One of the most enjoyable places to be in New England during the autumn is on “Olde” Cape Cod.
Sure, summertime is fun as well. But, during the fall the crowds thin out, which allows you to walk the stunning beaches of the National Seashore, and elsewhere, in near solitude. Most of the restaurants remain open at least until mid- to late-October and the weather continues to be mild well into leaf peeping time because of the ocean currents from the ever-present Atlantic Ocean. If the winter is on the mild side, many of the golf courses remain open through the year. But we are talking about autumn, and the layouts are in the best shape they have been in since the warming rays of spring began to hit their fairways and greens in April.
Listen, head to Cape Cod for a weekend or a week and enjoy all that it has to offer, from fresh seafood served up at lobster shanties or the finest restaurants, quiet beaches and nature trails where you can walk, run or bike, whale watching, charming small towns filled with art galleries and boutiques, and all the golf you could want within an hour or two drive from wherever you base your excursion.
Here are some of the best courses to sample on your Cape Cod trip.
Sandwich Hollows Golf Club in Sandwich offers views of Cape Cod Bay to the north from several holes. The course is bordered by hundreds of acres of conservation area to the east, west and south, giving golfers the feeling of being isolated from players on other holes. Sandwich Hollows features a number of par-fours on the short side, several long par-threes, and challenging par-fives, one of which (the sixth hole) measures close to 600 yards from the tips.
In the Mid-Cape town of Brewster you will find one of the most extensive daily fee clubs in the area. The Captains Golf Course features 36 holes of superb golf on two very distinct 18-hole layouts.
The club calls itself the Cape’s premier public golf facility and few dispute the claim. The conditioning here is always excellent, the golf is challenging but approachable for players of all abilities.
The Port Course plays to a yardage of 6,724 yards and has a slope of 131 and a rating above its posted par of 72, which gives an indication of the difficulty of some of the holes. One of the best holes is the 573-yard, par-five eighth. A pond guards the putting surface and there are several large fairway bunkers to complicate matters.
The Starboard Course plays around 6,800 yards and has a slope of 122. It’s a bit more “player friendly” than its sister layout, with wider fairways, large greens, and fewer bunkers than the Port Course, which makes it more suitable for mid- and higher handicap players. Number 18 is a great finishing hole, a 534-yard par-five that can be reached in two by big hitters.
Yarmouth is home to 45 holes of great golf that encompasses the Bayberry Hills Golf Course and The Links 9 and Bass River Golf Course.
The original 18 holes at Bayberry Hills was designed by Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva and opened for play in 1986. The challenging layout can be stretched to almost 7,200 yards, and has seven par-fours of over 400 yards and three par-threes over 200 yards, including the very long 241-yard 17th hole. Number four plays around 400 yards and has water guarding the right side of the fairway landing area and the front of the green.
The Links 9, which is on the property at Bayberry, opened in 1999 and is a real neat track to play, with its wide open fairways, solid par-threes and exposure to the Cape’s wind, which makes the layout different from day to day. A number of the holes are doglegs, which makes approach shots tricky if you don’t put your tee shot in the proper position. Number nine is a 195-yard par-three that demands a true shot over water to reach a medium size green.
Bass River is a 100-plus-year-old course that the legendary Donald Ross renovated and expanded in 1914. The layout pleasingly rolls along among trees and sandy hills and features narrow fairways, small greens and views of nearby Bass River. The club’s signature hole is the sixth, a cool 169-yard par-three that plays across the river. Overall, the layout is on the short side, but the holes demand good shot making and a slick touch around the tricky greens, a Ross trademark.
Cranberry Valley Golf Course, located in Harwich, is a well maintained course that features a superb routing that flows easily over beautiful terrain, which includes marshes and, of course, a few cranberry bogs.
Cranberry Valley isn’t overly long, 6,745, but there are a number of dogleg holes that add invisible yardage and demand proper club selection and shot placement off the tee. Par is 72, with the course rated 73.4 and a slope of 133 from the back tees. Most of the course’s par-fours measure less than 400 yards, including the 309-yard 15th, which is approachable off the tee for the long hitters. All of the par-fives, except for perhaps the 18th hole, are reachable in two for the bombers. The par-threes are very demanding, none more so than the next last hole, a brutal 229-yarder.
The town of Dennis has great beaches, theater, and dining, as well as two of the best courses on the Cape.
Dennis Highlands is situated on 175 acres of pine and oak forest on the north side of Dennis. Designed by Jack Kidwell and Mike Hurdzan and opened for play in 1984, Dennis Highlands is considered by some to be one of the “crown jewels” in the traditional list of fine Cape Cod golf courses. It boasts a spectacular practice range and offers a visually enjoyable golf experience.
Dennis Pines is located on 170 acres of pine forestland in East Dennis. Designed by Henry C. Mitchell and opened for play in 1966, Dennis Pines has long been noted as one of the toughest layouts on Cape Cod. Tree-lined corridors place a great premium on accuracy rather than distance. Water comes into play on four holes, and the 12th hole is known as one of the most difficult par-fives anywhere. The Pines plays 7,029 yards from the tips and will provide the most accomplished players a true test of golf. The 10th, 11th and 12th holes are considered the Cape’s version of Augusta National’s “Amen Corner.”
Waverly Oaks Golf Club, in Plymouth, which is considered off-Cape by some but part of the historic Cape by others, is one of the more unique facilities in the New England. Not only does it boast a splendid 18-hole championship golf course it has a nine-hole “Challenger” layout that can be enjoyed by accomplished and beginning golfers alike.
Waverly Oaks’s 18-hole course offers a challenging yet approachable routing that will test but won’t beat you up. The best hole on the front side might be the 529-yard, par-five fourth, which has water guarding the green, making it risky to go for the putting surface in two. The course has very solid par-threes, three of which play over 207 yards, including the 234-yard third and the 251-yard 17th, with the latter being perhaps the most difficult short hole in the area. It demands a strong tee shot, likely with a fairway wood that must clear a waste area and a yawning bunker that sits some 15 feet below the putting surface.
The club’s Challenger Course plays only 2,264 yards from the back and is a par-33. As mentioned above, the conditions on the Challenger track are just as good as on the Championship Course.
Visit www.CapeCodChamber.org for individual course website information.