The souvenir cap and the new club logo says 1901, but the website of the International Golf Club in Bolton, Massachusetts suggests the Runaway Brook Golf Club actually came along on the site in 1899. Well, what’s a couple of years?
Quite a bit in the minds of the former members of the club when it went belly-up in 2020. The two courses on the property, the Oaks and the Pines, began going to seed, seemingly a sorry ending to a property that has some lively history.
Albert “Bert” Suprenant acquired the course in the mid-1950’s and set to work on what became known as the Pines Course. The late grand old man of New England golf (Cornish died at 97 in 2012), once told me, “Bert was one of the wealthiest men in Massachusetts, and perhaps one of the most eccentric. He came to me and said he wanted the world’s longest golf course. So I gave it to him. I think it was 8,040 yards from the back tees when it opened, and they continually added length to it to make sure it stayed the world’s longest.
“Number five is the big one. Bert wanted a hole that no one would reach on their second shot, a 640-yard par-5. But on opening day, pro Paul Harney cut the corner and hit the green on his second. Bert had a fit.”
Suprenant eventually sold the club to International Telephone and Telegraph, which ran it as a private club and corporate retreat, and had Robert Trent Jones Sr. come in for a renovation of the Pines in 1972. The Weadock family was in charge by 2001, when Tom Fazio’s Oaks Course opened for play and all was rosy until the pandemic rolled along and scrambled the club’s finances.
By February of 2021 Escalante Golf of Fort Worth, Texas acquired the club out of bankruptcy, its first northeastern entry in a luxury golf portfolio that includes just shy of twenty golf properties across the country.
At a recent media day outing the company unveiled the Oaks Course renovation by architect Tripp Davis, the first of what it promises will be $50 million in changes and improvements to the 680-acre property over the next few years.
While Cornish might have been wistful to hear the Pines Course will be completely redone, to the point of relinquishing its hold on the longest-course title, members are thrilled at the prospect of the re-do being assigned to the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and the changes in general. Over 100 former members have rejoined, though the company is positioning the International as more of a national than local club.
Though most of the media members’ rounds were washed out after about a dozen holes, it was clear that Davis has brought the Oaks Course back to vibrant life. The Fazio routing remains the same, but extensive work on the bunkers and tee boxes give the course an elegant look, a “naturalistic” theme that Davis said he was aiming at.
Some bunkers were eliminated, others moved, some added (going from 48 to 55 total), most with “drip lines”–overhanging grass edging, and the tee boxes squared off and expanded to a classically distinguished look.
The club is courting some controversy by agreeing to host one of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational tournaments September 2-4, though the details of that series—and Greg Norman’s continued involvement—still seems to be in flux.
This piece first appeared in NewEngland.Golf in somewhat different form.