GC Review: William J. Devine, The Franklin Park Course, Filled With History
William J. Devine Golf Course is located at Franklin Park in Dorchester, MA, next to the Franklin Park Zoo. Established in the Fall of 1896, it is the 2nd oldest public course in the US and has seen countless numbers of amateur and professional golfers alike navigate its hills and plains.
A course full of history, it was the home of the first winner of a professional golf match, Willie Campbell, home of golf idol Bobby Jones, and the recipient of a beautiful re-design by Donald J. Ross.
An interesting design, this course features just two Par 5’S and four Par 3’s, with a whole bunch of par 4’s where birdies are makeable. This course can become difficult if errant off tees because while it is a short course, there is a lot of nature that can get in the way.
The following will provide you with an overview of the course, layout, maintenance, amenities, and customer service, as well as a hole-by-hole playbook from the experience culminated over my 13 rounds there over the past 4 years, where I have shot a 76 average.
Front 9 – Par 34 – 2949 yards
Back 9 – Par 36 – 3012 yards
Full Course – Par 70 – 5961 yards
Hole #1 – Par 4 – 386 yards
The round begins with a wide-open tee shot into a short par 4. Even with an errant tee shot, the approach is a simple wedge into a somewhat small green. The green lays mostly flat, making for an easy put. With a couple nice shots, this hole is very birdie-able, but par is a more likely score.
Hole #2 – Par 4 – 317 yards
It is crucial to make a solid tee shot on hole 2 with the OB on the right side next to the road and the right side of the green protected by a tree. Keeping the tee shot off to the left and around 200 yards is your best bet, as it offers a direct wedge into the green. The green slopes left to right at a slight angle but makes for a difficult 1-putt from outside 12 ft. With a left side tee shot this hole offers a good chance at birdie.
Hole #3 – Par 4 – 421 yards
The longest par 4 on the course still only sits at 421 yards, but the uphill 2nd shot into an elevated green is what adds the difficulty to this hole. You can put your tee shot anywhere and have a chance at this two-tiered green, but a shot off the tee favoring the middle and left side of the fairway offers the best chance at a GIR, as the right side rolls down a hill. With a non-sloping green, end up on the right tier and you have a great shot for par.
Hole #4 – Par 3 – 189 yards
This is a tough par 3 as judging the distance of this downhill tee shot changes hour to hour based on the strength and direction of the wind. On a calm day, this hole plays about 180 yards into a small green, surrounded by bunkers on the left and right sides. Accurate and you’re looking at a good par opportunity. End up in a bunker? Makes for a tough par.
Hole #5 – Par 4 – 349 yards
This is a unique hole, with a blind tee shot over the hill off to the side of the 3rd hole. You’ll want to stay to the middle or slightly to the right on this hole, as there is a tree at the bottom of the hill off to the left that you don’t want to be stuck behind. Throw a solid 3 wood off the tee and you’re looking at around 100-125 yards into a slightly uphill green that rolls from back to front. Be careful with a left greenside bunker and you should be all set to make par.
Hole #6 – Par 4 – 380 yards
This is a par hole through and through. The tee shot is wide open into a right to left sloping fairway which is what you want. Access to this green is widest from the left side of the fairway, and a wedge will do for this slight uphill approach. This is a 2-putt green because even so much as a 5 ft. putt will have a break, so leaving your first putt within a couple feet is good enough for a tap-in.
Hole #7 – Par 4 – 389 yards
This is the toughest hole on the front 9 for most golfers. The tee shot is a severe downhill shot into a 90-degree right dogleg around a pond surrounded by trees. The best bet is to pull a low-iron off the tee about 225 yards, leaving you with about 150 into the green. The only reprieve on this hole is that the green lays very flat and is large, so approach shots have plenty of room to get close. It takes 2 very good shots heading into this green to make par, but it is definitely doable.
Hole #8 – Par 3 – 178 yards
This is a pretty easy par 3 the lands a bit lower than the tee box, into a green with a front left bunker and 3 bunkers around the backside of the green. The green is pretty large and very flat so if you hit the green from the tee, this is a very birdie-able hole. If you hit one of the bunkers, this hole gets trickier but still provides a solid opportunity to make par.
