Golf on Cape Cod offers numerous opportunities to play challenging and pristine public courses that are within a 30-minute drive of the Winstead Inn and Beach Resort.
Cranberry Valley Golf Course in Harwich, just a few minutes’ drive from our Harwich hotels, ranks as one of Cape Cod’s finest public layouts. From the superb practice facility, intriguing design and pristine course condition to the scenic cranberry bogs, spacious restaurant and outside porch, everything is top notch.
There are stimulating, short par 4s, demanding par 3s and a memorable double-dogleg par 5 as the finishing hole. Cranberry Valley was named a top-50 public course in the country by Golf Digest magazine in 1984.
What many golfers remember are the three finishing holes, which comprise perhaps the most difficult completion to any public course on the Cape. Imagine walking to the 16th tee with the chance to shoot a career score. Here’s what you’ll face: a monster 443-yard par 4 that usually plays into the wind; a 205-yard par 3 that is all carry to an elevated green; and a horseshoe-shaped, double-dogleg par 5 that requires enough power to clear the corner, and enough finesse to place your iron to a narrow landing area on your second shot. Three vastly different holes. Three marvelous challenges.
If you’re seeking a more laidback experience, Harwich Port Golf Club offers nine holes of straightforward golf in a casual setting. Located within walking distance of the Beach Resort, this course is ideal for the beginning golfer or someone looking to sneak in a quick round in under two hours. The beautifully maintained course has seven par 4s and two par 3s, none especially lengthy or overly demanding.
A short drive away in Brewster is the only public facility on Cape Cod that features 36 holes. At The Captains Golf Course, you can choose between the Starboard course, which includes eight of the original holes from when the club opened in 1985, and the slightly more challenging Port, featuring a collection of difficult doglegs and outstanding par 4s.
Higher handicappers tend to gravitate toward the Starboard for its straightforward layout, as opposed to the Port’s handful of gimmicky holes.
Still, the Port is more of a test. The layout is defined by its par 5s, which are rated the first, second, fourth and fifth toughest holes on the course.
The Starboard demands accuracy off the tee to avoid the ever-present pine trees, thoughtful approaches and the ability to work the ball in different directions.
The par 3 second was considered the signature hole on the original course. It plays 162 yards downhill (take one fewer club) to a green framed by bunkers.
There are two municipal courses in Dennis. At the Dennis Pines, every aspect of your game will be tested. From the back tees, the Pines plays to more than 7,000 yards. It’s no picnic from the gold markers at 6,500, either.
The par 4s are demanding, while the 12th hole is considered by many the toughest par 5 on the Cape. The three-hole stretch that begins the back nine is the Pines’ version of Augusta National’s Amen Corner. Complete that trio without a high number and you have reason to feel proud.
Playing Dennis Highlands is like riding a roller coaster. You could ski on some of the fairways, while the greens have more twists and turns than a Shakespearean tragedy. Flat lies are merely a rumor. The terrain ebbs and flows like a shaky penny stock.
But there’s good news: You shouldn’t lose many golf balls.
On virtually every hole you can miss the fairway and play from amongst the trees. Or you can play from an adjoining fairway. Many of the Highlands’ holes run parallel to each other, with little obstruction in between.
The Highlands is all about the approach to those greens and then figuring out how to get the ball into the hole. The greens slope here, there and everywhere, with steep dips that makes it essential to land your ball on the proper side of the pin.
In West Yarmouth is Bayberry Hills Golf Course, where you can play the championship tees at a beefy 7,172 yards. Each hole is tree lined and set in splendid isolation from the remainder of the course, which is well bunkered with soft, expansive greens. The facility also features a superb three-tiered, all-grass driving range and one of the largest practice greens anywhere. The new nine-hole links course will take you to Scotland.
And speaking of Scotland, anyone golfing the Cape should treat themselves to a round at historic Highland Links Golf Course in Truro, which Alistair Cooke once called “the perfect example of British or Scottish links in the United States.”
Built in 1892, it is Cape Cod’s oldest course – and looks every bit its age. You won’t find a fancy clubhouse or oak-lined grille room, just a basic snack bar. There isn’t an elaborate practice facility, either, just a small putting green. And it’s only nine holes that measure out at barely more than 2,500 yards. But if you love golf history, you’ll quickly understand that simplicity is the point.
The wind howls and swirls and creates havoc with club selection. Trees? There aren’t any. But there’s heather, fescue, wildflowers, shrubby pine and bunkers deep as craters. There are also stunning views from windswept bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Along the way you will play shots toward historic Cape Cod Light, which guards the green at the par 3 seventh hole. Even though you might stumble a bit with a bogey or two, you will find it difficult to become disenchanted while strolling across such a unique course.
The course closes with the spectacular ninth, with its tee box just a few feet from the rear door of the Truro Historical Museum. Only 136 yards, this hole has been ranked by national magazines as one of the world’s greatest par 3s. It’s a great way to end your Cape Cod golf experience.
All photos via Facebook.