Review: George Wright Golf Course

Course Name: George Wright Golf Course

Designer: Donald Ross (1938)

Location: Hyde Park, Massachusetts

History: George Wright sits on rocky terrain that was originally intended to be a private course designed by Wayne Stiles. When the Depression hit in 1929, investors quickly abandoned the project. In the early 1930’s, the City of Boston consulted Donald Ross to build a municipal course on the land, but Ross was quoted, “You would need one of two things to build a suitable course on the property. Either a million dollars or an earthquake.” Roosevelt’s WPA and CWA programs eventually contributed to the project and Ross got his $1,000,000, making it one of the most expensive courses at the time. It’s estimated over 1000 men worked on the construction and over 60,000 pounds of dynamite were used. In 1938, the course opened to great fanfare and was named after George Wright, a Boston Red Stockings Hall of Famer and one of the early leaders of golf in Massachusetts.

Like many great municipal courses built during the Depression (ex: Bethpage Black), time was not kind to George Wright and the course steadily declined in the 1970s and 1980s as funds disappeared. In 2003, the City of Boston took control and made it a priority to resurrect the course to its former glory. Their positive progress has not gone unnoticed and George Wright and William J. Devine hosted the 2018 Massachusetts Amateur, marking the first time that a daily fee course was used. Current awards for George Wright include:

  • #8 Best Public Course in Massachusetts – Golfweek (2018)

Conditions: 6/10, As a municipal course, George Wright has decent but not amazing conditions. The fairways are a bit hit or miss and the greens roll true but only at about an 8.

Value: 9/10, George Wright shares the same pricing as William J. Devine and both are fantastic deals. Boston residents can walk 18 for $39 on weekdays while non-residents will pay up to $52 to walk on weekends.

Scorecard:

Tee                     Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Blue                  70            6506               71.9              133

White                70            6237               69.9              129

Gold                  70            5522               66.2              120

Red                    70            4908               68.8              122

Hole Descriptions: As a huge fan of Donald Ross, I expected to like George Wright, but I didn’t think I’d like it this much! This course represents an engineering feat given the hilly, rocky terrain Ross was given and I couldn’t help but get some serious Yale vibes as I struggled walking the course in a 90 degree swelter. Featuring numerous blind shots and elevation changes, George Wright is certainly a brazen design for Ross, but his strategic bunkering, excellent green complexes, and compelling layout remain.

If I had to rank them, I’d place George Wright over all of the other great classic munis of New England (TriggsKeney Park, William J. Devine, and Shennecossett) and truly think it’s the best public course within 30 minutes of Boston (even above Granite Links). A round here takes you back in time and really makes you appreciate the nuances of classic architecture.

The opening hole is rather simple and bland, but you’ll be thankful for an easy start once you reach the meat of the course. At 394 yards, this is a straightaway, flat par 4 playing away from the clubhouse.  There are two bunkers on the right at 200 and 250 yards and houses to the far right. This approach plays to a slightly elevated green guarded by a bunker right.

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The 1st provides a good chance to start your round off with par or better

The 2nd plays similarly to the 1st as a straightaway par 4 with not much danger except for a bunker and trees on the right at 270 yards. This hole plays shorter at 364 yards, and features a large elevated green with a devastating bunker short left and a backdrop of houses on the hill.

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The par 4 2nd
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The uphill approach at 2

While the first two holes are decent, the real adventure starts at the 3rd, a long, narrow 527 yard par 5 that gives you a taste of what’s to come. Playing uphill and much longer than the scorecard indicates, this is a difficult hole that commands three-shots for almost everyone. The key to this hole is accuracy, as thick forests line both sides the entire way. This approach plays straight uphill to an elevated green guarded by two deep bunkers short.

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The narrow par 5 3rd
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The uphill 3rd approach

One of George Wright’s greatest strength’s is its par threes, which rival nearly any other Ross course. The 4th is the first of the excellent set playing over a valley of fairway to a large green guarded by four beautiful bunkers and a serious false front. This green slopes hard back-to-front and any misses long will be punished severely.

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I love the bunkering at the par 3 4th

Despite playing just over 6500 yards from the Tips, George Wright features several very difficult holes especially when you consider the elevation changes and blind shots. The 5th is one of these holes as a challenging 426 yard par 4. This hole plays as a severe dogleg right with a reverse Cape fairway that slopes hard left-to-right. It’s possible to cut the corner here, and I recommend it if you want a decent shot into this green. The approach shot plays downhill and blind to a shallow, bunkerless green that slopes away from the player. A par here gains a shot on the field.

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View from the 5th teebox
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If you look closely, you can barely see the top of the 5th flag

While I enjoyed all the holes at George Wright, my favorite is the 6th because it’s so simple yet so elegant. At 384 yards, this par 4 zigzags uphill through rocky mounds. This hole is essentially straightaway, and an uninspired architect would’ve designed a boring hole here. Ross, however, transformed the hole into an S-shape with sequential bunkering on either side starting at 200 yards, enhancing the strategy and aesthetics. The approach plays uphill and semi-blind to a saddle-shaped green that filters balls towards the middle. Beware of a steep drop-off long.

