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The Golf Club of Cape Cod

Boasting a Rees Jones-designed course in a natural setting, a relative newcomer is establishing new standards for a pure golf experience on Cape Cod, drawing members from New England, the nation and the world

By: Hunki Yun

DESPITE HAVING a famous name, Rees Jones didn’t become well known until 1988, when the U.S. Golf Association took its national championship to The Country Club, one of the five clubs that had founded the organization nearly a century before. Prior to the 1988 Open, Jones restored the historic course the way his father, Robert Trent Jones Sr., had renovated many U.S. Open venues.

The younger Jones’ work at The Country Club, located in Brookline, Massachusetts, received critical acclaim. Jones made numerous changes to make the layout as challenging for modern players as it had been for Harry Vardon, Ted Ray and winner Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open.

At the same time, those changes melded so seamlessly with the rest of the layout and were so in keeping with the course’s mature landscape that Jones’ hand was barely perceptible. “The greatest compliment I got,” recalls Jones, “was, ‘What did you do?’”

Nearly 20 years later, Jones applied a similar touch of artistry to a new Massachusetts club featuring pure golf. At the Golf Club of Cape Cod, Jones laid out a 7,047-yard course that, despite opening in 2007, looks as though it has been there for decades. “That’s the impression I was hoping to leave,” says Jones. “The site is wonderful and there are a lot of elevation changes with sandy soil. It’s one of the best routings we’ve ever done. All 18 holes fit the land like a glove.”

Using a deft hand, Jones draped the holes on terrain shaped by glaciers from the Ice Age. The course offers a sense of refuge that is apparent upon entering the 152-acre property, which looks much bigger thanks to the rugged setting. In fact, local conservation restrictions preserve the tract in perpetuity.

Cape Cod has been a bustling vacation destination and second-home haven for generations, so finding an unspoiled piece of land was a rare feat. Tall fescues, which turn from green to golden yellow in season, line the fairways. There is no residential development to interfere with the pure golf experience.

“It’ll probably be the last private club built on the Cape,” says Martin Shaevel, the club’s principal owner. As a longtime Boston-area resident with a second home on Cape Cod, Shaevel understands the region’s sensibilities. He made sure this private golf club has a comfortable, understated appeal.

That comfort begins in the classic New England-style clubhouse, which sits on the highest point of the property. The outdoor dining area, which overlooks the 18th green, is a great place for members and guests to relax and bask in the afterglow of a satisfying round and fabulous sunsets, attended to by a world-class staff.

“Since the club’s opening, high-end service and continuity of key management have been a priority,” says Ken Shaevel, Martin’s son and a principal of the club. “We’re proud of our golf course, our team and the experience they bring to the club.”

The golf experience is supported by Director of Golf Douglas Errhalt and Director of Golf Course Management Gregory Hollick, both of whom honed their professional skills within the TPC network. Executive Chef Jon Philips is emerging as a local celebrity of sorts, preparing meals that have drawn comparisons to the best-ranked restaurants in Boston.

“They’re the best club team in the region,” says Martin Shaevel. “This is a people business and we’ve been very, very lucky. There’s nobody that works at the club that I wouldn’t bring home to dinner.”

On top of fostering a sense of camaraderie among the members, club management and the staff—led by Chief
Operating Officer Charles Passios—have made efforts to reach out to the local community. “We’re a golf-only club, dedicated to the longstanding traditions of the game, including strong caddie and junior golf programs, and charitable works. It is our duty to give back to the game and the community in which we live,” says Passios.

In addition to hosting charity outings, the club’s membership has opened its doors to events like the Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship and the American Junior Golf Association’s Deutsche Bank Partners for Charity Junior Shoot Out. Also, the club established the Golf Club of Cape Cod Fund to assist the region’s veterans. “We want to help fill the gap that the veterans’ services can’t handle,” says Passios, whose son is currently serving in the military. “The goal is to make a difference for those who have given us the safety and life we all enjoy.”

The club’s caddie program is the largest on the Cape, with 70 loopers in peak season. The club is a supporter of the Francis Ouimet Society, which has given out millions in scholarships for college students in Massachusetts. Of course, all these programs are not possible without the enthusiastic participation of an active membership.

“We have great members who are very supportive of the club,” says Shaevel. “Our members realize that in a fragile economy, a new golf club like ours could go in a lot of different directions. They have poured their hearts into this club.”

This enthusiasm is contagious, as the membership is already 50-percent subscribed, attracting members from across the country and beyond. They are drawn to events like the member-guest that have become can’t-miss, camaraderie-building traditions at the club. “Building traditions takes time,” says Passios. “The golf course speaks for itself and this year, three years in, the club feels like home.”

As the club continues to grow, more members and guests will be able to bond on Jones’ layout, which features an enjoyable mix of holes. There are tantalizing holes like the 304-yard 2nd, where long hitters can try driving the elevated green, protected by an angled slope that repels all but the most precisely executed shots, whether they are hit with a driver or a wedge.

There are demanding holes like the 464-yard 6th, which requires two solid shots for a birdie chance. There are heroic holes like the 190-yard 16th, all carry over water. Put together, the result is a classic woodland course based on timeless design principles, conducive for bringing people together for fun and lasting memories, the way Cape Cod itself has done for centuries.

“My favorite part about visiting the club,” offers Shaevel, “is looking out over the 18th hole and watching players coming in with smiles on their faces. I look forward to the day when future generations of our present members and guests are playing the course, enjoying the TGC experience.”

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