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|The fourth hole at The Ledges is an easy green to reach from the tee but it requires plenty of accuracy - and guts. (Ben Larsen/WorldGolf.com)|
The Ledges Golf Club near downtown Springfield may be a municipal golf course, but with its low green fees and attention to service and detail, it's a western Massachusetts must-play.
SOUTH HADLEY, MASS. - Quirky typically isn't a word a golf course would use to describe itself.
In fact, most courses would like to avoid that description altogether. That's not the case, however, for The Ledges Golf Club in Western Massachusetts, just a few minutes from downtown Springfield.
The town-owned course, which was opened in 2001, isn't the longest golf course around. But for what it lacks in yardage, The Ledges more than makes up for in trickery. The 6,500-yard track features 10 dogleg holes, all of which become much tougher with a lack of local knowledge.
"The local knowledge and ability to craft a shot comes into play quite a bit," said Director of Golf Bryan Fleury, who began working at The Ledges when it first opened before working his way up the ranks. "There are a lot of holes where you can't see green off the tee. Knowing the course is huge.
"If you play it every day, you're in good shape but if it's your first time on the course, it plays much more difficult."
The trickery begins on the fourth hole, a 276-yard par 4. It's an easy green to reach from the tee but it requires plenty of accuracy - and guts. The front of the green touches the body of water that spans the length of the left fairway. You'll need to carry that and find a way to keep the ball on the small green for a shot at eagle.
Another added quirk interestingly comes en route to the next hole. To reach the fifth tee, golfers cross a large wooden bridge that hovers protected marshland. It's a quirky addition to your round.
Holes 5 through 8 take you to what seems like another course. After taking in a beautiful view of the Pioneer Valley to start your round, the tree-lined fairways and enclosed feeling that the 5-through-8 loop provides offers a completely different experience.
When you're through with the loop, however, the 528-yard uphill par 5 brings you right back to where you were with more spectacular views. The back nine opens with a welcome wide-open par 5 that's an easy birdie for lengthy hitters.
The quirkiness you experienced on the front then continues with a series of short dogleg par 4s and tricky par 3s.
It's very easy to forget that you're playing a municipal track until the trek from the par-3 14th to the short par-4 15th. You pass a school ground and approach a large water tank but fortunately neither come into play. At the end of the round, however, golfers can take solace in the fact that they played an upscale course for a municipal's green fees.
Add the level of service The Ledges offers - which very few town-owned clubs provide - and The Ledges is a bargain.
"Service is our first priority," Fleury said. "We want to provide that first-class feel at a low price. One of our goals is to give the golfer more than just a round of golf."
While the recent reviews of The Ledges are more than satisfactory, the club hasn't always received high praise. High prices and low course quality resulted in un-booked tee times and a rough start for the course.
"The course opened up too pricey and the conditions were lousy," Fleury said. "It was a huge downfall. But since the town took over the management of the course, things have gone going well.
"The conditions are perfect and the prices are right. And the word is out."
In fact, things are going so well that in April, the course opened a brand new clubhouse with a restaurant and bar and a full-service pro shop.
"There's a lot of excitement and buzz around the course right now," Fleury said. "The clubhouse was our final amenity."
The Ledges offers the same scenic views as some of the other top courses in the Pioneer Valley. But unlike those upscale courses, golfers can afford to play The Ledges and still have enough money left for a beer in the new clubhouse.
Green fees range from $24 to $32 any day of the week and you get much more than you pay for. Forget the views, the course is in terrific shape and cared for well under the town of South Hadley's management.
With the short track and short prices, one would assume the pace of play is something to worry about. That's not the case, however. The front nine can be played in as little as two hours.
June 19, 2008
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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