2001: Ambience top feature at the Ranch

Southwick, Mass.

In an intriguing press release, Damian Pascuzzo, American Society of Golf Course Architects president, recently made a plea for course raters not to award bonus points for tradition or walking.

The statement, obviously targeted at how Golf Digest undertakes course rankings, goes on to suggest that modern courses today are hard to compare with classical layouts. They are built under very different conditions than was the case a half century or more ago. Because of the severity of the land or the need for additional revenue, many modern courses require that golfers ride golf cars when they play. That shouldn’t be used to penalize architects when it comes to course ratings, according to Pascuzzo. “We think raters should focus on pure design,” he said.

By those standards, Pascuzzo’s latest work, The Ranch Golf Club, comes up a little short. Perhaps the judgment would be different if the posted in-season green fee (which we didn’t pay) was less than $100. For the record, let us also note that the in-season twilight rate is $60 and that the rates shift to $85/$45 in October and $50 in November - inclusive of optional cart. The par-72 course has four sets of tees, ranging from 4,983 yards (69.7 rating/122 slope) to 7,174 yards (74.1/140). The Ranch opened in July, so it won’t be eligible for Golfweek’s list of America’s Best Courses until 2002.

The farm buildings, fescue highlights, mature hardwoods, elevation changes and long vistas of western Massachusetts and the Holyoke Range make for a lovely setting. The grow-in of the turfgrass is well-executed. The overall ambience of a round here is unsurpassed in southern New England. But the layout nonetheless is problematic in three crucial regards: at least half a dozen blind tee shots; an inconsistent mix of bunker styles; and putting surfaces ill-suited for the shots they are supposed to receive. Some of this could have been avoided on what is admittedly a difficult (and attractive) piece of land dotted with wetlands.

To view the lists of American Best Modern and Classical courses, visit golfweek.com.

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