Brevity is the soul of wit," Polonius said in Shakespeare's tragedy "Hamlet." Although the Bard did not play golf, this line dramatically reflects the tragedy in today's game. When the brevity is non-existent, our souls quickly approach our wits' ends.
The solution for those golfers who cannot spend four or more hours on the course is to find worthy, shorter tracks. The South Shore of Boston offers four superior alternatives that are but minutes off the Southeast Expressway (Route 3), the direct road from the city to Cape Cod.
Weathervane Golf Club
Weathervane Golf Club in South Weymouth is just 20 minutes from downtown. Designed by the renowned architectural firm of Cornish, Silva and Mungeam and then enhanced by Howard Maurer, the nine-hole, semi-private course debuted in April 2010 to critical praise.
The par-36 layout plays to 3,117 yards and follows the natural up-and-down terrain, allowing for some impressive elevated tees and greens and sloping fairways.
It is a shotmaker's course because of the doglegs, well placed bunkers and water hazards. The ninth hole is the signature hole at only 290 yards, because it requires an accurate second shot to a tricky island green. The course is beautifully manicured and has large, gently rolling greens that Stimp around 11. Nine holes can be played in 90-105 minutes, either walking or riding, and if you have more time, the multiple tee boxes offer a different second nine holes.
Rockland Golf Course
Just 10 minutes away is Rockland Golf Course, a South Shore staple since 1964 for the quick golf fix. This course is one of the longest and most demanding par-54 layouts in America.
With seven holes more than 200 yards -- including the first and third at 228 and the 10th and 15th in the 240s -- Rockland measures 3,345 yards from the tips. Three other sets of tees allow you to choose your own comfort zone, but, rest assured, you will use all the clubs in your bag.
The holes wind through tall oaks and rock outcroppings, the fairways on the longer holes are ample and support lay-up shots and the small greens that run around nine on the Stimpmeter are well-trapped. You can play nine holes in 90 minutes, or play all 18 in around three hours.
Sterling Golf Management took over Rockland this year and has devoted its energies both to maintaining the course in the best condition possible and to renovating the entire clubhouse facilities, including the food service.
North Hill Country Club
Motoring further south on Route 3 brings us to Duxbury, just north of Plymouth and The Rock, and to the town's well respected, nine-hole North Hill Country Club. With generous fairways, ample and relatively flat greens that Stimp around 10, and newly reconditioned sand traps off to the side rather than in front of greens, North Hill, according to Head Professional Paul Coutoumas, is "user friendly and all about fun." The fun should last about two hours and 10 minutes for the nine.
Coutoumas called the first three holes -- a 554-yard par 5 followed by two 439-yard par 4s -- as "a challenging opening salvo" and credited the 395-yard uphill ninth as "a great finishing hole." Four sets of tees allow the nine-holer to determine how much he wants to play. As the course rests on the highest point in the town, it provides grand views of the area.
Little Harbor Country Club
Little Harbor Country Club, hidden just off the main drag in Wareham, the gateway to Cape Cod, is a delightful, par-56 executive course that is always in good shape and always a joy to play. Half of the holes range from 100 to 140 yards and have small greens. The other nine offer a little more length and larger greens with four holes above 200 yards and with two par 4s of 291 and 275 yards.
Sand traps and water hazards are placed sparingly but effectively, and the lightly undulating greens are smooth and true at nine on the Stimpmeter.
Three holes in particular merit mention. The 225-yard fifth necessitates a long, accurate tee shot; the 275-yard, par-4 seventh creates a go-for-it mentality; the 208-yard 18th over marshland is usually into the prevailing wind and as demanding a par 3 as you will find anywhere. You can play nine holes in less than 90 minutes and should finish all 18 holes in less than three hours. The course's length requires only two sets of tees.