South Shore Country Club in Hingham, MA
Tee Time: July 6, 2013, 2:33, 93 F, calm and humid
Designer: Wayne Stiles (1922)
Playing Partners: Vikram Juneja
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (70.9 rating/133 slope/6,270 yards)
Course Handicap: 13 (10.9 index)
Stats: 83 (43-39); 32 putts; 5/14 fairways; 8/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes
If Paul Revere had ridden 15 miles south on April 18, 1775, instead of 14 miles north to Lexington on his legendary Midnight Ride to warn that the British were coming, he would have visited South Shore Country Club in Hingham, Massachusetts. Of course, then Lexington and Concord would’ve been hung out to dry and steamrolled by the Redcoats the next day, nipping the American Revolution in the bud. And since South Shore Country Club wasn’t opened until 1922, there wouldn’t have been much to visit. Well, now that that lousy history lesson is over, I can get on to how the golf course is. The city of Boston is teeming with amazing American history on every block and so much has been expertly preserved so that even today’s visitors, nearly 10 generations down the line, can marvel at the undertaking that was the fight for American Independence. Similarly, this quiet country club south of Quincy also keeps ties to its historical roots. There are pictures and memorabilia from years ago, including stops by Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Even without the past, there is plenty to enjoy at South Shore.
The opening nine at South Shore Country Club tests you in a hurry. The green at the 305-yard 1st is the hardest to hit on the entire course. An uphill approach to a narrow putting surface with two deep bunkers to the left and uneven terrain to chip from on the right. The short, 150-yard 2nd is much easier and the green is larger than it appears from the tee. A long, sloping par 5 waits at the 3rd and it usually will play 3 shots. Hitting into the hill means no extra roll and a blind second shot, but lay up and the hole is much easier. The first downhill hole plays much shorter than the 325 yards listed and there is a generous landing area with a great angle for pitching into the green. Easy birdie (I made a 6). Back up the hill to the elevated green at the 385-yard 5th. Just about every hole at South Shore is either uphill, downhill or sidehill, but in the end it all evens out, heading just as far below the clubhouse as above. The blind tee shot at the par-4 6th can seem scary, but the fairway is very wide over the crest and you should be hitting from the short grass into a shallow green. The fun part is ringing the bell after hitting your approach shot to alert the group behind you that the coast is clear. It sounds nice and crisp, like the opening to Hell’s Bells. The most extreme elevation change is from the fairway to the 7th green. From 360 yards, at least the approach is with a wedge, but I’m guessing it’s a 50-foot climb to the pin. The 9th is the most fun par-5 on the course. Hitting a perfect tee shot only brings double bogey into play. Short and 480 slightly downhill yards, there is a creek cutting across just yards in front of the green that makes you rethink that hybrid to get a look at eagle. With a two-tiered surface, the green might be best approached from up close with a wedge.
The back nine here is much tougher than the front. The layout isn’t any different, but there is a lot more thick brush and vegetation to swallow golf balls. Avoid said bushes to the left at the 10th and get out your most accurate wedge to avoid the sunken bunker to the front right of another elevated green. The par-3 11th is the flattest hole of the round, but also the longest par 3 at 188 yards to a large green surrounded by 3 sand traps. The fun 12th looks much longer than it is. There is a ridge only about 260 or so yards from the tee that drops off into oblivion before climbing back up to the green on the other side. Nothing bad is down in that crevasse, just a straight uphill shot that feels like hitting out of a grass-covered canyon. There’s a quick detour through the wilderness it appears from the tee at the 13th with a blind tee shot over open field towards a flag 400 yards away. Unlike the similarly blind tee at the 6th, this shot is not as forgiving at the LZ. The 320-yard 14th is also the most dangerous. There is a quiet little pond that runs along the right side the entire length of the hole and the creek feeding it cuts across the front of the green. The trees surrounding the pond cut off much of the angle to the green even from the fairway, so the left side is the best approach. With water surrounding more than half the putting surface and a thicket of trees around the other section, this is basically an island green. The dogleg right 15th is a tough par-5 the first time around, since it will be impossible to guess where to aim from the tee. Take it along the right side and things will be okay. The two bunkers guarding the front make rolling a second shot onto the green risky, but it can be held from the air. The 16th is another par 4 where trees influence the hole and there is OB all along the left side. There’s one last short par-3 at the 160-yard 17th that plays slightly uphill before the majestic par-5 finishing hole. This exciting finale looks great from the tee with the restaurant and pro shop framing a theater-like green. The hole is easily reachable in two at just 460 yards, but there is a mound jutting in from the right side and the green plays pretty slowly uphill.
There’s a lot to do at the South Shore Country Club. A nice swimming pool, two snack bars and a candlepin bowling alley are all available to the visiting public. I would have thought a Saturday evening would be a bit busier, but the golf course was almost empty, the bowling alley closed and while there were some patrons in the restaurant, the staff seemed to forget we were there because the service was slow. I think the entire Battle of Bunker Hill could have taken place between sitting down and having our orders taken, if what I learned on the Freedom Trail tour is correct. From a sheer golf perspective, the track is a hidden gem. I hadn’t even heard of it in all my scouting until there was a Golfnow deal the day before, but it is a great introduction to the style of New England golf courses from decades ago. At 90 years old, there are some places where its age shows, but the natural terrain of the course ensures it will always present an enjoyable challenge.
#8, Par 3, 201 yards, 11-handicap, My Score: 3
At 201 yards, this is the longest par 3 at South Shore Country Club. It does play downhill, which negates some of the distance. The green slopes off to the back and that thick vegetation on the left creeps in closer than you think, especially with mid- to long-irons running in that general direction. The highlight of the hole is looking back at the tee from the green below. A granite outcrop sits embedded into the cliff that houses the tee boxes and gives this par-3 a cool atmosphere, sort of like being near a quiet, rocky coastline.
Layout: B+; a great example of a New England golf course from early last century. Built in 1922, there are many aspects to this course that will be exciting for generations to come.
Amenities: C-; all the attractions were closed even on a Saturday afternoon and the pro-shop is pretty barebones (they didn’t even sell logo balls!) I really wanted to try some candlepin bowling, I guess the fact they had it and a pool should raise the grade, but they have to be open for that.
Staff: C; the restaurant staff might as well have been cardboard cut-outs. The golfing staff is at least present, but don’t enhance the experience any.
Difficulty: B-; some holes are tighter than they seem and the greenside trouble can be scary, especially the sand traps. The greens are very nice, roll smooth and are an easy speed.
Scenery: B; not much in the way of memorable vistas, but the entire course is quiet and offers privacy. You know it’s a good atmosphere when even a beginning golfer like Vik can enjoy the relaxing air and catch a break from the fast-paced city life of Boston.
Value: B-; $64 with a cart, this would be a good value if everything else was open, but for just the golf, it seems a bit overpriced. You can save $17 by walking, and it is a course where it can be fun to hoof it, but at 93 degrees and humid, I’ll take the little gas buggy.
Overall GPA: 2.57 (C+); not bad considering the slim pickings of public golf in the Boston area, but nothing too memorable as far as the golf is concerned.