Salem Country Club

Eighth hole, 515 yards; This hole highlights Salem’s ultimate trump card: its terrain. A ridge separates the tee from the fairway in the valley below while a twenty foot tall chocolate drop mound pinches in 100 yards from the green. This long hole only required three bunkers and indeed Salem has a total of 56 bunkers, which is a relatively small number compared to the 108 at Scioto or the 87 at Oak Hill. However, it speaks volumes about the New England terrain and how Ross used it. Indeed, the left side of the 8th green complex makes for a fine study in the lost art of non-bunkering – Ross created a very interesting ledge effect by not using any bunkers and in the process, he made an up and down less likely.

Note the chocolate drop mound on the left.

Ninth hole, 425 yards; A hole that was clearly not built in modern times. First, the fairway features all sorts of bumps and humps, particularly down the left hand side. Secondly, the pond doesn’t front the green but rather is 40 yards shy. Out of play, you say? Tell that to Ben Hogan who unsuccessfully tried to carry it from the left rough. Another feature of the hole is Ross’s clever use of misdirection: a straightdrive aimed toward the green will see the golfer’s ball end in the left rough (now known as Hogan’s Alley), thanks to the right to fairway’s left pitch. The golfer must force himself to aim further right than makes him comfortable but a relatively flat lie for his approach will be his reward if he does so.

Note the fairway humps and bumps and that the pond is well back from the men on the green.

Twelfth hole, 150 yards; A fine example of the attention to detail that the Club board places on presenting the course in as pure a Ross state as possible. A 1928 aerial photo showed only two front bunkers, and yet in 1994 the hole had four such bunkers. Figuring that two bunkers had erroneously been added, the Club removed them. Then, signed Ross plans came to light that showed he had in fact added the two bunkers in 1931. Armed with this new information, the Club authorized for the pair of bunkers to be restored. Top flight work was carried out in the summer of 2000 and once again four bunkers guard this severely pitched back to front green. A complete delight.

The newly restored bunkers that front the 12th green.

Thirteenth hole, 340 yards; Ross is credited with 413 courses by one count and that equates to 7,434 holes. Out of those holes, this one issurely in his top five. The drive is highly appealing into the bowl shaped fairway but the show stealer is the amazing green, one of Ben Crenshaw’s favorites in the world.

The view from the 13th tee is inspiring but…

…the green is even better. Even with a setting sun, the front bowl which affords the only easy hole location is evident. The green slopes away to the left… and right… and behind!

Fourteenth hole, 215 yards; Studying how this green seems completely glued to the ground should be mandatory for any architect. Two bunkers are well short of each side of thegreen by some fifteen and ten yards respectively and often deceive the golfer into coming up short.

Fifteenth hole, 530 yards; The longest of the three shot holes at Salem, how the best senior players play it will be fascinating to watch. The tee ball is downhill to a fairway that slopes from right to left and sets up perfectly for a draw. However, at the 300 yard mark a brook in the left and right rough pinches the fairway to just twenty yards in width. The green is easily within reach from this area, which is the sole flat spot in the fairway. For those unwilling to accept the risk that the brook poses, they will have to lay back a touch. By doing so, they almost insure themselves of an awkward stance in the lumpy fairway and trying to reach the uphill green from such a position would be a mighty shot indeed. The green is funnel shaped with its high left and right sides that slope toward the middle.

Seventeenth hole, 425 yards; The last three holes at Salem are two shot holes of roughly the same length. Each is quite good and three golfers could reasonably choose any one of the three as his favorite. The authors select the 17th, thanks to its superlative green complex. The green is located on a small hillock and slopes from back to front and any shot out of the rough will not hold the shallow green. The resulting chip back can easily trundle across the green and off the falsefront. The only way to get a ball close to the front hole locations is to bump it into the bank that fronts the green.

The above should convey that Salem starts strong, finishes strong and some of the best holes are found in the middle section. What more can be said?! Ross was given 350 acres of rolling New England land from which to choose. He produced another brilliant routing and the holes flow with the terrain. His well trained construction crew then lavished attention on the green complexes,which Ross had carefully diagramed. No wonder the result is so strong.

There are no weak holes at Salem. Even on the 500 yard three shot holes, bunkers like this one on the 11th will grab the careless golfer.

Ross succinctly states what constitutes the ideal course in Golf Has Never Failed Me:

‘The ideal course is one that presents a test of golf for the everyday golfer and the first-class player. A properly designed course can take care of every class of golfer. My aim is to bring out of the player the best golf in him. It will be difficult to negotiate some holes, but that is what golf is for. It is a mental test and an eye test. The hazards and bunkers are placed so as to force a man to use judgement and to exercise mental control in making the correct shot.’

There is no possible better description for Salem Country Club.

The specimen trees are perfect: they are both well back from play while still making autumnal golf special.

The End