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|The home hole at Widows Walk Golf Course, a downhill par 5, caps off a short, but demanding, round of golf south of Boston. (Jeffrey White/GolfPublisher.com)|
Widow's Walk Golf Course south of Boston is an intriguing combination of woodland and links golf styles. It's short but demanding, with narrow fairways but forgiving greens, and amounts to one of best rounds of Massachusetts public golf.
SCITUATE, Mass. - When Widow's Walk Golf Course opened in 1997, to much fanfare from the likes of Golf Digest, the story goes that a foursome of local golf club professionals came by one day to play a round.
Widow's Walk had its way with them: When the group finished they had lost around 10 golf balls, declared the course too difficult and vowed never to return. Everyday duffers complained as well. Members of Scituate's board of selectmen, which oversees the golf course, had to admit that it wasn't very player friendly.
Something had to be done, and was, gradually, during the following years. The original design by Mike Hurdzan featured almost no rough: There was the fairway, and then there was out-of-bounds, with little to stop balls not hit absolutely perfectly from being lost.
The remedy was to allow a layer of rough to grow along the fairways, and the course now boasts a fairly thick cut of it. Some trees and wooded areas were also trimmed, albeit only slightly, helping to open the track up a bit.
That Widow's Walk is more accessible today then 10 years ago is undeniable. But it's an oft-made mistake to say the course was made easier.
"This will never be an easy golf course," says Widow's Walk Head Golf Professional Bob Sanderson. "It will always be a difficult golf course."
But at least now, more golfers can gamely take a crack at it.
In the case of Widow's Walk, its difficulty is a draw, not a deterrant, namely because there are few other public golf courses in the greater Boston area that offer a comparable level of challenge at such a value: How many former Golf Digest "Best Courses" play these days for $42 on weekends?
The course is short - just 6,403 yards from the tips - and narrow. Hurdzan had only about a 100 acres of land to work with, and opted to keep more of the woodlands intact in between holes rather than opening the course up more.
It plays like a woodland course, with a twist: It's location on Scituate's North River, near its confluence with the Atlantic Ocean, lends a links feel to some of the shot making, especially when the wind kicks up. Many of the holes were designed with that wind in mind: Nearly every green is open in front, allowing for low, running approaches.
No one hole is dauntingly long, and some are downright short: No 2 is par 3 that plays just 126-yards from the white tees. No. eight is a 313-yard par-4 that plays from an elevated tee over water (easily carried) to a tucked-away green. You can take it over the trees and drive the green, or play a safer iron to set up a short approach.
Decisions. Widow's Walk makes you pay for poor decisions and rewards good ones.
"You don't always have to reach for your driver here," says Sanderson. "There are a lot of holes where you'd be better off hitting a hybrid for position, or a fairway wood. If you keep it on the fairway you can score."
But you can hit driver on most holes, and doing so can make course play even shorter. Take the 321-yard par-4 16th, a classic risk-reward hole. A conservative iron from the tee takes much of the carry out of the large wooded hazard between you and the fairway, and will leave you with about 160 yards to get home. But take driver and opt to carry the hazard in its entirety, with a little draw, and you'll have only a chip to the green.
Widow Walk's ninth and 18th are particularly strong. No. 9 is a birdie hole, if you can find the narrow landing area off the elevated tee. No. 18 is a par-5, also with an elevated tee, that looks reachable in two until you realize that the fairway's slope doesn't give many good looks to the green.
The golf course's signature hole is the 199-yard, downhill par 3 that offers expansive views of the North River, adjacent marsh and the Atlantic in the distance.
For golfers wanting more than a typical muni track, Widow's Walk is the answer. It can lay claim to being one of the best public golf course's in the greater Boston area, and certainly one of the most challenging.
Narrowness rules here and decisions can be rewarded or punished. Greens are on the larger side, which sometimes means a whole club's difference depending on pin placement.
Most holes do a good job blending woodland and links elements.
The only setback on a recent visit was that many fairways seemed brittle and a little beat-up, particularly on the front nine. Sanderson acknowledges this and points to the drought that has gripped most of the area for months. And I have played the course several time in recent years when it has been lush and well-maintained. (Greens were well maintained on my recent visit).
Green fees range from $29-$42 depending on when you play.
Widow's Walk was built on an abandoned sand and gravel quarry and is recognized as America's first "environmental demonstration course."
October 29, 2007
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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