Link Up With the Berkshires
Berkshire County is one of the prettiest environs to play golf in New England during the summer and fall.
While the area has some superb and very historic private country clubs, such as Pittsfield Country Club, Stockbridge Country Club—where Norman Rockwell is said to have swung a few clubs—and Wyantenuck Country Club, there are also a number of fine semi-private and daily fee courses to sample.
Let’s start at the top of the county, shall we?
Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown is a semi-private club that reserves some tee times for daily fee play. The layout, located on land owned by Williams College (the course is home to the school’s men’s and women’s golf teams), dates back to 1896.
I loved it when I played it. The course offers sumptuous visual aspects and a challenging routing for knocking the ball around. The current course was designed in 1927 by Wayne Stiles of Stiles & (John) Van Kleek, and was renovated in 2009 by Gil Hanse of Hanse Golf Course Design, Golf Magazine’s2009 Architect of the Year. The club was chosen to host the 2016 Massachusetts Amateur tournament.
Taconic features some elevation changes and is always in good shape. Holes two through four move up and down the land with ease, wildflowers blooming in profusion off the playing surface. The ninth hole is a very cool par-three that begins from an elevated tee and ends in a green that sits in a grassy bowl.
Waubeeka Golf Links in South Williamstown is known for its stunning views and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. During 2009 to 2010, there were renovations of the first, second, eighth, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes, changes that ranged from the addition of new tees and bunkers on existing holes to completely new holes being created.
Two of the best holes are the 11th, a 420-yard beast of a par-four that has a deep bunker to the right side of the green that makes getting up and down from there very difficult; and the 501-yard 17th, which has out of bounds the entire length along the right side and a lateral hazard almost all the way on the left side of the hole.
Wahconah Country Club in Dalton was built in 1920 and it is said the great Bobby Jones played his last round of golf there in 1948. According to club lore, he met with a good friend and Wachonah Country Club member Bill O’Connell to play a match with Bruce Crane and Rankin Furey.
Rene Clarke rendered a water painting of the foursome on the sixth green. The original painting and a letter from Bobby Jones indicating that “This was my last effort, sorry it was not a better one”, hangs in his room at the United States Golf Association’s Museum in Far Hills NJ. Wahconah Country Club was allowed to make one copy of the painting and the letter for display in its clubhouse. Very impressive, indeed.
Greenock Country Club in Lee was established as one of America's first courses, dating back to 1895. Redesigned in 1927 by the legendary golf architect Donald Ross, the nine-hole course has stood the test of time. The club is located just one mile from exit 2 off Interstate 90, within minutes of the historic town of Stockbridge, and just a few short miles from Tanglewood. The sixth hole is a risk-reward par-five, measuring only 465 yards, but there is water left and right of the green if you are thinking about going for it in two.
Great Barrington’s Egremont Country Club features a challenging 18-hole course, fully stocked pro shop, and driving range. The well-maintained course is surrounded by rolling hills, beautiful views and winding streams. The track is on the short side and there are a number of modest par-fours where a birdie awaits after a good tee shot and careful approach. The ninth is a fun hole, with the par-three playing 165 yards. The tee shot must carry a pond that fronts the green.
I simply love Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club located in Lenox. It’s a traditional New England course that is more than 90 years old and was designed by Stiles and Van Kleek. The layout, which I have played many times, rolls over the hills surrounding the resort and through mature woodlands. The course features tree-lined fairways and naturally contoured greens that have been carefully preserved.
The first three holes wander near a small clubhouse. The tee box on the third hole, a little 152-yarder, has a huge pine tree guarding the left side of the putting surface. You had better score well on the front side because the inward nine is much more difficult, with several brutal par-fours and some very good par-threes waiting.
So, get out there this summer and try to play every course listed here. You won’t be disappointed.