Review: Myopia Hunt Club

Course Name: Myopia Hunt Club

Designer: R.M. Appleton/A.P. Gardner/Thomas Watson Merrill (1894, 9 holes), Herbert C. Leeds (1898, Redesigned 9 holes, 1901, Additional 9 holes), Gil Hanse (2011, Renovation)

Location: South Hamilton, Massachusetts

History: Myopia Hunt’s rich history began in the 1870s when the four Prince brothers and other members of the Harvard baseball team founded the Myopia Club for athletics and other leisurely activities. The Club’s unique name is derived from the fact that all four brothers and many members of the team were nearsighted and wore spectacles. Golf was not one of the early activities at the Myopia Club, but fox hunting was and soon it became too big for the Boston suburb of Winchester. In 1882, the Myopia Club splintered, with some members heading south to Brookline and others forming the Myopia Hunt Club on a much more expansive property in Hamilton.

Although fox hunting and polo remained the priorities at Myopia, membership clamored for a golf course in the early 1890s, perhaps jealous of their rivals in Brookline. Accordingly, the first 9 holes were laid out in 1894 by master of the hounds R.M. Appleton and a few members. Herbert C. Leeds, a well-accomplished amateur golfer, was a member at Myopia and completely redesigned the course by 1898. His course garnered immediate acclaim and hosted the 1898 U.S. Open won by Fred Herd. At the time, the course was only 9 holes so the participants had to play each of the holes eight times over the four day tournament. By 1901, Leeds had added an additional 9 holes and the championship layout was ready for more U.S. Opens, which it hosted in 1901, 1905, and 1908. All four tournaments were won by Scots and Myopia holds the infamous distinction of having four of the five highest winning scores in U.S. Open history, with Willie Anderson’s 1901 score of 331 being the highest. While the course has not held any national events since 1908, numerous Massachusetts State Amateurs have been played at Myopia but the course record stands pat at a fairly high 67.

Leeds remained a member of Myopia until his death in 1930 and would continually tinker with the design throughout his lifetime. Myopia’s course is a clear example of the “penal” school of architecture and Leeds was known to have listened to braggarts boast about their birdies at the bar and place bunkers the next day where players commonly hit their shots. Outside of master plan work by Gil Hanse in the 2010s and tree removal in the 1990s, Myopia has remained largely Leeds’ masterpiece. Myopia’s intense privacy has led it to be fairly underrated, but it still holds the following accolades:

  • #76 Best Course in America – Golf Digest (2019)
  • #63 Best Course in America – Golf Magazine (2017)
  • #34 Best Classic Course in America – Golfweek (2019)
  • #4 Best Course in Massachusetts – Golf Digest (2019)

Conditions: 9/10, Myopia is in excellent condition with firm, fast fairways and firm greens that roll true. There isn’t much traditional rough, but there’s plenty of thick fescue that makes balls vanish at a remarkable rate.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Red                          72           6555               72.7               138

White                     72           6190               71.1               134

Yellow                     73           5495               72.4               137

Hole Descriptions: At first glance, one may wonder how a par 72 that barely ekes out 6500 yards can still be a viable test. Myopia, however, is not your traditional golf course. It is perhaps the quirkiest golf course I’ve played with eighteen memorable, starkly contrasting holes chocked full of character and sneaky difficulty. The most notable hazards at Myopia are the bunkers, which are a brazen bunch and don’t seem to abide by the typical rules of bunkering. They are narrow, they are shaped (and feel) like coffins, and they’re seemingly placed randomly at Leeds’ whim. The real difficulty lies around the greens, which are typically very small and sloped. On certain holes (4, 8, 11, 13), there are only a few pinnable options, and the insane slopes make the landing area even more minuscule. In addition to the bunkering and greens, surprising elevation changes and hearty fescue make Myopia a nightmare for higher handicappers. There are definitely birdie holes out there, but a course record of only 67 is indicative of how difficult a mere 6500 yards can play.

