Friday, February 27, 2009

2. George Wright Golf Course

Location: Hyde Park (0:25 SW of Boston / 2:25 east of Pittsfield)
Architect: Donald Ross, 1939.
Yardage: 6440 (blue) / 6096 (white) / 5131 (red)
Weekend Rates: Boston res. $33, non-resident $41. Cart: +$18.
Best Deal: $29 (Boston resident, weekday).

George Wright Golf Course is a rough around the edges Donald Ross masterpiece. The course's scruffy condition echoes the blue-collar Boston neighborhood of Hyde Park in which it resides. George Wright is built on mostly rocky terrain, which makes for a number of thrilling downhill shots as well as a handful of blind drives and blind approaches. The course opens with 2 unmemorable warm-up par fours, but the screws tighten at the 3rd hole, a medium-length par five twisting through a narrow valley ending at a green on a plateau. A long drive down the left side opens up the opportunity to get home in two, but trees guard any aggressive but offline approach. The 4th is a solid par three across a valley, and is followed by one of Massachusetts best golf holes, the long par four 5th. George Wright's 5th hole is one of a kind: the drive is fired across a deep ravine to a fairway rising steadily to a summit 250 yards from the back tee. Most drives will finish short of this crest, and thus the long approach is totally blind, up and over the hill to a huge sunken green at the bottom of the slope! Hitting the 5th green in regulation is a great accomplishment. The 7th and 9th holes are excellent par fours that round out the front nine, both featuring drives to hidden landing areas. The string of fun golf shots from the 3rd to the 9th hole is a testament to the inventive way Donald Ross routed the front nine up and over the many hills.

Looking back at the ski-slope 12th fairway

The back nine at George Wright features an equal number of classic golf holes. The long par four 10th hole sweeps left, the fairway plunging down a steep hill to a sunken green, the concept a bit of a mirror image of the 5th. The 11th climbs back up the ridge to a plateau fairway weaving right to a green pocketed in a hillside. For years, the 12th fairway has been used as a sledding hill for local youths - perhaps that is what it should be reserved for! The bobsled nature of the hole, combined with a blind landing area and hidden creek at the slope's bottom combine to make it a goofy tee shot. I've lost my ball off the tee at the 12th more times than not, even with straight as an arrow drives! The medium length par five 15th offers a dilemma off the tee: the drive is over a rocky ledge, wtih the longest carry to the right and less of one to the left. The green, of course, is off to the right, so an aggressive drive over the most scrub and rock may bring it into range in two. The penultimate hole at George Wright is a beauty, a picture postcard of a par three.

The par three 17th

The 17th is a slightly downhill hole playing 170 yards to a pushed up green site. Only a crisply struck mid-iron will hold the putting surface. The course finisher is a mid-length par four, turning left across a creek to a green complex beneath the towering stone clubhouse, a fitting setting to finish a fine golf course.

The clubhouse cost $200,000... in 1939!

Unfortunately, George Wright is often overlooked among Boston-area Donald Ross courses because of years of neglect. Disregarding the scruffy conditioning of the course, holes such as 5, 10, and 11 are unquestionably brilliant design on a massive scale. They would shine just as brightly on any of Ross's better known private Massachusetts layouts. The course is the namesake of George Wright, a legendary baseball player and coach in the late 1800's for the Cincinnati Red Legs and Boston Red Stockings. In 1869, he hit a whopping .633 with 49 home runs in 57 games. By some measures, George Wright Golf Course may exceed those lofty numbers - at least two-thirds of the 18 holes are unique and exhilarating tests.

Course Rating: 7 stars out of 10

Bang for your $41 Bucks: 8 stars out of 10

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