6 Historical Public Golf Courses Across New England

Across much of New England, you’ll find a bevy of golf courses that are steeped in history. Recent U.S. Opens provide proof of that—The Country Club in Brookline enjoyed its latest time in the spotlight a few years ago and, more recently, Newport Country Club took front-and-center as the Tillinghast classic hosted the world’s best senior players in late June.

While both courses are teeming with Golden Age architectural features, they’re also both steadfastly private. While that exclusivity keeps the vast majority of us on the wrong side of the gate, there are still plenty of historic golf courses in New England that enthusiastically open their doors to the public. Here, we spotlight half a dozen of those notable layouts, one based in each of the region’s six states.

Triggs Memorial Golf CourseProvidence, R.I.

Once a regular stop on the PGA Tour (during the mid-20th century), Triggs Memorial is a classic Donald Ross design, circa 1932, that showcases some of the Scottish architect’s signature features. Most notably, the raised greens almost always slope from back to front, and as any golfer with experience on Ross courses knows, you don’t want to be above the hole at Triggs.

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Triggs Memorial

When the course was built by Civil Works Administration laborers in the early ’30s, the 6,522-yard layout meandered across 140 acres of a former cattle farm in what was then a rural area of northwest Providence called Mount Pleasant. Today, the course is bordered by three schools and residential neighborhoods. More significantly, the city-owned course continues to showcase the ethos of golf design that permeated the game a century ago. Short par fours dogleg at distances that force players to make strategic club choices off the tee, for example, while some hillsides present blind shots—both going up and coming down. The latter characteristic serves as a reminder that a century ago a site’s topography was the primary factor for determining the routing of a golf course, as minimal earth could be moved during the construction process.

Wyndhurst Golf & Club—Lenox, Mass.

When it comes to Golden Age golf in western Massachusetts, the Wyndhurst Golf & Club flies under the radar, largely because Taconic, a semi-private track originally designed by Wayne Stiles (of Stiles & Van Kleek) and renovated 15 years ago by Gil Hanse, lies just a few miles up the road. Formerly known as the Cranwell Golf Club—a name that it shared with an adjacent resort which became a Miraval property about five years ago (and one that still partners with the course)—Wyndhurst boasts a similar lineage as Taconic, having been designed by Stiles & Van Kleek in 1926.

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Wyndhurst (photo by Leigh Chodos)

The entire Miraval resort covers almost 400 acres in the Berkshires. Wyndhurst, specifically, covers 6,400 yards and carves its way through thick forests, occasionally trundling over rolling hills. As is typical for courses built in that era, Wyndhurst’s greens are small and somewhat raised, a few of them positioned precariously close to thick brush along the tree-lined perimeters, which places a premium on being accurate into those greens. The putting surfaces themselves are prominently contoured, however, they don’t roll particularly fast.

Cape Arundel Golf Club—Kennebunkport, Maine

When Cape Arundel Golf Club was founded in 1896—then known as Kennebunkport Golf Club—it was one of just 74 golf clubs that existed in the United States. Formed by golf-enthused transient residents of the summer resort town set along Maine’s southern coast, the club’s golf course benefited from a full-scale redesign led by U.S. and British Amateur Champion Walter Travis. When the course reopened about 100 years ago, it introduced a more demanding layout, one characterized by aggressively sloped greens, not to mention a slew of natural hazards and strategically placed bunkers. Today, Cape Arundel is considered one of Maine’s best courses. Former President George H.W. Bush was a longtime member of the club, playing often during the summers. In fact, when he was younger, the late president won Cape Arundel’s club championship in 1947. Almost 60 years later, Phil Mickelson visited Cape Arundel, and while he wasn’t eligible to play in the club championship, he did set the course record, shooting 9-under par.

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Cape Arundel

Omni Mount Washington Course—Bretton Woods, N.H.

As is often the case with Donald Ross-designed layouts, the Omni Mount Washington Course evolved gradually over decades, slowly moving farther and farther away from what the celebrated course designer had originally conceived. Fortunately, when the Mount Washington Resort (now an Omni Hotels property) set out to restore the course to its original glory in 2008, it had access to Ross’s original plans and detailed notes of each hole. Those allowed architect Brian Silva to painstakingly rebuild every green complex and bunker, returning them to the grandeur that Ross had intended when the course first opened in 1915.

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Omni Mount Washington Course

Today, the alpine course covers just over 7,000 yards, though it is mountainous more in name than in style of play. While most mountain courses play over and across steeply pitched hillsides—playing corridors that severely punish offline shots—the Omni Mount Washington Course trundles over gradually sloped terrain. That said, a loop around the course delivers plenty of dramatic views of the surrounding Presidential Range mountains, not to mention vistas that showcase the striking Omni Mount Washington Resort Hotel—a sprawling 335-room property that draws parallels to The Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Steven King’s The Shining.

The Golf Club at Equinox—Manchester Village, Vt.

In 1926, amateur-champion-turned-course-designer Walter Travis was tasked with creating a golf course at The Equinox Resort, a historic property that pre-dates America’s independence by seven years. For decades, the resulting layout challenged players around the greens thanks to bold undulations in the putting surfaces, though it also required players to hit a variety of shots into those green complexes. In the early ’90s, the resort hired Rees Jones to conduct a full-scale renovation and redesign, one that mostly targeted reconstruction and reimagination of the course’s greenside bunkers. Since then, Jones has periodically returned to make further enhancements to the course, improving drainage on 10 holes and converting some greenside bunkers into closely mowed collection areas. Although the course’s character has subtly changed over the years, the 6,423-yard gem has consistently dazzled for its idyllic location set in a valley that offers stunning views of the surrounding Green Mountains.

The Golf Club at Equinox
The Golf Club at Equinox

Yale Golf Course—New Haven, Conn.

For most of its existence, Yale Golf Course operated as an exclusively private club. Only within the last handful of years has this Golden Age classic opened its gates to outside play. That’s a notable development, as it joins the ranks of only a select few public courses that are designed by C.B. Macdonald and/or Seth Raynor. The Ivy League masterpiece, created via a collaborative effort by both designers, cost $400,000 (about $7 million by today’s standards) and opened in 1926.

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Yale Golf Course

Perhaps most famous for its Biarritz green on the 201-yard par-three 9th hole, Yale has welcomed golfers with its wide, rolling fairways and expansive greens, while at the same time also confounding them with cavernous bunkers. Widely considered one of—perhaps the—best collegiate course in the nation, the 6,409-yard layout is currently closed for a multi-year restoration led by Gil Hanse. That project is particularly exciting, as “some amazing features are being brought back to life,” so says general manager Peter Palacios. The course is forecasted to reopen during the summer of 2026.

What other historic public courses in the New England region are worthy of mention?

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