Review: Butter Brook Golf Club

Course Name: Butter Brook Golf Club

Designer: Mark Mungeam/Tim Gerrish (2004 – Front 9, 2006 – Back 9)

Location: Westford, Massachusetts

History: Built on an old farm, Butter Brook opened with 9 holes in April, 2004. In 2006, practice facilities and a back 9 were added. Currently semi-private, this Mark Mungeam design is situated about 30 minutes northwest of Boston. While it hasn’t cracked any top Massachusetts public lists yet, New England Golf Guide gives it 5 stars and describes it as a “hidden gem.”

Conditions: 8/10, I heard great things about the conditioning at Butter Brook, and the course met my expectations. The fairways were well manicured, and most divots were repaired even though the course receives a ton of play. Although there isn’t much rough, it is thick and healthy. The greens were acceptable, but a bit slower and bumpier than I had hoped.

Value: 4/10, The absolute cheapest you can play Butter Brook in the summer is $52 to walk on a weekday. Given how difficult walking is (did it, do not recommend), a round will cost $72 on weekdays and $92 on weekend mornings. I will also mention that walking is not allowed at certain times so be sure to check before you play.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       72           6702               72.6              133

Blue                         72           6174               70.4              128

White                      72           5617               68.6              120

Red                          72           4849               69.4              120

Best Score: 87 (Black Tees), 6/8/2017 with George W. and 2 others we met at the course

Front 9 Best: 42 (Black Tees), 6/8/2017 with George W. and 2 others we met at the course

Back 9 Best: 45 (Black Tees), 6/8/2017 with George W. and 2 others we met at the course

Hole Descriptions: Coming into Butter Brook, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. New England Golf Guide raves about it, but it was hard to find any other reviews or accolades online. We played the Tips, and didn’t regret doing so, as only the 9th (618 yards) and 11th (249 yards) were egregiously long.

Butter Brook is clearly divided by course design; the front 9 and holes 17 and 18 are tight, tree-lined and exemplify modern golf architecture’s affinity for target golf. I was pleasantly surprised by the stretch of 10-16, as these holes opened up and played almost as a links. When all’s said and done, you feel like you’ve played two different courses, which is up to you to judge whether you liked or didn’t like.

The opening hole is one of the tighter ones on the course as a 517 yard dogleg left par 5. Tall trees line both sides of the fairway but the left side is worse, as you’ll likely be hitting three off the tee if you hit it there. A small bunker 245 yards on the right side of the fairway is another place to avoid. The lay-up on the 1st is difficult because the fairway pinches tightly with a hazard on the right about 120 yards before the green.

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The view from the opening teebox – “Squeeze”

The 2nd is meant to be a drivable par 4, but you’d have to be insane to attempt it from the 316 yard Tips. This hole runs slightly uphill and features a wide fairway that narrows considerably after about 200 yards. There is plenty of danger near this elongated green – enough to make long iron the smart play here.

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The short par 4 2nd – “Dare”

The 3rd is only 136 yards, but is one of the most penal short par threes I’ve played. This elevated green is incredibly narrow with a steep embankment and deep bunker left. This is also one of the most undulating greens on the course.

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The short par 3 3rd – “Shelf”

The 403 yard 4th is a strong golf hole and certainly one of the more difficult at Butter Brook. Requiring an immediate forced carry of 135 yards over a hazard, this hole doglegs left about 260 yards off the tee. Lined by trees the entire way, the approach to this heavily back-to-front sloped green runs uphill. Par is a great score here.

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The difficult par 4 4th from the tee – “Faith”

Although the par 3 5th is my favorite one-shotter on the course, its value is diminished considering it plays almost exactly the same as the 3rd hole just two holes before. Playing the same distance (136 yards), this hole even features a similar name: “Ledge.” Regardless, this is an easy hole and the best chance at birdie on the front 9.

The 6th hole is my favorite overall hole at Butter Brook as a fantastic 432 yard long dogleg right. The trees lining this fairway are striking, and make this one of the most fun driving holes of the day. A cross bunker on the left and water on the right make this another hole where par is a great score. More on this hole below.

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The par 4 6th from the tee – “Kick”

Although it’s the 10th handicap, the 554 yard 7th is a difficult par 5 that requires both accuracy and length to reach this green in regulation. With a forced carry over water, strategically placed bunkers, and a tight tree-lined fairway, this hole is difficult even before you reach the bowl-shaped green.

The third and final par 3 on the front, the 171 yard 8th hole plays uphill to a large green guarded by two deep bunkers short left. Accounting for the uphill is the key to avoiding these hazards.

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The uphill par 3 8th – “Northern Palm”

I give Butter Brook credit for the naming of its holes. You can get an idea of how each hole plays from the name, especially on the 9th, a 618 yard monster named “Eternity.” This is a true three shot (maybe four for some golfers) par 5 that snakes from right to left with trees on both sides. Besides its length, there isn’t much danger on this hole until you reach the green, whose right side is lined by a bunker and pond.