Hole #9 – Par 4 – 340 yards
This is a fun hole to close the front with as you stand on the tee box looking blind to the green. If you’ve never played this course, the right side would seem like a reasonable spot to land, but is actually lost-ball heaven, with lots of high grass like you’d see at a links course in Europe. You’re going to want to drop your tee shot to the left side of the hole, offering a short wedge shot into a large green. An easy green makes this a birdie hole.
Hole #10 – Par 4 – 337 yards
This may say 337 but it sure doesn’t play like it. You’re teeing off from around 50-60ft. above the landing zone, and the right side offers a big opportunity to lose your ball in the same fescue as the hole before. The green has a left side bunker that is often forgotten because of the gigantic front side bunker that is deep.
Oh, by the way, your approach shot is usually around 100 yards if played properly, into a green that is elevated no less than 40 feet from where you will play your 2nd shot. It is greatly important to take enough club to get all the way up the green because of the bunkers that protect but once you’re up there, the putt isn’t too bad. The green slightly slopes from back to front so if you go over, be careful with your downhill chip on. This is a tough hole to make but is doable with precision.
Hole #11 – Par 5 – 513 yards
Finally, the first par 5. This is a great hole because you can finally rip out the big stick and bomb away. A deep drive allows a chance at the green in two, but it is highly likely that hitting a 5 or 6 iron to about 75 yards short of the green is the way to go. This allows an accurate wedge into a smaller green that slightly slopes back to front, but allows for a great opportunity at birdie. A 2-putt should still give you a par.
Hole #12 – Par 4 – 404 yards
This is the hardest hole on the course in my opinion, and also one of the harder par 4’s that I have ever played. This tee box is off to the left side of the hole, which is unfortunate because that is where the green is situated….behind a thick tree line. It is crucial to put your tee shot in the fairway because a tee shot left will put you in the woods, and a tee shot right will roll all the way down a hill into more trees. You can still play the ball from the right side, but it makes a long uphill shot into a green that you won’t be able to see.
The second shot is just as important as the first, because the green is drastically elevated and partially hides behind the left-side tree line. Once you do finally make it up to the green, be very careful with your speed. If you hit over the hole and have to putt back down the hill towards the cup, the ball will absolutely run on you, often all the way off the green and down the hill 30 yards. Best bet is to leave yourself an uphill putt and pray you get out of there with a par.
Hole #13 – Par 3 – 139 yards
This is a beautiful par 3 with a very hittable green. The tee box sits a good 50 ft. above the green, so flying a wedge in high is your best bet, provided you’ve got some spin on your ball. The green is large and the front is deceivingly far from where the pins generally sit, so make sure you judge your distance properly. There is a bunker and a tree over the back of the green so make sure not to go too long.
Hole #14 – Par 4 – 358 yards
This hole provides a blind tee shot to a fairway that slightly slopes from right to left. The 2nd shot should be played towards the right side of the green because anything left will kick and roll off down a hill. This tough green slopes hard right to left so be careful on the speed of your putt.
Hole #15 – Par 3 – 164 yards
This is a pretty tough par 3, and accuracy is key here to making par. This hole always has a strong wind gust so make sure to keep the tee shot low. This elevated green is actually pretty big so hitting it will give you a great shot at par, but anything off the green creates trouble. If you go short or right, you will kick hard and be left with a long, blind wedge shot of around 30 yards, making it very difficult to make par.
Hole #16 – Par 4 – 337 yards
Another beautiful hole with some challenges in terms of water, bunkers, and elevation. The tee shot comes from roughly 70ft. above your landing zone, which will be shortened by a stream sitting 75 yards before the green. A low-iron of 200-225 yards is how you have to play it, which leaves a nice little 115-135 yard wedge shot into a big, front-sloping green. Off to the left of the green is a small pot bunker that usually doesn’t come into play, but something to remain aware of. This hole is set up for pars as a 2-putt is very likely on this green
Hole #17 – Par 4 – 287 yards
This par 4 is a tricky but beautiful short hole. Off to the left is fescue and off to the right are trees, so taking an iron and punching it out 200 yards here is the best bet. Strong hitters can take out a drive and take a run at the green, but there is a tree guarding the left side and bunkers that will trap you if you aren’t accurate. This green slopes from back to front so dropping your 2nd shot on below the hole is your best shot at birdie, something that is very doable here.
