Review: The Ranch Golf Club

Course Name: The Ranch Golf Club

Designer: Damian Pascuzzo (2001)

Location: Southwick, Massachusetts

History: Situated on a historic dairy farm, the semi-private Ranch has a rich history for such a new course. As early as the 1940’s, Geoffrey Cornish wanted to design a course on the land, but nothing materialized until 2001 when Damian Pascuzzo and his crew came to Southwick. It has been recognized as one of the finest public golf courses in Massachusetts and arguably the best in Central Massachusetts, earning accolades from various publications:

  • #7 Best Public Course in Massachusetts – Golf.com (2016-2017)
  • #3 Best Public Course in Massachusetts – Golfweek (2017-2018)
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Two prominent barns from the old farm are used as the clubhouse

Conditions: 8/10, With beautiful bentgrass from tee-to-green, The Ranch is in fantastic condition overall. The greens were firm and some of the fastest I’ve played on a public course. The only reason the score’s not higher is because unfortunately the course gets a lot of play from golfers who don’t replace ballmarks or divots.

Value: 6/10, While The Ranch does get pricey before noon in peak season (up to $94), look out for off-season, twilight, and Tuesday rates. All day Tuesday, it’s $59 for a cart and 18, which is a great deal.

Scorecard:

Tee                                   Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black Championship    72           7174               75.0              139

Blue Tournament          72           6588               71.8              133

White Regulation          72           6103               69.6              130

Gold Forward                 72           4983               69.7              125

Best Score: 81 (Blue Tournament Tees), 8/1/2017 with George W., and 2 others we met at the course

Front 9 Best: 41 (Blue Tournament Tees), 8/1/2017 with George W., and 2 others we met at the course

Back 9 Best: 40 (Blue Tournament Tees), 8/1/2017 with George W., and 2 others we met at the course

Hole Descriptions: Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Ranch. For such a highly esteemed course, there were few pictures of the course and even fewer reviews. When I drove up to the unique two-barn clubhouse and was greeted at my car, I knew I was in for a special round. In the end, The Ranch is an awesome course I would play over and over again. It was a perfect level of difficulty, and has beauty matched by only the most elite public courses in New England.

If I had to give a course comparison, I liken The Ranch to Pete Dye’s Meadow Valleys Course. This is high praise considering Meadow Valleys is inside the top 100 public courses in America, but isn’t that unreasonable. They both feature a combination of holes lined by meadows of heather and several lined by tight tree-lines. The Ranch’s defining feature is the elevation changes, which are both beautiful and make judging distance imperative for good scoring.

The Ranch starts out with a good birdie chance in the short par 5 1st. At just 484 yards, this hole is generous off the tee with a large double-fairway split by a tall tree about 245 yards from the tee. At about 280 yards, this fairway becomes very narrow, as a pond lines the entire left side all the way to the green. While there are no fairway bunkers to worry about on the drive, there are several devastating ones near the green, especially just short right. Although a short hole, this large green is heavily undulating, yielding fewer eagles and birdies than it should. Large, sloping greens are a staple at The Ranch and are found on pretty much every hole.

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The water and tree on the left come in play less than you’d imagine – grip it and rip it on the 1st

Full disclosure, I carded a devastating quad on the par 4 2nd so I might be a bit biased when I say I’m not a huge fan. At 351 yards, this is a quirky L-shaped dogleg right that requires a forced carry of 150 yards to reach the fairway. If you run through the fairway, you’ll find a series of bunkers and thick fescue. Two bunkers guard short right of this heavily undulating green.

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Your view from the 2nd teebox

The 3rd hole is a strong 375 yard uphill par 4 that plays easier than its number 3 handicap designation. This fairway is extremely generous on the right, but the left side is lined by a trio of penal bunkers. This green is narrow and runs hard back-to-front.

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The uphill approach from just short of the 3rd bunkers

Playing a strong 404 yards straight uphill, the par 4 4th is the number 1 handicap hole at The Ranch for good reason. This landing area is wider than it appears but the uphill combined with trees and a forced carry make for an intimidating teeshot. Like the previous hole, bunkers on the left at about 220 yards narrow the fairway. The approach to this green runs straight uphill to a narrow back-to-front green guarded by two deep bunkers on the right and a hazard to the left. Making my first par of the day here felt great.

The collection of par threes at The Ranch is superb, beginning with the 146 yard 5th. Playing slightly uphill, this large green is guarded by two large bunkers on the right and one on the left.

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The par 3 5th is the shortest on the course at 146 yards

The par 4 6th is another quirky par 4 I wasn’t a huge fan of. At 356 yards, this teeshot is semi-blind with a giant mound of bunkers and trees on the right obscuring the green. Longer players can bomb it over the mound, but the safe play is a drive left to a wide fairway. This approach runs downhill to a sloping green guarded by three bunkers short.

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The green on the par 4 6th is just behind the trees on the right
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The downhill approach on the par 4 6th

Although not as quirky as some of the other par fours at The Ranch, the 369 yard 7th is downright boring as a straightaway bunkerless par 4. Several slopes on this green give this hole some teeth but it is undeniably one of the easiest and weakest holes on the course.

I was a huge fan of the 180 yard par 3 8th hole. This green is slightly elevated, with three giant bunkers short on three sides. These bunkers frame the green beautifully.

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The gorgeous uphill par 3 8th

The 502 yard risk/reward par 5 9th is one of the most fun par fives I’ve ever played but isn’t even the best on the course. Running straight downhill back to the clubhouse, this drive is one of the best chances many golfers will ever have to hit a 300 yard drive. For the final 75 yards of the hole, you must carry a hazard to reach the green. I imagine this difficult green leaves many players disappointed with par.

