BOSTON -- Good golf near the big city is hard to come by without a fat wallet, especially in New England where the season is short.
The best courses of greater Boston often hike green fees beyond triple digits in summer. Red Tail Golf Club in Devens ($89-$99), The Oaks at The International Golf Club & Resort in Bolton ($128), Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy ($125-$150) and the two courses at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth ($100-$110) don't cut bargain-hunters much slack. Believe it or not, savvy shoppers can still schedule a three-day golf trip spending less than $200 in green fees with relative ease as long as twilight and muni golf are in play.
Start the trip in style with an afternoon round at Red Tail G.C. for $65 on a week day ($75 on weekends). The 7,006-yard course -- a Brian Silva design located roughly 45 miles northwest of downtown -- delivers a natural-wooded setting more reminiscent of Maine than Beantown. Red Tail hosted the 2009 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. The Oaks, a nice Tom Fazio track nearby, could replace Red Tail, although it's a bit pricier ($129 weekday/$80 after 3 p.m.).
The following day's round would be more strategic than a splurge. The location of the Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course within the Putterham neighborhood of Brookline is ideal for two reasons. It's across the street from The Country Club at Brookline -- the famed private host of the 1913 U.S. Open and 1999 Ryder Cup -- and just five miles from Fenway Park. Golfers who spend just $42 on a weekend ($30 during the week) to walk this classic, 6,400-yard, par-71 course dating to 1931 can save on cart fees ($19 per person). That cash would be useful as beer money at a Red Sox night game.
Those who play during the week can spoil themselves for the final round, a morning tee time on either the Nicklaus Course or Rees Jones Course at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth ($100 week days/$110 weekend). Otherwise, it's banishment to an afternoon round after 1:30 p.m. for $65-$75. To be honest, either way works. It only takes a couple hours to see the famous Plymouth Rock and stroll along Plymouth Bay to find a dining spot or an ice cream cone.
Me personally? I'd skip the historical tourist trap (the rock's pretty tiny) to play 36 holes at Pinehills instead. I might be way over budget (a round plus a replay will cost $165 to $175 depending upon the day), but who cares? You're on vacation.