The Takeaway: Grade A+
Designer: Willie Campbell in 1895 (Rees Jones 1988)
Cost: Private Private (walking caddies provided)
Phone Number: (617) 566-0240
Course Website: Official Website - Visit The Country Club (Brookline)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Accolades: Ranked 24th on Golf Digest's 2013-14 Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses in America and 1st in the state of Massachusetts.
What to Expect: Going into my round at Brookline, I was a bit fearful that The Country Club’s impressive rating in the Top 100 rankings was going to be a result of the history at the club rather than the design of the golf course. While I enjoy rich tradition at various clubs, I’m an architecture junky at heart and thus the quality of the property and individual hole designs is what really spins my wheels. Fortunately, my expectations were exceeded at Brookline where I discovered a course that had it all; a beautiful inland piece of property, incredible history/tradition, and memorable holes that were both enjoyable and challenging. The property consists of 27 holes with the Clyde and Squirrel 9s comprising the members’ 18 hole course and the Primrose 9 being utilized primarily by families and individuals looking for a more casual round. Part of the tradition at The Country Club is the mandatory walking policy on the Clyde/Squirrel course (unless you have medical condition) and being provided a caddie to carry your clubs and assist you throughout your round. The club has hosted 15 USGA events including three U.S. Opens and the 1999 Ryder Cup. When hosting these type of events, the club forgoes use of the 9th, 10th, and 12th holes of the Clyde/Squirrel course and fuses in the 1st hole (playing to the 2nd green), 8th hole, and 9th hole from the Primrose course. While the three holes left out of the Clyde/Squirrel course are solid, the holes brought in from the Primrose course are nothing short of spectacular. Recognized as the oldest country club in the country, Brookline is blessed with extensive facilities that include several indoor and outdoor tennis courts, squash courts, a skeet shooting area, skating/hockey facilities, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. In fact, the club used to enjoy equestrian activities on the property and evidence of that land use is still visible on the holes near the clubhouse. The quality of the holes, the movement of the terrain, the bunkering and fescue use, and the rich history of the club was very reminiscent of Merion for me. In short, The Country Club is spectacular in every way and has instantly become one of my all time favorite courses.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 7th Hole – 197 Yard Par 3 – The 7th hole claims its status as the signature hole at The Country Club due to the quality of this one-shotter paired with the fact that it is the oldest hole on the property and the only hole remaining from the original six holes built in 1893. The raised green features a challenging double plateau and is protected by bunkers left and right. If you aren’t playing the tips, this is the first non-par four you’ll encounter at Brookline and definitely fits the adage of being an oldie but a goodie.
Best Par 3: 2nd Hole – 190 Yards – When you first look at the scorecard and see the tips measuring out 90 yards shorter than the women’s tee, you may assume there is a misprint. However, it is actually a unique situation where the championship course utilizes an alternative tee box on the right side of this par four and thus creates a par three for players teeing it up on the black tees. Although I am not certain, my assumption is that this par three was created in an effort to supplement the loss of the short 12th hole when it is abandoned (along with two other holes) in lieu of the lengthier holes from the Primrose course. If the 2nd hole played as a par four from the tips and the 12th hole were discarded for championship play, it would leave just two par threes on the course (the 7th and 16th) which would be a highly unusual routing and unbalanced test. The 2nd hole plays uphill to a green that is heavily bunkered on the left side. However a ball that goes left of the putting surface will hope to find the sand, because the gnarly, deep fescue rough surrounding the bunkers and green is nearly impossible to save par from; assuming you can even find your ball. I’m a big fan of slightly blind uphill par 3s due to the intrigue and anticipation of finding out where your ball is after you crest the hill and the 2nd hole at Brookline doesn’t disappoint.
Best Par 4: 3rd Hole – 451 Yards – My favorite hole at The Country Club was this unique two-shotter that features the best risk/reward opportunity on the property. This hour glass shaped hole encourages the safe player to play their tee shot up the left side of the fairway where it will tumble out of sight as it rolls down the hill and leaves a lengthy approach over a protruding bunker to a green lined with sand on both sides and a pond to the rear. The risky player will bomb their tee shot over the rocky hill on the right side of the hole which will effectively carry the bottle neck portion of the hole and propel the ball to the top of the hour glass fairway. Effectively pulling off this tee shot will open up the angle to the green and leave a short wedge shot into the putting surface. The blind nature of the tee shot puts additional pressure on the golfer to trust his swing and decision; any doubt in either of those elements can quickly lead to a big number on the scorecard. The fairway tumbles between hills on either side of the short grass thus creating deceptive visuals, intriguing playing options, and unique bounces. The feeling I had when I walked off the green was, “Man, I wish I could go play that hole again right now,” which is the sign of any great hole.
Best Par 5: 11th Hole – 513 Yards – Brookline features just two par fives, both of which are great and are found on the back nine. The reachable 11th is particularly enjoyable as it plays over a pond off the tee and calls for a drive that threads between the rock mound on the right and the tree line on the left. If you have been doing your P90X and feel like you can carry the rock formation on the right, you will definitely be in the go zone for reaching this green in two. A creek crosses the fairway and becomes a factor with a mammoth drive. The creek is also a factor following a short drive when the player must decide whether to try and carry the water or stay short of it in preparation of their third shot. The green sits on a hill that plays at least two clubs longer than the yardage to reach and features an attractive amphitheatre of trees surrounding the putting surface. The raised green is one of the finest locations on the property and view back down the hole offers an excellent visual of the features that make it one of the best holes in the Bay State.
Birdie Time: 6th Hole – 334 Yard Par 4 – Standing on the 6th tee at The Country Club gave me a flashback to standing on the 10th tee at Merion. Both holes are uphill driveable par fours that call for a slight draw and can put a shot of momentum into your round. Nine bunkers are found on the hole with six of them being located at the end of the fairway and around the green. This grouping of bunkers, along with consideration of the wind, should dictate what club you take off the tee. The fairway narrows the closer it gets to the green thus putting a greater premium on accuracy the longer you try to hit the ball off the tee. Hitting anything less than driver will leave an uphill approach shot to a blind putting surface which is a combination that leave a golfer second guessing just how hard to hit his 2nd shot. All of that being said, short par fours are excellent opportunities to card birdies and this is no exception. So hit your tee shot down to your favorite yardage and then take dead aim for the flag.
Bogey Beware: 5th Hole – 497 Yard Par 4 – The Country Club’s most difficult hole is also one of its finest. This nearly 500 yard beast features a blind tee shot where the optimal tee ball will travel over the hill on the right while staying inside the tree line. Open space is offered to the left off the tee but introduces a much longer approach shot on this dogleg right as well as introducing gnarly fescue grass. A pair of cross bunkers comes into play well short of the green while another pair of bunkers flank the left side of the green. The back-to-front, right-to-left sloping green generates difficult putts and brings bogey into play even after hitting the green in regulation. Every stroke on this hole is demanding and thus the perfect candidate for Bogey Beware.