If you like to mix soft autumn ocean breezes, some of the best seafood restaurants in New England, and lounging on nearly vacant stretches of sand with your golf, then we’ve got just the place for you; Cape Cod.
Fall really is a special time of year on this peninsula that juts out into the North Atlantic. “The Cape” gets millions of visitors a year, but most of them come during the summer months, which makes early autumn an ideal time to visit. Those big crowds and traffic jams are gone, most of the restaurants and other attractions remain open, such as the National Seashore and its wonderful visitor’s center and a number of other wildlife sanctuaries, where there are miles of walking trails. It’s easy to find suitable accommodations, whether it be on the ocean or bay side of the Cape. While inland areas of New England start to feel the chill of mid-October and early November, Cape Cod is still warmed by the ocean, making autumn days feel more like late-summer on many occasions. Indeed, if there is no snow, you can play golf on the Cape through winter.
Those mild days and cool nights conspire to help the golf courses turf stay green and lush, even after a 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. And remember, all the golf you could want is located within an hour or two drive from wherever you bunk down for the night.
Here are some of the best courses to test on your autumn Cape Cod road trip.
Yarmouth is home to 45 holes of great golf that encompasses the Bayberry Hills Golf Course, The Links 9, and Bass River Golf Course (www.GolfYarmouth.com).
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.
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 (www.CaptainsGolfCourse.com) 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.
Cranberry Valley Golf Course (www.CranberryGolfCourse.com), 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 two of the best courses on the Cape.
Dennis Highlands (www.DennisGolf.com) 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 (www.DennisGolf.com) 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.
Sandwich Hollows Golf Club (www.sandwichhollows.com) 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.
Visit www.CapeCodChamber.org for more information.