Make New Friends and Keep the Old
Silver and Gold


By Bill Nestor

Shining Rock hole #5
Meadow Brook hole #10, par 3
Crumpin-Fox Golf Club in Bernardston, Mass...holes #6, 7 & 8.

In preschool, my son and his friends often sang, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver the other is gold.”

Works for golf, too: always looking to experience a new course, but cherishing the old favorites. Not that it’s that easy to find a new one these days, especially close to home.

The boom is over, which saw 3,206 new courses built in the U.S. from1990-2005, reaching all time highs of 16,052 courses and 30 million golfers. According to the National Golf Foundation, there are now 15,979 courses and 27.1 million golfers. Course closings have outpaced openings each year since 2006. There were only 49.5 new U.S. courses opened in 2009, versus 139.5 closings.

New courses in New England have been particularly scarce, but two were optimistically launched in 2010, and I had the good fortune to play both.

Shining Rock Golf Club in Northbridge, Massachusetts has actually been ready for some time. It took new owners, Liberty Golf LLC, to help it make its debut.

The club’s name is derived from an exposed promontory near the 13th green, where an outcropping of gnarly, red pines growing from cracks and crevices overlooks historic Blackstone Valley, with a drop of some 80 feet to the forest floor. A high concentration of mica in the black granite formation reflects sunlight and shines brightly, especially when wet.

Rock outcrops, prevalent throughout the 165 acres of rolling landscape, influenced the course routing. Five to six million yards of material was moved to build Shining Rock, one million of which came from Boston’s Big Dig at a rate of 100 truckloads a day for two years.

The par 71 layout is a challenging 6,735-yard, 139 slope rating from the tips. However, multiple tee options make the course friendlier for many golfers. The 300 feet of elevation change creates some dramatic holes. Shining Rock has 68 bunkers, bent grass greens, tees and fairways, with bluegrass rough. The design incorporates sloping, downhill and uphill fairways, ravines, ponds, doglegs, well-protected bunkered greens, wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas.

“Construction site superintendent, Patrick Sullivan, who for four years directed much of the design and construction, has guided Shining Rock through its extraordinary development. The result is a spell-binding layout,” said General Manager Tim Gordon.

Shining Rock hole #13

Sullivan extensively adjusted Howard Mauer’s original routing plan and is credited as designer. “I’m a fan of Pete Dye and Donald Ross. Shining Rock is likely a blending of their styles,” said Sullivan. 

A 3,500 square foot clubhouse, including restaurant, pro shop and locker rooms is scheduled for 2011 and Polte Homes will build residential condos on the site. Shining Rock was ranked by GOLF Magazine in its “Best New Courses You Can Play of 2010” list as the fourth-best new public access course of the year. It also designated Shining Rock Golf Club as the “Best Value” of the top 10 rated courses selected.
www.shiningrock.com (508) 234-0400

Meadow Brook in Richmond, Rhode Island sits on 260 acres of land previously occupied by a town public course. Although some sight lines were retained, the new layout barely resembles its predecessor. The routing through open fields and stands of large oak and pine feels like a mature park preserve. Shaped pitches surrounding five acres of greens averaging 9,000 square feet, 45 sand bunkers and water in play on seven holes, adds both charm and caution.

Meadow Brook in Richmond, RI sits on 260 acres of land previously occupied by a town public course.

There are also five acres of spacious tees. The key is choosing the right one from the five sets available. The tips extend to a hefty 7,468 yards, making Meadow Brook the state’s longest golf track. Both par fives on the back nine are over 600 yards; number 15 is 649 yards, Rhode Island’s longest hole. Multiple tee options from 5,308 yards make the course very playable for all levels, however the slope ratings don’t accurately indicate how difficult Meadowbrook can be. A beautiful, peaceful setting helps to balance the challenge, requiring a variety of shots, accurate drives and sinking some long putts.

One of the beautiful holes on the Meadow Brook golf course.

Meadow Brook is owned and managed by the Hendricks family, local residents who also own and operate nearby Exeter and Richmond country clubs. The design and construction project was a multi-generational family affair in more ways than one. Father and son, Pete and Jay enlisted Ruelwich & Fleury Golf Design to craft this modern day upscale public gem. Except for bunker sand, the course was built entirely with materials from the site. Venerable golf architect Roger Rulewich has been fashioning golf courses for more than 40 years. He and partner Dave Fleury worked side by side with Pete and Jay Hendricks to build Meadow Brook.

