Sensational Salem

Next summer’s U.S. Senior Open is just one of many reasons to visit this seaport city.

By Gary Larrabee

It’s not too early to begin mapping your golf vacation plans for next summer. For a unique 2-for-1 excursion that incorporates watching and playing golf along with a stay in one of the hottest tourist venues in New England, there are few better choices than Salem, Massachusetts.

Your “twofer” can include taking in the 2017 U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club, along with enjoying the countless nearby attractions.

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The Salem Witch Museum is one of the area’s prime attractions.

Take the full week from June 26 to July 2. That’s Championship Week at Salem Country Club, which was originally founded in Salem proper in 1895. It was then a nondescript nine-hole layout frequented by some of the city’s famous families. In 1926 it was relocated to Peabody, where the club’s membership discovered a marvelous piece of property in the 350-acre Sanders Farm, bought the parcel and went to work.

That’s where the club first established a championship course designed by the legendary Donald Ross, built a grand colonial-style clubhouse that has since been expanded and modernized, and was on its way to hosting five USGA championships, including the 2001 U.S. Senior Open.

The club is a five-mile jaunt from Salem Harbor, where you can make your base of operations at the historic Hawthorne Inn, which marks its 90th birthday in 2016. Other lodging options include the more modern Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites and a variety of quaint inns, with the best being the Salem Inn and The Merchant.

If you’re a big golf fan, you can spend all seven days at Salem Country Club (three practice rounds, four championship days). If you don’t need the full week’s fix, join the rest of your party – those who might not know Jason Day from Doris Day – and partake in the 101 fun things to do morning, noon and night in Salem. If you want to get in a game or two when not watching the best senior players in the world 50 and older – hello, John Daly, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Davis Love – Boston’s North Shore features a juggernaut of enjoyable public courses.

Salem is topped only by Boston as the most desired destination for Massachusetts tourists. Get your bearings initially by taking the one-hour Salem Trolley tour of the city. The ride will take you around the inner city and through the McIntire Historic District comprising Federal, Chestnut and Essex Streets, as well as along the Harbor/Pickering Wharf/Derby Wharf coastline, past The House of Seven Gables and The Willows, and the city’s old-fashioned amusement park that hugs the outer harbor.

The 10th hole at Salem Country Club.

The 10th hole at Salem Country Club.

Then it will be decision time. Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, offers these suggestions.

“The House of the Seven Gables, the Peabody Essex Museum, and either the Witch Dungeon or the Salem Witch Museum give a sampling of each of Salem’s primary stories and will take a full day,” she says. “For people interested in the maritime era, I recommend selecting from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the Phillips House, The House of the Seven Gables and the Witch Museum.

“If the Salem Witch Trials are a focus, The Salem Witch Museum, the Witch House, and the Bewitched After Dark Walking Tour will get into the meat of that story. Gardens are often popular with golfers and non-golfers, so we recommend the House of the Seven Gables, Derby House at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site and the Ropes Mansion.

The Friendship Sloop at Derby Wharf.

The Friendship Sloop at Derby Wharf.

“And if they want a quick morning overview, the AM Coffee Walk with Karen Scalia of Salem Food Tour is a wonderful way to start the day, get the lay of the land, and have a delicious morning treat.  She does a brilliant job of connecting Salem’s maritime and spice trade history with our contemporary dining scene.”

Oh yes, food and beverage. You can’t fully appreciate Salem’s wondrous delights without taking in the best of the city’s eating and drinking establishments. The choices are plentiful. You’ll find the freshest local fish at Turner’s, Finz and Sea Level; the best Italian at the Adriatic Restaurant, the finest farm-to-table fare at the Scratch Kitchen and the most outstanding pizza at the Engine House. Other recommended spots are Milk and Honey, Flying Saucer Pizza and Nat’s.

Put it all together and you’ll be proclaiming that it’s sensational to be in Salem – both the city and the country club.

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