Granite Links and Boston's Big Dig

To some it might have seemed an impossible task; transform two large, old municipal landfills and former granite quarries near downtown Boston into an award-winning golf course. But for architect John Sanford, the opportunity was one he couldn't pass up.

A key to the site’s development centered on using soils being excavated from tunnels in Boston's "Big Dig," the state's 15-year, $24-billion road infrastructure makeover of the city's main thoroughfares.

"In this profession it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Sanford said. "The stars had to align, and the timing had to be perfect. The project was immensely expensive, so if the dirt had not been available, the project would never have happened."

The state's initial plan was to dispose of the material dug out of the tunnels at sites much further away and at great expense. By making the future golf course site a repository for the 900,000 truckloads of 13 million tons of material just seven miles from the epicenter of the Big Dig, it became a unique way to save the taxpayers money, cap the current landfills and reclaim wasted acreage, converting the site into a true asset for Quincy, Milton and the entire Greater Boston community.

Granite Links' construction required additional engineering that golf course architects don't usually get involved with in designing courses. Sanford said, "The project required 74 permits from local, state, and federal agencies. It was just an incredible opportunity. It started from the macro approach, with steep landfill domes," he said. "We had to create a golf course on these steep slopes." Sanford applied the wedding cake theory, where the massive material from the Big Dig was used to terrace off the side slopes of the landfill domes. "When you get into closing landfills and transforming them into a golf course you must deal with the engineering minutiae of settling issues, layering issues, and venting of the methane gases," he said "I happen to enjoy that level of detail so we dove right in."

The effort by Sanford and Granite Links Golf Club officials was singled out recently by the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) for a prestigious award in its inaugural Design Excellence Recognition Program. The award salutes outstanding effort that "shines a light on the innovation and problem-solving skills required of today's golf course designs."

Granite - Our Great Foundation

Quincy's story is, quite literally, "as old as the hills." Deep in the geologic past, as continents collided, mountains rose up and were folded; under intense pressure, igneous rock was crystallized into granite. The gray stone ledges that eventually emerged in Quincy after millennia of erosion contained some of the highest quality granite in the world, prized for its hardness and durability.

Quincy's granite industry was famous the world over, with many of America's most prominent statues and monuments sculpted from granite quarried here. In fact, the first commercial railroad in America was founded in Quincy in 1826 to transport Quincy granite to Charlestown for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. (Click to read more on the Granite Railway.) Quincy's granite industry also played a role in the city's population growth, as immigrants from Finland, Sweden, Italy and other countries settled here to work in the quarries. So prolific was the Quincy granite industry that at one point there were nearly two dozen granite quarries operating in the city. Following World War II, new, cheaper building materials led to a decline in the granite industry, with the last quarry closing in the 1960s. Yet the artistry and craftsmanship of those early stonecutters who made the term "Quincy Granite" synonymous with superior quality can still be seen in such monuments as Bunker Hill and the Titanic Memorial.

Today, visitors can see portions of the original 1826 granite railway, while the quarries themselves are popular with hikers and rock climbers. Several of the former quarries have also been filled and reshaped into the new Granite Links Golf Club.