The green at the par 3 7th on the Granite Links Granite course was so firm that a well played shot that landed at middle front rolled past the pin and into the rough behind it, from where par was impossible.
Rock quarry a la Disneyland
Yesterday we explored the history of the unusual Granite Links (see article below) and nine of its 27 holes, the Milton course. Today we finish our round on the Granite nine.
The Milton nine at Granite links compels you to hit the ball straight and, in a few cases, long. But straight and long is a liability on the first hole of the Granite course, a bad piece of golf design if ever there was one. Even with a decent GPS system in our carts, our foursome spent a good 10 minutes on the first tee trying to figure out which of the greens in the distance belonged to our 490-yard par five hole. "Aim for the bunker that looks like Mickey Mouse," said the starter, who had walked down from his perch after spotting our confusion. Mickey Mouse was the perfect metaphor for the hole. "What about the water?" one of our foursome asked, after having a look at the GPS in the cart. "You'd have to be a long hitter to reach it," said the starter.
No more than 220 yards off the tee, roll included, is not my definition of "long hitter," so it was with confidence I pulled out the driver and hit one straight at Mickey Mouse. I hit it well, but little did I realize the fairway sloped like one of those 600-yard long par 4 finishing holes at Kapalua Plantation. Long story short; the ball was nowhere to be found, probably in one of the hazards on either side of the spit of fairway that was no more than eight yards across. After we gave up, my friend Pete Blais and I agreed on the spot my tee shot must have entered the hazard. I dropped another ball, took a reading on yardage, and realized I was just 138 yards from the green, meaning my drive had traveled about 350 yards and that, even with a penalty stroke, one still has a good chance of making the green in regulation and a par. Bizarre.
The rest of the nine was nowhere as silly, although some repeated designer touches at greenside became annoying after a time. The greens were very firm, and most were bowl shaped, with slopes toward the centers of the greens defining the front and back edges. The ridges at the front of most greens ran down hard, making pins on the front third of the greens impossible to get near, even if you landed short and rolled the ball up. With the greens so hard, figuratively and literally -- no shot made a pitch mark all day -- the slopes made par a possibility only if you were on in regulation or left yourself a chip across the length of the greens.
Fountain of sorrowThose quibbles aside, the Granite nine presents some sparkling holes and views, most notably #5, a short dogleg right that features a string of granite rock outcroppings framing the left side of the fairway and a water hazard along the right. A conservative fairway wood is the play on the 353-yard hole; a slightly pulled tee shot may avoid the rocks but will leave a blind approach over trees that guard the left third of the elevated green. Anything but an approach that stays on the green is a guaranteed bogey, or worse. The 6th is another one of the short par 4s at Granite Links that dare you to drive the ball to a narrow strip of fairway, a short wedge distance from the green. The 7th is a glitzy par 3 over a water hazard to a wide green framed in the back with three round, identically sized bunkers. With the wind blowing right to left, the proper play seemed a lofted ball toward the right side of the green. That accomplished, my tee shot landed at the front middle of the green and rolled right past the pin at left rear, and then into the thick rough just short of one of the bunkers. The severe slope down to the pin made bogey a good score.
The 8th hole is one of the few where the fairway is elevated and the tee shot is up, not down. At under 500 yards, the par 5 is not difficult, but it does provide an intimidating contrast to other tee shots during the day. The round ends on the Granite nine with another one of those short par 4s with lots of bunkering to catch any but the most unerring tee shots. Actually a play into one of the large bunkers on the left leaves only a wedge shot into a green set way below the fairway, only the flag on the pin visible. The deep pond that guards the right edge of the narrow green is also hidden from view. Although you can see it clearly on the GPS, it encroaches more than it appears once you come over the rise and see the results of a blind approach shot. The fountain at the pond's center will seem like a warm greeting only to those who find their blind approach on dry land.
Sum of the parts
Course conditions at Granite Links were quite nice, especially for a mid-May day. This is still early in the season in New England. In fact I had to remind Pete, my partner and cart chauffeur for the day, that carts could enter the fairways. "Sorry," said the resident of North Yarmouth, ME, "we can't do that in Maine yet." The fairways were dry, well mown and very green, and not a single lie needed to be "rolled over." The putting surfaces were medium to medium fast and quite smooth but a bit inconsistent in terms of speed one green to the next. Some of the contours were obvious but many were subtle, making judgment on breaks a challenge.
The ultimate scorecard for any golf course is whether one would return to play it again. The answer from this corner is "Yes." Purists will find the course a bit "tricked up," and some online reviews have hammered Granite Links for its quirky layout, some poorly designed holes that seem more about eye appeal than shot values, and the difficulty in figuring where to aim blind tee shots. We encountered all of that, but in small doses, not enough to diminish the outstanding views, the challenging approach shots and the expansive but puttable greens. As Pete said in response to my comment about two many blind shots, "If this were Vermont or Maine, we wouldn't be complaining."
True. You don't expect a course just six miles from Boston to have such dramatic ups and downs, literally, but Granite Links occupies the highest ground in Quincy, albeit at just 300 feet. Everything being relative, Granite Links seemed like up to me.
Granite Links Golf Club, Quincy, MA, 27 holes in three 18-hole combinations.
Back tees range from 6,735 yards to 6,873 yards, with course ratings of 73.3 to 73.9 and slopes from 137 to 141. Men's (blue) tees from 6,247 to 6,379 yards, 71.3 to 72.1 and 130 to 134. Women's tees at 4,980 yards, 68.4 to 70.6 and 118 to 124.
Green fees, $125 peak.
Phone: 617-689-1900; Web: http://www.granitelinksgolfclub.com.
Membership plans available.
The popular Tavern Restaurant, at the highest point in Quincy, has an active bar scene; the views back across the harbor to Boston are especially intoxicating.
Real estate: Modern apartments for rent across the street from the club start around $1.500 per month. Housing is out of view from the course, as are the cars and bodies below.
With the Granite Clubhouse and popular Tavern Restaurant (top photo) lurking beyond, as well as a hidden pond (note the fountain), a tee shot on the finishing hole of the Granite nine must stay on the top of the fairway on the right. A shot from the bunkers at left (bottom photo) will leave a mostly blind shot to the green.