We try and get up to Cape Cod early each October. It’s a special time of year on this peninsula that juts out into the North Atlantic like a defiant arm.
“The Cape” gets five million visitors a year, but most of them come during the summer months. Thus, early autumn is an ideal time to visit; the big crowds are gone, most of the restaurants and other attractions remain open, and the traffic is more than bearable, especially when you stay as we do in Wellfleet, two towns down from the very outer tip of Cape Cod.
We rent a cottage in the dunes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and it is indeed a magical place, watching the sunrise out of the water early each morning, and sitting on the deck in the late afternoon with a refreshment and snacks nearby, catching a glimpse of a pod of seals as they frolic in the surf off the beach below. No television. No radio. No distractions, only the sound of the waves crashing and sea birds cavorting about during the year’s last few days of real warmth.
Fall on Cape Cod is delightful time weather wise. Because of the Gulf Stream on its right and the Cape Cod Bay on the left side of the Cape, the land is warmed by the ocean, making October and even November often feel more like spring than autumn.
For amusement, enjoy the miles and miles of sandy beaches, little lobster shanties and world class restaurants, whale watches, strolls through nature preserves, the Rail Trail where bicyclists can ride in peace for miles, and the beauty and educational experience of the National Seashore. You can also amble about the area’s small towns that are filled with art galleries and boutiques.
While we mostly eschew television and radio, opting for good old-fashioned book instead, I do bring along my laptop to do a little work, as well as to follow to some degree the Major League playoffs. I mean, can’t go cold turkey on technology. And, my wife allows me to bring along my sticks, which I manage to use several times during the vacation.
Mild days and cool nights conspire to help the golf courses turf green and lush, even after such a brutally hot summer. The slower pace of fall on the Cape also means you don’t have to fight for tee times, which makes for a relaxed approach to the game we all love. And remember, all the golf you could want is located within an hour or two drive from wherever you bunk down for the night.
If you haven’t been to Cape Cod for an autumn golf trip this is the year to do it. You won’t be disappointed.
Here are some of the best courses to test on your Cape Cod trip.
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 yards from the tips, 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 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.
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, 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 fun layout to play, with its wide open fairways, solid par-threes and exposure to the Cape’s wind, which makes the course play 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 an accurate shot over water to reach the green.
Bass River is a 100-plus-year-old course that the legendary Donald Ross renovated and expanded in 1914. The layout 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 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 good short game, a typical Donald Ross demand on the player.
Two Great Courses Make Barnstable
a Must Visit
Fall on Cape Cod is one of the sweetest times of the year to enjoy the game in a relaxed, picturesque setting.
Barnstable Golf Director of Golf, Bruce McIntyre comments, “It’s an excellent time of year to come to the Cape to play golf. Golfers will find off season rates at a number of terrific Cape Cod layouts, hotels, restaurants, and gift shops. Course conditions are excellent in the fall. It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and all that the Cape has to offer at value rates.”
Barnstable Golf features 36 holes of incredible Cape Cod golf. Located in the charming town are two of the best courses in the area, Hyannis Golf Course, located in Hyannis, and Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds, located in Marston Mills. Both courses embody all the best qualities of Cape Cod golf.
Home to the Cape Cod Open and the 2015 Cape Cod PGA Championship, Hyannis Golf Course sits at the geographical center of Cape Cod, just minutes from downtown Hyannis, the Barnstable Airport and the Ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The course plays to a par of 71 and features the area’s best practice facility, including a 55-station practice range and two practice greens.
In addition to being a wonderfully fun layout, Hyannis Golf Course is well known for having greens as nice as you’ll find anywhere—including those at private facilities. The putting surfaces are consistent, fast, and smooth and are a big reason HGC is one of the finest golf experiences Cape Cod has to offer.
Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds was formerly home to the Barnstable County Fair, which is what gives it its name. The course first opened in 1992 and quickly became one of the most popular in the area. Along with Hyannis, it is one of two municipal courses in the area for members to enjoy. The Mark Mungeam-designed gem continues to be on the “must play” list of avid golfers each year.
The walkable layout in the country features four sets of tees, ample landing areas, and large receptive, well bunkered greens. There is a large spacious clubhouse that houses a well stocked golf shop and restaurant with a deck overlooking the course and neighboring grass airport. www.BarnstableGolf.com
Visit www.CapeCodChamber.org for
individual course website information.