An Alex Findlay golf course that Donald Ross redesigned in 1936, the Hyannisport Club layout weaves around the tidal marshes of Nantucket Sound. Although the combined length of the fairways is a mere 6,443 yards, they’re hard to navigate when the wind gets up.
Founded in 1897, the club boasts some of the most scenic views on Cape Cod, with water visible from every hole. Hyannisport is located next to the Kennedy Compound and a number of its family members have been associated with the club down the years.The better holes on the course all lie along the coastline – exemplified by the likes of the 410-yard 4th, a left angled dogleg, and the 202-yard 8th, where tee shots must carry a large expanse of marsh – with the three closing peninsula holes forming a formidable conclusion to the round.
Conditioning can get more emphasis in these reviews than it deserves. After all, conditions can vary depending on a multitude of factors….while other factors, e.g. routing, shot strategy, green complexes, are constant and can compensate for occasional shortcomings in conditioning. That said, a mid-April round at Hyannisport showed off superintendent Thomas Colombo’s’s splendid efforts. My stimpmeter measured the greens at 12………..and the aprons at 11! I could not find one unsanded divot nor one footprint in a bunker.
Colombo’s predecessor, Ryan Walsh, along with architect Ron Forse, did a lovely job a few years ago restoring much of Donald Ross’s original design. Their efforts , however, did not result in complete fidelity. A perfect example is the second hole. After a strong opening par 4 down a rolling fairway to a contoured green, the golfer is faced with a short, rather dull par 4. Ross’s original plan called for a green to be benched into the hill farther left and behind the current green. But when the members hired a local contractor to build the course, he decided that was too much effort and built a green in the current location.
Two of the course’s finest holes follow, both doglegs with water threatening a poorly played tee shot. After a sweet par 3, the next nine holes suffer from a case of sameness. Numbers 6-14 include one par 3 and one dogleg, but the rest are straight two and three shotters that parallel one another, with little to distinguish them. Routing was usually one of Ross’s strong suits, but this was not his best effort.
Hyannisport redeems itself in its last four holes: two good par 3s and a pair of excellent half par holes at 16 and 18. The walk up the hill on the final hole is exhilarating both for its steepness and for the spectacular views of Nantucket Sound.
This one of my three favorite Cape Cod courses, along with Eastward Ho! and Cape Cod National.
Hyannisport Club has world class views of the water and the surrounding tidal marshes looking out into Nantucket Sound. The course has a set of small, very fast greens. Many of the greens are quite narrow as well with bunkers on long side of the greens. More than once I found myself in a bunker, and if you don't hit the perfect high shot you will find yourself in a bunker on the other side of the green.
The course begins with a relatively straight 448-yard par four, a gentle opener. This is followed by a 265-yard par four that is also relatively easy. The third features a dogleg left that plays at an angle off the tee to a fairway set over a tidal marsh. The fourth is a 410-yard dogleg that plays around the same body of water. The par threes on the course all feature a landing pad in front of the green that at first slopes away from your line of play and then slopes upward. This makes the approach shots to the green very tricky because if you land your shot just a bit short and it hits on the downslope then it will likely shoot across the green. Factor in the wind and it becomes even trickier. Particularly good par threes include the 195-yard eighth, which plays into a cross-wind coming off the Sound. The fifteenth, a 177-yarder and the seventeenth, a 141-yarder play directly into the prevailing wind. All three are good golf holes.
Another hole of note is the 476-yard par five sixteenth which plays through a dramatic left to right sloping hill. Your tee shot is blind as is your second over the hill. Although you will likely have a very short iron into the green, it is also highly likely that you will have an uneven lie as the terrain slopes on the entire hole from left to right.
The holes along the water and marsh reminded me quite a bit of Maidstone in East Hampton, and many of the approach shots play the same way they do on the holes that border the pond at Maidstone. Aside from a couple of holes on the front that play over marshes the course has no water hazards. The golf course is a great day out in an idyllic location. I personally got goosebumps walking where JFK used to play, making this a very memorable days golf.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs