Review: Boston Golf Club

Course Name: Boston Golf Club

Designer: Gil Hanse (2004)

Location: Hingham, Massachusetts

History: In 1998, two passionate golfers John Mineck and Rob Ketterson crafted an idea for an old-world minimalist golf-centered club within 20 minutes of Boston. In 2004, this dream came to fruition with a Gil Hanse masterpiece on Boston’s South Shore: Boston Golf Club. Despite initial praise, the fledgeling Club faced numerous setbacks and tragedies in its early years. In 2007, Mineck was tragically killed in an accident on the course. During the financial crisis between 2008 and 2011, the Club almost closed numerous times and at one point Donald Trump almost bought the property. Today, Boston Golf Club is member-owned by a very proud membership and is considered one of the best modern courses in America. Accolades include:

  • #163 Best Course in the World – Golf Digest (2018)
  • #82 Best Course in America – Golf Digest (2017)
  • #88 Best Course in America – Golf Magazine (2017)
  • #25 Best Modern Course in America – Golfweek (2018)
  • #4 Best Course in Massachusetts – Golf Digest (2017)

Conditions: 9/10, Boston Golf Club is in phenomenal shape with firm, fast fairways, lush teeboxes, and well-manicured bunkers. The greens are large, heavily undulating, and run extremely smooth at about an 11 on the Stimpmeter.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                                 Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Championship             71           7062               74.8              139

Back                               71           6740               73.4              136

Member Stakes          71           6462               72.1             133

Middle                           71           6279               70.6             128

Forward                        71           5021               69.8             126

Hole Descriptions: Heading into my round at Boston Golf Club (BGC), I was honestly a bit apprehensive and worried it wouldn’t live up to my lofty expectations. This is partly due to the fact that I didn’t love the only other Hanse course I’d played – Streamsong Black. Simply put, BGC is no Streamsong Black. Built on rugged, hilly terrain on the South Shore of Boston, this course features dramatic slopes and wild bunkering and is frequently referred to as a “modern-day Pine Valley.” The variety here is tremendous and will undoubtedly keep any golfer engaged and strategizing throughout the round. Another thing I absolutely love about BGC is the fact that each hole contains numerous teeboxes for members that change on a daily basis to make each round fresh and exciting. This is also true for the greens, which are generally very large and undulating. Depending on the pin location, the hardest hole on the course could play as the easiest and vice versa.

There is no doubt about it: Boston Golf Club is a very challenging course. Like Streamsong Black, the slopes on these greens will leave some very difficult putts. Furthermore, BGC is a true shotmaker’s course, with numerous forced carries and difficult approaches to challenge even the best ballstrikers. Hanse also designed very tight and sloping areas surrounding these greens that require serious imagination to get up-and-down. Yes, the fairways at BGC are generous, but stray well offline and you’ll likely lose your ball in thick forests. My host accurately described BGC as a course “that appears tight, but actually plays much more open” and this is true with numerous blind, intimidating teeshots obscuring portions of the fairway. Needless to say, the members at BGC are some of the best golfers in Massachusetts and anyone over a 15 handicap will have trouble playing this course.

The opening hole is one of the easiest holes on the course and gives golfers a good introduction to Boston Golf Club with a blind teeshot over a rockwall. This 485 yard par 5 plays straightaway with trees lining both sides of a wide fairway and bunkers on either side at 280 yards. This short hole is certainly reachable in two, but doing so is risky, as this green sits elevated with a creek and numerous bunkers guarding just short. This is a strong risk-reward hole that provides a good chance to start off your round with par or better.

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Looking back at the 1st from behind the green

The 2nd hole is a 387 yard par 4 with an intimidating teeshot over an 150 yard forced carry. You have more fairway than it initially appears, but this fairway severely narrows at about 245 yards with a bunker on the left and rock croppings on the right. This approach plays uphill to a wild bunkerless green with numerous tiers and a vicious false front short left.

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Like most holes at BGC, there’s more fairway than you can see on the teebox

The 420 yard par 4 3rd is one of the more difficult holes on the course and one of my favorites. Featuring another scary teeshot with an 120 yard forced carry, this hole is all about angles. This fairway slopes left-to-right and the best line off the tee is down the left, but doing so requires carrying a devastating heart-shaped bunker at 220 yards. The most interesting feature of this hole named “Redan” is the approach to this giant reverse redan green. This green and a second portion of fairway are elevated and slope extremely hard left-to-right. Bunkers guard this green long and there are steep embankments short and right. I fondly recall chipping from just left of this green only to have what I thought was a perfect chip run through and down the embankment.

