Pocasset Golf Club has weathered many storms, but continues to thrive as it reaches the century mark.By Rob Duca | Photography by Dan Cutrona
Jack Eaton has done pretty much everything at Pocasset Golf Club. One might say no one has filled more roles at the 100-year-old club, which is celebrating its centennial this summer.
“I first came here in 1948 when I was 14,” he says. “I was looking for golf balls I could sell because I wanted to buy a boat. They didn’t clear out the woods in those days, and with all the brush it was a haven for finding balls.”
Eaton never bought the boat, but he did get hooked on golf and on Pocasset. He went from scouring the woods for lost golf balls to working on the grounds crew, then moved to the pro shop, then served beverages as a bartender in the clubhouse, and finally, in 1989, became one of the owners when Pocasset was purchased by the membership.
Obviously, he’s witnessed plenty of changes over 68 years.
“The conditions were pretty rough back then,” he remembers. “There was no watering system and our equipment amounted to a 1930s Model T truck. We used manual mowers for the greens, and we moved them from green to green on a trolley. We dragged hoses out to water the greens and the rest was left to Mother Nature. I remember hitting a ball in the summer months and a puff of smoke would come up when it struck the fairway.”
As the club turns 100, Pocasset is one of New England’s pristine golf courses, with emerald green conditions, lightning fast putting surfaces, artfully placed bunkers and beautifully landscaped holes that wind through rolling tree-lined fairways.
“I love the beauty and the challenge of the course,” Eaton says. “The holes really fit into the land.”
Much of the credit for Pocasset’s current condition goes to Steve Carr, the golf course superintendent since 1975. Carr, the son of former owner Bill Carr, grew up at Pocasset. His father bought the course in 1952, even though he knew little about golf. “He never hit a golf ball in his life,” Steve says. “I never intended to work at a golf course, either. But dad put me on the grounds crew when I got out of college and the superintendent quit at the end of the season. So I went to winter school at UMass for agronomy and I’ve been here ever since.
“There have been plenty of ups and downs, but my family’s name has been associated with the course for nearly 70 of its 100 years. That’s something when I think about it,” he says.
Pocasset was founded by a group of prominent Boston businessmen and opened in
September 1916. The original investors were all Harvard College graduates. They included lawyers, doctors, investment bankers, engineers, cotton merchants and even a tennis star that competed in the U.S. Open. In the beginning, Pocasset was not so much a golf club as it was a summer gathering place.
Initially only a nine-hole course, the club hired legendary golf course architect Donald Ross in the 1920s to expand the layout to 18, which resulted in a 6,348-yard course. But that course is dramatically different from the one that is played today. The most drastic changes came in the 1940s when membership dropped and the hardships of World War II caused many courses to fall into disrepair and even close. Pocasset was sold at auction in 1948, with the new owners leasing the course to Bill Carr in 1950. But they didn’t relinquish the entire course, choosing to keep four holes to the west of Shore Road to make way for housing lots.
Therefore, lost forever was a downhill par 4, a dogleg right par 4, a stunning par 3 that played toward the water from an elevated tee and a sweeping left-to-right uphill par 4 that ended at the old clubhouse. “Quite honestly, they were four of the better holes on the golf course. They were pretty cool-looking,” Steve Carr says.
Bill Carr took over ownership of the course in 1952. He added two par-3 holes and sliced a par-5 into two par-4s to create a par-68 course. The 1960s and ‘70s brought more changes. Holes were rearranged and a new clubhouse was built on the current site. By the time Gary Player arrived for a celebrity exhibition in 1964, the course had changed to a 5,455-yard layout. It grew to 6,200 yards in the 1970s and today plays to a par 72 of 6,427 yards from the championship tees.
Many changes resulted in the current routing of the course. For example, the second hole, which played as a par-3 until 1982, was combined with the third hole to form the present par-4 second. Four other holes were rebuilt or redesigned. “But there remain many of the elements that Ross designed,” Steve Carr says. “Although we rerouted the course in the 1960s to bring the ninth hole to the clubhouse, many holes are not changed at all.”
The biggest change came in 1989 when Bill Carr sold the club to members after 37 years of ownership, returning Pocasset to a private club. Although membership dipped and swelled through the 1990s, there are now 350 members and a waiting list. A new pro shop opened in 2006, followed by a stunning new clubhouse two years later that features expansive views overlooking the course.
“Things got a little rough in the ‘80s, but I look out now at all the rhododendrons in bloom and I remember when it was just a sand hill there before,” Steve Carr says. “We’ve been able to make it a pretty high-end course.”
Says Eaton, “I don’t think a lot of people realize what a great golf course this is. It’s not long, but you get a lot of hilly lies, and the greens are sloped and hard to read. It’s challenging, but comfortable. It’s a fair test.”
At age 100, Pocasset has never looked better.