One of two new millennium 18-hole layouts at Pinehills Golf Club, the Nicklaus course was first unveiled to the public in 2002, one year after its sibling the Jones course debuted. Designed by the Golden Bear’s oldest son Jack Jnr, the course places great emphasis on precision approach play.
Occupying the northeast portion of a large, 300-acre densely wooded property that lies just off Pilgrims Highway, the Nicklaus course is tree-lined from start to finish, though the playing corridors are wide enough to stave off any feelings of claustrophobia.
Highlight holes include the slightly downhill, left doglegging 4th, rated stroke index 1, where the fairway narrows considerably as it heads towards an angled green; and the 384-yard 9th, which bends gently right along a heavily sand-protected fairway towards the green.
On the back nine, the 189-yard 15th is a challenging par three hole that mandates an all-or-nothing carry across a ravine to a wide, shallow green; while the toughest hole on the inward half is kept until last, at the 476-yard 18th, where water flanks the left side of the home green.
The layout checks the boxes but hardly stirs the inner fires. There's nothing inherently bad about the design but there's also nothing truly inspirational that mandates a real rush to do so again.
Part of the issue is about the overall quality of the layouts that inhabit the broader Commonwealth area. There are numerous nearby layouts -- a number of which are private -- that will clearly capture one's attention.
For many who visit the quality of the conditioning will be praised -- as it should. But, turf quality is a clear separate item when held against design that far too often promotes predictability instead of originality.
M. James Ward
The first hole at Pine Hills is a welcoming slight dogleg left uphill, Couple of fairway bunkers on the right and one greenside left. The 2nd is a long par 5 slightly right. There is a water hazard left, if you are going to get home in two you must go overt the triumvirate of bunkers on the right elbow. The 3rd is a long downhill par three to a wide left to right but, narrow, front to back green. There is a deep front bunker protecting the front and left. Left pin is real difficult, right green light. The 4th is the number one handicap and is a long dogleg left with a bunker on the left elbow. There is a large dropoff left on your approach, center right is best off the tee. Another fairly skinny green with a bunker front center and two behind the green. Par is a good score. The fifth is a slight dogleg right. Favor the left off the tee as the contour goes right. There is a water hazard protecting the green on the right side. However, there is about ten yards between the hazard and the front of the green. The 6th is a long par 5 with two fairway bunkers left begging you to try to fly them. I would suggest playing it as a 3 shotter as the green is tucked left with three bunkers in front and one right. The 7th and 8th are birdie holes, the former a bland par 3 and the latter a short straight away par 4 with lots of bunkers. The 9th is a slight dogleg left with fairway bunkers on the inside and outside elbow. If you are in the fairway, you can attack the pin.
The back starts with a straightaway uphill par four that lists hard right. Off the tee favor the left 25% of the fairway. There are four fairway bunkers right just waiting to be fed. There are also three greenside bunkers right, the good news is you can bounce your approach on from the left side of the fairway. The 11th is a par five that doglegs at almost a 90 degree angle left. As tempting as it is to try to cut the corner. I was unsuccessful. Not only do you have to hit it well, but you also have to hit it high. A high draw is the preferred shot off the tee. Additionally, the outside elbow is covered with 3 fairway bunkers. The rest of the hole is uphill and this redan green is protected by a deep greenside bunker center short. The 12th is a beast. It is long with a couple of fairway bunkers right as well as OB. The approach is downhill, but…The 13th is supposed to be the easiest hole on the course. Mid-length par 3, uphill redan green with 3 bunkers front and left. Good luck if the pin is front left. The 14th is kind of goofy. A short par 4, it is really straight tee to green but the layout goes left and then right. I think the intent was to dare you to go for it. There are four bunkers line of flight between the tee and the two-tiered green. There are also bunkers through the fairway. I think the way to play it is layup to your favorite wedge. The 15th is an all carry mid-length par 3 with a deep front bunker. The 16th hole is the longest hole, fortunately it is downhill. A dogleg left, 3 bunkers inside elbow and one outside, a high draw is preferred. There are also fairway bunkers left and right in the second shot landing zone. The 17th has a quasi-split fairway, aim over the right side of the cross bunker. This green is protected by a deep BAB. The finishing hole is a long par 4. Couple of fairway bunkers right and a water hazard left that starts at about 150 yards out. This green is also protected by bunkers front left and back right.
I would play it again if you paid.
I was originally going to play Old Sandwich, given that it is a Top 100 in the World Course, but at cUSD500 for a round, I decided to play a few other courses instead whilst on the Cape. Which I did, but I wanted to play a course in the Top 100 listings and chose Pinehills (Nicklaus) as it was near Plymouth, which was on my way back to Boston.
Pinehills is a new development (almost 20 years old) and like a lot of US modern designs, has expensive properties dotted on the estate and adjacent to many of the holes.
The clubhouse is modern and welcoming and the range where you are given free issue golf balls is excellent as is the short game area.
This is not a walking course given the distance from green to tee.
The course is a very enjoyable and is excellently maintained and I had a thoroughly enjoyable mornings round with 3 Americans.
The fairways are wide and the bunkering typical of a Nicklaus design, finely looked after and so the couple I landed in, one off the tee on the 17th, you could take a 5 hybrid from it and reach the green. The greens are generally large but some good 2 tier greens on quite a few holes so accurately landing the ball is key to a birdie or par.
The only issue I have with the course is that as much as each hole is laid out beautifully in front of you, the holes are very much samey and the bunkering style almost identical on some holes, so it appears formulaic rather than working with the natural contours.
Each hole is played in isolation with mature pines and maples framing the holes and I say some with properties facing onto the course
There are no real stand out holes, ones that will live long in the memory, but if I was to pick a couple, then the 5th, a par 4 which has a water feature eating into the green requires an accurate tee shot down the left to take trouble out of the way, and the 15th which plays all carry across a valley of pines and the bunkers on the front edge to a 2 tier green.
It’s a throughly enjoyable round and good for the ego as it’s not hard, friendly welcome and excellent facilities as well as immaculate conditioning despite the time of year.
I understand that the Jones course is the more challenging and having taken the numbers of my new friends I will be looking to play the Jones course on my return next year