Golf escape to the Cape: Ocean Edge Resort

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

When 19 year-old Constance Hopkins first sighted Cape Cod, she dropped to her knees to give thanks. No, Constance wasn't just another disgruntled teen moping in the back of a minivan about having to spend a week away from her friends with her boring family. She was the first passenger of the Mayflower to spot land in The New World. Little did those intrepid Pilgrims know that the narrow strip of beach they viewed with tearful eyes that day would come centuries later to be considered by many to be one of the prime vacation spots in America.

The families who flock to Cape Cod these days might also offer thanks for an end to bumper-to-bumper traffic and backseat sibling bickering. Instead of the danger, disease, and hunger that awaited the Pilgrims as they sailed past The Cape, vacationers today can look forward to luxury resorts, gourmet restaurants, myriad outdoor activities, and, in recent years, some of the best golf in New England.

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce (capecodchamber.org) has only recently begun marketing The Cape as a golf destination. Those in the know from Bangor to Buffalo to Baltimore, however, have long known that while the beaches and antique stores are crammed with throngs of tourists, golfers can snag prime tee-times on ocean-view and parkland courses from Falmouth almost to the very tip of Provincetown.

For the uninitiated, a great place to start exploring The Cape is the town of sea captains, Brewster. From here - on the "elbow" of The Cape - both ends of the peninsula are readily reachable for day-trips. Best of all for duffers, three of The Cape's best courses and one of only two golf resorts, Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club.

As you drive east on Route 6A through Brewster, you cannot help but slow down to admire the stately, historic mansion that serves as the reception and hotel portion of Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club. The mansion, originally built in 1890 by the influential Nickerson family, and then rebuilt in 1912 after a fire, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The impressive structure, along with the surrounding five-acre crescent of meticulously manicured lawns, is perched on a cliff overlooking the bay side of The Cape.

Since 1980, the mansion has served as the centerpiece of the sprawling golf and tennis resort, which encompasses 429 acres and boasts over 300 guest rooms. Indoor and outdoor pools, exercise facilities, tennis courts, a 700-foot private beach, and several restaurants are just some of the amenities available for the guests of the one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas and mansion-house hotel rooms.

The real incentives for golfers, though, offer not only special rates on lodging, but also the opportunity to play one of the best - and hardest - courses on The Cape. The Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva design challenges all handicap levels with narrow fairways and small greens.

"The course requires accuracy off the tee," advises Ocean Edge's Director of Golf Harry C. Parker III, "and good putting. The greens are small, so approaches are important, too."

Perhaps the most memorable hole is the par-5, the 601-yard 8th. According to Pro Shop Manager Pete Anderson, "No pro has ever made the green in two from the championship tees." The tee shot is from elevated tees down into a valley with trees left and a gully and road to the right. The second shot is uphill to a plateau and the third is even further uphill to a table-top, triangular green.

The only detraction here, and on the course as a whole, is that the playing tips provided on the scorecard seem to range from a little off to utterly wrong. Both yardages and strategies are suspect, so take them with a grain of salt.

The Verdict

Ocean Edge is not your typical resort course. It will test every aspect of your game. It's a bit of a curmudgeon, much like some of the native Cape Codders you may encounter in the area. With the capricious weather on the Cape, conditions might be an issue at times, but the green fees are quite a bargain. Ocean Edge is still one of the courses to play when you visit The Cape.

Stay and Play

One of the summer highlights at Ocean Edge is the annual Adidas Tennis Smash. In 2003, the event featured tennis legend Rod Laver, as well as the first U.S. appearance of the season by Martina Hingis.

Rates vary according to room type and season, but an example of the family-oriented packages available during the 2004 season is the family Breeze Special for two adults and two kids: seven nights lodging and three meals a day for $2800 plus tax (peak season). Numerous golf packages are also offered, and the spring season deals are outstanding.

Dining Out

As one of America's premier holiday retreats, Cape Cod offers more than one could hope to do in a year of long weekends. Up the road from Brewster is the affluent and historical town of Orleans. For fishermen (and women), the "fishing village" in downtown Orleans is home port to nearly a dozen guided fishing boats, who promise exciting excursions and limit catches of flounder, bluefish, and striped bass.

Other sea-faring fun can be had from Hyannis to Provincetown, including whale- and seal-watching, sailing lessons, and miles of alternately placid (bayside) and thundering (Atlantic side) beaches.

And of course, given the long history of The Cape, you can't swing a dead Kennedy without hitting an intriguing, inviting antique shop or art gallery.

No matter your tastes in recreation, one would hope that your tastes in dining run toward seafood. For the absolute best in family-style dining, head to The Lobster Claw in Orleans ((508) 255-1800, entrees $10 and up). Owners Don and Mary Lou Berig have been serving up no-frills, mouth-watering lobster feasts here for 34 years. "We've got the cleanest restaurant on The Cape and have been voted the best family restaurant for eight straight years." During the peak season of July-August, the Berigs ring the dinner bell for 800 people seven days a week, and toll the bell for some 200 ill-fated lobsters each day.

For a more intimate dining atmosphere, The Orleans Inn ((508) 255-2222), also in Orleans, is a marvelous restaurant overlooking the inlet that once served as the merchant-class hub of the central Cape. The inn was built by a direct descendant of Constance Hopkins, and she is actually buried nearby. After a long and checkered history - which has witnessed a number of tragic events (and subsequent reported hauntings) - the inn has come into the hands of Ed Maas, whose family has restored the historic building to its old glory. The Orleans Inn has 11 guest rooms, banquet facilities, a gourmet menu (entrees $15-$25) ... and maybe a restless spirit or two.

Although it might feel like you've endured an epic pilgrimage by the time you navigate the usual weekend traffic and arrive at Cape Cod, just keep in mind the vacation cornucopia that awaits. And as you tee it up on one of the fine golf courses, you might even consider a gesture of thanks of your own.

Fast Fact

Ocean Edge's championship 6,665-yard, par-72 layout was the venue for the New England PGA Championship from 1986-1991.

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.


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