Essentially a private island resort situated on the southern shore of Cape Cod, The Oyster Harbors Club was formed in the mid-1920s by developer Norris W. Norris who enlisted Donald Ross to design a solid golf course that still remains largely intact today. Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design, under the direction of Bruce Hepner, restored all the bunkers on the layout in 2009.
Donald Ross supervised the construction of the course in 1926 and he became Vice President of the club, playing many rounds on a layout that embodied his famous philosophy: "golf should be pleasure not penance." Many leading golfers – such as Gene Sarazen, Henry Cotton and Byron Nelson – visited Oyster Harbors as his guest.A trio of holes are worthy of particular mention here; the par three 3rd (which plays over a strangely shaped bunker that was once a sandy waste area), the 434-yard 11th (where water threatens short and left of the green) and the 410-yard 18th (which doglegs sharply right to the home green).
The Cape Cod area provides for a wonderful mixture of topography and Oyster Harbors also had the good fortune in having architect Donald Ross at his best when the course opened in 1926. Fortunately, the club brought in architect Tom Doak to assist in their renovation efforts. Over the years tree growth had impeded the natural qualities that Ross provided for many of the holes. That has thankfully been changed as the playing corridors have opened up and the inclusion of fescue rough has bolstered both the "look" and "play" of the layout.
The Ross greens are also well done -- plenty of natural falloffs. Being adept at knowing how and where to flight one's approaches is central to any success here. The layout is not on the water but ocean breezes can impact play at certain times. Oyster Harbors does give players sufficient width but playing angles matter here.
I hesitate using the tagline – a good member's course – but Oyster Harbors is most certainly that. Positioning of one's golf ball is paramount for any success to happen. Thankfully, this is one Ross course that was not bastardized with wholesale changes that would have gutted the original intent.
by M. James Ward