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With the uncertainty around travel this fall, we are encouraging our Mass Golfers to consider a Massachusetts Golf Staycation this year. What is a Golf Staycation? It’s using a vacation day (or several vacation days) on golf, right here in the Bay State. We can assure you that everything you enjoy about a golf trip can be experienced right here in Massachusetts.
Trip #3 – Hidden 9-Hole Gems (By: Stephen Hanjack)
Do you miss having fun on the golf course? I know I have. Lucky for me, I was able to visit 3 different courses that brought me back to enjoying the game. In my latest Staycation Adventure, I visited 3 different 9-hole courses, hidden gems if you will, on and around the Cape. I started my day driving out to Truro to play Highland Links, then worked my way down to Chatham Seaside Links before heading to play Marion Golf Club to finish the day.
My biggest takeaway from this journey is that we all need a few more 9-hole courses in our life. They are perfect in so many ways (See my list below of 15 ways to enjoy these courses) but what I found is that they are courses that every level of golfer can enjoy. For the serious, low-handicappers, you can enjoy one of the only true links golf courses in the U.S., talk a walk back in time to experience some of the wildest course design features you might ever see, or even bring 4 clubs and enjoy a simpler version of golf. For the more recreational golfers and beginners, these courses won’t eat you alive with their length or difficulty and the relaxed atmosphere makes for a more comfortable setting, which allows everyone to enjoy the game. And how can I forget about the views! All three of these courses have beautiful ocean views. In trying to find one word to describe the feeling they give you; I’ll go with Therapeutic.
To simplify everything, I chose to bring just 6 clubs, a few sleeves of balls (which needed to be reloaded after I caught a case of the rights), some tees and a towel. No rangefinder, no GPS, no unneeded clubs, just old fashion golf the way it used to be played. Hit it, go find it, and enjoy the walk along the way.
These courses are definitely worth making a day of to play, but they can also be the perfect complement to an already busy schedule. In my first two rounds of the day, I was able to play 9 holes walking in an hour and twenty minutes. Knowing that you can quickly make your way around these courses make them must-plays in my opinion. Whether you’re looking to sneak in 9 holes before work, looking to get a warm-up round in before a big match, or looking for a fun, safe activity for the family that won’t break the bank, these Hidden Gems are the perfect fit.
6 a.m. – Depart for a day of Adventure
8:30 a.m. – 9 Holes at Highland Links (Truro)
10:10 a.m. – Back on the road to Chatham
10:55 a.m. – 9 Holes at Chatham Seaside Links
12:30 p.m. – Back on the road to grab lunch & head to Marion
2:05 p.m. – 9 Holes at Marion Golf Club
4:11 p.m. – 27 Holes Completed
Cost – Highland Links ($35), Chatham Seaside Links ($22), Marion Golf Club ($16)
In all the research I have done, my understanding is that Highland Links is one of only 4 true Links Golf Courses in the United States. The other 3 all being at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort – Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Old MacDonald. It’s a 128-year-old golf course that is surrounded by some of the most scenic views you can imagine. Let’s be honest, any time you can see the ocean from a golf course, you know you’ve done well. And of course, its most iconic view is that of the historic lighthouse, which is a sightseeing destination in itself.
As someone who LOVES to watch the Open Championship each year to see golf balls race down the hard and often brown fairways, wind dictating much of the style of play, and a need for shots played along the ground, it is a treat to actually get to play that type of golf in Massachusetts. You know you’re in for a windy round when you see flagsticks that are just 3 feet tall and it’s pretty neat to wait for the cloud of dust to kick up, to know where your tee shot has landed. The wind also plays a key role in eliminating all other noises when you’re out there. It is peaceful and relaxing to be strolling along these grounds, the sun slowly rising, the ocean in site, and the wind easing your mind.
The course has a nice mix of holes, with a pair of par-5’s and three par-3’s. And while length isn’t the name of the game, you can still hit a number of drivers if you’d like. To use a borrowed phrase, it’s one of those courses where you “throw the yardages out the window” and just go hit golf shots, playing with feel rather than numbers.
Favorite Hole: Par 5 – 6th Hole – Ocean views, beautiful look at the fairway surrounded by fescue hitting back towards the iconic lighthouse. And a spot to hit a special golf ball out into the ocean if you please.
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Highland Links, first built in 1892 by Willard Small, is a gem of a 9-hole public course in Truro at the tip of Cape Cod. Grandfathered in under 60s-era federal land protections, the course sits on a pristine stretch of rolling land hard against the Atlantic coast in the shadow of the historic Highland Light, eulogized in 1865 by Henry David Thoreau’s “Cape Cod.” ————— #publicgems #highlandlight #highlandlinksgolfcourse #highlandlinksgolf #highlandgolflinks #highlandlinks #willardsmall #massachusettsgolf #9holers #9holegolf #trurogolf #capecodgolf #capecod #classicgems #henrydavidthoreau #golfcourses #golfphotos #golfcoursephotos #golfcoursephotography #golfcoursearchitecture #whyilovethisgame
Chatham Seaside Links
Another example of simple, fun, and different. A little bit shorter of a course, but one I’ll guarantee you’ll enjoy. Everyone is welcome, there is no stress and it’s the perfect place to enjoy the game with any level of player.
Having never been to this course I had no idea what to think. It has mostly shorter holes with seven par-4’s and two par-3’s, so I again stayed with just 6 clubs to lighten the load. After playing just a few holes, I knew what my biggest take away was going to be from this course – the greens. They have some of the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, yet they had some the wildest slopes, tiers and undulations you can imagine. For example, on the 6th green, the lower tier is 7 paces wide, while the top tier sits a good 3 feet above and is just 5 paces wide, and the depth of the green is no more then 6 or 7 paces. In my opinion, these wildly fun greens are what define the course. Well, that and the beautiful ocean views…especially the ones from 7 green.
For the lower handicap players, my suggestion would be to play with no more than your 200 yard club off the tee in most cases. While you could certainly reach a bunch of the greens if you wanted, I think you’ll enjoy the course more by placing in the fairway and seeing how many of these greens you could hit. I’d be willing to bet you can’t hit all 9 in regulation. For the recreational players and beginners, there is a lot of open space with a bunch of holes that run alongside each other. There are a few tough shots out there, but there is often plenty of open space to catch any misses. And hitting your shot down to the 8th green is a ton of fun – feel free to hit your putter from 60 yards out if you’d like! Again, this is one of those courses that can be enjoyed by every level of golfer.
Favorite Hole: Par 4 – 8th Hole – From the tee, you have a beautiful view of the ocean in the distance. An accurate tee shot down the middle of the fairway will leave you with a bunch of different options on your approach down to the green. Even putter is in play for your approach shot.
Marion Golf Club
The best way I could describe my last course of the day is with a term that I’ve seen somewhere before, but don’t know who to credit – “Course Design Without Rules.” This hidden gem was designed by famed architect George C. Thomas, one of his first ever designs. He went on to design Riviera CC, Los Angeles CC and Bel-Air CC among many others. You can tell that it’s a classic design because the different characteristics are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. For example, the front of every par 3 is protected by a 5ish-foot-tall stone wall. And many of the fairways have a dividing cross mound, limiting the distance your ball can go/roll on many shots. But most importantly, it is like the other courses I played on this day in one important way: It was a ton of fun! And for just $16, you’d be crazy not to play this course if you’re ever in the area.
Rather than giving a blow-by-blow of every hole out there, with all of the unique features, I’ll take the easy route and say – you just have to experience it for yourself. Go into it with the mindset of “I’m here to have some fun, hit some golf shots, see some really cool course design features, and experience some golf history along the way.” Again, staying with the theme of the day, it’s a course that can be (and is) enjoyed by every level of golfer. There is a lot of open space and a quick little peek at the boats on the bay as well.
Favorite Hole: Par 4 – 2nd Hole – This hole was described by Author Tom Coyne as “maybe one of the craziest holes I’ve ever played.” It requires a tee shot of approximately 170-190 yards to have a look at the green. Anything short or longer of that will be blocked out by the two massive pine trees protecting the sides of the green. If you hit the correct tee shot, you will likely have something around 80-120 yards in. But don’t even think about running it up, there is one of Thomas’ famed cross mounds blocking any low approaches. And then there is the green. I’ll put this up against any of the Donald Ross’ “turtle back greens” any day. It almost feels like you are playing one of the volcano holes on your favorite mini golf course.
15 Reasons & Ways To Enjoy These 9-Hole Courses
(Of note: The lighthouse at Highland Links was undergoing construction the day I visited. I am not sure what the timeline of that will be, but don’t worry, there are still plenty of other scenic photos to take while there.)
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