From the Archives: John F. Kennedy at Hyannisport Club - MASSGOLF

From the archives: John F. Kennedy at the Hyannisport Club

The first Mass Golf Championship of the year gets underway on April 25th, when a full field of two-person teams will converge on the Hyannisport Club and Bayberry Hills Golf Course to compete in the 42nd Four-Ball Championship.

For history buffs, Hyannis Port calls to mind three towering initials: J-F-K. In the summertime, like so many other Massachusetts families, the Kennedy’s flocked to the Cape for ice cream, beach outings, and of course, golf.  The Kennedy Compound, three houses on six acres of waterfront property, sits just a third of a mile from the clubhouse at Hyannisport Club. It’s no surprise that President Kennedy, an avid golfer on holiday from the Oval Office, would regularly walk over to play a few casual holes.


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Below is an article written by Marjorie Hunter and published by the New York Times on July 15th, 1963. What can this week’s competitors glean from Hunter’s assessment of the course? Not much has changed over the past 60 years–the course is listed at 6,348 yards from the back tees. Hyannisport’s defense remains rooted in the Cape Cod elements, so look for swirling wind and dense fog to make those small Donald Ross greens appear even smaller.

Kennedy course is like politics: lots of obstructions and traps

HYANNIS PORT, Mass., July 14

Often shrouded in fog and always buffeted by stiff breezes, the Hyannisport Club course where President Kennedy is playing golf this summer is considered one of the toughest in the country.

Some have called it the St. Andrews of the East, comparing it favorably with the famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews on Scotland’s wild coast.

Others have called it many things, depending on how successful they have been in staying out of trouble on the 6,124 yard course.

The Greens Are Small

The greens are small, the fairways are narrow and the rough is tough and wiry.

Sand traps, of which there are a fair number, are the least worrisome of the obstacles confronting golfers on the Hyannisport course.

Inlets of all sizes, from tiny water holes to broad and deep streams, traverse the course. The narrow fairways are bounded by marshes, clumps of bushes and some of the most wiry weeds in this part of the country.

The real trouble, however, even for good golfers, is provided by the weather.

The greens vary from hour to hour because of the fog and the wet breezes blowing in from Nantucket Sound. Often, the wind blows from three directions within an hour, shifting from southwest to west to southeast.

Because of an old back injury that kept him off the golf course for more than two years, President Kennedy has not attempted to play the full 18 holes yet.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the President played five holes. It was the first time he had played since reinjuring his back during a tree-planting ceremony in Canada in May, 1961.

Within 30 minutes of arriving last Friday for the weekend, the President was back on the course again, playing what is called “the inside five”–the first, second, 16th, 17th and 18th holes.


Like all golfers, JFK couldn’t stay away from the course (Credit: the New York Times)

The Secret Player

On Saturday, when the course was deeply shrouded in fog, the President played six holes–the seventh through the 12th–out of sight of all except the ever-present Secret Service agents.

His mother, Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy, who plays almost every day, was elsewhere on the course at the same time. The fog was so heavy, however, that they never saw each other.

Confronted constantly with water holes, marshes and heavy rough, the player on the Hyannisport Club course can take little comfort from one of the rules printed on the scorecard:

“There are no water hazards. The marsh and adjacent waterways are ‘through the green.'”


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