Like finding a once hit ProV1 in the woods while looking for your own idiosyncratic swing, Marion Golf Club is a literal nine-hole diamond that you will never forget.
Is it because old stone walls cut fairways in half or guard the green on 8 of the 9 holes? Partially. But also because it is pure golfing pleasure for every ability from start to finish.
With an incredible history and now led by a trio of golf fanatics who have long leased the property, Marion is about to make a big splash in the local golf scene.
Jeremiah Daly and Michael Kane took over the operation of MGC in spring 2020 and joined as a third partner in 2021 with Will Fulton. They instantly watered the tees, greens and accesses which has been greatly improved. They also implemented a fantastic new logo as a nod to the world famous architect who designed the square. More about this gentleman.
Not only do they know the area as seasonal Marion residents, they’re also avid players and members of the legendary top 100 private club just up the street (and one of my all-time favorites) – The Kittansett Club.
The relationship between Kittansett and Marion is interesting. While not affiliated in any way other than being about four miles from Point Road in Marion, the prestigious club may have inspired the revitalization of the local nine-hole muni.
Executive / par-3 tracks have become one of the hottest trends in golf course architecture over the past five years. Some of the most famous golf resorts in the world have added them to challenge and entertain players of all skill levels. The Cradle at Pinehurst, Bandon Preserve at Bandon Dunes and the recently opened Nest at Cabot Links are just a few examples. Not to mention the par 3 golfers drooling during the Masters at Augusta National!
Most of these courses (unfortunately we can’t speak for Augusta!) Are casual, entertaining, inexpensive and can be played with a few clubs in about an hour. Playing music, drinks in hand, shoes optional, and groups of two, four, eight or more people are common.
Marion delivers the same relaxed, inclusive, unpretentious, unpacked vibe, but on a larger scale. At 2,695 yards and par 34, you’ll need most of your clubs to get around, but you can also play it with just one hand full of irons.
For an even more “extreme” experience, take part in the club’s One Club Championship to test your game, patience and creativity!
A NEEDLE TO THE DESIGNER
Some of the most famous golf architects in the world have left their mark on the New England golf map.
The genius of Donald Ross, famous for his diabolical greens that ward off imperfect golf shots such as those found in Pinehurst # 2 and Seminole, can be found at Plymouth Country Club, George Wright and Franklin Park, among others.
AW Tillinghast, who designed masterpieces like Winged Foot, San Francisco Golf Club and the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, was also responsible for designing local gems like Sankaty Head GC in Nantucket and the historic Newport Country Club.
Though a little less well known, George Thomas is credited with designing the Big Three of Southern California Golf – and some of the most iconic and exclusive layouts in the world – the Los Angeles Country Club, Riviera Country Club, and Bel-Air Country Club . During the PGA Tour’s annual stop at the Genesis Invitational, analysts can be heard raving about Rivera’s design.
However, before moving west, Thomas started designing on the east coast as a teenager and his very first project was the Marion Golf Club in 1904. If you walk the grounds today, it still feels like a “first draft” where Thomas sketched and tested ideas to see what would work.
It’s a very fun 9-hole loop that is easy to walk and offers a variety of challenges from start to finish.
(Interesting sidebar – Thomas was also a nationally recognized authority on rose breeding, which inspired the new logo for Marion.)
The first hole looks and feels like a pasture with no clear direction from the tee. As you step out, the hole takes shape with a large tree protecting the right side of the green and bunkers bisecting the fairway before there is a 20-foot drop to the green below.
Now that it catches your attention, Marion’s fun doesn’t start until the second tee box.
Just play on the green in the distance, just across the road that bisects the fairway, right? Not correct. This is the 7th green.
The ideal game is about 190-200 yards to the sign in the center of the fairway that tells the player that the second green is at a 90 degree angle to the right. Carry it too far and you are across the street near the 7th green. Not far enough and you are faced with a large tree guarding the right half of the green.
The green also guards a large rock wall with only a narrow walkway for pedestrian traffic. And the green itself resembles a large bowl of soup that has been turned over to fend off imperfect shots in all directions.
Despite tipping below 300 yards, a par 4 is a great score here.
Each hole is memorable and requires you to stand on the tee box and take in what lies in front of you as you have probably never experienced this on a golf course. That was exactly Thomas’ goal.
In the book “Golf Architecture in America: Its Strategy and Construction” Thomas says, “When you play a course and remember each hole, it has individuality and change. If you cannot remember the exact sequence of the holes, this course lacks the great virtues of originality and variety. “
Marion certainly delivers the philosophy of Thomas.
On five holes you will encounter blind or semi-blind approaches.
Holes 4-7, which run parallel in the pasture, each divided by rock walls that bisect the fairways and are framed by large chocolate mounds. Some greens are pitched, others flat, but all of them roll beautifully.
Beyond the 6th green is a view of Sippican Harbor, the same harbor that frames the Kittansett Club up the street.
And maybe the best part of the experience? A day full of golf euphoria that can be completed in just over an hour.
While the new management team is eager to work with an architect to bring back more of George Thomas’ original design, experience Marion as it exists today before the crowds line up.
This may be the first time you hear from Marion, but it certainly won’t be the last.
For comments on this article or suggestions for the next one, you can contact Chris at email@example.com.