Members at the Plymouth Country Club enjoy a short Donald Ross design, playing just more than 6,300 yards to a par of 69. The landscape does not aim to make that job easy, however. Although the opening three holes play on relatively flat land, closer to the coastline, the next 14 take off on a roller coaster of a ride through the Massachusetts foothills, left over from glaciers many moons ago.
One of the interesting features that sets Plymouth apart from the scads of other Ross designs is the surplus of tee shots offering a somewhat blind perspective. Ross was not a believer in hiding bunkers from the player’s eye and, accordingly, the majority of the sand hazards at Plymouth are docked along the greens. Still, the views from the tee can cause a sense of unease, encouraging caution, and even the yips. One of the valleys on the property still holds water, and the fairways for Nos. 9, 10 and 17 will play over it.
The top handicap hole is No. 12, the longest par four on the course at 465 yards. The terrain is relatively flat, aside from the significant drop from tee to fairway. Looking at Ross’s thick-browed bunkers from atop this perch while the fairway winds between forest, one may be tempted to think of Sunningdale.
The Plymouth Country Club original 9 holes was designed by Alex Findlay for the Hotel Pilgrim. In 1910 Plymouth Country Club was founded. In 1921 Donald Ross was brought in and he added another nine holes. This nine was soon the favorite of the members and Ross was brought back in 1929 to add an additional nine. The original nine became a public and eventually went bankrupt during the Great Depression. The 2nd hole was shortened due to eminent domain and par was reduced to 69.
Plymouth Country Club has a top notch amateur tournament, The Hornblower. It is named after influential founding member, Henry Hornblower. I caddied in this event several times in the early 1970s. My emotions ranged between pleased and mortified to see that this will be the 55th year of the tournament. Hornblower passed away at Pinehurst in 1941 after a round with, wait for it…..
His grandson was the founder of Plimoth Plantation.
Plymouth starts off with a short par 4 with a fairway bunker right. The left provides the best angle of attack. The green is two tiered and slopes back to front with bunkers right and left. The 2nd is a long par 4. It used to be a par 5 but had to be shortened due to eminent domain. There is a nice view of Massachusetts Bay. Pretty open hole except OB left. Favor the right off the tee as this will provide the best angle between the left and right greenside bunkers. The 3rd hole is a long 212 yard uphill par 3. Take an extra club. The two bunkers you see, while real, they create the illusion that they are greenside. The green is about 50 yards behind them. This is a really tough par three, I do not understand why it is rated the #10 handicap hole. The 4th is a demanding slight dogleg right. Generous fairway, however about 130 yards from the green the fairway abruptly ends and there is a valley of rough. If you miss the green right you will end up in a deep ravine. The long downhill par 4 5th is an excellent golf hole. Favor the left off the tee as the right is squeezed by a fairway bunker. The green is in a natural amphitheater bowl. The short downhill driveable 8th is a classic risk reward hole. There is ample fairway about 100 yards out. For the gamblers, this small green is protected by two front pot bunkers and there is a big dropoff left. A fun golf hole. Ever see a 340 yard par 4 as the #2 handicap hole? That’s what the 7th is. Uphill, but to a treacherous, nefarious, diabolical, pick your adjective, tabletop green. This green has one of the steepest front to back slopes I have ever seen, plus a false front. A great example that difficulty is not all about length. The 8th is the shortest hole with a two tiered green with 3 greenside bunkers right. The 9th is a long S shaped hole. The blind tee shot is a forced carry of less than 200 yards. Ideal tee shot high draw to the left side. The downhill approach must carry another ravine and creek. There is large mound guarding the green front left. The good news is this is one of the largest and flattest greens on the course. While there is a water carry it really should not come into play, bunkers left and right to a large green that tilts towards the false front.
