I’ve played many beautiful courses over the years, but Farm Neck Golf Club is my favorite. Every October for the last 15 years, a group of friends and I have gathered at the course on Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts to take part in what we affectionately call the “Falldown.” We play 36 holes a day for three days running.
The literal meaning of “Falldown” has changed through the years. In our younger days it reflected the possibility that one of us would “fall down” after days of golf followed by nights of revelry. These days it’s more a reference to the certainty that we’ll fall exhausted into bed after playing 36 holes each day.
“The Neck,” as it’s known locally, garnered national attention during the Clinton administration when the president and his family vacationed on the island, and he spent many hours on this course. The associated notoriety made it difficult to get tee times for a while, but as attention has shifted to Crawford, Texas, that’s gotten easier.
Voted the fifth-best public course in Massachusetts by Golf Digest, Farm Neck was built in 1976. The course, designed by Geoffrey Cornish and Bill Robinson, features rolling hills and plush, well-manicured fairways. The greens are enormous and very fast.
From the back tee, the course plays at 6,815 yards. The middle tees play at 6,301 yards and the forward tees play at 5,859 yards. Several holes offer spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding marshland. Water comes into play on seven holes, and each is distinctive and memorable — the key to the greatness of the course.
The clubhouse is small but well stocked. The staff, led by club pro Mike Zoll, is friendly and helpful. Every year, Zoll makes our group feel as if we are part of the membership, a factor that makes the experience even more enjoyable.
There are so many beautiful holes that it is almost a shame to write about some of them while excluding others. I have picked the seven I think are the best.
Hole No. 1: A 409-yard par 4 that goes slightly downhill to a large green that is guarded by two bunkers on the left front. One of the bunkers has a knoll in it with an area of tall scrub. If you happen to hit that, you will start off with a high score.
Hole No. 4: A downhill 173-yard par 3 with an ocean view. An accurate tee shot is required here — there’s a long narrow green. The hole is guarded with scrub and marshland to the right and bunkers in front. The green slopes to the right, which makes it difficult to hold the green.
Hole No. 7: A 391-yard par 4 that is well guarded by water in the front of the green. If you hit a good drive, you will have short iron to the green. Hit your tee shot left or right and it will find woods. If you hit the fairway, you will be rewarded not only with an easier shot but also with a view of the ocean through a stand of tall, stately pine trees.
Hole No. 8: A 512-yard par 5 that can be reached in two. If you decide to forgo the layup and go for the green, a deadly accurate shot is a must. The fairway becomes very narrow as it goes toward the green. An errant shot long or right will be swallowed up by marshland. The green is severely sloped and undulated. Many strokes are given back to par with three putts here.
Hole No. 12: A 404-yard par 4 that has a severe dogleg to the right. You will be facing a giant pond on the left side of the fairway. You will probably want to hit a long iron into the small landing area. If too much of the dogleg is cut off, you have a good chance of finding the woods or a well-placed bunker. The pond guards the tiered green to the left. If putting from the back tier to a front hole location, it is possible to putt your ball off the green.
Hole No. 14: My favorite hole on the course. It is a straight 348-yard par 4 with a wide fairway. (Now you know why I like it.) A good tee shot leaves you with a short iron into a long narrow green. Situated in the back of the green is that pesky Atlantic Ocean with its avid appetite for errant golf balls. When the wind is in your face, the second shot becomes a test of nerves. The scenery on this hole is by far the best on the course.
Hole No. 18: A 552-yard par 5 dogleg right. There is out of bounds all the way down the right side and a marsh down the left. The green is guarded by a large pond in the front that grabs those shots made by people going for the green in two or those who layup a bit too far. The hole is a great finishing hole because many birdies are made here — but so are sevens and eights.
This gem of a course on Martha’s Vineyard presents a truly memorable golf experience. If you play here, I humbly ask a favor. Before teeing off on the eighth tee, reach into your bag, pull out an old ball, tee it up and hit it into the ocean in memory of one of my golfing buddies, Tim, who loved this course, but died long before his time. I know, wherever he is, it will bring a smile to his face. And in this small way, you will become part of our “Falldown” tradition.
FARM NECK GOLF CLUB
Farm Neck Way, Off County Road
Oak Bluffs, MA 02568
tel 508 693 3057
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