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4.7
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4.7
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5.0
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5.0
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5.0
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5.0
Amenities
5.0
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About

Holes 9
Type Semi-Private
Par 35
Length 3007 yards
Slope 117
Rating 34.2

Course Details

Year Built 1923
Golf Season Open: 4/01 Closed: 10/31

Rentals/Services

Carts Yes
Clubs Yes
Pull-carts Yes

Practice/Instruction

Driving Range No

Policies

Credit Cards Accepted VISA, MasterCard Welcomed
Metal Spikes Allowed No
Walking Allowed Yes
Dress code Proper attire is required.

Food & Beverage

Bar, Restaurant

Reviews

4.7
3 Reviews (3)
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Overall Rating
Recommended
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Type of Golfer
Gender
Played On
Reviews 115
Handicap 0-4
Skill Advanced
Plays A few times a week
I Recommend This Course
5.0
Connecticut Advisor
Top 50 Contributor
First Time Playing

Nine-Hole Paragon of the Green Mountains

For some American golfers, the sight of an almost purely natural golf course that follows the terrain, as does Bellows Falls Country Club in Vermont, might seem a bit too simple. Yet what they should come to discover here, in the form this nine-hole masterpiece, is something of a paradox: a small collection of striking holes that at first appears to have been designed by nature; yet, clearly, were made complex by the subtle, guiding control of shrewd and deeply insightful design work. It may become quickly apparent to many by the time they step on the first tee at this club. Here, we start off facing a sweeping and thrilling sight, partly comprised of brilliant views of the Green Mountains. And with that, we should anticipate a nine-hole round that likely will examine every aspect of our golf games to the core.

This opening drive at Bellows Falls favors a slight draw that flies down a huge and lengthy downslope, landing on a leftward-tilting fairway. After the hole flattens in the 150-yard zone, another downhill shot is to be played into a green, notably flanked by a huge (35 X 10 yards) bunker short and left. Relatively flat but with subtle undulations, this first green accepts well-judged run-up approaches over its false front. It is a stunning opening hole, perfectly challenging but not harsh, the golf designer’s equivalent of a lead-off homerun into the upper deck.

The 2nd hole, a 528 yard par-5, is more akin to a grand slam, a Ruthian blast flown clear out of the ballpark. The hole flows dramatically upward, returning to the clubhouse over the same natural terrain. The lay-up shot that is the second one (for most) is received by a more forgiving target area than the first, though here the ground tumbles, then rises abruptly. But it is this hole's finale that verges on the incredible: a massive, funnel-like dell, some two stories deep, harbors a small putting surface. No greenside bunkers frame the surface, but the funnel-walls around it angle down sharply enough to make effective greenside pitch shots a tall order.

The bold start here continues on the 195-yard par-three 3rd that follows, tumbling straight downhill from a tee perched 40-50 feet above green-level. The small green appears painfully small from the tee-box and is well guarded by three bunkers.

On the fourth tee you'll be facing another par three, shorter (175 yards) in length but less friendly. The reason is obvious: a massive pit is taunting you to hit your best mid-iron or hybrid over it to reach the putting surface. For those who wish to run the ball onto the green, a scant 15 yards is the only cushion provided between canyon and green. Tilting slightly from left-to-right and front down to back, this green will hold only the well-struck approach. Lying in wait behind it are three shallow bunkers, all invisible from the tee.

What follows on the next tee, at the 376-yard 5th, is the prospect of the course's most easily missed and well-protected landing zone. Unleashing your driver is likely a grievous mistake here, unless, perhaps, you can propel a golf ball over long distances as straight as Jason Dufner (and he himself might back off here). The downhill tee shot must find a 20-yard wide, angled fairway (it doglegs some 30 degrees), which is sided by deep woods to the left and a long row of mature conifers to the right. Adding to the complications is a huge right-side downslope that graciously accepts errant slices and pushes, and the threat of out-of-bounds looms at the base of the tree line. The whole driving setup verges on the overwrought, though, as slicers have no room to use before the hole’s fall-off, and even a mild hook will end up gone, given only ten yards of rough past the ultra-narrow fairway.

The sixth delivers the course’s best straightforward driving challenge. The landing zone may stifle even booming drives because the fairway’s upper level has an angled upslope, demanding more length to surmount the farther leftward your tee ball flies. If your drive, however, has clambered up or flown onto the fairway's upper level, it will probably be by crossing it on the shorter right side (or maybe not—if you can drive it 280 yards; then go left). The reward is a direct view of the green on the approach, rather than a blind shot.

On seven, gear up for another possible blind approach, unless you are bold enough to drive the plateau on the fairway’s second half, a risky proposition; but note that the green's surrounding trees are adequate directional markers. A similarly small green takes no prisoners: a precipitous, 30-foot falloff to the left may leave you scrambling for double-bogey (I'm not kidding), while the slightly-less-diabolical woods to the right could lead to a lost ball.

