tree that is on the right side of the green. It is a fun finishing hole.
In the end, how would people criticize Myopia Hunt? Due to changes in technology, it lacks length for the better player. For the average length player, it has more than enough length. The par 5’s are too short. There is likely merit to that argument. Five of the greens are too slanted. Yet, these greens are on the shorter holes which provide a good balance in the protection of par as well as requiring a precise short game. Many of the bunkers are placed on the right when the course should have more bunkering on the left. I am sure that is due to many of the holes have trees as the danger off of their left side as well as we know that more right handed players will fade/slice a ball rather than draw/hook a ball.
Myopia Hunt is a gem of a golf course. Much like Yale, it is a living history to golf in the USA. The most amazing thing to me is that the course likely plays second fiddle to horses/polo as well as on the two days I was there the paddle courts were heavily utilized by members. This is a fully utilized club, likely an oasis, particularly in these “covid” times. One could play this golf course every day, a hundred rounds a year, and always be excited about the round of golf. It really does have it all – views, a good walk, long and short holes, three distinctly different par 3’s, uphill and downhill holes, blind shots, exacting green surfaces, wide and narrow fairways, ponds and streams, fescue, and a good use of bunkers.
Played this golf course in tournament conditions and was very impressed. The whole time I was playing it, I was under the impression that it was a Ross course only to find out later in the golf shop that a member of the club designed Myopia (as well as two other local 9-hole courses).
The course features twelve par-4's which is rare for a course design today. Holes #1 (par 4), #2 (par 5), #3 (par 3), #6 (par 4), #8 (par 5), #12 (par 4) are all half-par holes which holes which make the routing particularly interesting, fun and exciting. The greens are immaculate and fast (and they're rumoured to be faster for everyday member play).
This club is very private. If by the grace of god you are invited to play this golf course, do not miss the chance. Being on the grounds and walking the golf course feels a little bit like stepping back in time. Those types of golfing experiences are few and far between in this era so take advantage of it.
I liked everything about Myopia but the holes.
The conditioning was excellent—firm and fast throughout. The views were splendid—especially after the massive number of trees that have been removed. The ambience—from the clubhouse, to the horses playing through on #8, to the walking vibe, to the Arnold Palmer dispensers on the 9th tee, to the hounds baying at breakfast—is truly unique.
Little has changed here in over a century, but the one thing that has—green speeds—detracts from the golf. It’s odd to me that a club that so treasures its heritage has decided to cut greens that were designed to run at 4 down to 11. As a result, a number of greens—4, 8 and 11 are good examples—are so steep that they fail to provide the challenge for which they were designed. Many other greens are dull—either completely flat or so canted that the only green reading challenge is how much a putt will break—rather than in which direction(s).
The club did a fine job recovering bunkers that were taken out of play when the fairways were narrowed in an ill-conceived renovation late in the last century. A member pointed out that it’s unusual for a course to become harder when the fairways are widened. And some holes, notably 4, 6, 8, 14 and 16—are indeed special, but there are still too few situations where no strategic thought is required.
Myopia is often paired with The Country Club for their age, history and prestige. And at both a visitor is treated to an exquisite time. Unfortunately, the two share another common trait: the golf does not quite measure up to the rest of the experience.
A biographical note:
My review is based on having played Myopia at least a dozen times, as I grew up about a hundred yards from the 18th tee. I freely confess, however, that I have played some holes less frequently than others, as the members of my group found out when I returned after a quarter century absence. I had gotten a call to be a last minute replacement in a charity event there. It was a shotgun start and my group started on #2. I didn't know the other 3 players. When one asked if any of us had ever played the course before, I told them that I had. So I showed them around, where the holes went, best side to approach the greens from, etc. ,When we got to # 16, the par 3 that looks down on the clubhouse, the following conversation ensued;
My Partner: "Is there was anything we should know about this hole?"
Me: "I dunno. I've never played this hole."
Partner: "What do you mean you never played this hole? You have plenty of course knowledge."
Me: "It's too close to the clubhouse. I used to sneak on. From now on, we're all on our own.”
I was amazingly fortunate to play two of America’s gems within a twenty seven hour period. What a way to start a week, Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts on Monday and The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts on Tuesday.
The history of Myopia Hunt Club is a little bit fuzzy and depending upon who you talk to you may get a different historical vignette (especially if they are from The Country Club). Some believe that the club originated in baseball not golf, hunting or equestrian. In 1870, a group of men including four sons of Frederick Prince, who eventually became the mayor of Boston, formed a baseball team. The team was called the Myopia Nine. This was attributed to the four Prince brothers and another teammate who all wore glasses because they were nearsighted. Even though the group was nearsighted they did not lack vision.
