One of the challenges when rating golf courses is dealing with preconceptions about the architect. My host at Nantucket told the story of a visitor to his club in Florida. The visitor was enjoying himself immensely until the middle of the round when he asked who designed the course. Learning that the architect was Pete Dye, the visitor announced, “I hate Pete Dye courses” and stopped enjoying his round.
I confess that after playing over a dozen of Rees Jones’s courses, I’m not generally a fan of his work. But I managed to play Nantucket with an open mind. After the round, one of my playing companions asked me if the course met my expectations. “No,” I replied. “It exceeded them.”
There’s plenty of strategy here. Each of the first three holes asks the player to drive close to a fairway bunker to open up the best approach to the hole. On the par 5 3rd, there’s a two-fer. The golfer is also asked to position the second shot close to a fairway bunker to open up the green for the third shot. At the short par 4 fourth hole, Rees channeled Dr. Alister Mackenzie, artfully placing bunkers so that no fairway is visible from the tee. But once off the tee, the golfer sees a generous swarth of green. The 14th has similar characteristics. Early in my round, I was unimpressed with the green complexes. The first two were flat and dull and the 3rd, 5th and 6th were quite similar to each other. But things got decidedly better as more contours and variety appeared. My favorite green was the 11th green, with its gentle Biarritz configuration.
The routing also provides plenty of variety, as the player faces the constant Nantucket winds in all directions. Though Sankaty Head Golf Club is only s few hundred yards away, the land here is not nearly as hilly as at the neighboring course. And while there are a few nice vistas (in particular from the 7th and 16th tees), I did not care for the holes where man-made mounds obscure the views of the rest of the course, but that’s a small nit to pick at.
Date: September 24, 2021