The eighth hole is arguably the best among the trio of excellent par-3's at Bellows Falls CC, but surely the most beautiful. From a high tee, your tee shot flies downward to a green sided by woods on the right, with open space leftward. The green is actually fronted by two bunkers, but only the left is visible from the tee. This plays like a classic par-3 out of the British Isles because the tee shot is best run up into the up-sloping green, front-to-back. Short-game challenges around the 8th are rife, not the least of which is putting the severely tilted green itself.

The ninth, a par-5, provides a rugged journey home. Not far off the tee begins a stunningly steep and cyclopean hill, whose overall shape and dimensions are reminiscent of the 18th at Yale University Golf Course (I visited and played it several times as a member of the Columbia University Golf Team). The tee shot is exhilarating, and must be hit with height; hit a low drive off this tee, and the hilltop may swat it down like a fly. A short 438 yards, the hole’s elevated fairway makes it play longer.

Another superlative nine-hole golf course nearby in New Hampshire is the Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek-designed Hooper Golf Course. While Bellows Falls does not quite match Hooper (I played the latter in June), its many great holes cannot be discounted. The BFCC website does not attribute any architect to its layout; but this course could—conceivably—have been the work of Stiles and Van Kleek (though such comparisons, even if based on educated guesses, are purely speculative). Perhaps tellingly, the overall style of this course resembles that of Hooper: the first holes on each are remarkably similar; imposing elevation changes are frequent; even strategic elements seem comparable, not to mention the high quality and individual character of nearly every hole here. But all of that is still not enough, in truth, and I could counter-argue these points with the contention that the greens are more strongly contoured, as a whole, at Hooper. Here, the subtly—rather than heavily—contoured greens (excepting #8) would have been a significant departure from what is clearly visible in most of the nine greens at Hooper. I would also be surprised if Stiles and Van Kleek had designed #5, which seems too penal for their tastes. Moreover, the bunkering shows no tell-tale signs of congruence. It seems even more doubtful that this is a Donald Ross design (that other great 20th century architect who built many New England courses). For one thing, Ross’ greens are even more dramatically contoured, based upon my observations, than those of S & VK.

After arriving at the course today, we met at the front counter Jerry, whom I had spoken with earlier on the phone. The embodiment of hospitality, he took us out on the clubhouse’s front and back decks before we teed off and showed us, for the first four visible holes, what to expect and how to play each. This quick but perfectly apt preview was a first in my golfing travels.

The clubhouse at BFCC is quite agreeable: it’s spacious enough and very pleasant inside, with great views of the course and tasty, reasonably-priced food. My son David and I played with a woman’s club member on the last two holes of the double-nine we played, and she told us she loved her home course. After he shot a 78, David asserted the same opinion. I’ll call Bellows Falls a rare green diamond in the Green Mountains of Vermont, a must-play for serious—or even fun-loving—golfers.

Conditions Excellent
Value Excellent
Layout Excellent
Friendliness Excellent
Pace Excellent
Amenities Excellent
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Commented on 08/07/2020

Thank you for the great review! The course designer was David "Deacon" Brown, 1886 Open Champion and teacher of golf to Queen Victoria. He laid out the course in 1923. Mr. Brown designed several courses in Scotland and as of yet I have been unable to find any designed by Mr. Brown in New England.

Kate Harty
BFCC Secretary/Treasurer

Played On
Reviews 115
Handicap 0-4
Skill Advanced
Plays A few times a week
I Recommend This Course
5.0
Connecticut Advisor
Top 50 Contributor
First Time Playing
Perfect weather
Used cart

Nine-Hole Paragon of the Green Mountains

See previous.

Conditions Excellent
Value Excellent
Layout Excellent
Friendliness Excellent
Pace Excellent
Amenities Excellent
Played On
Reviews 71
Handicap 0-4
Skill Advanced
Plays Once a week
I Recommend This Course
4.0
Top 250 Contributor
First Time Playing
Perfect weather
Walked

Fantastic Course

Hidden gem, no doubt. I'd recommend this course to even my snobbiest of golf nerd friends. Tough to really judge the course conditions...it's Vermont after a really tough winter and early in the season. But the fairways were smooth and the greens putted true. The first two holes are world class, I'm struggling to think of many courses I've played that have a better opening 2. The second hole is incredible and might be one of the ten best holes I've ever played, it's that good. Also, a fantastic set of par 3 holes. If you're anywhere around here, do yourself a favor and stop in.

Conditions Good
Value Excellent
Layout Excellent
Friendliness Excellent
Pace Excellent
Amenities Excellent
Difficulty Somewhat Challenging
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