Words by Robbie Vogel
Photos by Michael Altobello and Robert Romeril
Light / Dark
Right up until the moment that seven other dudes showed up on the putting green at Vermont’s Rutland Country Club, I remained skeptical this was actually going to happen. It was 7 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2022—the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere—and a wild plan hatched in the Broken Tee Society Discord server was moments away from coming to fruition.
I had driven nearly four hours the previous night, trading the broad swath of I-95 for a series of shrinking tributaries, including a brief forced detour onto a rutted dirt road in a northern Massachusetts village with the honest-to-God name “Satans Kingdom” (apparently the devil needs no apostrophes).
The drive reminded me why city slickers and out-of-towners flock to our corner of the country in the summer—even Vermont’s main thoroughfares are stunning, winding around the ankles of the Green Mountains while rock-strewn streams carve channels beside the guardrails. I was almost sad to trade this pastoral beauty for the relative bustle of 15,000-strong Rutland, but bed was calling, and a three-round, three-state, all-day golf extravaganza beckoned.
The concept of playing an irresponsible amount of golf on summer’s longest day is not unique. Bandon’s Solstice event doubles as the continent’s foremost Sunday bag showcase, while Chambers Bay runs a similar outing, and Youth On Course hosts 100-hole hikes wherever tee sheets allow. Our scheme owed much of its inspiration to Rob Sudduth, one of the more golf-mad men I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet, and a longtime member at The Kittansett Club in southeastern Massachusetts. Rob hosts a Solstice gathering every year at the club, where a handful of folks start at dawn and loop Kittansett’s world-class layout continuously, playing alternate formats until they run out of sunlight or golf balls.
It was Rob’s outing, combined with the prospect of another long golf-less New England winter, that nudged an idle online conversation into adventurous territory several months ago. Members of our New England chapter were deep into a discussion about the criminally underrated Golden Age designer Wayne Stiles. Along with his partner John Van Kleek, Stiles laid out dozens of sporty and timeless courses across the region. In short order, it became clear that our members boasted connections to Rutland CC; Taconic in Massachusetts’ far northwest corner; and Hooper, a rollicking nine-holer tumbling through the forests of western New Hampshire.
The lightbulb barely had time to flicker before the idea danced off the keys and into the world. Three courses. Three states. One designer. One day. Should we? Could we?
There was only one way to find out.
Party of Eight
From small seeds sprung two groups of four, and we spent the winter poring over bad jokes and potentially worse logistics.
We hailed from five states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York), with one even making the four-plus-hour drive from Manhattan to Rutland that morning.
Clockwise from top left: Jason Nelson, Robbie Vogel, Kyle Bell, Josh Beer, Ian Tracy, Stephen Muscarella, Robert Romeril. Not pictured: our photographer, Broken Tee Society member and Long Island golf legend Michael Altobello.
A few putts, a brief discussion to decide the day-long game (a rolling three-putt Snake challenge), a quick group photo on the first tee, and we were off.
Rutland Country Club Tee time: 7 AM
Aside from its architectural pedigree, Rutland was a complete mystery to me. But as I drove out of the parking lot four hours later, I was already scheming up ways to return. It’s everything you could ask for in a member’s course: fun, quirky, and endlessly replayable, with enough half-par holes, hero shots, and blind approaches to produce an indefinite honeymoon period. The course reveals itself slowly at first, but the hooks set deep in me on the tee of the par-3 third (below), which asks for a short iron launched high into a volcanic caldera of a green, and as after the second creek crossing between the joyful fifth and sixth holes, you’re fully smitten.
Locals and members mingled across the course, oblivious to our quest as we crested each rise with anticipation, fresh legs, and a day’s worth of chasing ahead. Stiles’ perched greens and steep false fronts stood firm against a number of indifferent approaches, but no matter. It was the perfect start to an epic adventure.
Taconic Golf Club Tee time: 1:30 PM
Looking back, we certainly could have chosen a less circuitous routing for the inaugural Stiles Solstice Spectacular. Rutland marked the northwestern corner in our stretched-out isosceles triangle of a day, and the 90 minutes spent hurtling south on Vermont’s Route 7 to get to our second location would prove precious as night closed in.
