Review: Plymouth Country Club

Course Name: Plymouth Country Club

Designer: Alex Findlay (1900s, 9 holes), Unknown (1912, 3 additional holes), Donald Ross (1921, 9 holes, 1929, 9 additional holes, 1939, Holes 1-3)

Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts

History: Plymouth’s storied history begins with Hotel Pilgrim, a hotel which occupied the land at the turn of the century. Architect Alex Findlay built 9 holes for the hotel, including 3 directly on Cape Cod Bay. In 1910, Plymouth Country Club was founded and took control of the rudimentary golf course. Member Harry Davis suggested the addition of three new holes in 1912 so that members could play a more continuous routing. The three holes on the water were relegated to “beginners and hotel guests” and unsurprisingly, these oceanside holes fell into disrepair and were abandoned just one year later.

Prolific architect Donald Ross arrived in 1921 and added an additional 9 holes nicknamed the “Valley 9.” Apparently Ross’ holes were superior to the original ones so the members clamored for 9 more, which Ross provided in 1929. Now with 27 holes, the original 9 became public and soon went bankrupt in the Great Depression. Sadly, three of the Ross holes on leased land had to be abandoned in 1939, so Ross returned and built current-day holes 1-3 on the original land. Finally in 1950, the State needed land to build Route 3A, so the 2nd green was moved up and par was changed from 70 to 69. Plymouth Country Club has hosted the best New England amateurs at the Hornblower Memorial Tournament annually since 1932.

Conditions: 8/10, Plymouth CC is in excellent shape with thick rough, speedy greens, and well-maintained fairways and teeboxes.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       69           6358               71.7              132

Gold                         69           6095               70.3              131

White                      69           5842               68.5              128

Red                          70          5285                71.4              127

Family                     70          3907               63.3              111

Hole Descriptions: Donald Ross is one of the most prolific architects in golf history with much of his work concentrated in New England. While you’ve probably heard of the likes of Wannamoisett, Essex, and Salem, there are far more under-the-radar gems that are worthy of discussion. Plymouth Country Club is a perfect example of this – a historic Ross design on a wonderful terrain that members can enjoy every single day. Hornblower competitors can attest firsthand to the strength of the course, which packs a serious punch at just over 6,300 yards from the Tips with thick rough, elevation changes, and tricky Ross greens that demand precision.

I contend Plymouth falls firmly in the tier just below the God-tier top 100 courses in Massachusetts alongside courses such as Charles River, Winchester, Salem, and Greathorse. It might even be the best of the group if it weren’t for its first 3 holes, which occupy the original flatter piece of land and feel decidedly different than the final 15. These are certainly not bad holes, but they lack the uniqueness and standout features that much of the rest of the course delivers.

The opening hole is a bit of a warmup hole as a straightaway par 4 at just 348 yards. This is somewhat appreciated given how small the range is and the fact that this is probably your first driver of the day. A bunker down the right at 200 yards and a lone tree just beyond are the only real dangers on an otherwise very open teeshot. This small green runs back-to-front and is lined by bunkers on either side.

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The short opener provides a good opportunity to start your round off well

The 2nd runs parallel to the 1st along the edge of the property as a long 417 yard par 4. Like the 1st, this hole plays straightaway and very open with no real danger off the tee unless you venture way left. Because this hole was shortened from a par 5 in 1950, this is the only green on the course that Ross didn’t design. Despite this, the green is very strong with a false front in the right portion and deep bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 2nd
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The open approach to the 2nd

The par 3 3rd hole closes the short loop on the right side of the clubhouse. At 212 yards, this is a difficult hole playing uphill and usually exposed to the wind. While there’s not much danger besides bunkers short, a GIR here requires a well-struck hybrid or wood.

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The long par 3 3rd with the clubhouse on the right

At 399 yards, the par 4 4th plays away from the clubhouse and commences one of the strongest three-hole stretches in Massachusetts. This sleek hole is again relatively generous on the drive with the range on the right and trees to the far left. At about 270 yards, the hole becomes more interesting as the fairway stops abruptly with a valley of rough you must carry on the approach. This green sits perched to the right with a steep cliff guarding the right and bunker on the left.

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The par 4 4th
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The angles on the par 4 4th have a decidedly Pete Dye feel to them

In an ongoing effort to improve the course, the Club recently lengthened four par fours including the 5th hole. I think the initiative was an excellent idea and has succeeded in making these holes that much stronger. Playing 450 yards, this hole features an intimidating blind teeshot with a serious 175 yard carry over fescue. Trees line both sides of the fairway as well, so your drive needs to be accurate. The 5th approach is absolutely fantastic and alone makes this one of the best par fours in Massachusetts. Playing straight downhill towards a natural punchbowl, this green is surrounded by an ampitheatre of fescue.

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The intimidating view from the 5th teebox
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Pictures don’t do the beauty of the 5th approach justice

Plymouth does an excellent job on the routing interspersing holes of varying lengths, especially with the short par 4 6th, another memorable hole playing a reachable 294 yards downhill. This hole gives the golfer plenty of options – Do you hit a 6 iron to a distance you like or try to give the green a go with driver? There’s not much danger playing conservatively off the tee, but there’s plenty up by the green with two deep bunkers short, a false front, and a diabolical putting surface sure to frustrate those putting for eagle.

