The Country Club
Brookline, Massachusetts, United States of America
Eighth hole, 380 yards, Corner; In the beginning, The Country Club leased 105 acres, which they purchased a few years later. Over the next twenty years, they acquired an additional 70 acres in various bites. A final tract of 55 acres in 1923 made the Primrose nine a reality. In 1904, the eighth green butted against the corner of the property, hence its name.
Ninth hole, 515 yards, Himalayas; Appropriately named, this might well be New England’s finest three shot hole. Alas, it will be function as a two-shotter for the 2013 Amateur! Similar to the third, its fairway twists and turns past a rock ledge, a tempting carry for the tiger who be left with only a mid iron to the elevated green. A world-class course – by definition – must possess world-class golf holes and the third and ninth are two such holes. Another prerequisite is that the course must reflect its surrounds and one play of the ninth leaves the golfer no doubt that he is in New England.
Tenth hole, 480 yards, Stockton; Ouimet noted that the course was ‘subtle.’ Considering its old world charm, one might assume that today’s course has been in play ever since 1899. That’s just not true and in fact over ten architects have worked on the golf course during the past century plus, trying to tweak the course toward perfection. Recently, Hanse added a pair of bunkers at the right edge of this fairway. Previously, the golfer smashed a drive over the crest of the hill and received a big scoot forward. Now, he needs to be wary of the perfectly placed new bunkers. Not only do they defend the portion of the fairway that offers the most level stances, they create the perfect tension with the left greenside bunkers ahead.
Eleventh hole, 450 yards; No club is more tightly tied to the United States Golf Association than The Country Club. In addition to being one of its five founding members in 1894, The Country Club has produced six U.S.G.A. presidents. In preparation for the 1957 U.S. Amateur, a decision was made to combine the first and second holes of the Primrose course into a long par four with a forced carry over water for the approach shot. Even with the addition of this new hole, the pundits expected record low scoring in the 1963 U.S. Open. Like Merion in 2013, they were proved sadly wrong; nine over par played off for the title in 1963.
Twelfth hole, 625 yards; Wait until the 2013 U.S. Amateur contestants see this hole! It previously played as a two shotter in big events but the club and the U.S.G.A. became disgruntled that the fairway ran out 310 yards from the par four tee. While not an issue at the last big event (the 1999 Ryder Cup), technology and agronomy have conspired to make 300 yard plus drives common at the highest level of play. Having golfers lay back off the tee on a long par seemed wrong so it was decided to create a beast of a par five. Like the previous hole, a premium is placed on getting in the fairway. Otherwise, mounting the forty foot ridge found some 150 yards short of the green becomes highly unlikely. This hole makes its debut on television August 2013 and it might well be the greatest par five hole that only a few people have ever seen.
Thirteenth hole, 435 yards; A somewhat unusual sight greets the golfer on the tee: a straight playing corridor where the flag and entire putting surface are visible from the tee! To this point in the round, that’s only been true at the eighth hole. Various design ploys keep the golfer off balance at The Country Club including tee balls over ridges and crests, fairways that move in one direction or the other, elevated green sites and sometimes greens hidden from view. Here, the fairway bends slightly from left to right and shaping a fade into the fairway is highly satisfying. Brookline has always been considered a ‘placement’ course first and foremost and it’s no wonder that tacticians like Julius Boros and Curtis Strange fared so well here.
Fourteenth hole, 535 yards, Quarry; The Country Club is a cunning course in the sense that the better golfer can always seek an advantage. Only the sixth and fifteenth holes play in a straight line from tee to green, otherwise the holes, like this three-shotter bend one way or another. A long tee ball over a unique grass covered excavation mound shaped like a horseshoe may bring the green into reach but the elevated green has the most back to front pitch on the course. Wedge shots spinning off the green (and even down the hill) in the 1999 Ryder Cup were a common occurrence.
Fifteenth hole, 490 yards, Liverpool; As played for the 2013 U.S. Amateur, this hole caps off the hardest six hole stretch with which the author is familiar. Beginning at the Himalayas ninth, the golfer plays six brutally long holes, all two-shotters except for the monster three-shot twelfth. What a daunting stretch, regardless of high tech shafts and forgiving 460cc club heads.