Myopia Hunt Club, MA, USA

As seen from the 12th tee, Myopia Hunt enjoys the finest links characteristics.

The golf course at the Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton has as much character per hole as any course in the United States.

Common with other courses that are packed with character like Pine Valley, Oakmont, National Golf Links of America, and Pinehurst No. 2, one man lavished constant attention on the design for an extended period of time. However, unlike the driving forces behind those four famous courses, not nearly as much is known about Myopia Hunt Club or its architect Herbert Corey Leeds.

What is known is this: H.C. Leeds was a great all-around sportsman and excelled at baseball, football and yatching, and even penned books on the subject. However, at the age of 40, he was bit by the golfing bug while at The Country Club at Brookline. Within two years, he was a scratch golfer and tired of the rudimentary 9 hole course at Myopia Hunt that had been originally laid out by the Master of the Fox Hounds (?!).

Leeds convinced the membership to improve their course and they appointed him as the man to do it. Always one to excel at a given task, Leeds first went and studied the (first) 18 hole course that was in play at Shinnecock Hills. In particular, the natural placement of the green sites impressed him and he took that knowledge to South Hamilton.

The first nine was completed in 1896 and the second nine in 1901. Much was immediately written about the design of Myopia Hunt on both sides of the Atlantic. The numerous use of bunkers (there were almost 200 at one point) and the interesting green contours were its distinguishing design trademarks relative to other US courses of that time.

A true cross bunker, as seen on the 11th hole.

The random placement of hazards and the shape of the bunkers remain particular highlights to this day. The scattered bunkers on the 255 yard brute 3rd hole leave the golfer few bail-out options. The stream that cuts across the 6th can dictate as little as a six iron off the tee if the golfer is unwilling to carry it. The forty yard long, four yard wide cross bunker that slashes across the 11th fairway is unique. The bunkers that front the 4th and 9th greens could only be found at Myopia. To see such original and unique hazards is every bit as invigorating today as it must have been to the early players and writers who praised Myopia at the turn of the century.

One consequence of its bunkering is that the rifle straight driver enjoys a huge advantage at Myopia Hunt and such was Leeds’ intention. However, the sloping fairways do ask the better golfer to shape certain drives. Fades on the awesome 12th and the 14th stand a better chance of holding the right to left pitched fairways, just as a draw does on the left to right pitched 11th and 17th fairways.

To miss either the 10th or 11th fairway to the right is to end up in Jonesville, so named after
Bob Jones' visits into these pits while attending Harvard Law School.

As for the greens, Leeds was determined that they would not ressemble the basic, level greens found around Boston. Several of the greens (the 4th, 6th, 8th, and 11th) feature such fearsome pitch that there are only three or four hole locations, given the speed of today’s greens. Many of the other greens are mere extensions of the fairway and the golfer must bounce the ball in to get near many hole locations. The 18th green is the largest on the course and features exemplary green contours.

Unfortunately, over time, some of the subtle design features were lost. For instance, take the 1st hole. This 275 yard hole features a blind uphill drive to a smallish green that is open in front. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, fifteen years ago it wasn’t. A collar of rough surrounded the green. A straightforward chip remained if the green was missed.

Enter Greenkeeper David Heroian in 1987. He took one look at the bunkers six yards down the left bank from the 1st green and realized that it had become completely disjointed from the green and Leeds’ original intent. Heroian shaved the left bank and brought the bunkers back into play. A ball that hits the left shoulder of the green can even kick down into these bunkers, from where a double bogey or worse may result. What had become an innocuous opener of little interest is now an immediate test of judgement for the golfer.

As seen from behind the 1st green, a slightly tugged approach can find its way into the left
hand bunkers. The ball from the resulting bunker shot can easily return to your feet.

Heroian and his well trained crew of professionals assembled from other leading golf clubs have painstakingly restored much of the original playing charcateristics to the course. Another example involves the removal of a row of dense pines that separated the parallel 7th and 8th holes. The ill-advisedly planted pines obscured the sweeping views across the rolling New England terrain and covered up sand pits that Leeds had so carefully built. These pines along with 180 other trees were felled by Herioan and his crew.

With the removal of the trees, the links nature of the course is once again fully exposed, which would please Leeds to no end, given how taken he was with links golf during his 1902 trip to Scotland. Leeds would also be pleased at the lack of any senseless flower or shrub planting program. Golf at Myopia Hunt is striped down to the essentials. The clutter that wrecks so many United States courses is well and truly absent.

The view from the 2nd tee is another example of the work done to promote the links characteristics.
Orchard trees that once separated the 2nd fairway (pictured left) and the 13th fairway
(pictured right in the shade) have been replaced by irregular shaped mounds
 that are common throughout the course.

Indeed, Leeds was mightily impressed by what he saw in Scotland. In particular, the minimal movement of dirt was a lesson well learned and in all the years he worked on Myopia Hunt, never was much land moved. Some erroneously think that the creation of the irregular shaped mounds throughout the course is a sign of superfluous or decorative land movement. This is not the case: rather, there were old stone boundary walls that ran through the property and Leeds did not think that a stone wall was a fair or safe hazard for a golf course. Therefore, he piled dirt on top of them. Whether the formation of these particular chocolate drop mounds were the inspiration for Donald Ross at nearby Essex County remains unclear.

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