On the other hand, my vision of the day is still clouded by images of Rutland’s jaw-dropping ski-slope 17th, so perhaps it was all worth it.
Either way, we arrived on the campus of Williams College with minutes to spare before taking on the crown jewel of western Massachusetts golf.
Perennially ranking near the top of “Best College Golf Course” lists, Taconic is proper golf. It’s wide enough for all skill levels, tough without being penal, full of perilously quick downhill putts and (thankfully, after Rutland) absent any thigh-busting hill climbs. We switched up the groupings, allowing Stephen, Ian, Kyle, and I to form the kind of fast friendship only possible on an insane golfing day like this.
On his way to making seven birdies (!), Stephen sold me on the merits of cast-iron cookware—he runs a small business making and selling it near his home in Vermont. Ian’s fluency in the history of the game, and Taconic in particular, made my first loop around this storied course even more special. But my highest compliment is reserved for Kyle, a man of few words, who somehow found it in his heart to not try to correct my loopy and inconsistent motion, despite his position as Head Golf Professional at Copake Country Club.
Although impressive, Stephen’s birdie barrage was not the talking point of the day. That honor belongs to the pin placement at the sixth, the booby trap lurking at the end of a seemingly tame uphill two-shotter. The false front here is more accurately titled a false front half, as anything not sent to the rear of the green hasn’t a prayer of staying up. The day’s cup sat just over this spine, and sent several of our party (including your humble author) moving on to the next tee box absent a number on the scorecard.
To put a finer point on it: I had a three-foot slider for par. My next shot required a wedge.
Rumor has it that Gil Hanse, who renovated the course a decade ago, is returning to soften a few putting surfaces in the near future. If so, it will bring this A-level golf course up to the A-plus it has the potential to be.
Hooper Golf Course Tee time: Dicey
Thirty-six holes in a day is more than doable. Two rounds with a 90-minute drive in the middle starts to wear on you. So the prospect of another nine, after another hour and a half behind the wheel, was starting to feel mighty ambitious. Particularly with daylight in short supply.
As we said goodbye to our fearless photographer in Taconic’s parking lot and turned our noses northeast, we had two things going for us: pizza and glow balls.
We visited Hooper last year, and came away with golfing souls renewed by the power of community. Now, less than a year later, the return trip felt like a reunion, with co-owner and fellow Solstice day-tripper Josh Beer rolling out the welcome mat in the form of hot slices and cold beer.
Josh, Robert, and I began our fifth nine, chasing our Titleists into the gloaming in a final gasp to complete our reckless original plan.
Jason and the rest of the crew took their time, secure in the knowledge that they could come down the eighth and back up the ninth under full glow ball power. By this point, the concept of score had disintegrated entirely. Sneakers and t-shirts replaced any semblance of decorum, and we all lightened our bags considerably before leaving the first tee. I’m no half-set connoisseur, but two woods, two wedges, a 6-iron and a putter felt right.
Hooper’s walk is no picnic, though a fine alfresco lunch could be had on any of its sprawling, rumpled putting surfaces. And as we watched our comrades approach the ninth green, the ghost of a specific, familiar feeling settled in.
It’s the same feeling that attends the last few holes of a golf trip, after every best-laid plan has been executed, the scouted courses conquered, and all bets, presses, and double-downs closed up. It’s that punch-drunk Holy shit, we did it realization, followed far too soon by the re-entry of real life into the mental calculus. Brainpower shifts from calculating carry distance over that bunker to estimating arrival time at home, both with and without a stop at McDonald’s.
But the pain of reopening the email inbox is always overshadowed by the lasting memory of the adventure. Only golf can bring eight strangers together for a three-state goose chase across western New England.
This year, we’re taking the Solstice vibes global—head to our 2023 Broken Tee Society Solstice page to get a game with your local BTS crew and celebrate golf’s longest day by making your own ridiculous, exhausting, unforgettable memories.
If you enjoyed this you’ll love everything The Golfer’s Journal has to offer.