Senior golfer recalls course he played — and skied on — as boy

Mt. Hood boasted tee shots off cliff, tobogganing across road

Story and photos by Bob Dunn

Over the past several months I have been presenting articles about the New Hampshire Senior Golf Association events at various New Hampshire courses, both public and private. Touring these courses has reminded me of many of the golf courses I’ve played over the years, including the one I played in Melrose, Mass., as a boy, which I still play at least once a year. Mount Hood is a public course and one of the best in the Greater Boston area — and the rates charged to play it are even better. My memories are of Mount Hood as a year-round recreation area as it was there that I learned not only to golf but to ski and ride a bike.  

View down the first fairway and the old ski slope. The old engine house for the ski rope tow to the right now used by course rangers and for storage.

Visiting the Mount Hood Golf Course and Memorial Park is a trip down memory lane for me, since I grew up nearby, and spent a good deal of time at the Melrose, Mass., location over the years — in all seasons.

Having a great time, I made the putt. (circa 1940).

The course’s name has changed since the old days, when it was referred to as The Mount Hood Recreation Area and Golf Course. From the 1930's until the early 1970's the Recreational Area was a year-round recreation site on 300 acres with golf, hiking trails, bike trails, skiing, sledding, tobogganing and a Tower that looked out over Revere Beach, Boston and the hills of New Hampshire. Nine holes of golf, the Slayton Tower, a ski jump and a toboggan run were all built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the 1930's.

View from the top of the Tower looking down at the Trimount Quarry and how close it is to Mount Hood presently. Route 99 and Revere Beach in background.

During these early days, a big Winter Carnival was held at Mount Hood each year, with college ski teams coming from all over New England to cross country race and ski jump off the roughly 30-meter jump. There were no Alpine events (downhill and slalom races) held, but for the many local families who attended it was a great weekend to ski using the approximately 1,200-foot rope tow (which was a boost for the local stores that sold leather gloves). The Winter Carnival crowned a Queen of the event and many Melrose girls were chosen over the years. Jack Driscoll's (Rye Reflections) sister Mary was chosen one year and her photo hit the front page of the Boston Globe.

View from the old 12th tee with Revere Beach in the background. The old tee was at a cliff edge, but "Big Dig" fill dumped off the cliff filled in the area and changed the 12th hole.

The toboggan chute, constructed from wood, began outside the Memorial Clubhouse (near the ninth green of the golf course), crossed over the road, and then plunged down the slope on the right side of the first fairway. I noticed that the present Mount Hood website refers to the concrete piers below the ninth green near the parking lot as the supports for the ski jump; this is incorrect — they were the supports for the toboggan run. The ski jump stood a bit further to the east, down the access road toward the Fish and Game Club. The ski jump was constructed just beyond the fourth green and fifth tee, with the in-run erected up toward the sixth fairway on the other side of the road. The jump carried you over the road and onto the steep out-run down towards the bog area below the Fish and Game Club. I remember very clearly climbing up to the top of the in-run when I was about 12 years old. From the top, you could not see the out-run. I slid off down the in-run and went off the jump, but didn’t really leap into the jump as I should have. As a result, I hit the steep out-run of the jump with the tail of my skis, and fell all the way down to the bottom. I never tried the jump a second time, but my friends and I did ski the out-run many times, as it was the steepest short run at Mount Hood.

View of Boston skyline from the top of the "Big Dig" filled area.

Those of us who lived in Maplewood (Malden) would put on our skis and hike all the way up Lebanon Street (most times on the snow banks) to Swain's Pond, cross over the ice and then across Towner's Pond into the woods and follow a trail up to the parking lot, near the Memorial Clubhouse. The slope down the first fairway had the rope tow and was named the Arthur Delaney Slope around 1971 after a Melrose resident who had been killed in WWII with the 10th Mountain Division. The rest of the winter we would usually ski down the steep slope of the 12th hole or from the top of the 16th tee and down to the 12th fairway. These slopes were great favorites, but they kept us in shape since they were not serviced by a rope tow; the choice was either to side step up or to take off the skis and lug them up.

View up the access road with the old toboggan chute crossing over the road to head down the first fairway about 1300 feet. My cousin Charlie was not going skiing or tobogganing. He was going to watch the ski jumping and the other Carnival events. (circa 1939)

We made many runs down the long toboggan chute as well and spent a good deal of time lugging the toboggan back up to the top.

In 1945 a twin-engine bomber on a training flight left Grenier Field (currently Manchester, NH, Airport) and had engine trouble over the Saugus/Melrose area. Five crew members bailed out, landing near Route 1 in Saugus; but the pilot, Major Doak Watson, guided the plane down onto the eighth fairway of Mount Hood to avoid a crash among the many homes in the area. He himself died in the crash, and his wife in California was presented with his Distinguished Flying Cross.

View of the eighth fairway. It is a "dogleg" left and the plane crashed near the turn in the fairway and into the woods..

The Mount Hood Golf Course is a great one, with perfect greens and some interesting holes, as well as some scenic views of the Boston area. It definitely is a must when you reach the eighth tee to take a break and climb up the four-story stone tower to see the views of Trimount Quarry in Saugus, Revere Beach, and Boston.

The present General Manager and Professional Golf Association Pro at Mount Hood is Mike Farrell representing the Friel Company, who hold the current lease for the course. Back in the old days when the course was operated by the City of Melrose, the Pro was Rollie Hancock, who lived on the course near the eighth green and was the Pro from 1936 until he retired in 1973. Hancock had been the runner-up in the US Open in 1928 to Bobby Jones and Johnny Farrell.    

The golf course is 5,318 yards from the white tees and the most difficult hole is the 4th, a par 5, 500 yards requiring a good drive and a solid second shot to land on the fairway above the hill in order to have about a 150-yard iron shot to the green. The fairway tilts to the left over the 500 yards and any hook will put you in the woods.

View from the 4th tee. It is most important to hit your drive to the right side of the fairway as there are wetlands down the left side of the fairway.

View from the 4th fairway. Your second shot should be aimed to the right side of the fairway at the top of the hill.

View from the 5th tee of the 4th green to the right, looking back down the fourth fairway. Notice the woods lining the side of the fairway.

The easiest hole is the 10th hole, a par 3, 130 yards. The view to the green is great with a cliff to the left of the green. I remember once hitting a shot that hit the cliff, sailed high and ended up about two feet from the hole. I mentioned this recently to Ned Murray, present assistant, and he said that last year the same thing happened, but the player made a hole in one!

View of the 10th green, cliff to the left.

The most scenic hole, in my view, is the 12th hole a par 4, 386 yards with great views of the surrounding terrain. On the way to the tee walking down from the 11th green and the tower the view of the Boston skyline and Revere Beach is wonderful. The old 12th tee was set on a cliff and the hole was a "dogleg" left, but the City of Melrose contracted with the Boston "Big Dig" contractors to dump most of the big dig tunnel fill off the cliff and above it and to the right, which has changed the hole to a straight shot. It definitely is worth the short walk to the old tee area to observe the amount of fill dumped and to enjoy the view.

View of the new 12th hole a relatively straight shot from tee to green thanks to the "Big Dig" fill.

If you like to golf and want to have a great round, definitely plan to visit Mount Hood. Taking a cart is probably a good idea, but you can get some great exercise by walking the course.

History information acquired from Melrose Library research room.

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