Each and every hole at Myopia offers an excitement that few courses can bring. There are two holes (4th, 9th) included in Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Holes in America, although I can make the argument for a few more. I view Myopia Hunt as one of the best match play courses in the world, with numerous half-par holes yielding a colorful scorecard. In many ways, Myopia resembles The Country Club in terms of vibe, quirkiness, history, and membership but I actually prefer the course at Myopia and consider it easily one of the top 2 or 3 courses in New England.

You get the sense Myopia Hunt is not your typical course standing on the 1st teebox staring up the mountain that is the 1st hole. At just 263 yards, this short par 4 plays directly uphill the entire way with fescue down the left and a narrow Redan-style green that runs hard back right-to-front left. A pair of bunkers guards right and long, but I do think trying to go for the green is the move here off the tee. Like most holes at Myopia, birdie can be had but so can a big number with all the danger surrounding this green.

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The unorthodox 1st teeshot – “First”
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The 1st green sits precariously on a pedestal; anything left of the pin is dead

Another half-par hole, the 2nd is a memorable 460 yard par 5. From this elevated teebox, you get an incredible view of the property with about eight different holes in sight. This exhilarating drive plays straight downhill to a wide fairway lined by OB left and the 13th fairway right. A pair of bunkers lines the right at 230 yards and a smattering of chocolate drops also lines this side. There are several of these mounds throughout the course and I feel they add a lot of character. Apparently Geoff Cornish was hired to remove them in the 1960s, but discovered they were full of rocks and stumps so he let them be. Thank goodness! Longer hitters will have to beware of a creek that runs across this fairway at 285 yards. On the second shot, golfers have a semi-blind approach due to a deep crossbunker and tall mounds that run through the fairway about 70 yards short of the green. This tiny circular green is surrounded by thick rough and a bunker short right. Golfers would be wise to take advantage of another early scoring opportunity here.

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The gorgeous par 5 2nd – “Lookout”
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The final approach at the 2nd

Like Brookline, Myopia only contains three par threes, but they are all excellent, offering great variety and difficulty. The fearsome 3rd hole is the first of the group, but calling it a par 3 might be a misnomer. At 242 yards uphill, this beast of a hole is only 4 yards shorter than the par 4 6th! The giant crossbunker seen prominently in the picture below is about 45 yards short of the green and should only be in play for those who lay-up. Several other bunkers surround this tiny, two-tiered, back-to-front sloped green. I’m not sure there’s a more difficult hole on the course in relation to par.

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The uphill par 3 3rd – “Brae”

Myopia’s 4th hole has long been considered one of the the best par fours in the world, but I’m not even sure it’s in my top 5 on the course. Regardless, this is a beautiful 364 yard dogleg left that plays as a Cape hole. The drive features a small forced carry over marshes but the most interesting aspect of this hole occurs near the green with a giant snaking bunker complex short and a green with perhaps the most severe back-to-front tilt I’ve ever seen. A small pit-like bunker just long is a devastating result for a good approach.

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The dogleg left par 4 4th – “Miles River”
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You absolutely cannot miss long on the 4th

At 387 yards, the par 4 5th is a bit of more standard hole and thus fails to standout when looking back at the course. This straightaway par 4 is quite tight with thick forests lining both sides of a fairway that gets even narrower in the landing area. The bunkering on this hole is a bit curious and likely affected golfers a century ago more than current-day golfers. There’s a hidden cross-bunker at 180 yards on the left and one at 210 yards on the right. Golfers must cross a creek on this approach to a large, relatively subtle green guarded by bunkers left, short, and long.

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The par 4 5th – “Lone Tree”
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The approach at 5

The 6th hole is another extremely quirky hole as a 246 yard par 4. Playing level, this hole is undeniably easier to reach in one than the par 3 just a few holes before. There’s a lot going on here with a creek crossing the fairway at 180 yards and a pond down the right for the first 200 yards. This table-top green is very tough with a giant false front and serious right-to-left slope towards two deep bunkers on the left. Given the green’s difficulty and all the danger for the first 200 yards, I advise you go for this green on the teeshot to avoid a terrifying 60 yard pitch.