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The blind teeshot on the 9th runs straight downhill
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The approach on the par 5 9th – humblebrag: that’s my drive in front of the 150 marker

The back 9 plays almost 300 yards longer than the front and is the superior side in my opinion. It starts out strong with the 406 yard 10th hole. This slight dogleg left features a wide fairway lined on both sides by dense meadows of fescue.

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Your view from the 10th teebox – this hole seems straight out of Pete Dye’s Meadow Valleys

At 366 yards, the par 4 11th plays much longer, playing straight uphill. Like several holes on the front side, this hole is protected by a giant bunker on the left side of the fairway about 200 yards from the tee. Unsurprisingly, this narrow green runs hard back-to-front.

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The beautiful uphill par 4 11th

The par 3 12th is the longest on the course at 181 yards. This is a pretty hole framed by trees on all sides. You need to avoid going short left of this green, as three deep bunkers and fescue make for a challenging up-and-down.

At 540 yards, the par 5 13th is the most difficult hole on the back and also my least favorite. This teeshot is confusing to say the least, with a narrow fairway lined by fescue on the left and trees on the right. One tree in particular juts out on the right, requiring a player to hit a left-to-right ballflight to find this fairway. This narrow fairway is lined by a mound of bunkers on the right about 160 yards short of this green. This green is wide but shallow and plays slightly uphill on the approach.

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The claustrophobic teeshot on the par 5 13th
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The difficult approach on the par 5 13th

The par 4 14th doesn’t look like much from the teebox, as this teeshot is completely blind. At 419 yards, this is a difficult dogleg left that asks for a right-to-left ballflight to avoid running through the dogleg. The approach to this wide, shallow green is beautifully framed by mountains in the background and two bunkers short. Par is a great score here.

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The beautiful downhill approach on the par 4 14th

The 15th hole is a short 357 yard par 4 that features yet another completely blind teeshot. Thankfully, we played with locals who told us to aim about 200 to 250 yards over mounds on the left. I don’t know what we would have done without their advice. This fairway narrows considerably at about 260 yards with bunkers on the right. The approach to this green is tremendous with a series of bunkers on the right and trees and mountains framing the left. This is one of my favorite holes at The Ranch.

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My playing partner smiles as he hits the wrong club on 15
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The approach on the 15th – simply breathtaking

If you thought the 9th hole was fun, then you’ll love the monstrous 578 yard par 5 16th. Named “Ski Hill” for obvious reasons, this hole runs blindly downhill the entire way lined by trees on both sides. While this hole plays shorter than 578 yards, reaching this green in two is a difficult feat considering this fairway narrows to almost nothing for the final 100 yards, with ponds on both sides. This green is the largest on the course, with subtle breaks throughout. This is a supremely fun hole tee-to-green and my favorite at The Ranch.

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Don’t be distracted by the Metacomet Mountains – a straight drive is still needed on the 16th

Although not the longest, the 170 yard 17th is the most difficult one-shotter at The Ranch despite of its 18th handicap designation. This hole requires a carry the entire way over water to a shallow, heavily undulating green. Beware of the goose poop on this hole!

My playing partners thought the finishing hole was a bit tricked out, but I enjoyed the 404 yard 18th. This is another blind teeshot uphill to a generous fairway lined by fescue on both sides. The approach here runs straight downhill back to the clubhouse to a heavily back-to-front sloped green guarded by bunkers on both sides.

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Your blind view on the par 4 18th
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The approach on the final hole is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful on the course

Best Par 3: 8th Hole, “The Diamond”, 180 yards, 7th handicap. The par threes at The Ranch are fantastic, but the 8th stands out above the rest. This elevated, perched green sits precariously on top of three deep bunkers, requiring the player to hit a high mid- to long-iron.

Best Par 4: 4th Hole, “Deer Run”, 404 yards, 1st handicap. Narrowly beating out the 14th and 15th, the 4th hole is a gorgeous and difficult uphill par 4. An accurate drive is needed here to avoid bunkers on the left and forests on both sides. As difficult as the drive is, the approach to this narrow green plays long and might even be more challenging considering the hazards near this green.

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Your claustrophobic view from the 4th tee

Best Par 5: 16th Hole, “Ski Hill”, 578 yards, 8th handicap. I’m not much of a skiier, but I know enough to rename this hole “Black Diamond.” Featuring one of the steepest fairways I’ve ever played, this hole plays similarly to the 9th. While the drive is exhilarating, the real decision on this hole comes on the approach and lay-up, which require pinpoint accuracy to miss the water on either side.

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Do you lay-up or go for glory on the 578 yard par 5 16th?

General Comments: The amenities at The Ranch are fantastic and really make you feel like a “member for the day.” The clubhouse is fully stocked, the locker rooms are nice, and there’s water on almost every tee. Additionally, the carts had a full GPS system, and there was a grass driving range, chipping green, and putting green to practice on. I will also note that pace of play was superb on the day we played, as we barely had to wait.

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The grass driving range at The Ranch allows you to hit driver

Verdict: The Ranch provides a wonderful overall experience, with great practice facilities, top-notch service, and beautiful conditioning. Several fantastic holes, especially those that use the natural mountainous backdrop, more than make up for a few quirky ones. I highly recommend The Ranch to anyone in the Springfield-Hartford area and even consider it a course I’d drive from Boston or Providence to play.

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