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The intimidating view from the 3rd teebox
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Aim left on the 3rd green

At 353 yards, the par 4 4th is one of the easier holes at Boston Golf Club. This hole features a wide fairway with a bunker in the middle at 150 yards, and hidden bunker on the right at 230 yards. This approach plays slightly downhill to a circular two-tiered green guarded by a bunker on the left.

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The par 4 4th – “Wizard’s Cap”
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Can you tell why the 4th is nicknamed “Wizard’s Cap”?

Playing just 313 yards, the par 4 5th is one of the most polarizing holes at BGC and easily one of the most memorable. Playing straight uphill with a forced carry of 150 yards, this intimidating teeshot must be played down the left to avoid a giant valley of bunkers and mounds that line the right. While you’ll find your ball down there, you face an almost impossible blind approach straight uphill. This green is tucked behind the mounds on the right and is perhaps the smallest green I’ve ever played. Only about 12 feet wide, this green is guarded by bunkers and a steep embankment on the right and small false front on the left. Reflecting on the hole now, I appreciate the risk/reward nature of this dramatic drivable par 4, but find the green itself too penal. Holding this green on the approach is almost impossible and you’re better off aiming for the false front just left. Despite its short length this hole yields the most “balls in pocket” at BGC, and to many lives up to its nickname “Shipwreck.”

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The intimidating and controversial par 4 5th – “Shipwreck”

The 6th is the first par 3 at 157 yards, and is my favorite hole at Boston Golf Club. This gorgeous one-shotter is another very memorable hole and one that draws comparisons to Pine Valley’s 3rd hole. This hole features a dramatic carry over sandy wasteland to a shallow perched green with some incredible undulations. Given the predominant back-to-front slope, one could argue that going long is actually worse, and numerous bunkers await you here as well. This is another hole where there are many “balls in pocket.”

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The tremendous and difficult par 3 6th – “Wild Turkey”
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Looking back from the 6th green

The 7th is another very difficult hole as a 423 yard par 4. Featuring yet another forced carry of 150 yards back over the quarry, this is a long dogleg left with a generous fairway lined by trees right and a pond left. The most difficult aspect of this hole is the approach to a long, narrow green guarded long and right with forest and short by a series of bunkers and one of the meanest false fronts you’ll ever have the misfortune playing. The safe bailout is to the left, and I imagine this is a popular spot considering many golfers have hybrids and long irons in.

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The par 4 7th – “Penniman Hill”
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The 7th demands a delicate approach

At 210 yards, the 8th is the longest of a very difficult set of par threes at Boston Golf Club. This hole plays semi-blind due to the fescue that runs in front of the teebox, obscuring a landing area 40 yards short of this green. Water lines the left and small mounds of fescue line the right.

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You have more room than you think on the 8th

The 9th closes the front side in style as a number 1 handicap 429 yard par 4. This is one of my favorite holes at BGC and one of the most exhilarating teeshots you’ll ever play. Playing straight downhill over an 160 yard forced carry, this generous fairway is lined by thick forest on either side. There’s a hazard that juts into the left fairway at about 285 yards and longer hitters need to consider this on the teeshot. This approach plays semi-blind to a large undulating green guarded by a bunker left and oak tree short right.

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The par 4 9th “Geronimo”

The 10th plays back by the clubhouse as a 390 yard downhill dogleg right. If you look behind the teebox, you can see the Boston skyline on a clear day through a chute of trees. Featuring another minor forced carry and blind teeshot, you’ll want to take less than driver here, as this fairway stops around 240 yards. From here, this approach plays straight downhill to a left-to-right sloped green guarded by three bunkers well short.

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Downhill approach on the 10th
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Looking back at the 10th and clubhouse

Although the par 3 11th plays 178 yards on the scorecard, we played from a different teebox to the right and I’m thankful we did. This hole, named “Petrified” requires a forced carry the entire way over wetlands. This green is inspired by the 6th at Augusta National and features a severe back-to-front tilt with multiple tiers. Bunkers guard both short and long and make for a miserable up-and-down. The petrified tree this hole is named for unfortunately fell down during a March 2018 storm, but I still think the name is appropriate as it describes the golfer standing on this teebox.