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The reachable par 4 6th – “Brook”

At a strong 395 yards, the par 4 7th is an excellent hole and one of my favorites on the course. This is a straightaway hole, but from the teebox appears like a dogleg left with a semi-blind teeshot over a plateau. Thick forest lines the entire right side while those who venture too far left will find the fescue. There are several crossbunkers lining the fairway with the most prominent down the right at 275 yards. From the top of the plateau of a right-to-left sloping fairway, this approach plays downhill to a large, rather flat green guarded by bunkers on either side short.

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I guess “Myopia” is the 19th century term for blind
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The downhill approach at 7 features tremendous fairway movement

At 466 yards, the 8th hole is another short par 5 with some quirky features. Like the preceding hole, this hole is straightaway but features a semi-blind teeshot over a plateau. Accuracy is more important than length here as thick fescue lines both sides of the fairway the entire way. This hole is most notable for its elevated green that plays severely back-to-front and right-to-left. Many call this green “unfair”, but I think it’s perfectly fair as defense for such a short hole.

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The semi-blind par 5 8th – “Prairie”
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The approach at 8

If there’s one hole that epitomizes Myopia’s quirkiness and penal nature, it’s the iconic par 3 9th that sits in an isolated corner of the property. One of the best short holes in the world, this memorable one-shotter is only 132 yards, but can be a real card-wrecker with a bad swing. Golfers must first navigate an immediate forced water carry and then avoid some of the most penal and interesting bunkering in golf. The green itself is about 30 yards long, but only rivals the 5th at Boston GC in terms of narrowness at just a few paces wide. This green is surrounded by a moat of deep, coffin-like bunkers that leave near impossible up-and-downs. This is one of the my favorite holes anywhere.

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The 9th might be the hardest 132 yards in golf
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The 9th bunkers are truly a work of art

At 363 yards, the par 4 10th is another excellent hole and one of my favorites at Myopia. Featuring a third straight blind teeshot, this hole is fairly intimidating off the tee as all you can see is a giant mound of fescue and OB left. In reality, a straight shot’s all that’s needed with thick fescue and a crossbunker at 250 yards down the right. This hole is infamous for another crossbunker about 40 yards short of the green that’s known as Taft bunker. Legend has it that a rotund President William Taft fell backwards trying to extricate himself from this bunker and required horses to help him escape. Needless to say there are now stairs in this devastating bunker. This circular green slopes left-to-right with two bunkers right.

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The uphill, blind teeshot on 10 – “Alps”
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Church-pew bunkering between 10 and 11 should not be in play, but is another example of Leeds’ brazen, often random bunkering
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Taft bunker and the 10th approach

At 321 yards, the 11th is a shorter par 4 but is not quite reachable due to a severe uphill gradient. Golfers should lay back a bit on this teeshot to a left-to-right sloping fairway with a crossbunker bisecting the fairway at about 270 yards. This approach plays uphill to a severely back-to-front sloping green guarded by bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 11th – “Road”
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The approach at 11

The long and difficult 444 yard 12th is another highly memorable hole and my favorite par 4 at Myopia. This is one of the most fun driving holes anywhere with a straight downhill teeshot to a snaking fairway fully in view on the teebox. Missing off the tee on either side here is absolute death with thick fescue lining the right and forest lining the left. This approach is fairly difficult with a long iron in hand to a back-to-front sloped green with a steep slope leading to a deep bunker left. A par here gains a shot on the field.

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The breathtaking teeshot on the 12th – “Valley”
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Any miss left on 12 is going to be costly

At just 326 yards, the 13th hole is the par 4 version of the 9th in that it plays about as hard as possible for a hole of its length. I was shocked at the amount of elevation change just north of Boston and the 13th takes all that elevation change and applies it on the approach. The teeshot here is relatively benign and inconsequential but must be shorter than 225 yards to avoid running through the fairway. This approach is absolutely terrifying playing at least two clubs uphill to an extremely shallow green that runs hard back-to-front. Judging the distance on this uphill approach is incredibly difficult and means most golfers will have an impossible chip long or be all the way down the bottom of a severe false front lying two. This hole is another card-wrecker.