Hole #18 – Par 5 – 473 yards
The closing hole is the only other par 5 this course has to offer, and man is it a fun one. As you tee off about 50 ft. above your landing zone, which can be hit by a good 3 wood. You need to stay short of a huge hill in the middle of the hole. You need to stay to the left side off the tee because anything to the right is just fescue and lost ball city. The hole also works left to right so the left side tee shot is important.
Your 2nd shot will be about 200-225 yards off to the right, that will be blind. Just trust yourself on the 2nd shot and toss a wedge or high iron up to leave yourself a small wedge into the green. Once on the green, a 2-putt should secure you with a par to wrap up your round.
This is just a fun course that gives you an opportunity to score really well. If you are a new golfer, the course is wide open enough where shots moving left or right off the tee won’t hurt you too badly, and most greens offer a chance to be hit from most spots on any given hole. A lot of the holes have big fairways and allow you to up that FIR average but to score well here, you need to play smart. While it may seem advantageous to attack some greens and pins, allow you have to do is use your head and play safe, and you will score very well.
There are a couple points on the course where, if you have never played it before, you might not have any clue where to go. There is a large intersection in the middle of the course where you can basically touch 6 different holes, and there are a few points out on the course where some greens may look like they belong to the hole you are playing when they actually don’t. Just remain mindful and use the course map on the scorecard and you will be fine.
One other note about the course, be mindful of where you are. One of my favorite parts of the course is that the surrounding community uses it like a playground which, while not professional for the course, is something that I don’t care about and find absolutely hilarious. A couple of examples: On the 12th hole, there is a wide-open field to the right before the tree line and community members use it to their leisure.
Crazy Stuff Goes Down On Devine
The wildest thing I’ve seen there was 2 guys tearing up the adjacent baseball field on ATV’s. They found their way onto the course for a minute but then turned back to go to the baseball field when we walked up to hit. Other things you will see on the course are residents cutting across fairways to go to a store, kids on bikes riding all over the hills, and even kids sometimes picking up your golf balls, and then attempting to resell them to you a couple holes later! It is all ridiculous but it makes William J. Devine what it is, and I wouldn’t want that changed for anything, it is what makes the course unique.
Other things you will see on the course are residents cutting across fairways to go to a store, kids on bikes riding all over the hills, and even kids sometimes picking up your golf balls, and then attempting to resell them to you a couple holes later! It is all ridiculous but it makes William J. Devine what it is, and I wouldn’t want that changed for anything, it is what makes the course unique.
The course security staff does a great job keeping people off the course who aren’t supposed to be there, but they can only do so much since there are only so many of them. They do more than a good enough job monitoring everything while staying out of golfers’ ways in doing so, making the few incidents noted in the section above okay. The course is almost always in fair condition at best.
There have been times later in the season where it has been in good shape, but early season and much of the summer finds the grass a bit yellow, with no protection from the sun. This makes fairways and greens run a bit quicker than they look. The tee boxes are actually pretty good since so many holes begin off a tee, but the par 3 tee boxes are littered with divots. The fairways are usually in fine shape but one of the issues this course has is with its drainage.
If there is any sort of rainstorm that is more than your average sprinkle, there are many points on the course that completely flooded out, making it difficult to navigate and play. Overall though, for the location and design of the course, the grounds are maintained pretty well.
CUSTOMER SERVICE AND PRICE:
Everyone in the Pro Shop here is fantastic. Head Pro Kevin Frawley is very active with all the members and guests who come for a round and is always there to help out on the putting green with a quick lesson if necessary. The crew in the pro shop are all very friendly and creates an environment that is a fun place to hang out after your round. The grill nails it with typical golf course meals, offering a good variety with quick service while keeping the food and drinks affordable.
William J. Devine offers different pricing options for 9 and 18 holes, weekday or weekend prices, Junior, Adult, and Senior prices, and finally Resident and Non-Resident rates.
Adult rates for 18 during the week, you can get on the course for $39-$45, and for 9 you can play for $24-$28. On the weekends, those prices jump to $45-$50 and $27-$32, respectively.
The carts are a bit steep for a course that isn’t long, landing at $11/pp for 9 holes and $20/pp for 18. They also offer pull carts and club rentals as well.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
While priced a bit high for what the course is, this is the perfect place for a fun weekend round with your friends, or a more competitive 18 if you so choose.