Several weeks ago I was looking for a venue for a game with a friend who lives in Salem, and ventured onto the Granite Links Golf Club website. I was aware that the course had been ranked in the Top 25 this year by NEGM, but knew little about it. I booked a time. It turned out to be one of my most enjoyable rounds of the year.
The course, carved out of old granite quarries, sits prominently on a hill in Quincy offering magnificent views of Boston. The three nine-hole courses (Granite, Milton, and Quincy) were built in stages from 2003 to 2006. The developer, Quarry Hills Associates, devised a unique arrangement to build the course. During the Big Dig project, 900,000 truckloads of excavated soils were deposited in the abandoned quarries, generating $100 million in revenue that was used to finance the project.
However, you can still see remnants of the quarries. A striking example is the cavernous pit adjacent to the 8th green on the Granite course, which collects water which is used to irrigate the course. If you look carefully you can spot a couple of rusty automobiles among the jagged rocks. Chris Sleeper, the PGA Director of Golf, noted that “we pulled at least 72 cars out of the quarries. We finally gave up.” I couldn’t resist hitting a pitching wedge into the abyss and watching it plunge into the water far below. Much more fun than an unintentional shot into water.
The developers of Granite Links were committed to spending the money necessary to produce a top notch golf facility, and have succeeded famously. John Sanford, the architect, produced a striking layout which takes full advantage of the dramatic elevation changes and unique topography. When we played, the fairways and bent grass greens were in pristine condition. The greens are large and multi-leveled, allowing a wide variety of hole locations. The course is challenging but fair, although first-time golfers can expect to encounter a number of blind shots that obscure hazards.
Sleeper was the first staff person hired at the commencement of the project, and after nine years remains enthusiastic about working at the club. “When I arrived it was just seven holes and a pile of dirt,” he remarked. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with John Sanford as he was laying out the course. I’d carry a piece of Astroturf with me and hit shots .”
Sleeper noted that one strength of Sanford’s design is that it “gives you lots of options. There are also many risk/reward opportunities.”
Sleeper credited the superb condition of the course to the diligent efforts of Brad McDonald, the superintendent. “He and his staff do a phenomenal job.” Sleeper also acknowledged the commitment of the owners to provide the funds necessary to keep the course in top shape, which this summer has included purchasing water from the city.
But the experience at Granite Links doesn’t stop on the 18th hole. The club boasts one of the finest clubhouse/restaurant complexes in New England. After your round, enjoy drinks, lunch, or dinner in the plush Tavern at Quarry Hills as you gaze out towards the Boston Skyline. You’ll soon forget about your bad shots.
Granite Links has about 360 members, both corporate and individual. An individual membership requires an initiation fee of $27,500 and dues of $5,150 per year. Non-members may play the course for $125. This is a bit pricey, but you won’t be disappointed by your experience at Granite Links. Just be sure to keep your cart away from the edges of the quarries.