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The two-tiered par 4 13th aptly nicknamed “Hill”
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It’s harder to imagine a more intimidating wedge shot than the approach at 13
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Can you imagine playing this hole with hickories? No wonder the scores were so high!

The 14th hole is another more standard hole as a level, straightaway 351 yard par 4. Bunkers and fescue line both sides of a relatively generous fairway that narrows at 255 yards with a crossbunker down the right. This large, undulating green is well-protected by bunkers long, left, and right.

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The par 4 14th – “Ridge”

At 492 yards, the 15th hole is the longest par 5 on the course, but is certainly still a birdie hole. This is one of the more straightforward holes on the property running straightaway along the edge of the property with OB left. Bunkers line the right side at 205 and 270 yards but otherwise there’s not much danger on this teeshot. On their second shots, golfers are required to navigate a pair of chocolate drop bunkers on the right about 90 yards short of the green. This green is guarded by two bunkers short and slopes back-to-front.

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The par 5 15th – “Long”
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The approach at 15

The 16th hole is the final par 3 at Myopia and it’s another memorable one playing 181 yards. Controlling distance and ballflight are of the utmost importance on this downhill par 3 with an extremely firm front-to-back sloped green. Despite playing downhill, fescue obscures several bunkers short and long and gives the golfer a false sense of security on the teebox. In addition to playing front-to-back, this interesting green slopes towards the middle from both sides as well. The clubhouse in the background makes this a classic beauty and one of the most photographed holes.

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The excellent par 3 16th – “Paddock”
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A closer look at the fascinating 16th green with the clubhouse in the background

With the driving range running down the left, the 388 yard par 17th is a fairly straightforward hole with a left-to-right sloped fairway and bunker down the right at 230 yards. This green is guarded by bunkers on either side and contains subtle slopes.

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The par 4 17th with its left-to-right sloping fairway – “West”
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The approach at 17

The closing hole at Myopia is one final great hole as a 369 yard par 4. Running parallel to the preceding hole, this straightaway hole also features a severe right-to-left sloping fairway that often propels balls all the way through the fairway. Finding the fairway is essential here, as thick forest lines the left while fescue and a deep bunker at 200 yards line the right. This approach plays slightly uphill to a small green guarded by a pair of chasmic bunkers short.

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The closer at Myopia – “Home”
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I love the land movement on the 17th and 18th fairways
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An epic view of the 18th green from the 17th teebox – notice the horses in the background

General Comments: The long, winding driveway at Myopia Hunt is as tranquil as it gets and makes you feel as though you should be riding a horse instead of a car. The yellow clubhouse oozes an old-school New England charm and does so for good reason considering the building was originally an 18th century farmhouse. While one could argue that golf is now the priority at Myopia, members still enjoy tennis, equestrian, swimming, and polo on the expansive property. Myopia was one of seven founding members of the United States Polo Association and operates one of the oldest continually running polo grounds in America. Polo is still played here on Sundays and is open to the public. The Hunt Club lives up to its name and still hunts from August through November, though they now draghunt since hunting foxes is illegal in Massachusetts.

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There can’t be many better logos in golf than Myopia’s iconic fox and horn
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Myopia’s idyllic clubhouse is the perfect place for a post-round cocktail

While I won’t post any pictures of the locker room to respect the membership’s privacy, it is one of my absolute favorites and looks (and smells) like it hasn’t seen sunlight or air since the Civil War. Handwritten blueprints of the course and other artifacts line the wall and there are plenty of Roman numerals on the championship plaques. As a genetic mutt, I felt like I might spontaneously combust in such a hallowed room. As far as practice facilities are concerned, the Club features a 220 yard long driving range adjacent to the 16th and 17th holes and a small practice green by the clubhouse.

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Myopia Hunt’s driving range

Verdict: Unique and bold, the venerable Myopia Hunt Club is as timeless as they come and boasts one of the finest golf courses not just in New England, but in all of America. The sheer variety, quirk, and difficulty make each hole memorable and fun and the old-school atmosphere of the Club simply cannot be topped. Myopia is intensely private with a small membership, but drop everything and run if you receive an invitation to this bastion of past.


One thought on “Review: Myopia Hunt Club

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