George Wright Golf Course
Massachusetts, United States of America

Tenth hole, 460 yards; While the layout occupies an ample 145 acres, Ross didn’t have gobs of extra room with which to work but the varied shot requirements that his usual clever routing yields are evident in spades on the second nine. Nine and ten measure over 1,000 yards (!) and these back-to-back holes are the biggest two-shotters on the course. A dogleg left was placed here with a long downhill approach to an open green and is complemented by the sharply uphill tee ball at the dogleg right eleventh. These alternating requirements help explain the glowing affection this place engenders in people like Carlson.

A majestic oak tree makes its presence known down the left; best to approach this bunkerless green from the outside of the dogleg.

A majestic oak tree makes its presence known down the left; best to approach this bunkerless green from the outside of the dogleg.

Eleventh hole, 360 yards; This dogleg right folds neatly inside the elbow of the tenth and while considerably shorter still bristles with challenge. Like the sixth it is an example of a rugged hole that feels entirely natural even after tons of dynamite were used to lower the landform in the driving zone. The tee ball is well uphill but appears natural and not so excessive that it doesn’t constitute good golf. Ross never encountered granite in Pinehurst, so it’s clear that the three decades of experience that the Maestro gained in building courses in New England prior to George Wright came in handy.

A leftover granite outcropping serves as a perfect target for the most uphill tee shot on the course.

A leftover granite outcropping serves as a perfect target for the most uphill tee shot on the course.

The intermediate size green is one of the harder targets to find on the course. Like the fourth, Curtin's green expansion allows balls to release and bleed off the front right, down into the gathering greenside bunker.

The intermediate size green is one of the harder targets to find on the course. Like the fourth, Curtin’s green expansion allows balls to release and bleed off the front right, down into the gathering greenside bunker.

Twelfth hole, 410 yards; A polarizing hole that some embrace for its edge-of-the-world playing attributes and others bemoan as unreasonably penal. There is no hint from the tee what lies ahead because a 35 degree embankment bisects the fairway creating a steep drop-off that has been maintained as rough since Ross’s day. All for good reason: it is well nigh impossible, not to mention impractical, to maintain it at fairway height. Do you try and blast beyond it off the tee – or lay back?

A grand vista unfolds as one moves mid way down the twelfth fairway.

A grand vista unfolds as one moves mid way down the twelfth fairway.

This view from behind provides an accurate sense of how the twelfth plummets downhill and a good view of the rough covered embankment that has frustrated golfers since the beginning.

This view from behind provides an accurate sense of how the twelfth plummets downhill and a good view of the rough covered embankment that has frustrated golfers since the beginning.

Fourteenth hole, 190 yards; Almost everyone familiar with the course singles out this one-shotter built on top of slabs of granite.  Here the golfer experiences the only long green-to-tee walk on the course as he climbs a good forty feet from the thirteenth green. Unlike many modern courses where such extra effort to reach a tee isn’t a rewarding experience, it is here. A false front left and a green that sneaks right around the shoulder of a hill provide all sorts of interesting hole locations. Wider than it is deep, the green calls for one of the most accurate iron shots of the day. A decade ago, the green was a small oval and a boring target. Curtin is especially pleased with how they have recaptured the playing attributes of Ross’s greens across the course. He elaborates, ‘Our greens had shrunk to about 60% of their original size due to years of indifferent maintenance practices. I am very proud of being able to find the original rectangular shapes of our greens, and re-establishing the false fronts on most of our greens that is so typical Ross. This would not have been possible without the help of long time member, former club champ and all around terrific guy, the late Billy Mathews. He really showed me where the original footprints of all the greens were early post WWII. Billy was a living, breathing George Wright encyclopedia, and I leaned on him all the time.’ 

A false front and a drop-off long define the task from the tee. The author only wishes that the massive 50 ton granite boulder in the background (but off the course’s property) could be better seen and appreciated.

A false front and a drop-off long define the task from the tee. The author only wishes that the massive 50 ton granite boulder in the background (but off the course’s property) could be better seen and appreciated.

As seen from the left of the green, the Stony Brook Reservation beyond the stone wall shelters this portion of the property from outside disturbances.

As seen from the left of the green, the Stony Brook Reservation beyond the stone wall shelters this portion of the property from outside disturbances.

Seventeenth hole, 170 yards; Most Ross courses had their genesis in the age of hickory golf. Not George Wright, steel shafted clubs had firmly taken center stage by the time the course was built. Additionally, the sand wedge had become standard armature while most hickory sets ended with a niblick (the equivalent of a nine iron). Aware of these evolutions, Ross adjusted his demands on the golfer and this exacting one-shotter is a prime example. Considering that the course was built for the public, the author doubts Ross would have required a such a long aerial approach over deep fronting bunkers in the hickory era. Another eight decades of equipment advancement has not diminished this penultimate hole’s charms and challenge.

Watching a well-struck tee ball clear the front bunkers, climb the back slope that Ross flared (Curtin restored) and return close to the hole is one of the indelible memories from a game here.

Watching a well-struck tee ball clear the front bunkers, climb the back slope that Ross flared (Curtin restored) and return close to the hole is one of the indelible memories from a game here.

The deep sand faced greenside bunkers are made easier by ... the sand wedge!

The deep sand faced greenside bunkers are made easier by … the sand wedge!

Eighteenth hole, 380 yards; Given George Wright’s elaborate construction, comparison can be made to Seth Raynor building and dynamiting his way to glory at the Yale Golf Club.  Such an analogy ends at the seventeenth where the holes proximal to the clubhouse, the first, ninth and eighteenth are on flatter portions of the property. The home hole isn’t savagely played up and over a mountain à la Yale but rather more gracefully on tamer terrain. Regardless, appreciation for these two master architects is enhanced by touring both courses. While they always got the most out of a site, when they weren’t blessed with natural features, they knew exactly what to do – and what not to do – to end up with creations that feel deeply rooted in nature.

The landforms calm down as one heads for home.

The round isn't over until the golfer has successfully negotiated the contours of the Home green.

The round isn’t over until the golfer has successfully negotiated the contours of the Home green.

There you have it! What a round, what a place. From Head Professional Scott Allen’s warm greeting to the amazing recovery that Len Curtin has achieved on a limited budget this place reeks of the spirit of another famous municipal course – The Old Course at St. Andrews. Everyone is welcome; it’s just that the golf is more affordable here! No better incubator for the game’s long term health exists than the municipal golf course. As such, the revival of Georg Wright is one of the game’s most compelling stories. Much can be gleaned from understanding this story as it serves as an enlightened path forward.

Accolades abound for George Wright, Ross and Hatch, Roosevelt’s wisdom, the City of Boston and some of its great mayors, and to no less a degree, Len Curtin. If you know someone who lives in Boston who doesn’t sing the praises of this course, then you know a fool, a snob or worse.

The best money you will ever spend.

The best money you will ever spend.

The End