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Making the rounds

Parkland or mountain views, challenging or player-friendly: 10 golf venues that break $80

Players challenge the 16th hole at Green Mountain National in Killington, Vt. Players challenge the 16th hole at Green Mountain National in Killington, Vt. (Caleb Kenna for The Boston Globe)
By Ron Driscoll
Globe Staff / May 3, 2009
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As a new golf season enters full swing, the consensus is that the world is flat.

The economic downturn has hindered the game, but even before that, golf was losing as many players as it was gaining on a yearly basis, according to an initiative of the World Golf Foundation called Golf 20/20.

For those who continue to enjoy golf for the respite it provides from everyday stress, here are 10 courses in New England that have at least two things in common: They're open to the public, and they "break 80" in an important regard - none charges more than $79 for greens fees. Several are considerably less expensive, and all have earned accolades in state rankings published by various golf magazines.

The featured courses differ in many aspects: They represent all six states in the region; they range from just a few years old to nearly 90; and they range from city parkland to bayside to mountain vistas, from Donald Ross to Pete Dye.

All listed rates are for 18 holes in summer, weekday and weekend (Friday is considered a weekend day). For nine-hole rates, cart fees, low-season and twilight rates, check course websites.

Stow Acres Country Club
This complex 25 miles west of Boston boasts 36 holes and a reputation as one of the top public facilities in the nation. The North and South courses date to 1954, and the North Course hosted the 1995 US Amateur Public Links event. From 2003-06, the North Course was the site of qualifying for the PGA Tour's Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.

"The North is longer and more difficult, but also flatter than the South Course," said David Carlson, director of golf. "It's more of a tournament course, while the South is more scenic and player-friendly." The South also generally costs $10 less per round.

Stow Acres tries to "grow the game" as well, with an on-site golf school and what it calls Family Fun Night every Sunday. The front nine of the South Course is shortened to play as nine par-3s, and everyone can play the nine holes for $12 in cluding cart. What's the catch? At least one of the players in your foursome must be 12 years old or under.

58 Randall Road, Stow. North Course $49 weekday, $64 weekend. South Course $39, $54. 978-568-1100, www.stowacres.com.

The Captains Golf Course
Another 36-hole facility is in Brewster on Cape Cod. Its original 18 holes opened in 1985, and the Brian Silva design was named that year's best new public course in the country by Golf Digest. The second course was added in 1999.

"One of the most amazing things was the way Brian Silva blended the two courses to create the 36 holes," said Mark O'Brien, director of golf. "He took 10 of the older holes and eight of the new ones to make the Starboard Course, and 10 new holes and eight old ones to make the Port Course."

The Captains has hosted the New England Intercollegiate event, one of the oldest and largest college tournaments in the United States, for the past eight years. It has also hosted several professional mini-tour events, and as the original holes hit the quarter-century mark, The Captains shows little sign of slippage.

"We're a municipal course, and the Town of Brewster realizes that we need to reinvest in the courses," said O'Brien. "Recently we've made improvements to the irrigation, and we also redid many of the tees and the bunkers. It's nice to have the 36 holes - it gives people who are here for just a few days the chance to play two different courses during their stay."

1000 Freemans Way, Brewster. $66 every day. 508-896-1716, www.captainsgolfcourse.com.

Crumpin-Fox Club
This course has a rare distinction: Its architect literally overlooks the layout. Designer Roger Rulewich's office is off the 17th hole of the Bernardston course, which became the first public course to host the Mass. Open in 1997, just eight years after Rulewich's expansion of the original nine holes to 18 was completed.

"The course is spread over 600 acres," said Michael Zaranek, the head pro. "It's got tee boxes for every level of player, and it makes you think your way around. But it has some teeth to it."

Crumpin-Fox is just off Route 91, the last northbound exit before Vermont, and it gets players from as far away as Quebec. Recently, Zaranek has seen an influx of players from the Albany, N.Y., area.

"The course has been listed in the Top 100 [public courses] in Golf Magazine," he said. "It's hosted US Open qualifiers; but the best thing is that the holes are cut through the trees with a lot of water and elevation changes. It looks like the land was made for a golf course."

Parmenter Road, Bernardston. $69 weekdays, $74 weekends. 413-648-9101, 800-943-1901, www.golfthefox.com.

Green Mountain National Golf Course
This course in Killington, Vt., is aptly named, as some of the holes are carved out of the mountains. The facility was designed by Gene Bates and opened in 1996; it was ranked the top public course in Vermont by Golf Digest in its May issue. It will host the New England Amateur in 2012 and the New England Women's Amateur in 2013.

"It's a challenging course, but we have five sets of tees," said general manager David Soucy. "We try to educate players on choosing the right set of tees so it's a good challenge for them."

The course plays 6,589 yards from the back tees to a par of 71, but it can play as short as 4,740 yards.

"The thing I really like about the course is that there's no noise, no houses - just nature," Soucy said. "There's only Route 100, one of the prettiest roads in Vermont, and when you get on the back nine, you don't see another foursome. You don't get that much these days."

Barrows-Towne Road (Route 100), Killington, Vt. $59 weekday, $69 weekend. 802-422-4653, 888-483-4653 (outside Vermont), www.gmngc.com.

Triggs Memorial Golf Course
The Donald Ross Society lists some 48 designs by the legendary architect in Massachusetts, and 11 in Rhode Island. But rare is the opportunity to play a Ross course because most are private. Triggs Memorial opened in 1932 in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Providence, but by 1990, the course had deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. FCG Associates took over management duties and is slowly restoring the course, using the original Ross plans.