The Prince brothers and friends would often host competitions and events with their friends in Winchester at their summer cottage. Eventually, they formed the official Myopia Club with baseball, tennis, water sports, racing, hunting and steeplechase. In 1879 they built a clubhouse on a hill overlooking Mystic Lake in Winchester, Massachusetts. Fittingly, the building was dedicated on in May of 1879, with a baseball game. Of interest, in 1902, the site overlooking Mystic Lake ultimately became the Winchester Country Club. A fine club in its own regard, Winchester initially opened as a nine hole course and in 1916 it became 18 holes and was designed by the one and only Donald Ross.
Frederick Prince introduced the sport of foxhunting to the Myopia club with the support of Hugh Allan, a Canadian. The hunts became quite popular. It quickly became apparent that the Winchester property was unsuitable for these types of hunts. A proposal was floated to move the hunts to either Ipswich or Hamilton. In the fall of 1881 the Myopians were able to reach an agreement with Mr. Gibney in Hamilton to rent his farm. However, several charter Myopia members wanted to move the club closer to Boston. This ultimately led to the founding of The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. More on this later.
In 1882, hunters outnumbered ballplayers and they were renamed the Myopia Foxhounds. At one point, the club passed a bylaw that for every golfer joining the club two equestrian members would be admitted as well. However, one viewed the club, be it hunting, golf or social, it flourished until 1891 when Gibney passed away. This created some uncertainty, but ultimately the club purchased the property from the estate for $20,000. This included the farmhouse, stables, barns and almost 150 acres! Amazingly, $20k in the 1890s would only be worth about $600k today. While this real estate transaction cannot compete with the purchase of Manhattan for $24 worth of trinkets, it still was a heck of a deal for the members. Once the deal closed the remodeling started, the farmhouse’s oldest rooms with the original fireplaces were converted into a library and most importantly a dining room with a bar. Thank goodness for priorities.
Foxhunting still takes place today at Myopia August through November. They do not utilize live foxes as a live fox hunt can take up to six hours and is illegal in Massachusetts. Instead of a fox they use something called the drag, which is a laid scent over an 8-10 mile course. I did not know squat about foxhunting prior to this, but my favorite quote on the topic comes courtesy of Oscar Wilde,
“The unspeakable chasing the uneatable”
With a golf course that has the distinction of being the only course in America to have two of the top 100 signature holes in the United States, and a Master of the Hounds who mans the hounds for hunts three seasons of each year, and the oldest continually running polo field in the country, there is a lot to be seen and said about Myopia. In season, polo is still played on Sunday afternoons and is open to the public for a small fee.
Myopia has hosted the U.S. Open four times 1898, 1901, 1905 and 1908. As the 1898 host, Myopia is one of only five courses that have hosted the U.S. Open in the nineteenth century. The first Open at Myopia in 1898 was the first US Open to be played over 72 holes. The previous three were only 36 holes. At the time, Myopia was only a nine hole course, hence the field had to play the same nine holes eight times. The winner was Fred Herd, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland, who shot a smooth 328! It was Fred’s only tour victory and he grossed a cool $150. However, Fred had a reputation as a hard core drinker. The USGA was concerned that Herd may hock the trophy to buy booze. Hence, they required him to make a deposit before he was allowed to have the championship trophy! How about them apples, John Daly?! As a side note, Fred Herd’s brother, Sandy, won the 1902 British Open.
The 1901 US Open saw a record established that in all probability will never be broken. They say records are meant to be broken, and they are. I try to avoid absolutes, but, I feel pretty confident about this one. The 1901 champion was Willie Anderson who shot a 331 to claim the $200 prize money! Even that was not enough. He needed to defeat Alex Smith in a playoff, 85 to 86 to secure the victory. Patience is a virtue as Willie had to wait as the playoff was delayed until Monday because Myopia was reserved for member play on Sundays. Willie’s caddy was none other than Myopia’s club pro John Jones
Willie Anderson was a tragic hero. He was born in North Berwick, (more on this later) Scotland and immigrated to the United States in 1896. He dominated US golfing circles for several years, being the first back-to-back winner, the first 3-time winner, and the first 4-time winner. He is still the only golfer to win the U.S. Open three straight years, 1903-1905 (1905 at Myopia); and he still shares, along with Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus the tournament record for wins with four. Sadly, he died at the age of 31 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While the official cause of death was epilepsy, many people felt he drank himself to death.
Other tasty tidbits from the 1901 US Open, coming in 21st place was another Scotsman named Donald Ross, yes that Donald Ross. Willie Anderson’s caddy, the Myopia club pro John Jones, finished twelfth. Yes, that is, correct, Jones caddied for Anderson AND PLAYED at the same time! I hope John didn’t give Anderson any bad reads or misclub him. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Steve Williams. The second nine at Myopia was completed in time for the 1901 Open and Herbert Corey Leeds was the designer. Leeds had little to no prior golf course design experience.
