Fine driving on the farm; Blissful Meadows blends nice scenery with quality.
UXBRIDGE - When the property taxes on his 125-acre dairy farm soared 700 percent in one year in the late 1980s, Gordon Bliss decided to get rid of his horses, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and hogs and build a golf course instead.
By converting his property to recreation use, Bliss received a 75 percent tax break, and golfers ended up with a fun place to play designed by Brian Silva.
Blissful Meadows Golf Club opened nine holes in 1992 and the second nine three years later, but Bliss made sure the club kept the feel of a New England farm. The 1880 Victorian barn was renovated into the clubhouse topped by a cupola, a small dome-like structure used as a lookout and to remove heat. The tee markers are miniature cupolas.
To maintain a New England farm theme and create interest in holding functions at his club beyond golf, Bliss displays such antique farm machinery as a 1906 horse-drawn potato digger from Maine. On weekends, Bliss displays his antique Ford automobiles, including a 1925 Model T Touring Car, a 1930 Model A Roadster and a 1930 Model A Four-Door Country Sedan.
"We're selling New England here, and it's worked," Bliss said.
Bliss and his wife Jean live next to the clubhouse in a house built in 1745 and work the club with four of their seven children, two sons-in-law, and seven grandchildren. A drawing for a free family membership, a $4,400 value, will be held on Friday to celebrate the couple's 50th wedding anniversary.
The signature par-3 13th hole was built on top of the abandoned Scadden Silver Mine, which didn't produce much silver in the 1830s, but did add a lot of history to the golf course.
Blissful has undergone a few changes over the past couple of years. Two decks with nine tables were added to the clubhouse. A second and third bunker were dug on the inside of the dogleg on the par-5 third hole to make it more difficult. Rough on the left side of the first green and to the right of the third green was cut to provide bail out areas. Irrigation was expanded to prevent the left side of the fairway on the par-4 12th from burning out and the hill behind the green on the par-3 13th was seeded and sodded to keep balls from rolling onto the green.
Blissful isn't long, but it's not easy. From the white tees, it's 6,222 yards, but the slope is 71.3 and the rating 131.
The front nine is all about positioning yourself off the tee to set up your approach to the green. Don't just grab your driver and bomb it. A tee shot of 180 yards from the whites on the 325-yard, dogleg-left first hole leaves you about 130 yards to the green.
Blissful's greens are in good shape and sloped severely, usually from back to front.
On the sharp dogleg-right, 312-yard, par-4 seventh hole, you need a tee shot of only 170 yards or so to set up your approach. Even if you don't reach the woods, you could be too far right or left to set up a straight shot to the green. You could try to drive the green, but you'd have to hit over trees that block your view. A pond and bunker to the right of the green create trouble as well.
The two par 3s on the front are only 148 and 132 yards from the white tees. The two on the back are a bit longer, 155 and 176 yards, but the greens are undulated and surrounded by bunkers. The par-3 15th hole has a covered bridge over a brook. All of the par 3s have helpful in-ground yardage markers.
The longest par 4 on the front side is only 368 yards from the white tees, and the only par 4 on the back longer than 375 is the 398-yard, par-4 18th. But water comes into play on 10 holes, and there are plenty of doglegs and bunkers.
Blissful is a bargain Monday through Thursday, when it costs only $32 to walk 18 holes or $49 to ride 18 holes with lunch - a sandwich, chips, brownie and drink. It's the same price whether you take the lunch or not. On Fridays, it costs $42 to walk and $59 for the lunch special, and on weekends, it's $51 to walk and $69 for the lunch special.
To keep up the pace of play, four rangers work on weekends and one or two during the week. The clocks on each tee that warn golfers to stay on pace for rounds of four hours and 36 minutes had been removed due to water damage the recent weekday our twosome played, but we finished in less than four hours.
Blissful is a popular place. Signing up 1,500 members to a free loyalty program has the club on pace to increase its number of rounds over last year, when it generated its most golf revenue ever.
ART: PHOTO; CHART
PHOTOG: (PHOTO) T&G Staff/JIM COLLINS; (CHART) T&G Staff
CUTLINE: (PHOTO) John Lefrancois of Providence salutes his tee ball, which landed on the green of the 13th hole at Blissful Meadows Golf Course in Uxbridge. (CHART) Blissful Meadows Golf Club