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The par 3 11th – “Petrified”

At 398 yards, the 12th is a straightaway par 4 named “Gate” for the small opening between tall trees golfers are afforded on this teeshot. This teeshot also plays over a rock wall, a feature I love and another element that makes BGC seem older than it is. This fairway is more open than it appears and is lined by trees down the right and bunkers down the left at 250 yards and 300 yards. This green is another polarizing one, but one I actually quite enjoyed. Sitting high above the fairway with another vicious false front, this green sits on a natural saddle and requires precise distance control to avoid an impossible up-and-down.

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Approach on the 12th

The 13th is Gil Hanse’s favorite hole at Boston Golf Club and another one of my favorites for its simple elegance. This sleek 409 yard dogleg right calls for a fade off the tee with a bunker on the right elbow of the dogleg at 210 yards. This long, narrow green is surrounded by slopes on all sides and a small pot bunker behind that founder John Mineck dug himself.

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The par 4 13th – “Knuckle Bucket”

The 14th is another fantastic hole as a 390 yard par 4. Running downhill and to the right, this hole initially has a generous fairway lined by bunkers on the right, but narrows progressively as you near this green. This green sits in a natural hollow and runs away from the player with bunkers left and long.

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The par 4 14th – “Big Sky”
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The downhill approach at 14

At 517 yards, the par 5 15th is another tremendous hole and is my favorite par 5 at BGC. This hole is initially straightforward with an uphill teeshot, but this is where the normalcy ends. A Pine Valley-inspired “Hell’s 1/3 Acre” bunker looms about 300 yards off the tee and runs all the way down the left until the green. This rugged, steep bunker is a formidable hazard and forces every golfer to make a choice whether to lay up or try to carry it on their 2nd shot. There’s also another nasty bunker on the right lay-up zone about 80 yards from the green. This green sits tucked down the left in a natural hollow and this approach plays over/down a roller-coaster of fairway which kicks balls hard left towards the green. This is a wildly creative hole and is one of the best par fives I’ve ever played.

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From just short of Hell’s 1/3 Acre
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Note the sleek contours on the 15th approach

The 340 yard par 4 16th is one of the easiest hole at Boston Golf Club most notable for its namesake “Principal’s Nose” bunker in the middle of the fairway at 240 yards. Outside of this, the danger on this hole comes on the approach to this very tiny circular back-to-front sloped green perched into a hill with numerous bunkers short.

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The par 4 16th – “Principal’s Nose”
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Approach on the 16th

The penultimate hole is a great risk/reward par 5 that will yield many birdies but many doubles as well. This three-shotter plays 500 yards to an extremely wide fairway bisected by a mound of rough in the middle of fairway similar to what you find at Quaker Ridge. From here, the hole turns left and runs uphill with a wasteland of bunkers on the right and two large bunkers about 75 yards short of the green. This green lies on top of a plateau and is very undulating with a predominant left-to-right slope.

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The par 5 17th – “American Chestnut”
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The approach on the 17th

Boston Golf Club is a bit unique with its closer, joining Pasatiempo and Garden City as top courses with a finishing par 3. Hanse designed it this way for match play purposes, but also because it’s what the land dictated. I personally really like this 165 yard hole and love the fact that the clubhouse patio overlooks the hole in its entirety. This intimidating one-shotter plays straight uphill to a severely back-to-front sloped green with two deep bunkers and a false front short. I could spend all day on the patio watching golfers play this hole with a “Shipwreck” (their signature drink) in my hand.

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The dramatic 18th – “Stonewall”

General Comments: Boston Golf Club is a golfing only club, with an understated clubhouse and discrete entrance you’d most likely miss if you didn’t know what to look for. The Club is walking only with caddies (with a few exceptions), which is unusual for a modern course on such a rugged terrain. I personally love the old-school feel here and identify with the passionate golfing membership.

For practice facilities, there is a large practice green near the 10th tee/clubhouse and a grass range built into a hill near the 1st tee. Pace of play was fantastic when we played.

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Goat pen by the 18th green

Verdict: Conjuring up comparisons to Pine Valley, Boston Golf Club is a modern classic, with bold contours, endless strategy, incredible variety, and a serious amount of charm. This golfing-first member-owned Club is a course you’ll never tire playing and is a true inspiration to all other modern courses who want a traditional feel. If you get a chance to play this Gil Hanse gem, drop everything and experience one of the most thought-provoking designs of the 21st century.


5 thoughts on “Review: Boston Golf Club

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