The Kittansett Club has long been highly regarded and was selected to host the Walker Cup in 1953. Indeed, many consider it only behind The Country Club for stature within the golf rich state of Massachusetts. However, when the authors first played the course in the fall of 1986, such recognition seemed due more to its romantic location than because it possessed holes full of character/interesting features.
True, the celebrated one shot 3rd lived up to its pictures, but the other holes seemed more pleasant than engaging. That impression is now materially changed, thanks to a successful restoration project that the Kittansett Club carried out with architect Gil Hanse in which many of the course’s original design features were recaptured.
For instance, many of Fred Hood’s novel grassed over rock formations had been buried underneath tree growth. According to Hanse, ‘We removed hundreds of trees from the various mounds around the course. These were rock and debris piles during construction that Hood used as features to line many of the holes, and as diagonal hazards on some holes. For the most part they had been swallowed up by the tree lines over the years. We cut back the trees, and restored the native grasses to the mounds for what is perhaps the most unique feature at Kittansett. When we got there you could barely see the mounds.’
In addition, Hood’s bunkering had lost its original size and rugged appearance, so Hanse and Jim Wagner, working side by side with Green Keeper Lennie Blodgett and his crew, re-constructed each bunker. Working primarily with fine fescue sod to replace the existing grasses, wherever possible they kept patches of native grass, moss, and even rocks in the bunker faces to add some instant maturity. Every bunker was restored to its original shape and size. In addition, three bunkers that had been filled in were restored, those being on the left side of 1st fairway in combination with the cross rough, one in the middle of 2nd fairway, and the one to the rear of the 14th green. Not surprsingly, two of the three bunkers that had been filled in where in the direct line of play.
Also, Hanse and Wagner enhanced some of the links characteristics of the course. Drainage was improved on many of the inland holes and a plan for capping the flat 1st fairway is presently being considered. Without firm playing conditions, the golfer was robbed of playing the kind of low running shots often dictated by the wind at Kittansett. Now, once again, all options are available to the golfer.
Finally, Hanse removed hundreds of trees from between holes 16,17, and 2. When they arrived, the 16th green had a solid backdrop of trees, and a wall of trees to the left. These trees also provided a wall between the 2nd and 17th holes. Through the removal of these trees, Buzzards Bay is in full view from the 16th tee and the point has been restored to its links-like condition. In the members’ eyes, this has been the most dramatic improvement, and – ironically – it was the one that they fought against the hardest.
As for Kittansett’s design, credit must be shared. While William Flynn routed and designed on paper the holes, Fred Hood (who owned the property and hired Flynn) was on site and drove the entire construction process. Furthermore, he fine-tuned the course over the next twenty years until his death in 1942.
Holes to Note
2nd hole, 425 yards; Length is not the issue as the 2nd generally plays downwind. Rather can the golfer successfully judge where to fit his approach between two front greenside bunkers so that it bounds up and stays on the small 4,000 sq. ft. green which is several paces from the edge of the Buzzards Bay? His chances are greatly improved if he first hits the fairway.
3rd hole, 165 yards; Apart from the obvious, what the authors enjoy about this hole is the random treatment that can befall two tee balls. The typical summer wind is essentially from left to right across the hole and many a golfer misjudges the effects of the day’s wind, especially early in the round. Hence the green is frequently missed. One tee ball can land on the beach and gain a perfect lie on a slight upslope. The resulting recovery splash is straightforward and often results in a par. Player B hits a similar tee ball but his ball lands in a heel print on the beach. That player can struggle mightily for a double bogey. Such random treatment is as nature would have it, and seeing the effect on each man is most interesting.