After playing disc golf in Massachusetts for four full years, I finally had the chance to play Tully Lake. Located in Royalston, MA around the periphery of a lake/dam, it is actually one of a handful of courses in MA that incorporate a dam into the layout. Tully, however, does the best job of this by far.
When you arrive, and walk from the parking area a few yards to the first tee pad, you’re faced with a momentous first drive. Essentially throwing your disc down onto a valley floor that has water bordering the entire left side and OB on the deep right side. It isn’t a postage stamp green, but until you’ve thrown your first attempt, it’s a tough proposition to imagine the ideal route to the basket. The front 9 has some shorty holes that you could complain about if you don’t like short shots, but they’re offset by a pair of long par 3’s and a challenging par 4 (hole 8).
The real teeth and grit of Tully though in my opinion come from holes 10 and 12. Hole 10 is one of the toughest holes I’ve played in a long time. It plays down a dirt road, which doesn’t sound very threatening until you actually see the embankments and trees to either side. If you happen to throw your disc off of this road, you’re looking at scoring a 6, 7, or even an 8. There is just no easy way out of the rough to either side- metaphorically speaking it feels like you’re playing down a “tight-rope” to the basket at the bottom of the hill/road. This is the kind of hole that would eat you alive if you never played or saw it prior to a tournament round. When you complete hole 10, you soon find yourself at hole 12, which is a tough par 4 through very thick trees. There is still a fairway, but the basic layout of this hole is deceiving and I’m guessing people can get into big trouble if they kick left. Even though it doesn’t look thick and bushy, there are very few to no good lanes to the basket from the left side.
It would be impossible to talk about how great Tully Lake DGC is without mentioning their tee pads. They’re built with cement pavers and timber frames that are, for the most part, leveled with the ground. This eliminates the possibility of tripping off the end of the box if you’re getting a running start. They are all well built, grippy, and a real pleasure to throw a drive from. Personally, I think tee pads are more important than baskets (Tully has the highly visible yellow-banded Discatchers) and other courses would do well to imitate the method that they used to build these. They are simply pavers and frames, so you don’t have to consider them a permanent fixture and you can even choose an environmentally cohesive color to blend them in with the rest of the course.
As a disclaimer, I’ve only played one full round at Tully to date. I’m not an expert on all the subtle ways to throw a good round. I’m not familiar with former layouts and old hole locations (it has changed quite a bit in the past year or two). However, it’s something to be said that I already want to go back, despite the two hour drive, and play this course again and again- considering the fact that there are probably 15 other courses between where I live and Tully Lake. My recommendation for anyone within a 2 hour radius, even a 3 hour radius- get out and throw a round at Tully. It’s a great course that offers enjoyable, rewarding and challenging shots.