Trying to get golfers to stop before reaching Cape Cod

By James Y. Bartlett, Contributor

Nicklaus Pinehills GolfCould the town where the Pilgrims first stepped onto North America become one of New England's golf destinations? As Cotton Mather might say, "Stranger things have happened."

Greater Plymouth has a ways to go before it reaches the same level as golfantastic places like Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, Orlando, or Scottsdale, but it's making a start. There are currently seven courses for visitors to play within hailing distance of the famous rock, and another dozen or so within 20 miles.

The local visitor's bureau is now pushing golf vacations along with educational visits to the famed re-enactment park, Plimoth Plantation, a working 1627 wilderness village, where costumed figures throw around "thees" and "thous." While Plymouth's golf menu may be somewhat limited in number, there is no lack of quality. The headliner attraction is Pine Hills, the 36-hole daily-fee facility that anchors an upscale residential community southwest of Plymouth.

The two courses here, one designed by Rees Jones and the other by Jackie Nicklaus, wind through extraordinary golfing terrain of sandy hills, deep ravines and pine woods, with a usual ocean breeze to add interest. Both courses are always in top condition, and the facility's practice range and clubhouse are top notch.

The Jones course is a spectacular ride from first hole to last. Native grasses border many fairways, which gives the course a natural feel, and some of the holes call for scary carries over desolate-looking waste areas. The Nicklaus 18 is an excellent companion, with a great mixture of long, hard holes and short-but-tricky ones. The 15th is a great hit-and-hope par 3 over Hades.

Not far away is the Brian Silva-designed Waverly Oaks Golf Club, another excellent daily-fee facility. With its mammoth clubhouse rising from the highest hill, the fairways spread out through the piney, rolling terrain below, combining great challenge with scenic views. Waverly Oaks offers the 18-hole championship course, as well as a nine-hole executive track, ample practice facilities and the well-regarded Waverly Grill.

Waverly Oaks Golf ClubAlmost immediately next door is the new CrossWinds Golf Club, where the first 18 holes of a planned 27 designed by the firm of Hurdzan/Fry is now open. Like Waverly Oaks next door, the wooded terrain is quite hilly, offering great views and hard choices in club selection. Ponds, bunkers and trees are always in play.

Yet another golfing gem in Plymouth is the Atlantic Country Club, a fine track designed by Cornish, Silva and Mungeam. Until Waverly Oaks and Pine Hills came along, Atlantic was considered Plymouth's premiere daily-fee course. The quality hasn't changed, but the value -- greens fees here are $45, compared to $75 and $95 at the other two -- has increased.

Finally, there's the Southers Marsh Golf Club, a highly enjoyable executive-length course (18 holes, par 61) that traverses hundred-year-old cranberry bogs. It may be a short course, but it's always in fine condition, with small, fast greens and a lasting challenge to all level of golfer.

A bit further afield, visitors to Plymouth can also arrange tee times at courses such as South Shore Country Club in Hingham, Olde Scotland Links in Bridgewater or the D.W. Field muni in Brockton. And, of course, all the courses of Cape Cod lie just across the Sagamore Bridge at the end of Route 3.

"The golf market here is still maturing," McKenzie says. "But this is a great family vacation destination, with Plimoth Plantation, the ghost tours downtown and the wonderful beaches, and we feel that marketing golf will be an added benefit to the area."

The choices of accommodations in and around Plymouth are suited to anyone's budget, ranging from the local Comfort Inn and Best Western motels, to small, intimate B&Bs, and beachfront motels. Popular choices for golfers include the Radisson Plymouth Harbor overlooking the city's waterfront (and within walking distance of several excellent seafood emporiums) and the brick-and-columned John Carver Inn, located just off the bustling main street of Plymouth, filled with museums, cafes, antique shops and restaurants. There's a ghost theatre in town, and nightly "lantern walks" through the historic old streets, filled with tales of sea captains and long-lost lovers.

It may not yet have the mass-market appeal of the Grand Strand, but more and more New England golfers are in agreement: Plymouth rocks.

James Y. Bartlett, Contributor


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