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BOSTON — This city's most famous ride revolved around Paul Revere and his horse. My ride this past week was neither as dramatic nor as historically significant, but it was memorable nonetheless. 

During an event with Lexus, a 16-year partner with the USGA and the official vehicle of the U.S. Open, I road-tested a 2022 Lexus LX 600, as part of a "Road Trip to the U.S. Open" promotion. I wasn’t getting paid by Lexus, nor do I own one — yet. It was more a meet-and-greet with some automotive and golf journalists and influencers that were tied to the U.S. Open. 

My ulterior motive? Ancient, architecturally lauded New England golf courses awaited us before we arrived at Brookline. Lexus’ tagline these days is “Experience Amazing.” I did just that — both behind the wheel and alongside a caddie. The only one who enjoyed his week more was Matt Fitzpatrick.

The first stop after arriving in Boston was a jaunt to Cape Cod for a short stay at the 108-year-old Chatham Bars Inn, a seaside stunner that charms with luxury-lined cottages balanced with Old World appointments. Beach chairs and breezes awaited, yet three of us couldn’t resist the siren call of the adjacent nine-hole layout, the Chatham Seaside Links. 

I haven’t been able to trace the architect, but the city-owned layout dates to 1895. It was likely designed by an amateur — and I say that with beaming praise. Rather than merely a 90-minute exercise in clearing the cobwebs and stretching the legs after a long plane ride, Chatham Seaside Links proved delightfully instructive as to what 19th century, lay-of-the-land architecture looked like. It rolls up, down and across hilly terrain — though hardy locals all walk. 

At 2,249 yards, par 34, the scorecard holds no apparent terrors. Play it, however, and you’ll discover why 223 yards can be a par 4 — when it heads straight uphill. Holes melt into the hotel property — a sign at the second tee reads: ALERT – People using spa on left side. Play hole center right. Do not endanger neighbors. Holes also melt into the town, as with St. Andrews, Lahinch and North Berwick. The back-tier hole location on the 275-yard, par-4 9th was a mere 12 yards from cars parked on Seaview Street. With surprisingly well-maintained greens and a fee of $22 to walk, Chatham Seaside Links is a class in minimalism worth taking.

Nevertheless, Chatham Seaside Links was only an hors’ d’oeurve for the next day’s main course, the private, Golf Digest top 100-ranked Kittansett Club. Located in Marion, on the edge of Buzzards Bay, low-key Kittansett played host to the 1953 Walker Cup where victorious American stars included Ken Venturi, Gene Littler and Harvie Ward. Always admired, Kittansett’s stock has soared in recent years, principally due to two architects: William Flynn and Gil Hanse.  

Dating to 1922, Kittansett, as with many outstanding old courses, had a somewhat murky architectural genealogy. Design credit was long given to founding member Frederic C. Hood, who indeed oversaw the field work to completion. He also earns kudos for creating Kittansett’s signature hole, the 167-yard, par-3 3rd, its island green completely encircled by beach sand. Yet, a question nagged at architecture geeks for years. So sophisticated was the routing and bunker placement, it seemed certain that a top Golden Age designer had a sizable hand in its creation. Sure enough, in the early 2000s, Flynn scholars Wayne S. Morrison and Thomas E. Paul discovered Flynn’s original Kittansett plans in Flynn’s attic. Thirteen holes from those plans were used on the course we know today. Mystery solved.

Kittansett was a revelation. While it lacked the intriguing fairway ripples that make classic seaside links so compelling, it served up everything else, from wind, marsh and water views, rugged, perfectly placed bunkers and uniquely, turf-covered rock mounds that are strategically dotted throughout. Flynn’s signature risk/reward design gambits — cleverly conceived doglegs and gooseneck par-4s and par-5s, where fairways slither between artfully placed bunkers, and fairways that are interrupted by sand or broken ground — are sprinkled liberally throughout Kittansett.

