On May 4th, 2021, Golf.com published their list of the top 100 public courses you can play for 2021-2022. The list featured some of the best public courses in all of North America. With breath taking views, intimidating approaches, and an iconic overall experience, that the average golfer could only dream about, it’s no wonder why their ranking is considered the best of the best. Add in the fact that the courses on their list are accessible to the general public, the opportunity to play these courses is a goal that can be very attainable. However, for the average golfer with a modest budget, the extreme price tags for some of these courses can adversely affect playability. Consequently, because golf courses can come in all shapes and sizes, it’s important to remember that the price tag is not always indicative of the golfing experience. So, with these thoughts in mind, I compiled a list of what I consider the 10 best public courses in Massachusetts – courses where anyone can play for under $100 over the weekends during the peak time. The methodology used to rank the various courses included the following:
- Each course must have a final price under $100 that must include cart rentals. If a cart is not included and is an add-on, the total cost must still remain under $100.
- Each course must be an 18 holes (or more) layout. Although there are some amazing 9-hole courses in Massachusetts, for the purpose of this list we will stick with 18 holes. All prices will be standard Friday through Sunday, weekend, or holiday price.
- Extra points will be given to those courses where the final cost includes use of the driving range. The slope rating is sorted into three different categories. The 135+ grouping, the 130-134 grouping, and finally the 129 and below groupings. Yardages are also a major determining factor.
- Remember, the longer the course, the more bang for your buck. And the more opportunities there will be to lose your golf balls.
1. Highfields Golf & Country Club $77 w/Cart – Par 74/137 Slope
Located on the grounds of the former Magil Dairy Farm, the Highfields Golf and Country club is an 18 hole championship course situated on over 220 acres of pristine land overlooking the Blackstone Valley – one of the state’s most exciting visitor destinations often revered for its magnificent fall foliage and quaint New England villages. Originally envisioned by John Magil, and his son Jay, the Magil family worked with Mugeam Cornish Golf Design, an architectural company that has planned more courses in New England than any other architect in history, to create a unique golfing experience that appeal to all golfers, regardless of their playing abilities or financial status. However, it is because of their attention to details, their unbeatable price tag, their professionally attentive staff, and their impeccable scenic view of Blackstone Valley that makes Highfields Golf & Country Club #1 on my list.
2. Crestview Country Club $69 w/Cart – Par 74/134
The Crest View Country Club has long been considered one of the best semi-private courses in all of Massachusetts. Known as the “Gem of Western Mass,” Crestview offers an 18-hole championship golfing experience that has played host to several professional golf events, including the PGA TOUR Travelers Championship Open Qualifier in 2015, the CT Section PGA Championship in 2013, the LPGA Friendly’s Classic from 1995-1998, as well as several US Amateur qualifiers. But what impresses me the most about the “Crestview Difference” is the fact that their limited membership size provides an opportunity for golfers to play from the same tee boxes as the professionals, but in a public setting. This truly remarkable golfing experience doesn’t happen often. But it is one the avid golfer will treasure forever!
3. Blackstone National Golf Club $89 w/Cart – Par 74/139 Slope
The Blackstone National Golf Club is one course that practically needs no introduction. Located in Sutton, Blackstone National was designed by renowned golf course architect Rees Jones. Jones dedicated his life to creating a golfing experience that is challenging, but friendly; risky, but rewarding. Blackstone is a challenging course that demands players have a variety of shots in their arsenal. Smart golf decisions and a knack of knowing when to go for it or when to layup is a must and will reward those who make the right choice. It may take the average golfer a couple of rounds to properly understand the layout of the course. But each time you play it will be an unbelievable experience that will be difficult to replicate elsewhere. Try not get distracted by the spectacular and picturesque views surrounding the course for they will, undoubtedly remind you as to why you love this game.
4. Shining Rock Golf Club $85 w/Cart – Par 72/139 Slope
Located just under an hour south east of Boston, Shinning Rock Golf Club is an award-winning public golf course designed by Howard Maurer, architect of the Weathervane Golf Course in Weymouth and a number of other courses in Massachusetts. Carved out of the rolling mountains of the Blackstone Valley corridor, the Shinning Rock Golf Club course has a mountain feel. Meticulously kept fairways, fast but true greens, a picturesque landscape and challenging yet not overwhelming style of play is what helps land Shinning Rock well within the top 5. The only thing missing from Shinning Rock is the film Sir Sean Connery, greeting players at the first tee with his famous quote “Welcome to the rock!”
5. The Ranch Golf Club $95 w/Cart – Par 75/139 Slope
When you close your eyes and go to sleep at night dreaming of golf, what comes to mind? Picturesque blue skies with panoramic views as if they were painted by a famous landscape artist? Neatly trimmed, feathery grass that’s immaculately rich in emerald color? You must be dreaming of The Ranch Golf Club. Voted as one of the top 50 courses in 2010’s Golf World’s Readers’ Choice, The Ranch was one of only two courses in all of New England that made their list. With a rare east coast Damian Pascuzzo design, The Ranch effortlessly flows from forest-lined fairway corridors to inviting open meadows that is not just a challenge for any level of golfer, but a golfing experience that will leave you wanting more.