The last US Open championship at Myopia also went to a playoff. Ultimately, Fred McLeod prevailed over Willie Smith 77 to 83. Fred was the antithesis of the other Scottish US Open champions. While he was also from North Berwick, his father was involved in the temperance movement. McLeod immigrated to the US in 1903 and became the club pro at Rockford Country Club in Illinois. McLeod was a small man, 5’ 4” and when he won the Open he weighed less than 110 pounds. To put this in context, according to his biography Corey Pavin is 5’9” and weighs 155 pounds. I am not sure if there is any significance to this or not, but McLeod did live to 94, but I am not sure about the quality of those last few years……
Now to the course, while “only” 6500 yards, it is not for the faint of heart. Additionally, even the longest hitters must play from the red tees. The red tees are the tips. Unlike, most modern courses, Myopia has three sets of tees, yellow (ladies) 5500 yards, white, 6100 yards and red. The first hole is relatively benign. It is a short uphill 274 yard par 4 with a slight dogleg left. The second hole, while it is a relatively short par 5, 487 yards, the fairway is completely dissected twice. You must focus on the yardage and your distances or you may end up in the gunch.
For those of you who are scoffing at the distance of the course, the third hole, a 253 yard par three is a real gut check. Not only is it long, it is well protected with 3 small greenside bunkers and one large one at about 200 yards off the tee. The fourth hole is a dog leg left with a soufflé green. While the green can be difficult, it is a feat to have the opportunity to three putt for a bogey. On the tee, one must be careful not to drive through the fairway as well as being too aggressive and failing to cut the corner. Either can be cataclysmic. Perhaps that is why it has consistently been rated one of the toughest 100 holes in the United States.
The sixth hole is one of my personal favorites, a short par 4 that is only 260 yards. One must decide whether to try to carry the stream and the corresponding muck and mire and be about twenty yards short of the green or layup at 80 yards. That is not why it is one of my favorites, but rather this is the hole where golf aficionados will park their cars and sneak onto the course. Believe it or not, Myopia typically has less than 12,000 sanctioned rounds per year.
The 9th hole is a brilliantly deceiving par three at 136 yards. Traditionalists would call it a postage stamp green, but I do not think it qualifies. This green is only nine yards wide and thirty yards long, hence I think an appropriate moniker would be a “bar code green”. The ninth is named Pond, where on the tee shot one must carry a pond to have a shot at par. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the seven bunkers that surround the green. Myopia is quite proud of its Scotlandesque deep bunkers (although they are but dimples compared to Bethpage Black). The ninth hole has also been cited as one of the toughest 100 holes in the country.
As tough as the fourth and ninth hole are my money is on the twelfth as the toughest hole. It is the number one handicap hole and plays 446 yards off an elevated tee with a panoramic view. Do not get too comfortable, as it has a tight winding fairway surrounded by rough gone to fields and a wicked crowned green.
After the daunting challenge of the twelfth hole, the thirteenth hole seems almost playful. It is a 349 yard slight dog left. Big hitters can hit it through the fairway. The approach shot is uphill and plays at least two and perhaps as much as three clubs more.
The 16th hole is a downhill 192 yard par three that plays back toward the clubhouse. The pro shop is approximately 50 yards to the left of the green. One of my player partners had caddied at Myopia in the 1960’s. Caddies were paid $2 a bag at the time. He shared the following story with me. When he caddied there was no bunker to the left of the green. However, sometime in the 1970’s, a golfer hooked his tee shot (or sliced if they were left handed) and the ball hit the pro shop. The errant shot took a fortuitous bounce back towards the green, rolled onto the green and into the hole for a hole in one! I suspect that this particular member was not all that well liked because shortly thereafter a bunker was added between the green and the pro shop.
When you play Myopia you will occasionally see or even end up on bridle paths (I know I did) crossing or paralleling various holes. One of the local rules is that you can take a free drop. This is just another attribute that contributes to the uniqueness of Myopia.
Colin Braithwaite is the author of “A Good Walk Unspoiled”
Myopia brings together a lot of what I like about old-style golf courses and reveals many verities that I have found as I play great golf courses. Among the truths: 1) Length doesn't matter. Myopia is 6,539 yards from the tips but is still a challenging course. 2) Low-key, understated and intimate are better than big and flashy. In this regard I like courses like Myopia and Sunningdale as opposed to big clubs like Wentworth, Riviera or Medinah. 3) Old and quirky are under-appreciated. The bar at Myopia has no barman, the members sign chits for themselves. The rooms in the clubhouse have low ceilings and a feel of antiquity. There are private lockers near the bar for member’s liquor. The old, original creaking floors will probably never be replaced. The locker room, housed in a separate building, is original and reminded me of another old original, Garden City on Long Island. 4) A variety of holes and shots make a better course. Nothing fells forced at Myopia, the course fits naturally into the terrain; there are a couple of short par fours, a 200+ yard par three and a 130-yard par three. Some uphill holes, some downhill holes and plenty of change in direction. A visit to Myopia is a truly distinctive day. The club is intensely private and there are less than 12,000 rounds played a year, which is about 50% less than at most clubs. If you can wangle an invitation, I suggest going at once.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs