We’re deep into mid-summer and the best way to enjoy the warmth of the sun, as the Beachboys still sing about, is to play 18 and then head to the beach for some rays before sitting down for a few cocktails and some seafood at one of the many restaurants and lobster shanties that dot the New England coastline.
While anywhere in New England is never very far away from the waves of the Atlantic, we’ve line up a list of courses that are located only minutes away from the surf and sand. Plan a weekend or a week around these daily fee gems, lounge on the beach before or after and work on that tan. Hurry up, summer goes fast in these parts.
Maine’s Northern De-Lights
Nonesuch and Dunegrass golf clubs in southern Maine make for a great one-two combination.
Nonesuch, located in Scarborough, was designed by Tom Walker, who was a longtime course architect with Gary Player Design. This is a forgiving course that offers golfers the opportunity to play a layout set in its natural surroundings of a mature forest with many ponds, ravines and the Nonesuch River.
The scenic, 6,300-yard, par-70 Nonesuch layout, while not long, demands thoughtful approaches to each hole and accurate placement off the tee and on shots to the greens. Proper club selection is a must, as is the ability to chip and putt around and on the undulating greens. There are plenty of bunkers in the fairways and around the greens.
Dan Maples brought a down-home feeling to Maine when he designed Old Orchard Beach’s Dunegrass, for there is a distinct Carolina feel to the 6,684-yard, par-71 course that features sandy waste areas and pine needled rough. The course, which opened for play in 1998, sprawls over 300 acres.
Boothbay Country Club in Boothbay is a challenging course from the back tees and yet very enjoyable and playable for the average golfer from the friendlier middle and forward tees. The towering pines and rolling fairways here are a picturesque setting for what many consider some of the best greens in Maine.
The Stiles/Van Kleek-designed course, built in 1927, was increased to 18 holes in 1999, and the original rustic log cabin still houses the pro shop and Grille Room Restaurant, with its panoramic view of the emerald green valley below.
Cape Cod’s Courses Beckon
Cape Cod is also a wonderful venue for summer golf. Starting at Bourne and ranging to Truro, the Cape boasts a wide variety of layouts–from high-end daily fee clubs to little nine-hole gems that never fail to delight.
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.
Up Rt. 6 a bit from Sandwich Hollows is the Yarmouth’s 45-hole facility that includes 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. This is a true “championship” layout that can be stretched to almost 7,200 yards. The track features seven par-fours of over 400 yards and three par-threes over 200 yards, including the monstrous 241-yard 17th hole. Number four is a good par-four, playing around 400 yards with water guarding the right side of the fairway landing area and the front of the green.
The Links 9 was opened in 1999 and is a fun course. 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 solid shot over water to reach a medium size green.
In contrast to the modern look of Bayberry Hills, Bass River Golf Club offers a 100-year-old course that the legendary Donald Ross renovated and expanded in 1914. The layout rolls 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 three par that plays across the river. The layout is on the short side, but the holes demand good shot making and a deft touch around the greens, a Ross trademark.
The Captains Golf Course is Brewster offers two distinct 18-hole layouts. The club bills itself as the Cape’s premier public golf facility. The conditioning here is always top notch, the golf is challenging and scenic, there are two practice greens and a driving range, a restaurant, a staff that is always available for lessons, and a fully-stocked pro shop.
The two courses–The Port and The Starboard–are solid routings. The Port 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. Perhaps the best 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,” with wide fairways and large greens and fewer bunkers than its sister track, which makes it more suitable for seniors and mid handicappers. Number 18 is a great finishing hole, a 534-yard par-five that can be reached in two by big hitters.
Quashnet Valley Country Club in Mashpee is considered one of Cape Cod’s true gems.
The 6,601-yard, par-72 championship layout offers an approachable routing for all golfers, yet one that can be tricky and baffle the best players. A number of the holes are lined with waste areas or wetlands, which means you’d better keep the ball straight off the tee if you want to enjoy your round.
The seventh hole is a great par-five, playing 525 yards from the tips and big hitters can get on or close to the putting surface in two shots with a big drive. But water runs almost all the way down to the green on the left side and the fairway is somewhat narrow.
Waverly Oaks Golf Club in Plymouth, a town that is considered part of “the old Cape,” has 27 holes of great golf.
The Championship Course is a test but it won’t beat you up. The 251-yard 17th, perhaps the most difficult short hole in the region, demands a lusty tee shot over a waste area and a yawning bunker that sits some 15 feet below the putting surface.
The club’s Challenger Course is super for beginners and high-handicappers. The layout plays only 2,264 yards from the back and is a par-33. Conditions on the Challenger track are just as good as on the Championship Course.
Rhode Island Beauties
Rhode Island is rich with great golf courses that beckon to players from all around southern New England and beyond.
Meadow Brook Golf Course in Richmond sits on the site of a former nine-hole layout that Roger Rulewich and David Fleury, along with hands-on owners Pete Hendrick and son Jay, turned into a fine 18-hole daily fee course that already rivals some of the best layouts in Rhode Island despite only being open since early 2010.
Meadow Brook can play as the longest course in the region, topping out at around 7,500 yards from the tips, although four other markers and expansive teeing areas allow players of all abilities to test it out.
Located just a few minutes from the Rhode Island beaches, Meadow Brook was built to be a modern golf classic imbued with classic virtues, and is routed over rolling terrain and through large stands of pine trees, the latter feature dominating holes on a sensational back nine, where water also comes into play.
Not far from Meadow Brook is Richmond Country Club, located in the pine forests of the town it takes its name from, which is reminiscent of Carolina courses because of the tall pines and the rather flat terrain over which the track is routed. The pines frame each hole and make the tee shot crucial to playing the holes well. The course is not particularly long from the member’s tees but can stretch to almost 6,900 yards for the best players.
The finisher is a par-four that demands a tee shot through the pines to get in position for a wedge shot to a green that sits by the only water on the course.
About a half hour from Richmond is Exeter Country Club in the small town of Exeter. This is another well-maintained layout that is more of a parkland routing with some holes passing through stands of trees.
The course can stretch to almost 7,000 yards from the back tees, although the play for most is the middle tees that measure 6,406 yards. There are just enough bunkers to keep your attention on approach shots and the greens are true and medium in size.
The par-threes at Exeter are all on the beefy side, none more so than the 231-yard 17th that demands a fairway wood from the back tees to reach the putting surface. The seventh hole is a long, demanding par-four. Until Meadow Brook opened in 2010, Exeter’s seventh was rated the toughest par-four in the state of Rhode Island. Holes eight through 10 ask for length off the tee, as the brace of par-fours play over 400 yards.
Just north Newport, in Middleton, is Newport National Golf Club, one of the finest layouts in the region.
Routed on 200 acres of a former orchard and designed by Arthur Hills and his associate Drew Rogers, Newport National has an Irish or Scottish links flavor to it, with wide open fairways, tall fescue that grows off the short grass, lots of bunkers, and greens that allow for run up shots. It really is one of the more beautiful and well-maintained tracks in New England, it offers sweeping vistas of The Sakonnet Passage, the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay.
Newport National features greens, tees and fairways consisting of 100 percent seaside bent grass. The wind often blows off the water, making Newport National play like a true seaside links course. The track plays 7,244 yards from the back markers and has a slope of 138. There are four other sets of tees that make the course playable for golfers of all abilities.
Connecticut’s Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton, built in 1898, is as close to a true links course as you will find in the Nutmeg State. The layout rambles over mostly flat land and has the design features–pot bunkers, tall fescue grass off the fairways and even three holes on or near the ocean, albeit Long Island Sound–that are hallmarks of links courses. When the wind blows hard at Shenny it can bend the flagsticks and make some par-fours impossible to reach in two.
The “new” holes at Shenny, originally designed by Ross, are 15, 16 and 17, with the 16th, a 400-yard par-four, finishing on a green that lies within a chip shot of Long Island Sound, offering stunning views of the water. The finishing hole, a 500-yard par-five, is a strong way to end a round. It’s a classic links style hole that has fairway bunkers and plays up a hill over open ground and then down to a green protected by more bunkers.
Norwich Golf Club in Norwich is a delightfully funky layout that is short on distance (6,183 yards from the tips) but long on character and challenge, as its slope of 129 indicates. The tricky course, also credited to Donald Ross, is always in splendid condition and worth a play. The greens are on the small side and some are pushed up, so chipping well is essential to a good score.
Elmridge Golf Club in Pawcatuck has 27 holes of solid golf. The par-threes are strengths of the layout and several measure close to or over 200 yards. One of the best par-fives on the course is the 525-yard (back tees) seventh on the Blue Course. The hole bends slightly to the right and a good drive will leave you with a shot to go for the green in two. But there are bunkers guarding the putting surface and the green is elevated.
The only par-five on the Red Nine, the 501-yard fourth, is reachable in two for big hitters, and the ninth hole, a 278-yard par-four, has a green attainable with a lusty drive.
Fox Hopyard Golf Club in East Haddam, designed by Roger Rulewich, is considered one of the premier daily fee layouts in southern New England. The club offers a blend of challenging golf, first-class customer care and a setting that is difficult to beat.
There isn’t a weak hole at Fox Hopyard. At almost 7,000 yards from the back markers, which carry a slope rating of 136, the par-71 course offers a stern test for even the best players. But five sets of tees allow the track to be enjoyed by golfers of all abilities.
The 18th is a superb finishing hole. At 551 yards it is best navigated in three shots, as a pond stands to the right side of the hole from about 150 yards and hugs the putting surface.
Rhode Island Courses
Meadow Brook Golf Course, www.MeadowBrookGolfRI.com
Richmond Country Club (www.RichmondCountryClub.com)
Exeter CC (www.ExeterCC.com)
Newport National GC (www.NewportNational.com)
Nonesuch GC (www.NonesuchGolf.com)
Dunegrass GC (www.Dunegrass.com)
Boothbay CC (www.BoothbayCountryClub.com)
Cape Cod Courses
Sandwich Hollows (www.SandwichHollows.com)
Bayberry Hills GC (www.GolfYarmouthCapeCod.com)
Bass River GC (www.GolfYarmouthCapeCod.com)
The Captains GC (www.CaptainsGolfCourse.com)
Quashnet Valley CC (www.QuashnetValley.com)
Waverly Oaks GC (www.WaverlyOaksGolfClub.com)
Elmridge GC (www.ElmridgeGolf.com)
Fox Hopyard GC (www.GolfTheFox.com)
Norwich GC (www.NorwichGolf.com)
Shennecossett GC (www.ShennyGolf.com)