Places to Play
The best courses you can play near Boston
Though other metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, New York and Chicago are more highly regarded for having great golf, don’t sleep on Boston. Of course, The Country Club at Brookline—which will host its fourth U.S. Open next week—has all the history with the club dating back to 1882 and the first course opening in 1895. But there is other great golf around Boston—with a considerable amount of courses open to the public.
Using course reviews from our Golf Digest panelists as part of our newly relaunched Places to Play, we identified the best public options for golf around Boston. You might not have Beantown on your list of future golf trips, but if you find yourself there with a chance to play, we recommend playing these tracks.
George Wright, Hyde Park, Mass.
George Wright is consistently recognized as one of the best, most affordable public golf options anywhere. Much like The Country Club, "The Wright," as it’s known to locals, is routed through rock outcroppings and wild terrain that challenges the golfer with constant elevation changes, many blind shots and smallish greens. Donald Ross' routing through tree-lined corridors is bold and adventurous, but also highly walkable, with nearly every green just a few short steps away from the next tee. At $41 to walk for city residents ($50 for non-residents), you won't find a better deal in the state, which is probably why it's hard to secure a tee time. Plus, the course is always in good condition thanks to superintendent Leo Curtin and his crew. Our panelists report that George Wright’s greens are routinely on par with any of the high-end private courses operating with an exponentially higher budget. George Wright hosted the 2018 state amateur along with its sister course, William J. Devine.
William J. Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park, Dorchester, Mass.
George Wright has always gotten love as the better of the two courses, but the other city-owned course—affectionately known as "The Park"—is as good as it's ever been. Thanks to some tree removal and an effort to improve drainage, William J. Devine usually plays firm and fast and can be a fun challenge for players of all skill levels. At just 6,000 yards from the tips, players will have lots of wedges for approach shots, but the bouncy turf plus some tiny, severely sloped greens demand that those approach shots be precise or the bogeys can pile up fast. Much like George Wright, very few holes here lie on flat ground and there are plenty of blind tee shots, adding to the intrigue of the round. Unlike George Wright, the landscape here is wide open and much more forgiving for those who tend to get a little wild off the tee, while also providing for some lovely vistas from the high points on the property. Word is that Francis Ouimet prepping his game here before the 1913 U.S. Open. It’s also believed to be the second-oldest public course, having opened in 1896, just a year after Van Cortlandt Park in New York City debuted.
Granite Links, Quincy, Mass.
The semi-private, 27-hole facility is truly a part of the fabric of the city. As part of the 15-year, $24 billion road infrastructure project, nearly 900,000 truckloads of excavated dirt were deposited here in the early 2000s. That afforded architect John Sanford the ability to use the 13 million tons of material to cap the site and mold some dramatic topography with the soil. With land sitting as high as 298 feet above sea level, the Milton, Quincy and Granite nines offer terrific views of downtown with impeccable conditions. The practice facilities are top-notch, and the tavern at Granite Links was named as one of Golf Digest’s Best 19th holes.
Red Tail Golf Club, Fort Devens, Mass.
Courtesy of the club
Built upon an EPA Superfund site, Boston native Brian Silva created what our Ron Whitten calls “one of his most imaginative” golf course designs. Bold greens with internal contouring—that often run quick—plus artful, creative bunkering make this a thoughtful design with a variety of shot options. About a 45-minute drive from downtown, this is well-worth going out of your way for.
Pinehills Golf Club (Nicklaus and Jones courses), Plymouth, Mass.
Courtesy of Pinehills Golf Club
One of our panelists calls the courses at Pinehills the best options within an hour of Boston. For avid golfers who live in and around the city, this is a go-to spot for many. The Nicklaus and Jones courses are always in good shape and present architecturally interesting designs. Even for those coming from Cape Cod, it’s worth the drive.
Butter Brook Golf Club, Westford, Mass.
This Mark Mungeam design is an inviting and fair test of golf. The signature hole is the 416-yard par-4 17th (pictured), which asks you to take some risk off the tee in order to have a chance to stick an elevated green. Be careful of the native area as it bottlenecks the further you go down the fairway. It's tough to beat in terms of value in the area (about 35 minutes from Boston), at $60 to walk 18 holes.
Stow Acres Country Club (North), Stow, Mass.
The North course was designed by Geoffrey Cornish and offers a nice variety of holes. The conditions are always good on the North course. The facility has a South Course as well, but one of our panelists reports that the conditions are a little spotty compared to the North and the layout is inferior.
Fresh Pond Golf Course, Cambridge, Mass.
Fresh Pond should absolutely be on your radar. It's a nine-hole, Donald Ross original that’s run by the city of Cambridge and offers great value. At least half of the holes offer strong strategic design, giving you options and making you think. And there are some great views from downtown.
Presidents Golf Course, North Quincy, Mass.
An extremely quirky 5,700-yard, par-70 named for the presidents Adams who hailed from Quincy, the club dates back to the 19th century. It was previously called Wollaston Golf Club until Fazio built a new course. The best players in Massachusetts attempt to navigate the small greens for a couple amateur events in the state.
Sandy Burr Country Club, Wayland, Mass.
A bit of a sleeper course in the Boston area, it’s about 30-35 minutes west of downtown but only 20-25 minutes from The Country Club. It’s a fun Donald Ross track you can play for $50-70, depending on day/time.
Triggs Memorial Golf Course, Providence, R.I.
Courtesy of the club
Authenticity is what golf architecture fans (and architecture writers) seek first and foremost when searching out a Donald Ross design. In my opinion, Triggs Memorial Golf Course in Providence, R.I. is a very pleasant, very authentic Donald Ross product, with the added bonus of being a public layout, available for all to study and enjoy.
The original hole-by-hole diagrams hanging in the grill room (minus the 18th hole, presumably now gracing the wall of some golfer’s mancave) verify that almost every hole and every bunker are still as Ross first envisioned them. This is one of those courses that Ross actually visited, according to newspaper reports of the day. His summer office was in Little Compton, in the southeast corner of Rhode Island, just a couple of hours away. Ross walked the land on at least two occasions, once before making a routing, then again while designing particular holes.
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Waverly Oaks, Plymouth, Mass.
Waverly Oaks is another stellar public design from Boston native Brian Silva. Routed through 240 acres of rolling topography and up to 100 feet of elevation change, Waverly Oaks also features some bold greens that are reminiscent of Seth Raynor designs.
Wachusett Country Club, West Boylston, Mass.
Donald Ross’ routing makes good use of some interesting contouring while also offering nice views of Mount Wachusett and the nearby reservoir. About 45 minutes west of Boston, Wachusett Country Club actually sits closer to the borders of Connecticut and Rhode Island than Boston. It’s still worth considering this fourth-generation, privately owned public course in your Boston itineraries.
South Shore Country Club, Hingham, Mass.
Courtesy of the club
The facility is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year. About 25 minutes south of Boston, South Shore has some nice rolling topography—with a bowling alley, sports bar and simulators to make this a great place to hang down the road from Boston Golf Club, a private Gil Hanse design on our America’s 100 Greatest ranking.