In my estimation, golf is only “a good walk spoiled” if you concentrate too much on the game itself and not your surroundings. I’m sure that’s sacrilegious to some diehard duffers out there. But I prefer an adage from one of my celluloid heroes, Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” For me, a “casual golfer” at best, the game is far too nuanced and complex to get all hung up about it. In fact, I admittedly almost never keep score.
Instead, I focus on two things I can control — where I golf, and who I go with. Because the social element of the game is really paramount. Good conversation, and some good old-fashioned ribbing, is as important to me as a monster drive or a seeing-eye chip shot. And I want to play in places that also speak to me. Places that dazzle my eyes, feed my soul and my heart. Places where I breathe deeply, either fresh mountain air or salt-tinged sea air. A good golf course can do all of that. And all of these provide a great outdoor experience.
Few tracts can boast the lore that the private Myopia Hunt & Polo Club in Hamilton, Mass., claims, hosting four of the first 14 U.S. Opens, between 1895 and 1908. No other club had hosted more than two by 1908, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., and Baltusrol in New Jersey held one each during that span. This delightful-but-vexing links-style course, tucked away off of Route 1A on Boston’s North Shore, is concealed at the end of a long, tree-lined driveway and the club’s two polo fields. That’s how the members like it. But if you get an invitation to play, don’t hesitate. Accept it. Compared with current mega-courses, this quaint venue is a relic. Which is a compliment. “If Tiger Woods played here, his driver would never leave his bag,” said Myopia pro William Safrin. The course is short but demanding, with wild elevation changes, huge amoeba-like bunkers, off-camber fairways, and disobedient doglegs. The architects, including Herbert C. Leeds (the designer of record despite building only the second nine holes in 1900), created a masterpiece.