Host to the US Women’s Open in 2004, the Orchards Golf Course at Mount Holyoke College is a 1920s Donald Ross design that was constructed by industrialist Joseph A. Skinner for his daughter Elizabeth, a promising golfer in her youth.
Donald Ross’s excellent design is displayed here….just not on the golf course. Ross’s detailed field sketches adorn a hallway in the clubhouse, but those designs are not always present outside the clubhouse. The best (or worst) examples are on consecutive holes on the back nine.
The 12th is a short dogleg par 4, with a bunker at the corner of the dogleg designed to challenge the golfer who takes it on. The field sketch shows that a drive clearing the bunker will leave a much shorter shot to the green from the fairway. But the course now has deep rough over the bunker, yielding no reward for taking the risk.
The 13th is a long par 4 where Ross designed a large squarish green. About a third of the green surface is now fairway, the result of indiscriminate mowing. What remains is small, round and rather dull.
These are but two of a number of examples of why the Orchards is not at all the course it should be. Though a restoration might be an expensive proposition, careful mowing would restore much of Ross’s genius for little cost.
Conditioning could also be better. There were plenty of unraked bunkers and unfilled divots when I played in October 2018. The redeeming qualities—the parts of the nicely contoured greens that are still mowed—are the only reason my rating is not lower.