- Golfer Benefits
SALEM, Massachusetts – There’s no place quite like Salem during the fall. It’s the hub of Halloween tourism every autumn as holiday enthusiasts from all over the world descend on the North Shore to take in the spooky sights and display costume creativity. It’s a huge boom for the local economy and a bit of a sore spot for those (really everyone) who detest traffic congestion.
The majestic nature of Salem is hardly limited to the streets this time of year. It can also be found in the woods — more specifically the 9-hole municipal course Olde Salem Greens. Driving up the hill into the 275-acre swath of land that makes up Highland Park, one can’t help but ponder the eeriness of these lands during Colonial times, and the mass hysteria around witchcraft in the New World. While society is long removed from this era, there remains a supernatural curiosity here, especially when you play the course for the first time.
Olde Salem doesn’t hit you over the head with Halloween themes in October, but there are plenty of nods to the holiday: Skeletons are on display both inside and out, there are candy bowls on the inside the clubhouse, and a marker board menu with Halloween drawings for the popular Tee Time Grille. Even the gentlemen working the pro shop desk was rocking an orange polo. However, the logo is the most striking icon of the place. A witch riding a golf club…need I go on?
Built in 1933 as a WPA project, this 9-hole, par-35 course is most frequently played from the 2,847-yard tee set. Wayne Stiles, who is also credited with other iconic public layouts such as Taconic Golf Club, South Shore Country Club, and Brookline Golf Course (Putterham), traced out this layout that fits naturally to the land, with rock outcroppings visible throughout the course. Over time there have been talks of expanding to 18 holes, but the land has been reserved for passive recreation.
“It’s maintained perfectly,” said Terry, a weekly regular at Olde Salem. “Last year when we had the droughts, you drove by bigger courses, and they weren’t as good as this place.”
What you see at Olde Salem is mostly what you get. However, like tales of Halloween lore, it’s what you can’t see that makes this place so fascinating. There are dramatic elevation changes over nine holes that make this place feel like a roller coaster ride. Several holes require blind shots, including both par-3s, that may have you placing some faith in the supernatural. This includes the 2nd hole, which overlooks the city and stretches a whopping 250 yards. The extreme downhill trajectory can give your ball an extra 40 to 50 yards and roll right onto the green.
The lone par-5 (hole 4) in which an errant shot to the left or the right can easily trickle down the cascading sides only to end with one of the trickier greens on the course.
“This is where I learned to play and develop my short game,” said Steve St. Amand, a longtime Mass Golf Rules Official who lives right next to the course. “It reminds me of a mini George Wright. There are downhill lies where your feet are above the ball and lies where your feet are below it. It’s just a lovely nine that we’re fortunate to have.”
St. Amand also noted that the place has opened up over time with tree work and expanding greens. Bunkers are fairly scarce and most are placed to defend greens or keep a ball from careening into deeper trouble. That can happen in other places, too, such as holes 5 and 6.
You’ll find an elevated tee on hole five that plays back up into an elevated green. But that’s a small taste of what’s in store on No. 6. Playing over the woods at essentially a right angle, this hole places a premium on accuracy as it features a blind tee shot into a narrow fairway with a creek lurking down the left side. The green slopes back to front and is one of the smallest on the course.
The excitement doesn’t end there as the 8th plays as an uphill par-3, while the 7th and 9th are both par-4s under 300 yards, tempting players to take aim and go for the green. If that isn’t enough, be on the lookout for the coyote that strolls the final hole as well.
At a price of $24 weekday or $26 weekend for non-residents ($20 for seniors & juniors) for nine holes, it’s well worth adding this to your places to play if it isn’t already. And if you have, I’d be surprised if you didn’t want to return (at least when it’s not peak season).
If you want to experience Salem in full during a busy weekend in the fall, you won’t have to drift far from Olde Salem. Nearby Salem High School offers free parking and a shuttle for Salem Haunted Happenings, which can get you in and out of the center of the city with much less hassle.
CLICK HERE, to learn more.
Olde Salem Greens was also a stop on Jeremy Wilson’s quest to play municipal courses in all 50 states. Mass Golf interviewed Wilson last year as he plans to write a book titled “Paired Up at the Muni.” Here’s a short video he produced about his visit to Olde Salem Greens.
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