The back starts with a mid-length uphill par 3. e shots must carry a water hazard on this medium length par 3. A bunker short left and greenside right frame a large green which slopes gently from back to front, with increasing slope closer to the false front. The 11th is a long roller coaster. If you get a flat lie, be pleasantly surprised. Another green with a false front and bunkers left and right. The 12th is the longest par four and is deserving of the number 1 handicap status. For those of you who are brave or foolish favor the left off the tee to pickup additional yardage on this downhill tee shot. I do not know if I was fortunate, lucky or both, but I was able to run the ball onto the green with a weak approach that landed at least 20 yards short of the green. The 13th is an excellent birdie oppty. While the tee may appear tight, there is a lot of real estate in the landing are to set up a flip wedge. The 14th is an uphill par 4 where your approach will probably be blind. OB right, with a stonewall left that allegedly goes back to the beginnings of the Plymouth colony. The 15th is the quintessential Donald Ross par 3. Slightly raised green protected by three deep bunkers. The 16th is a straightaway and bombs away par 5. After all, it is the only one, better go for it. There are a pair of cross bunkers about 150 yards out, but a decent drive and second shot take them out of play. The fairway does dip after them and rises back up with a ferocious false front and greenside bunkers left and right. The 17th is a super dogleg left. A high draw on the tee shot is optimal. The green is perched on a hillside, short right is disastrous. The only hole without a bunker. The finishing hole does not disappoint. A long uphill par 4, favor the left side off the tee. The large green is elevated and well protected by deep bunkers.
A fine course with classic Donald Ross fingerprints throughout.
Are you coming around to Donald Ross?
In a previous review you didn’t understand the appeal & called him the McDonalds of golf course architects.
We don’t see his courses in the UK, so I’m curious.
Is it possible Ross splits opinion - just like the ASDA of UK golf course architects, James Braid - because he displays a greater variation in quality (control) across his CV than other celebrated architects?
i have always been a fan of Donald Ross. My issue is. "This is a Donald Ross design" type statements. That does not mean it is great, good, bad or ugly. They all need to stand on their own. Like most things, Ross designs follow a bell shape curve, 20% are fantastic, 60 % are ok to good and 20% are not so good. There are too many courses that point to his brand as validation.
There are at least 25 great to good golf courses in Massachusetts. When I was last there two years ago (Wannamoisett, Salem, Essex, Charles River, The Country Club, Eastward Ho, Old Sandwich, Oyster Harbors, and Kittansett) I drove by Plymouth CC to see perhaps the worst tourist attraction in the USA (Plymouth Rock). When I asked my friends whether I should try to play Plymouth, they said "no, you are better off playing Old Sandwich or Boston Golf a third or fourth time." Do you agree? Given your description of the course it seems to have adequate variety and well shaped greens to give it a look. From driving by the area, I know it has interesting topography.
I was pleasantly surprised by how good Charles River is. Is this a somewhat "hidden gem?'
Those are certainly fantastic courses that were recommended to you. I do think Charles River is underappreciated. If it is an either or then i would definitely go with the recommendations. (although I have not had the pleasure to play Old Sandwich) However, Plymouth CC is worth playing
The Bay State is loaded, as you are well aware, with quality courses. Plymouth is a fun option but given what I have played in the Commonwealth over the years it would be a stretch to include it in a top 25. The various clubs in and around the immediate Boston area are often undervalued -- even on a national level. Hopefully, a better appreciation will happen when TCC hosts the US Open again in a few years.
If one were to have ten rounds and had to divide them up between Old Sandwich and Boston -- my recommendation would be six (6) for Old Sandwich, three (3) for Boston and, at best, one for Plymouth. The real gem that many should visit and play is Eastward Ho! on the Cape in Chatham-- a worthy candidate for top 100 USA and in the same caliber with Essex County.
Likely a typo on your part -- Wannamoisett is in neighboring Rhode Island. I could not agree with you more -- the most overrated tourist trap is getting people to check out the Plymouth Rock subterfuge. I found it comical.