The first thing that will hit you as you walk from your car to the Boston Golf Club pro shop and clubhouse is the simplicity of the place. A red and white striped flag, which is becoming one of the more recognizable logos in the region, dangles from a wooden frame that surrounds the bag drop. A small putting green sits in the middle of the two main buildings.
In July 2020, my friend Brad texted me to ask if I wanted to check Boston GC off the list. My quest was a month old, and I had played seven courses; BCG would be my eighth.
Admittedly, I knew nothing about the course when Brad dropped the invite. Maybe my head was buried in the sand. Maybe my Metro West/North Shore bias was showing. Whatever it was, Boston Golf Club was off my radar, so I visited the website and checked out the fly-overs narrated by Gil Hanse, who designed BCG.
Needless to say, I was excited to visit Hingham for 18 holes.
Since that 2020 round, I have been lucky to earn some invites back. I have played the course four times now.
My experience over those four rounds from 2020-2022 was a roller coaster that epitomizes what makes BCG so great and so confounding.
My first spin around the course felt easy. I made four birdies and broke 80. Then, my second trip was a different animal. I knew where the danger was, and I spent so much of my time worried about where not to hit it that I struggled mightily and scored terribly.
"Ignorance is bliss" could be BCG's motto.
One interesting thing about Boston Golf Club is that there are no tee boxes or greens near the main buildings. There's no smack of drivers or screams of joy (or anguish) from a nearby green. That might add to the serenity of the place. There are also no carts on the course, so the hum of engines and tires is also eliminated for the most part.
This means that players have to walk (or get a ride) to the first tee. Before arriving at the tee box, players can stop at a small range and hit some balls to warm up. (NOTE: I have not been to Boston Golf since the range was changed to a short course/driving range this summer. It looks sick).
The range also has this funny feeling because if you have a caddie, they are measuring you up to see what kind of day might be in store.
While it can be argued that a first tee should be near the bustle of the pro shop, there is an interesting energy shift as you walk from the clubhouse to the driving range and then under a bridge to the first tee. Some courses have "getaway holes" that deliver players to a parcel of land that highlights the property's strengths.
In Boston Golf's case, the first tee brings you there off the bat.
The opening hole (pictured below) is a par 5, and a good drive will certainly leave players with a chance to reach the green in two. A bad drive will require a lay-up, but overall, it's a gentle handshake. The blind tee shot can feel a bit unnerving, and so can the second shot into the green. A long iron to a raised putting surface defended by horrible bunkers and fescue isn't a shot that everyone loves to hit so early in the round.
As you stand on the first green, make sure to take a peak at the third green to check the pin placement on that tricky green.
The second tee shot (below) is one of the few on the course that requires a decision. Most players can hit a lot of drivers at Boston Golf as it's fairly forgiving with plenty of space to spray it. But a massive rock on the second fairway can give players pause, as driver can reach the rock, making par nearly impossible. Laying back can leave a blind mid-iron to a green that loves to reject inaccurate shots.
The opening three holes form a figure four of sorts as the third green and first green are next to each other. The third green, a reverse redan, is a challenging one to hit. No matter how far left you think you're aiming, aim a little farther left, as balls tend to tumble down to the right. A tee shot on the right line can find a speed slot that will carry the ball down to short-iron distance. But missing a little right brings in a tricky fairway bunker.
The fourth tee is reached after a short walk through some woods that feel as if they might house some fairies. This is one of the moments during the round when you realize just how quiet a course can be without golf carts. The only sounds are those of nature, your playing partners, and the rattle of clubs in the golf bag.
The tee shot on four is a fun one, as an aggressive line along the right edge of the trees can leave a shorter second shot, but it might not leave the best angle depending on where the pin is on the green. Behind the green, along the tree line, you'll glimpse one tree that tilts precariously, giving the hole its name - Wizards Cap (picture below). Another reference to the magic that seems to waft through the air in the dense woods.
