The Ranch Golf Club, Southwick, Massachusetts - An Upscale Golf Course That's Put Southwick on the Golfing Map

The Ranch Golf Club is located a little more than 100 miles west of Boston, at the Foothills of the Berhshires in Southwick, Massachusetts - a trivia-like deviation of land known as the "Southwick Jog'' on the border of Massachusetts and Connecticut. With the opening of The Ranch in 2001, Southwick was added to the map for another reason, its upscale golf course.

The course is the design of golf architect Damian Pascuzzo, who had previously worked primarily on the west coast. The result is a course with a flowing layout over a former ranch/dairy land and the timbered ridge behind, with great scenery and variety of shot-making. The course begins along the base of the north-south ridge, then winds into wooded uplands, making for a mix of raw power on some holes and clever strategies on others.

The par-72, 18-hole course plays to 7,174 yards from the longest tees, with a USGA rating of 74.1 and a slope rating of 140. The first three holes will remind golfers of a seaside resort, and feature treeless, mounded contours and ragged bunkers. And the first hole has been described as one of the best first holes to be found.

Many courses open with something bland and routine, but Hole No. 1 at The Ranch is not only picturesque, but a reachable par-5 that begins on a slightly elevated tee. The hole plays to 484 yards from the Blue tees, and aggressive golfers must contend with a small section of fairway on the left guarded by a large, solitary tree. A large pond looms on the left beyond it, and the hole ends with an undulating green well-guarded by bunkers and water.

Another noteworthy hole is No. 4, the most difficult handicap on the course. This is a tough par-4 that plays to 404 yards from the Blue tees, but also plays uphill to a hilltop bordered by dense trees. Getting to the green can be a challenge as well, as it curves to the right and is fronted by a slope into which several bunkers have been carved.

Another noteworthy hole is the par-5 No. 16, which plays to a daunting 616 yards from the Black tees, and 578 from the Blues. The good news is that golfers get to launch a tee shot on this downhill hole, which was formerly a ski slope, and hope they don't find one of the deep hollows. On the second shot players will have a choice of hitting conservatively and laying up short of the two ponds on both sides of the expansive green, or going for it in two.

Since opening, The Ranch has received many accolades, including being ranked as one of the best courses (and the only public golf course on the list) in the state, and one of the Best Golf Courses in America by Golf Digest. And Golf Boston Magazine rated The Ranch as the #2 course in its annual review of The 50 Best You Can Play.

Practice facilities at The Ranch include two spacious hitting areas, with up to 20 grass tee stations and six target greens. There are also practice greens for pitching, chipping, bunker play and putting. The course also features a pro shop and lessons are available.

For dining, the course features The Ranch Grille for lunch or dinner in a renovated, turn-of-the-century barn setting.

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