Course: Essex County Club (Private)
Location: Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA
Date played: September 18, 2022
Yardages: 5,504 - 6,555
ECC will leave you wanting to walk from the 18th green back to the first tee.
What makes Essex so great in my mind is the push and pull during the round. Players roll through open, vast holes and then dip into tight spots on the property only to return to the open part again.
The first two holes send players away from the clubhouse; the monster par-5 third bring them back.
Hole 1-3 are a fair fight, with wide landing areas and two large greens (2 green is small and tough).
Then holes 4-8 ask golfers to be a bit more precise. The 230+ yard par-3 4th is a classic Ross test. The 5th and 6th require patience, as a trench/creek runs across both holes, shrinking the landing areas. These two holes are probably my least favorite.
The back nine works around massive rocky hills. 10-12 (Par 4-3-4) are just a stellar.
The blind tee shot on 12 and the downhill second are the perfect blend of delightful and challenging. The second shot into 12 felt a lot like the 16th at Worcester. Players can hit a bevy of shot types from various distances into the green.
The 13th is polarizing. Some love it. Some hate it. It's tight, with red hazard running along both sides of the fairway. The green is framed by the rocky mounding. In some respects, 13 feels like it was built to connect holes 12 and hole 14.
ECC removed hundreds (thousands?) of trees, which highlights the large mounds that cut through the golf course. The huge mounds make you feel small, and Ross added massive bunkers in the shadow of the mounds on holes 3, 15, and 16 to heighten that feeling.
As players walk to the par-3 14th green, holes 1,2,3,15,16, and 17 reveal themselves, opening the accordion again for the closing stretch.
15 and 17 tee boxes sit right next to the 16th green. The 18th tee box is incredible.
Ross' design touches are far more subtle at ECC than other courses I've played, I think. There's a bit of Pinehurst No. 2 with the big bunkering. The greens are varied, but don't feel like "classic" Ross from 1-18.
ECC is tremendous. Full stop.