6. Shaker Hills Country Club $99 w/Cart (after 11am) – Par 73/136 Slope
They say that “at Shaker Hills Country Club, golf isn’t just a game.” Instead, it’s an experience that once enabled Shaker Hills to be considered the #1 ranked public course in Massachusetts and the #2 best new course in America. Originally opened in 1991, Shaker Hills Country Club underwent a massive renovation project under the leadership of its new owner Fred Curtis, Jr., who purchased the property for $3.4 million, while it was under foreclosure. Despite no prior golf management experience, Curtis’ unshakable will, determination, vision, and need to “shake things up,” were successful not only at guiding the course renovation project, but in transforming Shaker Hills into one of the most favorite and must play courses in all of Massachusetts. With a wide variety of holes and pristine greens that roll like a carpet, Shaker Hills offer golfers, regardless of their handicap, a challenging experience. Thus, it’s not difficult to understand why one reviewer believe that “there’s just something special about this course.”
7. Crosswinds Golf Club $82 + $17 for Cart – Par 72/140 Slope (Zaharias + Ouimet + Jones)
Are you the type of person who loves options or who suffers from FOMO syndrome? If so, then the 27 hole Crosswinds Golf Club is for you. Hailing from Southeastern Massachusetts, an area of the state that features some of the most well known nationally ranked courses in America, Crosswinds is the newest Championship daily fee course in Plymouth. Surprisingly, Crosswinds offers golfers, of all abilities, the choice of three distinctly different styled championship courses that are beautiful, challenging, and memorable. Often living up to its name, “the Jones, Ouimet and Zaharias course,” Crosswinds is definitely a punch above its weight class, demonstrating why this course deserves to be ranked up there with the big boys.
8. Waubeeka Golf Links $89 w/Cart – Par 70/126 Slope
With the magnificent Berkshire Mountains as its canvas, it is no secret why the Waubeeka Golf Links is acclaimed as the course “where fairways meet Heaven.” And as you play the 18-hole championship golf course, you too will quickly come to understand why Waubeeka received extremely high marks from Golf Digest as one of the top courses in Massachusetts. Although Waubeeka was designed by New England’s foremost architectural group, “Mungeam Cornish Golf Design,” the firm embraced the vision of then owner Jim Goff, who was determined to transform Waubeeka into one of the top 10 public golf courses in the state of Massachusetts. The course is currently owned by Michael Deep who purchased the property in 2014. From forgiving par 3s to challenging par 5s, Waubeeka properly tests players with tight fairways, substantial elevation changes with the challenge of Taconic but for nearly half the price. A winning combination in my book!
9. Butter Brook Golf Club $99 w/Cart – Par 72/133 Slope
Another one of Mungeam’s designs, the Butter Brook Golf Club is actually a tale of two courses. The front 9 is a classic New England style course in every sense of the word. Accuracy off the tee and precise approach shots are a must when trying to keep the ball in play. Well placed hazards and bunkers will keep you honest when hitting your way towards the green. The back 9 plays more like a links course with its wide-open fairways, lack of trees, and undulating greens that roll as if they were lined with silk. Ask almost any golfer as they walk off the 18th green what they think about the course and they will tell you “it’s as good as advertise, if not better!” No wonder Butter Brook Golf Club is a “diamond in the rough.”
10. George Wright Golf Course $57 + $20 for Cart – Par 70/126 Slope
When it comes to Municipal Courses, at the very top of the list, in a league of its own, is the George Wright Golf Course. Unfortunately, those unfamiliar with the Hyde Park and Roslindale neighbor-hoods of Boston would never know this world class municipal golf course is located in the heart of the city. This famous Donald Ross designed public golf course started construction in 1929 just as the market crashed and the country was in the throws of the Great Depression. Finally opening in 1938, George Wright Golf Course has since rose to national acclaim after a redesign effort was completed by New England staple Mark Mungeam. Since then, the course has received several notable and prestigious national awards including “the #59 Best Public Course in North America,” by Golf Magazine (2021). With its exceptional layout, stomach turning blind shots and a clubhouse that looks like its straight of Hogwarts, George Wright is clearly in a class by itself.
And so, there you have it – my thoughts on the top 10 Massachusetts Public Golf Courses under $100.
Each of the courses included in this ranking reflects my most sincere and committed effort to showcase what I believe are the most affordable courses. Ultimately, you must decide for yourself whether I’ve succeeded in assembling the greatest collection of publicly affordable courses in the state of Massachusetts. Whether you agree or not, the one thing that can never be in doubt is that Massachusetts is rich in challenging, world class, quality courses that prove you don’t have to be a member of a private country club to get the best golf experience available. There’s no need to empty the bank account to play some of the most expensive courses in the country when you can have a similar experience at many different clubs for at least half the price. The golf God’s show no mercy for those who think you need to spend in order to have the best. No matter where we play, we’re still going to hook it into the water off to the right.