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The par 4 6th has a terrific rugged look from the teebox
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From the start of the 6th fairway

At 433 yards, the par 4 7th is another long hole but plays significantly shorter thanks to its severe downhill gradient. This hole bends slightly to the right, and features an entirely blind teeshot with absolutely no line. Right is a better miss than the heavily forested left, but you’ll most likely be blocked out on this side. This wildly undulating fairway features numerous speed slots and very few even lies. The approach here plays downhill to a large green guarded by bunkers short left and long.

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The completely blind 7th teeshot
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Notice the extreme slopes on the 7th fairway

The par 3 8th plays back uphill at 167 yards and requires at least a half club extra. Guarded by bunkers on either side, this hole features a relatively receptive and large green to compensate for the intimidating teeshot.

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The par 3 8th

The front side closes with a lengthy 449 yard par 4 deserving of its number 1 handicap. This hole plays straightaway, but is completely blind on the uphill teeshot as you climb a plateau in the fairway. From the apex, the hole runs downhill towards a small back right-to-front left sloped green guarded by a bunker right. This hole is heavily forested on both sides the entire way and could benefit from some tree removal, as this rough and fairway were in notably worse shape.

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The blind 9th teeshot
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The 9th approach

Somehow the 10th is even more difficult than the preceding hole as another monstrous 462 yard par 4. This hole features yet another semi-blind teeshot to a dogleg left fairway that turns sharply at 250 yards with three bunkers down the left. If you don’t reach the dogleg, you have virtually no chance to hit this green in regulation. For the final 100 yards or so, this fairway runs straight downhill and narrows considerably until you reach a narrow right-to-left sloped green.

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The Blue tees make the 10th a par 4 and a half
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The downhill approach at 10

There aren’t many short holes at George Wright but the 11th is one of them as a 350 yard par 4. Despite its short length, this hole plays immediately uphill and semi-blind on the teeshot so it’s not as easy as it seems. This left-to-right tilted fairway turns gently right with fescue and trees lining that side. This approach plays to a slightly elevated green that slopes generously left-to-right.

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The par 4 11th
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The 11th approach

On a course with many blind shots, no hole is more severe or polarizing than the 12th. At 412 yards, this insane hole again plays completely blind from the teebox and runs straight downhill starting about 100 yards off the tee. This downhill gradient is so severe that locals call this popular sledding spot “Suicide Hill,” a fitting nickname given someone actually died here in the 90s. Another notable feature of this hole is that this fairway is bisected twice – once at 230 yards with a road and again 60 yards short of the green with a creek. This large two-tiered green is guarded by a bunker to the right.

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The completely blind view from the 12th tee
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Pictures don’t do the 12th downhill justice

At 386 yards, the par 4 13th plays relatively flat and straight but is notable for its water hazards. You first must carry your drive at least 150 yards over an initial pond and then must keep your ball right on this very narrow fairway lined by water left. This approach plays slightly uphill to a circular right-to-left sloped green protected by a bunker short left.

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The par 4 13th

After a difficult walk up a steep hill, you reach the longest par 3 at George Wright in the 189 yard 14th. This strong one-shotter plays through a chute of trees to a back-to-front sloped green guarded by a bunker left and false front short.

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The par 3 14th

At 507 yards, the par 5 15th offers another awkward blind teeshot. Requiring an 100 yard forced carry, you can’t see the landing area here and the fact that this hole doglegs right at about 230 yards is not immediately evident. From the dogleg, this hole runs uphill with trees right and plenty of room left in the 16th fairway. This green slopes primarily back-to-front with bunkers short on either side and OB long.

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The confusing 15th teeshot
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View from the 15th dogleg
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The approach at 15

The 16th hole is the shortest par 4 at George Wright at 346 yards. This hole provides quite the eyesore on the teebox with a rusty net and houses on the right, but is a nice hole otherwise with a downhill teeshot to a generous fairway lined by a bunker on the right at 210 yards. This is one of the most difficult approaches on the course, as it runs straight uphill to a right-to-left sloped green guarded by a deep bunker short right.

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The par 4 16th

The 167 yard 17th is arguably the signature hole at George Wright as a quintessential Donald Ross par 3. This one-shotter plays slightly downhill to a beautiful green complex framed by four bunkers surrounding it.  This hole bears a striking similarity to the 8th at Wannamoisett.

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The gorgeous par 3 17th

Fittingly, the closing hole is a blind dogleg left par 4. At 384 yards, this hole doesn’t look like much on the teebox, but is another a nice design with a narrow fairway lined by a bunker on the right at 230 yards. From here, golfers will need to carry a creek on their approach to a large, relatively flat green guarded by a bunker right.

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The blind par 4 18th
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The closing approach

General Comments: As an old urban public course, it’s not surprising the practice facilities are a bit lacking with no range and a small practice green near the 18th green. The clubhouse, on the other hand, is pretty spectacular and reminds me of a medieval fortress. I played at a brisk pace on a weekday morning, but can imagine the course gets pretty backed up at certain times.

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George Wright’s clubhouse is one of the most impressive public clubhouses in America

Verdict: It’s rare you get to play an unadulterated Ross, let alone a municipal one that costs less than $50. George Wright is a fantastic design and my choice for best public course in the immediate Boston area. Featuring a very difficult terrain and numerous blind shots, this is a course all Ross enthusiasts should see and could be one of the best courses in Massachusetts with some TLC.


3 thoughts on “Review: George Wright Golf Course

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