“Between the rolling terrain, beautiful oaks and conifers, and soil conditions I had not seen a site so perfectly situated for a golf course,” said Fleury. “This was a site that would have been chosen in the early days of golf course design,” added Rulewich.
www.meadowbrookgolfri.com (401) 539-8491

Playing these two regional newborns inspired a road trip to visit and play a few New England favorites.

Crumpin-Fox Golf Club in Bernardston, a semi-private facility, was rated Golfweek's 2010 Best Course You Can Play in Massachusetts. (Top: hole #3; Bottom: hole #7)

Crumpin-Fox Golf Club in Bernardston, a semi-private facility, was rated Golfweek's 2010 Best Course You Can Play in Massachusetts. It stretches to 7,007 yards from the 141 slope back tees. Rambling through a sizeable area of undeveloped rolling land with bass-filled ponds, copious hillside stands of mature hardwoods and evergreens, and elevated tees and greens, Crumpin-Fox is a layout fit for challenge seekers or a pleasant day of golf in the country.

Robert Trent Jones Sr. was selected to find a site sufficient for a Pine Valley type golf course. His principal designer at the time, Roger Rulewich, created a nine-hole course cut from a heavily wooded parcel that opened for play in 1977, along with a complementing rustic clubhouse.

Some years later, Rulewich designed a second nine and directed extensive renovations to the original holes, driving range and irrigation system. The new eighteen officially opened in 1990. It was immediately recognized by many as a modern day classic and continues today to be a perennial must play.

“You can’t beat what nature put here for us to work with. We just keep improving as we go,“ said Michael Zaranak, head PGA
Professional. www.golfthefox.com (800) 943-1901

A few miles north in Vermont is the Brattleboro Country Club, founded in 1914.
Steve Durkee designed ten new holes and a driving range in 2000, creating an eighteen-hole, 6,533-yard, par-71 layout.

A few miles north in Vermont is the Brattleboro Country Club, founded in 1914. The original nine, a 2,754-yard, par 36 course was designed by Boston native Tom MacNamara whose feats as tour player exceed his golf architecture achievements.

The earliest routing of many holes still exists, but few original design features remain. In 1930 Wayne Stiles began work to expand the layout and add features more compatible with the times. Steve Durkee designed ten new holes and a driving range in 2000, creating an eighteen-hole, 6,533-yard, par-71 layout.

“His (Durkee’s) swirling style of fairway positioning, challenging bunker complexes and multi-level greens complement the Stiles remnants, though they also point out the disparity created by design separated by 70 years of architectural advancement,” wrote Bob Labbance and Kevin Mendik in The Life & Times of Wayne Stiles.

The present day course finds all holes renumbered. The old first, a 197-yard par three is now used only for practice. Remaining from Stiles' original holes are today’s #9 through #12, and #15 through #18.

"For those traveling from the south into Vermont, the state couldn’t present a better opening act,” Tom Bedell wrote in Vermont Golf magazine. The sloping, up and down terrain and uneven lies add challenge for both walking and scoring. Brattleboro Country Club offers a pleasant and relaxing round of golf. The Fairway Tavern, housed in a historic clubhouse, is an ideal spot for apr├Ęs golf food and drink.
www.brattleborogolf.com (802) 254- 9864

The Woodstock Golf Club dates to1895 when members formally organized and created a place to hit balls and compete.

The Woodstock Golf Club dates to1895 when members formally organized and created a place to hit balls and compete. It has benefited over the years from its historic town location and association with the Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock, Vermont. The inn’s present site has welcomed guests since Richardson’s Tavern opened in 1793. Richardson's was replaced in 1891 by the The Woodstock Inn.

Alexander H. Findlay had a hand in early routings of the Woodstock course. In 1887 Findlay, a Scottish immigrant, became the first man to construct a golf course and play a round of golf in the U.S.