The fifth hole - Shipwreck - is a delightful, and challenging, short par 4. There isn't much discussion about what club to hit off the tee. It's driver every time because the uphill nature of the hole requires getting as close to the green as possible. Laying back off the tee and hitting this tiny, slender green from outside 110 yards is a tall task. Even from inside 70 yards, this approach shot is daunting. I've seen players putt it from the fairway to take all the trouble out of play and leave par an attainable task. Missing this green anywhere but short is disastrous, hence the hole's name.
The fifth and sixth holes might be two of the best consecutive holes I've played in the quest up to this point. The sixth is a short par 3 that asks one question - can you hit a short iron on the head of a needle? The tee is perched up high enough that the wind can play tricks with club selection. The tiny green is protected by numerous treacherous bunkers. A lot of rounds can be destroyed in this 30-minute stretch of golf on the fifth and sixth green.
It's about at this point in the round when it becomes clear that every hole is its own little work of art and none of them are going to feel like the others. The seventh tee shot looks mundane, but it always seems that as the ball flies through the air, the members and caddies begin trying to coax the ball one way or the other. Players can run out of room if they hit it right and a left miss brings in a water hazard and some trees. The green is another tough one, and deep bunkers protect the front right. Any short approach is rejected and can tumble into the traps. Club choice is vital to avoid that false front.
The par-3 eighth might be the lull in the round. A flat hole that plays over land covered with reeds and long grass. If the grass is long, players can only see the top half of the flag. A dead tree marks the left side of the green. The right isn't framed by anything, making it an uncomfortable mid-iron shot. While the landing area feels tiny from the tee box, it's not. There's plenty of space to roll the ball onto the green and even mishit shots safely fly over the reedy meadow.
The ninth tee sits high above the fairway. The green sits out in the distance at the same level as the first tee box. Over the course of eight holes, players have slowly climbed up to this point. The fifth hole might be the biggest climb, but none of the walk feels extreme, a testament to the routing. There's something about standing up high on a tee box with a driver in hand. It's hard to resist adding a little extra to the swing, and a water hazard on the left awaits drives that are a little overzealous. The approach is easier from the left, as the right side of the fairway brings a tree into play and shrinks the landing area for the approach shot. The green sits in a small depression. In garden parlance, when land drops like it does on the ninth, it's called a "Hidey Hole."
Missing left is better than right or long, as a small stream and hazard line the edge of the green without anything to stop balls from trundling into it.
As we hop on a four-person golf cart to hitch a ride up to the tenth tee, I think this is probably a good place to pause and talk about the greens at Boston Golf. They are diabolical. It would feel redundant to continuously write "hit it in the wrong place and you'll three putt" or "getting up and down from long is basically impossible."
The greens are what makes Boston Golf Club so great; they are the main defense. As players get closer to the hole, the challenge increases. There's a ton of space off the tees, balls that appear lost sometimes end up in the fairway or at the very least in the rough with a chance to still hit the green.
But the greens, especially when they are fast, could ruin a score. The best ones, in my opinion, are the fourth, sixth, seventh, 13th, and 15th. Some, like the 11th, 12th, and 18th, are supposedly being softened (this is through the rumor mill). Those three greens aren't "unfair" but they are borderline when the pins are in certain spots, and in most cases, on those particular greens, the pinnable locations have dwindled.
However, the greens are what make Boston Golf, and when they are rolling at a good speed (read not lightning fast) they can be a blast.
The tenth hole starts as close to the clubhouse as any hole aside from the 18th. It's a long iron/hybrid tee shot and then a cool downhill shot to a green surrounded by short grass and a few bunkers. The left bunker looks like it shouldn't be in play at all until a player ends up in the left rough and needs to bounce a ball up to the green.
The par 3 11th is a versatile one. While playing the "member's stake" which moves around a little bit from day to day, this hole can either be 180ish yards or 120ish yards. The green has a massive slope on the left side and balls either collect toward the front center of the green and trundle into the rough or stay up on the right side, usually leaving an impossible 2 putt. It's in a lovely setting, as the green sits into the hill.
