It was 21 years ago that four members of the Wampanoag Country Club sauntered up to South Hadley, Massachusetts to play The Orchards Golf Club. The Orchards was enchanting that day and remains as lovely as ever.
After returning from this nearly untouched masterpiece the itinerant golfers agreed that more Donald Ross courses would be better served to be restored and preserved. The Orchards just plain made sense. The theme continued from the first tee to the eighteenth green, the features were sensible, comely and strategic. The mix of holes posed a wide variety of golf puzzles that could be answered in many different ways. The Orchards was (and still is) owned by Mount Holyoke College. The college did a very nice job of keeping the course playable. Their lack of disposable funds for updating or modernizing the layout was a great benefit to all golfers today. Essentially, this visit to the Orchards led to the creation of the Donald Ross Society, which in turn kick started the restoration movement for courses all over America.
Orchards Restored Tee Box
Twenty years later the Orchards remains iconic. It has had its ups and downs financially like all golf clubs. It had a banner year in 2004, when it hosted the US Womans’ Open. The USGA contributed greatly to the venue by installing modern drainage on the low parts of the course making the experience of playing even more enjoyable. A number of years ago Mount Holyoke decided to get out of the golf business and hired the Arnold Palmer management company to take over the operation.
The Palmer Group has been very positive for the Club. They understood the importance of the preservation and restoration of the many Ross features on the course. They have restored the bunkering (with the assistance of Ron Prichard) and have been specific in retaining the wonderful set of greens that Mr. Ross left when he completed the course in 1931. They have also retained two very important individuals to run the facility. Matt Streeter, the Golf Course Superintendent, has done a marvelous job of maintain the course on a very modest budget. Jim Stickels, the PGA Professional and General Manager, organizes and oversees the play and adds significantly to the friendly atmosphere that pervades.
Like many courses in Western Massachusetts, the Orchards had a fall off of members in the past couple of years. They initiated a membership drive last year with an emphasis on non-resident members (domicile 45 miles or further from the course). This has drawn a good deal of members from the central Massachusetts and the greater Boston area. Although they have not yet reached their desired number the Club is on sound financial footing. Given the waiting lists and initiation fees in the Boston area many The Orchards is a great alternative for Beantown residents. Dues are $ 162.80 per month for non-resident members, a deep discount for the product that many golfers are seeking. Simply, the Orchards is a great place to be a member.
Orchards Golf Club 18th Green
Later this year, the Donald Ross Society will hold an open play date at the Orchards. For the curious this provides a wonderful opportunity to see this great venue. Click here >> to visit The Orchards Golf Club website.