Course architect Maurer calls for more 'blue-collar' courses
Two Top 100 golf courses are found on Nantucket Island: Nantucket Golf Club and Sankaty Head. Both boast ocean views and a classic, linksy feel. And both are very private. But now, thanks to Massachusetts course architect Howard Maurer and the Nantucket Island Land Bank, daily-fee golfers also have a place to swing their clubs: Miacomet Golf Course.
Maurer recently added nine new holes to nine existing holes, which date from the 1970s. "Our goal," says Maurer, "was to give people who play public golf the same experience as those belonging to the two private clubs on the island."
By all accounts so far, that goal was reached. "It is a great layout," says Charlie Passios, president of Moors Inc., which manages the environmentally sensitive course for the owner, the Nantucket Land Bank. "Howard did an outstanding job of fitting nine new holes of comfortable golf on a relatively small piece of property. We get glowing comments from people. They want to know when we are renovating the other nine so everything matches."
The first land-acquisition program of its kind in the nation, the Nantucket Land Bank is charged with protecting the island's unique and endangered landscapes through land purchases funded by a two-percent real-estate transfer tax. "The new holes look like they have been there for a long time and simply dropped onto the land," says Land Bank Director Eric Savetsky. "Howard's vision resulted in exactly what we had been hoping for. I've only heard good things from golfers."
Maurer, worked with Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva for seven years before striking out on his own in 1997. Maurer calls his time with the Cornish and Silva a lot of fun. "I traveled the world and got to work with a couple of great architects. Geoff Cornish knows everyone and has seen everything. He knew Donald Ross."
As the head honcho at Howard Maurer Design Group, Inc., Maurer is in the processes of opening courses that run the gamut, including high-end public (Miacomet), private enclaves, and mom-n-pop nine-hole tracks. Maurer's Shining Rock, a private course running through an exclusive community of single-family homes and golf villas in Northbridge and Upton, Massachusetts. opens its first nine this summer.
The projects Maurer is particularly proud of, however, are some of his smaller ones. Take Templewood Golf Club near Fitchburg, Mass., for example. "The course was built completely in-house by a father and son team," he explains. The Matusewicz family, who own the nine-hole layout, "wanted to turn the family farm into a golf course. They cleared it, shaped it, and laid the irrigation all themselves. The pro shop is even attached to their house. When you walk in, you can look through into their living room. It's really cool. Mom and pop golf at it's finest."
According to Maurer, who along with every other golf course architect in the nation, notes a considerable drop off in business since the building-boom of the early 90s, low-key courses are key to the growth of the game today. "Frankly, we need more courses like Templewood," he says. "There are guys out there in work boots and cut-offs. And these guys are having fun playing the game. We've got a lot of high-end daily-fee courses, but there's not much variety [in southern New England]. Now some of the country-club-for-a-day courses are offering free steak dinners just to get people out to play. I mean, who cares about that?"
Another Maurer design that serves as an example of a course built in-house by its owners is Crystal Lake in Burrillville, Rhode Island. That track is not only getting good play, but its received some critical acclaim, making the recent New England Journal of Golf list of the top 100 public courses in New England.
Also pushing the golf paradigm, and increasing the variety of golf that can be found in private-golf-rich but public-golf-poor New England, is Brookstone Park in Derry, New Hampshire. Maurer describes this project as "a little par-three course built as part of an office park." The owner, explains Maurer, "wanted a place where workers could come over during lunch to knock it around."
Over the past several years, as many golfers have given up the game annually as have taken it up. For all who are concerned about the future of the game, this is a sobering statistic. Among the most oft-cited reasons former players give for abandoning the links are time and money: How many people can really afford to pay $100 for a round or devote four to six hours to play one?
For Maurer, and others who advocate the game across all its varied spectrum, the golfing public needs options. "A big part of it," says Maurer, "is teaching kids to learn to play. Where do you take your kids to play? Or a spouse who is just starting out? We need more par-three and executive courses."
Heck, even the playgrounds of the rich and famous, like Nantucket, need corners where the rest of us can play.
June 7, 2004