Nantucket lies to the south of the Cape Cod peninsula, accessed via the ferry port of Hyannis, and the golf facility at Miacomet Golf Club occupies part of a 400-acre site to the south of the island. In operation since 1963 (laid out by local farmer Ralph Marble), Miacomet (or “Meeting Place” in English) was the name given to the local area by the Wampanoag tribes who once inhabited the island.
It opened as a 9-hole facility and was later sold to the Nantucket Island Land Bank in the mid-1980s. This local organization had been founded to “acquire, hold and manage key open spaces, provide waterfront access, preserve scenic views, protect ecological resources, promote local agriculture and create outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike”.
In 2003, exactly forty years after it had first been unveiled, the course was expanded to an 18-hole layout by architect Howard Maurer, who then returned five years later to completely renovate the original holes during the winter of 2008, creating an architecturally cohesive layout.
A July 2014 Golf Business article gave this insight into the club:
“We could sell out to the wealthy if we wanted to,” says Alan Costa, president of NGM, Inc., a management company that operates Miacomet. “We could jack up rates ridiculously high in summer, which would eliminate the regular players and residents who play here, but we don’t because giving everybody an opportunity to play here works for us.”
The membership rolls of Nantucket’s two exclusive, private courses – Sankaty Head and Nantucket Golf Club – are teeming with movers and shakers, but the fact so many of them also frequent Miacomet is telling.
“We obviously don’t compete with the two private clubs here,” says Costa, “but their members play here a lot because they love it so much. There are some big guns, including major U.S. political figures, who tell us we have the best greens not only on the island but in the country.”
“The biggest challenge is keeping the course available to everyone,” Costa says. “We offer resident discounts to ensure residents can play affordable golf, and we preserve tee times for vacationers to ensure they have equal access. If we didn’t split the tee sheet, vacationers would be hard-pressed to get a tee time in the busy summer season.”
We understand that Alex Findlay may have laid out a course – known as Miacomet Golf Links – on Nantucket Island in 1899. However, we do not know what happened to this 19th century layout, or even if there is any connection (apart from name) to the current course. If anyone knows the backstory, please contact us.
If you were blindfolded, taken to Miacomet and told you were in Scotland, you might readily believe it, especially on the new holes Howard Maurer created in 2003. Rolling terrain, tall fescue, firm conditions and plenty of wind create an Old World ambience. The ocean is not in view, but it’s not far away, putting Miacomet in such fine company as Muirfield, Gullane, Lytham and Birkdale.
And while the golf may not be quite of the quality of that foursome, it’s still good. There are plenty of approach shots where alternate plays must be considered. Not all the greens are wide open in front, but most (2, 15 and 18 being the exceptions) have an area of at least half the green width to play a running approach. The greens are contoured enough to provide a fine challenge. It’s also one of the finest conditioned municipal courses you’ll find anywhere, including St. Andrews.
Miacomet is not perfect, however. The routing is poor, with half a dozen tees over a hundred yards from the previous green. Not much thinking is required off the tee, as in many cases, one side of the fairway is just as advantageous for the next shot as another. There’s a feeling of déjà vu on the greens, as often the contour is a ridge that bisects the putting surface. The repetition is taken to extremes in holes 9 and 12 where the greens are carbon copies of each other. And two of the greens which require an aerial approach (2 and 18) do so because of a cross bunker clear across the approach. These bunkers look quite out of place as they are about the only features of the original course Maurer elected to retain. There’s also some fairway bunkering that serves no purpose, especially on a public course. On 1, 2, and 15, lateral bunkers line the fairway starting less than 100 yards from the tee. Players who get in them will only manage to hold up play.
Nonetheless, Miacomet is one of my five favorite public courses in Massachusetts.