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The approach on the par 5 9th – “Eternity”

After a lengthy walk/ride, you reach the 383 yard par 4 10th. Although the fairway is generous, the teeshot and approach shot could be completely blind due to swales in the fairway and a large cross-bunker 230 yards on the left.

The 11th is one of the longest par threes I’ve ever played at a beastly 249 yards. My playing partners didn’t want to play the Tips, but I convinced them to. Requiring wood or driver for pretty much every golfer, this hole is actually fairly benign outside of its length and two-tiered back-to-front green.

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The par 3 11th – “Swale”

Aptly named “Freedom,” the 521 yard par 5 12th begins a stretch of open, sandy holes. This is definitely the easiest par 5 on the course with a wide fairway guarded by waste bunkers on both sides that are fairly easy to hit out of. The hardest part of this hole is the undulating green.

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The wide open par 5 12th “Freedom” is a good birdie chance

At 321 yards, the par 4 13th is one of the coolest holes at Butter Brook. This fairway is initially generous, but turns narrows after an old barn on the right that requires an 150 yard carry. It’s hard to trust the fact that the fairway opens up past the barn so many golfers bail out left through the fairway into a crossbunker. This small green is one of the best bunkered on the course, with three deep bunkers surrounding it.

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The par 4 13th from just short of the barn on the right

The 14th is another long par 3 that plays 199 yards. This hole is notable for a small bunker short right and a giant waste bunker on the left.

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The par 3 14th – “Oasis”

The 15th continues the mantra of wide open holes, but plays as the longest par 4 on the course at 447 yards. The 14th waste bunker lines the left side of this generous fairway while fairway bunkers are found 210 yards on the right and 265 yards on the left. A pond occupies the right side for the final 150 yards of the hole but is more in play on the approach than drive. Par is a great score on one of the more difficult holes at Butter Brook.

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The long par 4 15th from the tee – “Old Tom”

The 524 yard 16th is the last of the open holes and you better appreciate it considering how tough the final two holes are. A pond shared with the 15th lines the right side of this fairway for the first 260 yards, but the left is wide open. This fairway narrows as you progress towards the green with large waste bunkers on both sides.

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The par 5 16th – “Highlands”

Most golfers standing on the 17th tee will be terrified. Easily the hardest hole at Butter Brook, this reminds me of the tricked out 5th at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms. Playing 416 yards, this hole features one of the tightest fairways I’ve ever seen lined by tall trees on the right and a hazard on the left. If you’re lucky enough to find the fairway, you’re faced with a long uphill approach to a sloping green. Good luck!

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The intimidating teeshot on the par 4 17th – “Butter Brook”
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The uphill approach on the 17th, complete with multiple layers of bunkers

At only 355 yards, the finishing hole at Butter Brook is a rather disappointing example of a short target golf par 4. Lined by thick woods on the left, do whatever you can to hit the fairway here. A hazard guards 50 yards short of the green, requiring a carry the entire way. This box-shaped green is probably the most difficult on the course.

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The finishing approach at Butter Brook – “Ancient Oak”

Best Par 3: “Ledge”, 5th Hole, 136 yards, 18th handicap. The five par threes at Butter Brook were a pretty bland bunch, but the 5th is the best of them. This is a short hole, but one that tricks you visually with a deep bunker left of the green and one short that appears closer to the green than it actually is.

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The short par 3 5th

Best Par 4: “Kick”, 6th Hole, 436 yards, 4th handicap. The par fours at Butter Brook are fantastic, none more so than the beautiful 6th. This long dogleg right is beautifully framed by tall trees and a cross bunker 230 yards on the left side of the fairway. There’s a pond on the right about 275 yards from the tee but this shouldn’t be in play on the drive or the uphill approach.

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The approach to the par 4 6th

Best Par 5: “Party Bowl”, 7th Hole, 554 yards, 10th handicap. Butter Brook is a rare course with five par fives, and the 7th is my pick for the best and toughest. This is an intimidating teeshot, requiring a 200 yard carry over a pond to reach a tight, forest-lined fairway. One you reach the fairway, this hole remains narrow, and turns slightly left with cross-bunkers alternating sides every 50 yards. The name “party bowl” comes from the fact that this green acts as a funnel, pushing balls to the back left.

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The approach to the par 5 7th – “Party Bowl”

General Comments: The driving range is mats only but over 350 yards long, allowing you to hit driver. There are two practice greens – one near the 1st hole and one near the 10th. Many reviews I read online complained about pace of play, but I didn’t find it particularly poor the day I played. It’s inevitable this course will be slower than most, however, as it is challenging and the holes are far apart. I will note that Butter Brook is semi-private and a bit unwelcoming compared to most public courses.

Verdict: Butter Brook is a fascinating and challenging design. While I disliked the feeling of “target golf” on certain holes, many of the holes on this course were teeming with character. I highly recommend Butter Brook to anyone in the Boston area looking for an underrated course.

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Remnants from the farm are evident on the back 9
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