My favorite golf hole: ‘Stolen’ rounds at a Massachusetts muni

December 23, 2018
Robert T. Lynch-Golf Course

This is the latest in a multi-part series where our writers and editors wax poetic about their all-time favorite golf hole. Look for more entries throughout the holiday season. Enjoy! 

The par-5 6th hole at Robert T. Lynch Municipal Golf Course, in Brookline, Massachusetts, is not exactly catnip for architecture nerds. The tee shot it requires is an undemanding poke to a wide, bunker-less fairway, which bends gently to the left on its ho-hum path to a green with all the contour of a cutting board. Design snobs might refer to it as hamburger-helper, and given their criteria, I wouldn’t disagree.

But I would also argue that no one falls in love on looks alone—at least not in the kind of love that lasts. My enduring fondness for this modest hole has nothing to do with its natural features and everything to do with an ancillary trait: a chain-link fence, which runs along the full length of the left side. When I was a kid, my friends and I spent countless idle moments by this fence, peering through it and the woods behind it, squinting for a glimpse of what lay beyond.

On the far side of the trees, so close and yet so distant, spread The Country Club, the exclusive course we all longed to play but which only one of us found a way to access. His name was Lenny Curtin, a tough-edged townie with a slap-shot swing that made him the best golfer on our local high school team.

That Lenny was the son of a retired cop didn’t stop him from being a scofflaw. One spring day, he showed up at the sixth hole with a pair of wire-cutters, opened a passage in the fence and slipped through it with his clubs for an illicit round of golf on posher grounds. We all watched in wonder. Soon after, The Country Club sealed the breach. But soon after that, Lenny opened it again. The hole in the fence became known as “Curtin’s Corner,” and, as years went by, other golfers gained the courage to use it.

I did so once—and only once, during high school—ducking through the fence, dashing through the trees and smacking a single shot on The Country Club before scampering back to the safety of my home track. In those days, I thought of the fence as a border between worlds, one I wasn’t really meant to cross.

But time changes things. It lends perspective. Decades later, as a middle-aged man, I finally got a crack at the dream course of my childhood. An invite came to play The Country Club. Not surprisingly, it was quite a course, eons better than the muni where I’d learned, and yet the game played on it was very much the same. You hit the ball, you found it, you hit it again. In golf, as in life, even when the grass is greener, it’s still grass.

Around that time, I also managed to track down Lenny Curtin. Nearly 30 years had passed since our paths had crossed. I’d always wondered if his trespass-golf had come with repercussions. It had indeed, Lenny informed me. Not only had he gotten caught the first time he sneaked onto The Country Club; he’d gotten caught on multiple occasions. But instead of punishing him, the club wound up hiring him, handing him a job on the grounds-keeping crew. Lenny liked the work. He was good at it, too.

Now a middle-aged man himself, he’d stuck with it all these years and had made a fine career of it. He rose from the bottom of the grounds-keeping rung to become the respected superintendent at George Wright Golf Course, a treasured Donald Ross-built muni in nearby Hyde Park. He’d come a long way, without traveling too far.

I’m fond of that story, just as I’m fond of the par-5 6th hole at my long-ago home muni. I see it as a symbol of the places golf can take you, but also a lesson: that the things we think we want are often not so different from what we already have.