BOLTON, Mass. -- Like many other private country clubs, the International Golf Club & Resort is in the midst of a transition.
Once only a private club 45 minutes west of Boston, the International has gotten creative in attracting new members and new business.
This strategy could ultimately lead to more stay-and-play opportunities for the club's lodge, which tends to be busiest after weddings and other club functions.
The International -- now part country club, part resort -- continues to morph into something for everyone. It will host a concert with Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan this fall, hoping to cater to both members and the general public.
"We are evolving with the market," said Chris Kasheta, the club's director of golf. "We're finding new ways to drive people to use our facilities."
And what fine facilities they are.
International Golf Club & Resort: The courses
The Pines, one of the longest courses in the world at 8,325 yards, rates as the most difficult course in America. It overtook the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island after a re-rating in 2012. No member or guest in their right minds plays from the "Tiger" tees that were built long before Woods' rise to power.
The Pines -- originally designed by Geoffrey Cornish in the 1950s and revamped by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in the 1970s -- plays plenty tough from the 6,547-yard white tees. All four par 5s run longer than 520 yards from there, and several dramatic par 3s tend to bust up good rounds. Ponds and wetland make memorable cameos, but it's the lush rough that terrorizes members.
"What a workout," member Jeff Dolan exclaimed after chopping out an approach shot from the long grass earlier this summer. "You don't have to go to the gym. I feel like I'm swinging an ax all day."
By comparison, The Oaks delivers a more scenic and pleasant resort course feel. The Oaks, which opened in 2001, occupies a secluded, rocky site. Its elevation changes create more dramatic theater than its flatter sister course. A unique collection of five par 5s and five par 3s, coupled with GPS in the carts, allows lower scores. There are no water hazards to carry, just hairy-lipped bunkers to avoid.
All of the par 3s, with no. 11 the lone exception, play downhill. The 100-foot plunge at the 172-yard fourth hole is particularly memorable.
The International: The resort
The International has some great components other private clubs don't -- notably a Rick Smith Golf Academy launched in 2011 and the TaylorMade Performance Lab -- but lacks several key necessities to make it a full-service resort (such as a pool and hot tub for families and children).
The 50 rooms of the lodge are perfectly comfortable and spacious. Brandon Smith, a former strength and conditioning coach with years of experience working with professional athletes, conducts golf fitness sessions in the lodge's workout center. Other unique programs such as snowshoeing in winter, falconry in summer and wine tasting year-round are available.
A new chef, Peter Agostinelli, is running the highly regarded Fireplace Room Restaurant. He hails from the same Todd English culinary tree as former chef Joseph Brenner. "The food is as good as any restaurant in Boston," Dolan said. "I've never had a bad meal here."
High praise for a resort and club that deserves every accolade it receives.