Wayne Stiles was hired in 1924 to re-design the course. He reformulated existing holes and added nine new ones. A comprehensive redesign and rebuild in 1960’s by Roger Trent Jones Sr. under the direction of his lead architect, Roger Rulewich, produced the modern day gem found today.

The course’s short length belies the difficulty. There are four ponds, 12 streams and 62 bunkers that come into play. Woods, water or bunkers guard tight fairways and elevated small undulating greens. Many holes require accurate shot making.

Tees, greens and bunkers were revised in 1969, 1975 and 1987. A comprehensive course makeover that began in 2005, overseen by Rulewich, included redoing all fairway and greenside bunkers. Irrigation has also been added. Extensive tree work to remove growth that has diminished sight lines is now in progress. During a recent visit playing conditions were the best I’ve ever experienced at Woodstock.

The brick and wood inn, a New England classic, offers historic charm, elegant luxury and modern conveniences.

“Given the economy, enhancing the golf course quality is important to attract numbers that enable a sustainable operation and have it become a must play,” said Werner H. Graef, President and General Manager.

Jim Gunnare became head golf professional in 1977, arriving from The Boulders in Colorado which, like Woodstock, was a Rock Resort at the time. “The quality of life, people and guests cannot be surpassed here at Woodstock,” said Gunnare. The Woodstock Inn & Resort is now owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, a Rockefeller family enterprise.

The brick and wood inn, a New England classic, offers historic charm, elegant luxury and modern conveniences. A new full service state of the art spa enhances the destination. The golf club, recently renovated 142-room inn, gracious service and amenities make this four seasons resort an ideal escape or stay and play visit to Woodstock a gold keeper, not to be missed.
Woodstockinn.com (800) 448-7900/(802)-457-1100

A view of the Panorama Golf Course in Dixville Notch, NH

The Panorama Golf Course in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire presents a setting befitting its name. The stone clubhouse offers commanding vistas of surrounding mountains, hills, valleys, fields and meadows in New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

Uncharacteristically long for a golf course of its era, the par 72, 6,804-yard Donald Ross designed jewel opened for play in 1915. It incorporates some ample and forgiving fairways along with challenges on tighter holes and from the customary Ross convex domed greens. The routing is a delightful New England countryside journey, passing stands of hardwoods and evergreens, over undulating terrain and through fields and forest. Thirteen of the eighteen holes have water hazards, although few come directly into play.

The Balsams Grand Resort owns and operates Panorama golf course. The Balsams Hotel, one of the only few grand hotels left in New Hampshire, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Balsams reflects a time gone-by when elegance, service and gracious dining were an integral part of hospitality. In 1954 entrepreneur inventor, Neil Tillotson, purchased the destination resort complex located on 15,000 acres in the northwest corner of the state.

The Balsams Hotel, one of the only few grand hotels left in New Hampshire, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Balsams also offers Coashaukee, a nine hole, par 32 executive course; as well as tennis courts, a lakeside heated pool, trout stocked Lake Gloriette for boating and fishing, 35 miles of walking and hiking trails, an alpine ski area, movie theater, nightly entertainment and many other year round activities.

Clubhouse of the Balsam Resort.

Dining at the Balsams celebrates time-honored traditions by presenting an original blend of flavorful gourmet cuisine served in grand fashion with silver, linen, flowers and music.

In addition to golf, the Balsams offers meeting space for all sizes of group gatherings.

The chefs’ passion for creating palate pleasing selections is complemented by elegant, tasteful service and graceful ambiance surrounding the dining guests.

“When things are humming in the kitchen with our chefs, prep cooks and culinary school apprentices in full swing it’s like a symphony.  I close my eyes and revel in the feeling,” said Executive Chef Joshua Barry.
The combination of golf, location, setting, amenities, leisure pursuits and the extraordinary gastronomic encounters produce a historic storybook reality adventure.
www.thebalsams.com (603) 255-3400

“Many guests have been coming here for generations, first visiting as children or grandchildren and now returning with their own children and grandchildren. There are also first timers who will no doubt join their ranks and revisit us again,” said Jeff McIver, Balsam’s General Manager.

It’s never too soon to plan for places to play and road trips to take. Be sure to include some old and new, the gold and the silver too.


Bill Nestor writes about travel, golf and lifestyle from his home in Vermont.