Before Flynn died in 1945, he created a fistful of America’s greatest courses, including Shinnecock Hills (1931) on Long Island, Cherry Hills (1923) in Denver and the Homestead’s Cascades course in Virginia (1923). Though Boston born, Flynn established his reputation in and around Philadelphia. Area classics included Lancaster Country Club (1920), Rolling Green (1926), Huntingdon Valley (1927) and Philadelphia Country Club (1927). He also served on the construction crew at Merion (East) and he finished up Pine Valley from 1919-1922 following the death of founder/architect George Crump. Flynn was a busy fellow in 1927. That’s the same year he completed a third nine holes for The Country Club in Brookline and renovated holes on the club’s original 18.

Is Flynn the most underrated of the great Golden Age architects? Absolutely. Andrew Green, who has restored classics from Donald Ross, George C. Thomas Jr. and Devereux Emmet, among others, considers Flynn “by far the most ahead of his time.” Green’s restoration work at Flynn’s Huntingdon Valley and Philmont (North) led him to serious Flynn research. 

“The more I studied Flynn, the more I respected and admired his abilities,” Green says. "I think he knew the game inside and out — maintenance, construction, the way you play the game. It’s pretty stunning. If you want to learn what course design is all about, read Flynn’s essays that he wrote for the USGA Green Section before World War II. A lot of the modern game relates to Flynn."

Hanse, who restored The Country Club ahead of the 2013 U.S. Amateur, where Flynn’s influence was profound, has been Kittansett’s consulting architect since the late 1990s. The most significant restorations from Hanse and partner Jim Wagner have involved reclaiming long-lost putting surface areas and removing trees to reveal bay vistas that hadn’t been seen in decades. Clearing away the trees from behind the superb 411-yard, par-4 16th not only yielded sensational panoramas, but allowed the wind to increasingly influence ball flight to the elevated green. In late August, Kittansett will play host to the 67th U.S. Senior Amateur.

It wasn’t enough merely to duel with Kittansett on a gorgeous day, but five minutes down the road was the very public Marion Golf Club. Why tackle this modest nine-holer when we were due back in Boston for dinner? Simple. Marion was the very first course design from Thomas Jr. Best known for his ingenious routings and strategies in creating Riveria, Bel-Air and Los Angeles Country Club (North) — all in L.A., all in the 1920s — Thomas carved out Marion for a family friend in 1904.

Architecture scholar Anthony Pioppi noted in his 2006 book "To the Nines" that in Thomas’ 342-page classic work "Golf Architecture in America" (1927), Marion merited a mere five lines. It certainly deserved more. At 2,695 yards, par 34, Marion dishes out a few funky holes, a few plain holes and one or two that are absolutely bizarre, such as the sharply doglegging to the right, 290-yard par-4 second and three par-3s — the 3rd, 8th and 9th — where the putting surfaces are partially or fully blocked by old stone walls. If you’re a Thomas fan, or just a student of ancient architecture, Marion is a must visit. With green fees starting at $20, and green speeds surprisingly quick, make that a multiple-visit proposition.

Afterward, we high-tailed it back to Boston, where we were holed up at the XV Beacon, a 63-room beauty atop Beacon Hill. The hotel is renowned for its ideal location, superior service and trendy, A-list steakhouse, the aptly named Mooo…. As with the Chatham Bars Inn, XV Beacon is one of 15 Lexus Hotel Partners across the U.S. Upon check-in Lexus owners receive benefits such as dining or resort amenity credits. Also, regardless of what you may drive at home, if you check in at a Lexus Hotel Partner, you can reserve a Lexus to explore the area attractions or be chauffeured in one — all complimentary.

On Wednesday of U.S. Open week, one more delightful design awaited, Essex County Club. Prior to arrival, I once again road-tested the all-new 2022 Lexus LX 600, exploring sections of the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, a 90-mile roadway along the North Shore of Massachusetts that links 14 coastal communities from Lynn to Salisbury. The ride is chock-full of seaside scenery, historic attractions and recreational opportunities. 