"People come from all over the country to play here," said Tony Parillo, the assistant manager. "The diehard golfers and the purists line up their tee times before they come."

Triggs also has men's and women's leagues. "We just had a tournament this morning to pay tribute to a soldier in Iraq," Parillo said. "It's a beautiful public course with a nice charm and a solid, loyal following."

1533 Chalkstone Ave., Providence. $40 all week. 401-521-8460, www.triggs.us.

The Ledges Golf Club
When The Ledges opened in 1999 it was named the top new course in New England by Golf Magazine, and it has been rated one of the top layouts in Maine ever since. It will host a US Amateur qualifying round for the third straight year, and from the back tees it plays nearly 7,000 yards with dramatic elevation changes. The York layout was designed by Brad Booth, who hails from Ogunquit. Booth has designed several courses in Maine and New Hampshire, and he collaborated with PGA Tour pro Brad Faxon on the Bay Club in Mattapoisett.

"The big thing here is our greens," said Shawn Welock, the assistant pro. "They're pretty fast, with lots of undulations, and they're very hard to read."

The Ledges is deceptive in another way. "People hear that the course is in York, and they think it must be on the beach," said Welock. "We're actually 10 miles inland. It's kind of secluded, although we have views of the Piscataqua River Bridge into New Hampshire."

1 Ledges Drive, York, Maine. $70 weekdays, $75 weekends. 207-351-9999, www.ledgesgolf.com.

Breakfast Hill Golf Club
This Brian Silva design sits on converted farmland, and it will celebrate its 10th anniversary next July. The Sewall family of Greenland, N.H., has owned the property for more than 200 years, and they deployed 170 acres for this par-71 course that measures 6,492 yards from the back tees.

"There are only two water hazards out here, but Brian Silva did a lot with the exposed rock and granite," said Nate Bridges, the golf pro. "We've hosted State Amateur qualifying and State Mid-Amateur qualifying. But we can accommodate every type of golfer."

The club also is hosting a unique promotion in May. The course is near Pease Air Terminal, where many US troops return from overseas deployment, and the Pease Greeters is a volunteer group that welcomes returning troops and gives departing ones a warm sendoff. On three Tuesdays in May (the 5th, 12th, and 26th), golfers who donate $10 in care packages for the troops can play golf for $20.

339 Breakfast Hill Road, Greenland, N.H. 603-436-5001, $48 weekdays, $54 weekends. www.breakfasthill.com.

Montaup Country Club
This course is on the north end of Aquidneck Island in Portsmouth, R.I., on the way to Newport, and it is playable most of the year because it dries out quickly.

"This course doesn't beat you up," said Steve Diemoz, who was recently named golf pro of the year in the state. "We've also cut down a lot of trees recently, so you get views of Mount Hope Bay from many of the holes."

Montaup, which was founded in 1923, is no pushover, either - it has hosted the Rhode Island Open a couple of times and is the site of this year's Rhode Island stroke-play championship. Because of its open fairways and proximity to the water, the wind is a constant factor in shotmaking.

500 Anthony Road, Portsmouth, R.I. $47 every day. 401-683-0955, montaupcc.com.

Bretwood Golf Course
This 36-hole course evolved over time. It started as a nine-holer in 1968, with the second nine added the following year. It grew to 27 holes in 1989, and the final nine was completed in 1995.

"We've had the New Hampshire Open here numerous times," said Matt Barrett, the club pro. "The course can definitely be toughened up, but it's a great public course because it has four sets of tees. Someone who shoots 100 or 110 can enjoy it as much as a single-digit player."

Golfers can get their fill of the game at a great rate because it costs just $52 on weekends to play all day ($76 with a cart). The weekday "all you can play" rate is $46.

"We sometimes do a survey of the parking lot and see plates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island," said Barrett. "I think our price point allows people to come up and have a really good day of golf."

365 East Surry Road, Keene, N.H. $33 weekdays, $40 weekends. 603-352-7626, www.bretwoodgolf.com.

Wintonbury Hills Golf Course
It's nice when a PGA Tour player recommends your course. Brad Adamonis, who is in his second year on tour, played a pro mini-tour event here a couple of years ago and tipped his brother, Dave, who runs a respected junior program. Soon, the juniors were lining up an event at Wintonbury Hills, which is owned by the Town of Bloomfield just 15 minutes northwest of Hartford.

"A lot of people who have quit private clubs play here now," said Dave Juhasz, general manager of this course, which opened in the fall of 2003 and is managed by Billy Casper Golf. "People come here because of the architect, but what's most interesting about the course is that the nines are totally different."

Wintonbury Hills is the first Pete Dye design in New England, and its front side is wide-open and sloping, with the wind playing a big role in shot selection. The back is more tree-lined and traditional. It recently signed on to host an LPGA Duramed Futures Tour event the next three years. It is scheduled for July 17-19 this year.

Besides its typical greens fee, Wintonbury Hills has a twilight rate starting at 2 p.m., and a "moonlight" rate beginning at 5 p.m. The moonlight rate is $39 on weekends for nonresidents, and just $30 for residents of Bloomfield.

206 Terry Plains Road, Bloomfield, Conn. $69 weekdays, $79 weekends. 860-242-1401, www.wintonburyhillsgolf.com.

Contact Ron Driscoll at rdriscoll@globe.com.

If You Go

Setting a course for value

Many of the top public-access golf courses in New England charge top dollar - more than $100 in season. We highlight 10 interesting layouts (actually 13, since three of the facilities have 36 holes) whose greens fees are under $80: