Cape Cod, with its islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, is one of the country’s most popular vacation playgrounds and for many good reasons. Possessing miles of beach front, incomparable seafood, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, cranberry bogs, and many historical sites and landmarks, the Cape is a unique destination. Moreover, few regions in the world can compare with Cape Cod’s wealth of golf courses, numbering more than 40 and with most of them open to the public.
Playing golf on the Cape and the Islands is a special treat for me, and I have a relatively short list of venues that have provided me with hours of challenge and entertainment. I enjoy five archetypal Geoffrey Cornish designs that are delightfully different. The town of Hyannis offers both Hyannis GC and Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds GC. Easy to get to and fun to play, they sport individual characteristics of their own and force you to plan each shot carefully from tee to fairway to green. The layouts are a pleasant combination of elevation changes and doglegs, and the large, rolling greens place a premium on chipping and putting.
Worthy of mention at this point is the Cape & Islands Golf Shop located in Hyannis, the Cape’s only comprehensive retail golf location. The selection of major brands of woods, irons, wedges, putters, balls, and accessories is impressive, and the shop professionals know their business. Custom club fitting is available and reasonable. I recommend a visit when you are looking to improve your game and equipment.
Blue Rock Golf Resort and Bayberry Hills GC in Yarmouth present two different opportunities. Blue Rock is an award-winning, challenging, 18-hole, par-3 golf course that is meticulously maintained and has gently undulating, fast, bent-grass greens. The holes range from 103 to 255 yards and require the use of all 14 clubs in the bag. The course rating is 56.4 for men and 55.8 for women, a compelling indication that the layout is no pushover. Golf Magazine has named Blue Rock as a “Top 10 Par-3 Course.”
Bayberry Hills includes three 9-hole courses, Red, White, and Blue, each one playing from 2600-3600 yards on four sets of tees. A classic golf course in design, the layout necessitates accuracy off the tee, proper positioning with irons, and keeping the ball “on the ground” around the greens to get it close to the pin. For my fifth Cornish course, I’m off to Farm Neck GC on an early morning Hy-Line High- Speed Ferry from Hyannis to Martha’s Vineyard and make a day of it. Few courses in New England inspire me as much as Farm Neck not only because of the exceptional layout but also because of the beautiful setting along the coastline of Nantucket Sound.
A Geoffrey Cornish disciple and renowned architect in his own right, Brian Silva designed the award-winning 36-hole Captains Golf Course in Brewster. The Starboard Course and The Port Course, both par 72’s, have each hole named after a Brewster sea captain of the early 1800’s and are both excellent championship layouts in outstanding condition. Starboard with a CR of 71.5 is a little easier of the two and favored by higher handicappers; Port has a CR of 72.1 and demands length off the tee plus accurate irons. Holes 12-17 are a superb six-hole stretch.
Another Cornish/Silva tour de force is Cranberry Valley in Harwich, one of the Cape’s most popular and challenging courses. Given “4 Stars” by Golf Digest and annually voted one of the Cape’s best, the bent-grass course is usually in excellent shape and wends its way through marshes and cranberry bogs. Fairways are treelined, water hazards present some problems, and sand bunkers are strategically placed throughout. Cranberry Valley has one of the best practice areas you will find anywhere. Two more special courses come courtesy of the Town of Dennis with Dennis Pines and Dennis Highlands. Always voted one of the best public courses in New England, Dennis Pines can play to 7029 yards from the tips, and holes 10-12 comprise its “Amen Corner” and a true test of your mettle. The Highlands has generous fairways, but the greens are large and rolling and require a deft touch to make par. Both put a premium of immaculate conditioning and customer service.
Another favorite of mine is the semi-private Ballymeade CC in Falmouth. In 2006, Ballymeade, designed by Jim Fazio and Chi Chi Rodriguez, was voted as one of the “Best Places to Play” by Golf Digest. This modern-style track follows the rolling countryside and includes multiple- tiered tees and greens. Several holes overlook Buzzards Bay, especially the par-3 eleventh. Ballymeade also has a large practice facility. Other Cape Cod courses that deserve your attention are the following: The Brookside Club in Bourne, Twin Brooks in Hyannis, Bass River in Yarmouth, Cape Cod CC in East Falmouth, Falmouth CC, Miacomet GC on Nantucket, Paul Harney Golf Club in Falmouth, Quashnet Valley in Mashpee, and Sandwich Hollows.