Then we come to one of the more charming tee shots. A stone wall crosses the hole, and an opening for players to walk through delineates the line of charm. However, players can certainly miss the line of charm and be in fine shape; two 474s could land in this fairway at the same time. I have yet to figure out where to hit this hole's approach shot. From the fairway, the green looks like a Pringles potato chip. The right and left sides sit high up, and the front and back drop off steeply. It requires a very good shot to have a birdie putt, and missing the green short or long is death as there is no rough, so long shots roll down to the 13th tee box while short ones collect in the hollow on at the front of the green.
I've been pretty outspoken about the 12th hole (picture below), as I don't think good shots are always rewarded, but more importantly, the penalty is too severe when a good shot gets a bad hop or misses the landing area by a yard or two. A bad shot has the same consequence as some good shots, that doesn't add up in my mind.
Cut the corner on 13 for a good look at this excellent green complex. On the approach, balls roll and collect to the right down into a low area. But using the slopes, landing the ball short of the green, and watching it tumble forward is a thrill after a handful of semi-blind or uphill approach shots over the last few holes.
14 is a bit of a departure from the rest of the course. The green is tucked back into a corner. A good tee shot will leave a short iron, but the woods on the right side of the hole come a lot quicker than one would think. Balls tend to drift that way, especially when the wind blows in that direction, as players can't feel it on the tee box.
The green is long and skinny, and rather small. It runs away from the player, requiring maybe one less club. Bunkers left and some heavy rough on the right protect the green.
After playing 13 holes without a par 5, players are treated to two in the last four holes. This creates a bit of drama in matches.
The 15th (pictured above) is the tougher of the two par 5s. An uphill tee shot to a half-blind landing area requires accuracy as the second shot is vital. Long players can reach this green with two pure shots, but most will have to lay up. From the rough, a layup is difficult as a massive bunker slithers across the hole and eats up about 50 yards of the landing area. The bunker continues along the left side of the hole all the way to the green, so keeping the ball to the right is the prudent play. This green is exceptional because of how it sits on the ground. Second shots can bounce down the slope, but its three tiers can catch wedge shots or reject them, depending on where the ball lands. It is a deep green, too, making for some wild putts and exciting approach shots.
I've written a bit about the16th hole before. The Principal's Nose sits in the landing area on the fairway for anyone interested in laying back to about 150 yards. This is the only hole on the course that really stirs conversation on the tee box. There are a few ways to attack the hole.
Players can try to bomb a driver up by the green, but I've seen more balls disappear in the fescue than I'm comfortable with. A 220-yard shot is safe, and the beauty of the bunker in the fairway is that it hides the amount of space available between the bunker and the rough on the other side of it. It's just so hard to convince yourself that there is enough space while standing over the shot (pictured below).
The tiny green, perched up above some deep bunkers, also makes it feel like even an 8-iron is too long a club to find the putting surface. Just a very good hole overall.
The 17th has some true rub of the green humps in the middle of the fairway. They are covered in shaggy rough that eliminates any chance of reaching the green in two. Hitting your second shot up and near this green leaves a tricky third shot because many of the shots are blind, especially if you come up short or to the right.
Once again, this is a great match play hole in a tight match. Birdie putts are aplenty here and given how the course wraps up, having a lead through 17 holes can feel pretty safe.
Boston Golf ends in a par 3. It's a polarizing subject; I don't love it, as it feels like the round falls flat. It's like dropping a ball in the fairway of a par-4 18th hole in the same spot and playing in from there. A round should end with two full swings on the final hole for a look at birdie. This uphill hole also takes a bit of the luster of seeing where the ball ends up on the green after hitting the shot.
Once on the green, the setting is great; a terrace sits just above the green. People enjoying a beer and a bite add a bit of pressure.
Overall, Boston Golf Club is a can't miss day of golf. It's unique, and each hole is its own little adventure, even though some of them are confounding.
In my golf course tiers, it is currently in the second highest tier, but as I play more and more golf courses, it's becoming clear that I need a new second tier because Boston Golf Club is currently in the company of courses that it's better than.
Don't turn down an invite to Boston Golf Club.
Some additional pictures of Boston Golf Club