For the week, Lexus offered us driving options, from the GX 460 SUV to the midsize NX to the remarkable LC 500 sports coupe that roars and purrs at the same time.

2022 Lexus LX 600

The Lexus LX 600 can handle rugged terrain, but was ideal for navigating an urban setting such as Boston. 

Given that I was battling lower back issues during the week, I opted for the LX 600. Not surprisingly, the ride was superb. It utilized the same global platform as the vaunted Land Cruiser for whatever off-roading adventures suit your tastes, but it’s made for navigating urban landscapes. A 19.3-inch top screen infotainment/navigation screen made it impossible to get lost — even in Boston.

A powerful V6 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission gives the burst needed to handle highway passing. As well, the suspension and build not only lets the car glide around quietly at any speed, but it rolls over bumps and potholes as if they’re marshmallows. My back never felt a thing. 

That’s a good thing, because I would have hated to have missed playing Essex County Club. Drenched in history, Essex County dates to 1893. Supposedly, only a postal delay prevented Essex County from becoming one of the USGA’s charter members in 1894. As it was, it became the sixth club to join.

Located in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex played host to the 1897 U.S. Women’s Amateur and when it again was the venue in 1912, the tournament was won by club member Margaret Curtis. Later she and her sister Harriott, herself the U.S. Women's Amateur winner in 1906, donated the trophy for the biennial Curtis Cup Match, most recently played at Merion Golf Club, to the USGA. Essex County witnessed two Curtis Cup events — in 1938 and in 2010, the latter occasion when two American teenagers, 15-year-old Lexi Thompson and 17-year-old Jessica Korda played starring roles.

The real star at Essex County, however, was Ross, who took the job as club professional in 1909. In 1917, he redesigned the existing nine and added a new nine. He lived in a house that’s close to the 15th tee and still remains. It's conceivable that Ross likely spent more time with this design than any other, except possibly Pinehurst No. 2, where he also had a home. It shows. 

Over terrain that’s quintessentially New England — massive hillsides of exposed rock, wildly undulating terrain, copses of trees and native fescues swaying in the sea breezes — he crafted some of the most original holes in his portfolio. It’s not the easiest walk — yet that’s what members do. Hardy Yankees, all. The front nine brims with memorable holes, notably the 422-yard, par-4 8th, with its blind landing area and distinctive split-level fairway.

It’s the back nine, however, where Essex County shines. 

"Ross designed the course before his real recognizable style emerged," head professional Jack Davis says. "There’s stuff out there that he didn’t do anywhere else, especially on the back nine."

The 363-yard, par-4 10th features a fairway that curves around a hill. Clear the hill with the drive and potential glory awaits. Play safely left, but hit it too far, and your ball may reach the rough. The uphill par-3 11th demands a shot near perfection to find the putting surface; the par-4 13th sports a vast amphitheater of rocks to the back-right of the green; the par-4 17th climbs straight uphill (Imagine taking the stairs from the lobby to the 10th floor in a Boston office building); and the par-4 18th is a downhill plunge between rock-studded hills to a twisting fairway and an approach over a creek. Similar to Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie after the 2021 Masters, I bowed to Ross’ genius and to this brilliant piece of property.

As a partner with the USGA, Lexus has considerable presence at the U.S. Open. At Brookline, contestants drove Lexus cars; a Performance Center near the Champions Pavilion allowed fans to experience a swing analysis and a racing simulator; and near an entrance gate was a photo-op with the U.S. Open Trophy. 

I basked in the entire proceedings, including walking New England’s ultimate tournament venue, The Country Club, its composite course provided just the right measures of challenge, quirks and scenery to produce one of the greatest U.S. Opens in memory. The drama was rich, the winner, Matt Fitzpatrick, was deserving. 

As I left the grounds via Clyde Street, I looked up and realized the house in front of me was the home of Francis Ouimet, the 1913 U.S. Open winner. I tipped my hat one more time — to Lexus, to Boston, to golf history and to the glories of classic golf course architecture.