Groton's Green Jewel: Part One
The Groton community has a wide variety of town, educational, cultural and athletic facilities. It is not likely that we have an opportunity to experience all the amenities that the town has to offer. Therefore, for those who have not yet had the pleasure of playing golf at Groton Pool and Golf Center, it is hoped that we can describe the experience that one might enjoy on this classic New England course.
The family-oriented facility includes a nine-hole "links" style golf course, golf driving range, golf instruction, club rentals and 18 Holes of Simulated, Indoor golf. Besides being a virtual wildlife sanctuary, this par 35 course offers charm, character and a challenge for players of all abilities.
The environmentally friendly walk of 2,739 yards (1.56 miles) in the sunshine offers magnificent mountain and wildlife views. The above distance assumes that you are hitting from the white tees and that one hits the ball on a straight line from tee to green. The yardage from the red tees is 2,409 yards and from the blue markers, 3,003 yards.
Each person who plays the course will have a different experience depending on the decisions he or she makes. Let us explain. What club to hit on a windy day? Do I drive the green or play safe and lay-up? Which side of the fairway or green is best when hitting an approach shot, etc?
On the par five eighth, long hitters might choose to hit their second shot over a swamp, a carry of approximately 100-150 yards depending on the drive. If successful, the golfer is left with a short iron or less to the green and the feeling of Rory McIlroy like invincibility. Unfortunately, if the attempt is unsuccessful, it is humbling. It is all about the choice one must make.
For the Groton-Dunstable Regional HS, Littleton and Ayer/Lunenburg golf teams, who regularly practice and play their matches in the fall at GPGC, their course management will be different than let's say...less-skilled golfers.
With this in mind, the following observations are from the viewpoint of several senior golfers, who appreciate the scenery, the hike and the quiet as much as the golf. Your score may be secondary to the camaraderie you have with your playing partners. It is an ancillary benefit if you have golfing skills. We are providing the following description with the hope that you may be tempted to indulge yourself in a round or more at GP&CC.
The first hole is a 335-yard par 4 with a gentle, slightly downhill sloping dog leg to the right as you look down the fairway. What you immediately notice is the approximately 75 foot very conspicuous maple tree growing in the middle of the fairway, out about 160 yards from the tee box. The tree is at the turning point of the dogleg and it will come into play if you don't plan accordingly. Many golfers have plotted a chainsaw assault in the deep of night on that maple!
The fairway leading to the green begins approximately 25 yards beyond. A well-placed 200-yard drive will carry the tree and put the player in perfect position with a relatively flat lie for the second shot. To the right and you are 30 or 40 yards closer to the green, but with a side hill lie that has the ball slightly above your feet. It is a more difficult shot than from a flat surface, but one that you will frequently find as you play Groton.
The green is small by golfing standards, measuring only 40 feet wide and 60 feet long (2,400 square feet), but is typical of the putting surfaces on this course. It is shrouded by green plush foliage on three sides presenting a serene pastoral scene in spring and summer and in autumn, a leaf peeper's delight with spectacular fall colors.
This 267-yard par four, the so-called easiest hole on the course, is deceiving. Where is the green you ask? The approach is southeastward, but you are looking into the side of a hill that was part of a converted ski area years ago. The incline begins immediately in front of the tee box and rises dramatically for approximately 75 yards. Psychologically, this presents the biggest challenge on the hole.
The landing area for your drive is flat, approximately 80 yards long, 40 yards wide and provides you with a view of the top of the pin on the green. Depending on your drive, you are left with an iron to the green, anywhere from 75 to 140 yards up another equally demanding hill to hopefully, the putting surface.
Where your next shot ends up varies from "on top" to "Oh-Oh". If your ball comes to rest half to three quarters of the way up the hill, you will find it difficult just standing up, never mind hitting the ball. During the summer months, if there has been a lack of rain, the hill dries, the grass fades and you do not have to be concerned with hitting the ball from a position on the hillside. Most likely you can watch the ball bounce back down the hill towards you and eventually pass by going the other way! Thus the phrase, "Oh-Oh."
Having finally completed this uphill fitness test, you arrive at the only two-tiered green on the course. In addition, the overall surface slopes downward from back to front and makes for quite an unparalleled putting experience. From the back edge of the green, you have a good chance to see your putt, no matter how deftly played, roll by the pin and off the front of the green about 60 feet away. It may be that you are further from the pin than where you struck the shot. Baseball great Hank Aaron said, "It took me seventeen years to get 3,000 hits. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course." After playing this hole, you might to!
It must be noted that one can avoid almost all of the problems reaching the green if you are a skilled, truly long hitter. The second can be reached with a good tee shot!
However, regardless of your score, the view westward is one of the more scenic sights in Groton: Lawrence Academy, the white steeple of the First Parish Church, the Wapack Range of mountains that extends from Mt. Wachusett northward to Mt. Monadnock on the horizon, framing Mt. Watatic at 1,800 feet in the center. This is also one of the areas on the course where, you may see a rafter of wild turkeys, fox or other wildlife. Pause and enjoy the view.
Three is a 350 yard, par 4 and the number one handicap hole (most difficult) on the course. All who shoot par here need not apologize!
From the tee box, the view is downhill extending approximately 50-75 yards to a valley floor that spans another 50 yards before continuing up another hill. It is this vale that is the most serene setting on the golf course. The area is sheltered from the wind by tall trees abutting both sides of a wide fairway. Frequently, low-flying small birds will accompany you, as they snatch various insects disturbed by the foot traffic and golf carts. It is not the longest hole on the course but a challenge, demanding a solid drive, and an accurate, well-struck second shot to the green.
For we Geritol types who will be hitting our second shot from a position on the upslope of a fairway that also slopes downward from left to right, it is challenging to say the least!
Once you get your ball to the top of the hill (we never mention over-the-hill in the senior league), you are on a plateau estimated to be 60-80 yards long. Assuming that you have not delivered your second shot into the woods or the swimming pool, your approach will make-or-break this hole. But if your ball cannot be found, "remember," said bowling professional Don Carter. "One of the advantages bowling has over golf is that you seldom lose a bowling ball."
If your ball is in play, there are two choices. After taking into consideration the steepness of the slope, the terrain, the wetness and length of the grass, the mowed condition, a delicate chip to a fairway that slopes sharply downhill some 30 yards to the green is in order. Luck also plays a big part. You simply watch the ball traverse the downhill and pray it ends on the green somewhere within shouting distance of the hole. The second option is to hit a high short iron, carry the green and hope the ball holds on the putting surface that is cheetah fast!
During the summer on this third green, one hears the noise and excitement of those using the Groton pool, which is only a wedge shot away and protected by a 20-foot high screen. The exuberance from the young people at the pool reminds all that this golf thing is only a game. Continued next week.