There's nothing like discovering a new course that tickles your fancy. I'm not totally sure there are many "hidden" gems remaining in the state of Massachusetts, but there are certainly some gems that I have discovered in my quest thus far.
These 10 courses are ones I think everyone should check out because you'll likely want to add it to your regular rotation if you live close, or make time each summer to play it once or twice if it's a little farther afield.
As usual, these are Massachusetts courses I have played on my quest. If I haven't played it, I don't include it.
D.W. Field - Brockton, Mass.
The more I think about D.W. Field, the more I realize I need to go back and play it again. It's a delightful course with some charming holes and the routing brings golfers through some different land. You'll hit every club in your bag, too. The greens are the absolute stand-out feature at D.W. Field. And from what I've heard, they are consistently in good shape.
Wachusett CC - West Boylston, Mass.
Donald Ross? Public golf? Yes. Please. Wachusett CC has some punch to it. There are some long par 4s, gettable par 5s, and challenging par 3s. The back nine is excellent, with holes that run through trees and then pop out into open land and then up and down hilly land. It's tightly packed and typical Donald Ross and the greens offer quite the defense.
Taconic Golf Club - Williamstown, Mass.
The least public course on this list. This semi-private stunner still qualifies because golfers can call the pro shop and secure a tee time four days in advance. It was the only Massachusetts course that made Golf Digest's Top 100 public courses in America. I love this place. It's an ass-kicker in the Berkshires. The routing is simple and the land is rather subtle, given where the course is located. This is one of my favorite golf courses in the state, public or private.
Kettle Brook GC - Paxton, Mass.
This Brian Silva design has a few odd spots, as many Silva courses do. However, the overall scope of the course is very good and rather challenging. The course weaves through the depths of the woods during the front nine and then pops golfers back out into a more open golfing experience for the back nine. The variation of holes is excellent, once you get past a few trees in the middle of fairways and odd-shaped par fives. But there are plenty of opportunities to hit cool shots.
Waverly Oaks- Plymouth, Mass.
Another Brian Silva course. I think if someone was coming from out of town and looking to play a public course in Plymouth, I'd point them to Waverly before Pine Hills. Waverly is big and brawny with visual trickery off the tee, as Silva sets golfers up to steer clear of areas only to make them realize they had more room than it initially appeared. The course is well-maintained and the greens are solid. While it might not offer the "Member for a Day" vibe of Pine Hills or an extra 18 holes on the property, Waverly is a great option south of Boston.
Blissful Meadows - Uxbridge, Mass.
While Blissful Meadows has plenty of flaws that are mainly centered around trees and being a little shaggy around its edges, it is a great public option in Central Massachusetts. What I was most impressed by when I played it were the greens. They weren't the typical round, boring greens that tend to pop up on public courses. The front and back nine are also wildly different. The front is rather flat and has plenty of wooded areas to avoid (and trees very much in the line of play in certain spots). The back nine runs along with wild land with some outstanding par 3s and a handful of blind shots and forced carries.
Sandy Burr - Wayland, Mass.
A city golfer's delight. It's a straight shot to Sandy Burr from Boston. It gives off a different vibe than George Wright or Franklin Park, as it's in the suburbs, but at times can be a short drive. Another Donald Ross design, the course is quaint, with driveable par 4s and reachable par 5s. The round begins with two par 5s and a short par 3. Aside from holes 6-9, it's pretty open off the tee. It's a popular spot for golf outings, so make sure to plan ahead if you want to play 18 at Sandy Burr.
Waubeeka Golf Links
If you're in Williamstown and can't snag a time at Taconic, Waubeeka is a solid back-up option. The staff is incredibly kind, the clubhouse vibe is solid, and the golf offers that mountain feel. Waubeeka calls for some accuracy off the tee, as hazards and woods come into play a lot. It's another course that will test you across the board, while providing some great views and vistas as you traverse the hilly land.
Franklin Park - Jamaica Plain, Mass.
I lived in Boston for 12 years before teeing it up at Franklin Park. What a mistake. It's a slice of public golf that you can't get anywhere else in the state. From the people walking the edge of the course (or cutting through on their way to work) to the blue-collar clientele, it's such a wonderful place to play golf. The course is forgiving and open, but also can bite back if a player gets a little too big for his britches. There's a great variety to the holes between the length and shape.
George Wright - Hyde Park, Mass.
This is the place to take a good golfer who is visiting Boston for the weekend and wants to tee it up. Yes, the round might take forever (what public rounds on the weekend don't take forever anymore?). But the course is just dynamite. It's always in a little better shape than Franklin Park, the greens are challenging, the holes cut through rocks and woods and hills and hollows. It might have one of the best par 3s in the entire state (the 17th) and two of the toughest par 4s (the 9th and 10th). It's a relentless test and we are lucky to have it within the city limits of Boston.
Cape Cod Country Club
A Golden Age design. Devereux Emmet put together a course with some severe greens, cool bunkering, and a simple routing.
The 14th, known as the "Volcano Hole" is a stunning hole that has likely ruined a lot of hopes and dreams for a personal best score. False fronts and tough interior slopes on greens protect this rather short golf course along with some charming bunkering.