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The fantastic short par 4 6th
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The picturesque look back at the 6th

The 7th hole is one of the more controversial holes at Plymouth as a short 343 yard par 4. Playing uphill and slightly to the right, the story of this hole is all about the green, which can be best described as a severe Volcano green. The flip approach from just short is terrifying, but the real danger comes on the putting surface itself, which is one of the steepest back-to-fronts you’ll ever see. Does this green border on unfair? Possibly, but it’s great fun and very unique!

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The par 4 7th
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The Volcano green at 7 is similar to Misquamicut’s 8th

At 142 yards, the par 3 8th is the shortest hole at Plymouth. This neat little hole plays over a valley of rough to a back-to-front sloped green guarded by three bunkers reaching around the right.

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The short par 3 8th

Another hole lengthened recently, the 454 yard 9th hole is a very difficult hole fit to challenge the best. This double dogleg requires a forced carry of about 190 yards just to reach a generous fairway lined by trees on either side. At about 300 yards, the fairway stops with a valley of rough and creek for the next 75 yards. This green is large and relatively flat guarded by bunkers long and to the right and an interesting mound short left.

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The teeshot is again blind on the par 4 9th
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The 9th approach

At 178 yards, the back nine begins with a difficult uphill par 3. This hole requires a carry the entire way with plenty of danger short including a pond, steep false front, and multiple bunkers. The green itself runs hard back-to-front and par is a good score here.

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The difficult par 3 10th

I thoroughly enjoyed all the holes on the back side, but the par 4 11th is certainly a standout. At a strong 429 yards, this slight dogleg left features a wonderful undulating fairway lined by trees on both sides. There are very few even lies here and those that are are likely in a valley with a blind approach. This undulating green is guarded by a false front and bunkers on either side.

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The dogleg left par 4 11th
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The approach at 11

At a prodigious 466 yards, the number 1 handicap 12th hole is the longest par 4 at Plymouth, but plays considerably shorter with a straight downhill teeshot. This is another beautiful hole lined by dense forests on both sides of a tight dogleg left fairway. A right-to-left sloped green is guarded by bunkers on either side but accepts runners up the front.

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The dramatic teeshot on the 12th
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The 12th approach

The 13th hole provides the best scoring opportunity on the back as a straightaway 332 yard par 4. While the fairway is lined by dense forests, golfers should have little trouble finding the short grass here. A large bunker in the fairway guards just short of the green at 290 yards and is only in play for the longest of hitters. This green is narrow and long lined by bunkers on either side.

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The short par 4 13th
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It’s hard not to miss the prominent house behind the 13th green…

Playing 381 yards uphill, the straightaway par 4 14th features an undulating fairway lined by OB right and a long rock wall down the left that apparently can be traced to the Mayflower settlement! This approach will most likely be blind to a severely back-to-front sloped green guarded by a bunker short left.

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The blind uphill 14th
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The 14th green

The last of a difficult set of one-shotters is the 190 yard 15th. This hole features an excellent Ross back-to-front sloped green guarded by three deep bunkers.

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The par 3 15th

Similarly to its par 69 brother Wannamoisett, Plymouth makes you wait until the end of your round to reach its lone par 5. At 505 yards, the 16th is a reachable hole that plays straightaway. I got the sense that this hole was a bit cramped by trees on both sides, but the member I played with is on a committee that was in the process of tree removal. Crossbunkers guard both sides of the fairway about 150 yards short of the green, but really shouldn’t be in play on the drive or lay-up. After these bunkers, the fairway swoops into a valley and then rises back up towards the green with a giant false front. Those who fail to reach this back-to-front sloped green in two will face a very challenging up-and-down from the bottom of the valley.

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The par 5 16th
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The excellent 16th approach over a valley

The par 4 17th is another fine hole and difficult par. At 397 yards, this dogleg left requires an immediate 140 yard forced carry to a sharply turning fairway that tilts right-to-left, yielding few even lies. This is one of the most challenging approaches on the course over another forced carry to an uphill green perched at an awkward angle.

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The intimidating par 4 17th
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The terrifying uphill 17th approach

Plymouth Country Club closes in dramatic fashion with another excellent offering in the 421 yard 18th. Playing again over a valley with a long forced carry, this hole then runs uphill and to the left with a bunker down the left at about 245 yards. Depending on your drive, you might have a very uphill stance on the approach to an elevated green sitting a good 10 feet above the fairway. This hole requires two strong shots to find the putting surface and avoid the deep bunkers on either side.

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The epic closing hole
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The 18th approach with the clubhouse overlooking

General Comments: As far as practice facilities go, Plymouth features a small putting green and driving range near the 1st teebox. Pace of play was strong and the course is great for walking.

Verdict: The epitome of a hidden gem, Plymouth Country Club is an excellent Donald Ross design I imagine everyone who plays will enjoy. If you get an opportunity to play here, take it without hesitation.


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