Golf in Plymouth, Massachusetts: Courses you can play within the shadow of the Mayflower

By Leigh MacKay, Contributor

When the Pilgrims landed on that rock in 1620, they created both a colony and a legacy that have made Plymouth, Mass., one of the country's most popular vacation destinations.

Waverly Oaks G.C. - clubhouse
Waverly Oaks is among a colony of great golf courses in Plymouth.
Waverly Oaks G.C. - clubhouseWaverly Oaks Golf Club - no. 9Atlantis Country Club - hole 18Village Links Golf ClubSquirrel Run Country ClubSouthers Marsh Golf Club - 18thCrosswinds Golf Club - Zaharias Course - 9thPlymouth Country Club - hole 3
If you go

Along with that stepping stone, the Mayflower, Plimoth Plantation and many other historical sites and landmarks, Plymouth is blessed with, among other attributes, a spacious harbor, miles of beach front, incomparable seafood, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, cranberry bogs, bass-filled ponds and a close proximity to Boston, just up the coast.

And don't forget the golf! Although no historian has ever cited a set of clubs on board the Mayflower, the Pilgrims' ancestors have created their own colony of golf courses that the locals and the visitors play with great fervor.

Each course boasts of its excellent conditioning, with lush fairways and "fast" greens, usually bentgrass, that generally run between 9-10 on the Stimp. Each course also prides itself on first-rate service to its guests, and all have rental clubs for men and women.

Waverly Oaks Golf Club

Waverly Oaks Golf Club, designed by prolific and esteemed Boston architect Brian Silva, opened in 1998 to rave reviews by national and local media and was named as one of the best courses in New England.

An upscale, daily-fee facility with a resort atmosphere, the impressive layout, which plays from 4,930 to 7,114 yards on four sets of tees, features dramatic elevation changes and very generous fairways and greens.

The Challenger Course, a par-33 nine holer at around 2,100 yards, is also available. The majestic clubhouse includes a large pro shop, grill room, dining room and ballroom.

Crosswinds Golf Club

A favorite with the locals since 2003, Crosswinds Golf Club presents 27 holes of rolling fairways and large, undulating greens.

The nines -- named after the legends Jones, Ouimet and Zaharias -- were designed by the team of Hurdzan/Fry and require strategy off any of the four tees and/or on the second shot to avoid potential disaster.

CrossWinds abuts Waverly Oaks, and both are only six miles from Plymouth Harbor.

Pinehills Golf Club

A recipient of accolades from every major golf magazine, Pinehills Golf Club, eight miles from the Mayflower, has two superb layouts courtesy of Rees Jones and Jack Nicklaus and conveys the aura of an exclusive private club from the bag drop on.

The Jones Course at Pinehills places a greater premium off the tee and is characterized by perched fairways, large, sweeping bunkering and dramatic elevation changes.

Pinehills' Nicklaus Course, while more forgiving off the tee, places a greater premium on approach shots. The greens are smaller, have more undulation and present more difficulty on approach shots.

Pinehills also has one of the most extensive practice facilities in New England, and the clubhouse presents gracious amenities and fine dining.

Atlantic Country Club

Atlantic Country Club is 16 miles south of The Rock and a little off the beaten track, but the Cornish/Silva/Mungeam-team design is worth the short drive.

"Our course is enjoyable for everybody and is very walker friendly," Head Professional Don Daley said. "The layout is not real penal for off-line shots. You can find the ball and play it. The bentgrass fairways and greens are the best they have ever been, and my friendly staff makes you feel welcome."

Voted "Best Upscale Public Course South of Boston" by the Boston Globe, the course has four sets of tees.

Southers Marsh Golf Club

A perennial winner of the "No. 1 Public Golf Value" in the state, Southers Marsh Golf Club is an executive-style layout that is always in splendid shape and shares its fairways and greens with the Stearns family's century-old, active cranberry bogs. The bogs loom large within the golfer's purview as he must go over or around them on many holes.

With its 11 par 3s and seven par 4s -- all different in length and topography -- the four sets of tees play from 2,907 to 4,111 yards and require accuracy with every club in the bag.

Executive gems: Squirrel Run and Village Links

Two more outstanding, executive sister courses that also offer excellent value and about three-hour rounds are Squirrel Run Country Club and Village Links Golf Club.

Both are easy to walk, fun to play and offer a pleasing variety of par 3s. Squirrel Run, at 1,990 to 2,809 yards, has three par 4s, but Village Links, from 2,059 to 2,376 yards, is all 3s.

Plymouth Country Club

Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2010, the Donald Ross-designed Plymouth Country Club another one of New England's best layouts and a must-play if you are a Ross devotee.

These small bentgrass greens are usually 11 or better on the Stimp and require a deft touch with the flat stick. The only private club in this review, the Plymouth C.C. does extend invitations to outside guests if they, or their pros, will directly contact the head professional well ahead of their visit.

Three miles south of the waterfront, the course has a commanding view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Plymouth travel tips

Each venue is close to the Mayflower, Plimoth Plantation and the Town Wharf where almost all the action and dining are. Because Plymouth is a hotbed of activity in the summer and early fall, lodging should be booked as far ahead of time as possible.

The Governor Bradford Inn and Radisson Plymouth are located on the harbor and provide easy access to the entire waterfront. The John Carver Inn sits atop the site of the original Pilgrim settlement near the center of town but is within walking distance of the attractions. The Pilgrim Sands Motel, which has its own private beach, sits across from Plimoth Plantation and is two miles from the Mayflower.

Another of Plymouth's great pleasures is discovering the cornucopia of unsurpassed seafood restaurants. Favorites on the waterfront that are always recommended are Blue-Eyed Crab, Cabby Shack, East Bay Grille, Isaac's, Lobster Hut and Wood's.

America's Hometown obviously has the monopoly on everything 1620. It's done a pretty good job of cornering the seafood and golf markets, too.

Leigh MacKayLeigh MacKay, Contributor

Leigh MacKay is a freelance golf writer who specializes in features and travel reviews. A member of Golf Writers Association of America, Golf Travel Writers, and International Network of Golf, he writes a monthly column, "Celebrity Golfer," for New England Golf Monthly and splits his time between Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Plymouth, Mass.

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