Masa Nishijima of Japan is our International Consultant and he is the sixth person to have played Golf Magazine’s World Top 100 Golf Courses. Masa has this to say about Old Sandwich Golf Club which opened its tees for play in 2004:
"This lay-of-the-land course from Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore is a very good test, full of classic concepts. The green complexes are very interesting and include great contouring, and the bunker shaping by Jeff Bradley is excellent. I call him Mr. Sand Man. The scale is just right and fairway angles from the tee boxes are well done."
The course lies within an area of pine hills to the south of Plymouth, close to Cape Cod Bay, on a parcel of land that looks like it was always meant for golf. It’s a wooded property that offers a plentiful supply of sandy soil to support a wonderful mix of fescues; ideal ground for links-like golf.
The only earth movement of any note at Old Sandwich was carried out on the opening hole where a sand hill was removed to allow the routing for the par five 1st hole, with spoil used to build up tees and greens around the course.
Each and every one of the par three holes here is stunning, beginning at the 240-yard 4th (played to an enormous, contoured green) and ending with the all-carry 17th (where the offset putting surface slopes back to front with ragged bunkers built into the sides of the raised green complex).
Old Sandwich may not quite reach the dizzy heights of Coore and Crenshaw’s celebrated Sand Hills in Nebraska but it’s not a million miles away either.
There is certainly not a weak hole at Old Sandwich and all holes are very distinctive. The sand based turf is ideal, firm and fast. A bold choice perhaps but it's my favorite Coore & Crenshaw ahead of Sand Hills, Bandon Trails, Friar's Head and Colorado Golf Club. It's most certainly worth a trip to the Boston area just to play it.
On the front side, the holes that stand out are the 4th, 5th and 7th. The 4th is long downhill par-3, although the architects have offered the played multiple tee boxes, which keeps the playability very respectful. The 5th is extraordinary in that you cross a huge ravine to a diagonal slither of a fairway populated with enormous mounds. The hole is merely 320 yards or so, but it’s all about the tee shot and the subsequent bounces. The par 5 6th hole makes you hit a blind tee shot on a raised plateau before presenting the golfer with a decision on how long the 3rd shot should be into this razor edged green. The 7th is a par 4 with a green completely surrounded by sand. It’s a treacherous approach shot and makes you feel like you’re playing at Pine Valley for a few minutes.
I commend the architect’s design of the bunkers. Firstly, with the various tee boxes, the hazard placements make them just that, hazards! Have you ever heard of “the principals nose”? If you see photos of the aforementioned courses, they all look very similar – large waste area type traps with unkept edges, often in groups of 3 and 4. The momentum continues on the back nine, but it will test your length. The 16th is a long narrow par 4 with a blind tee shot, the 17th is a 210+ yard par 3 to a well protected 2-tier green and the par 4 18th sends you galloping back down-hill towards the end of the gauntlet.
Old Sandwich stands out as a modern day masterpiece with outstanding design variety and resistance to scoring. This course does not get much attention nor does it seek it, and not many people have even heard of it. In 100 years, golfers will reflect on this track as one of Coore/Crenshaws hidden gems amongst a portfolio of giants.