Nestled on the elbow of Cape Cod, Wequassett Resort and Golf Club is a stylish hideaway a few miles from the lighthouse and fishing pier in Chatham. Like many New England vacation retreats, the Wequassett has evolved considerably since it welcomed its first “summer boarders” in 1925. But precious few properties have achieved its level of excellence. Today, the Wequassett’s clapboard cottages and deluxe suites are spaced along a wooded bluff above the snug harbor of Round Cove and the broad expanse of Pleasant Bay. The Atlantic Ocean and the barrier beaches of Cape Cod National Seashore beckon to the east. Both for its splendid sea views and the Gulf Stream’s warming influence, the resort’s beachfront location is nonpareil.
In the wake of a recent $40 million renovation, the Wequassett, a member of the prestigious Preferred Hotels & Resorts consortium, can stake a claim as the finest resort on the Cape. Of course, this being New England, the Wequassett would prefer that others make the case for them.
So here goes.
Led by managing partner Mark Novota, it’s readily apparent from the moment of arrival that everything at the resort, from the relaxed atmosphere to the friendly staff, is in exquisite taste. No detail is overlooked. The resort is posh without being garish or gaudy.
Roaming the meandering brick pathways that weave though the property’s beautifully landscaped grounds is the best way to appreciate the resort’s “plantscape,” which changes with the seasons. Tulips, azaleas, and irises herald the arrival of spring. Beach roses, wild plum, and colorful annuals bloom in the summer. Fragrant bayberry and windswept fescues emerge when the weather cools in autumn. The vegetation thrives in the temperate climate and salty air.
After checking in at the resort’s registration building, which dates to about 1740 and was originally built in the hollow of the cove and moved to its present location in the mid-1800s, guests are shown to their rooms, which are sprinkled throughout the property in low-rise edifices.
The resort’s newest collection, the Signature Water View rooms, are lavishly appointed with sophisticated fabrics and beautiful furnishings to reflect the natural beauty of the coastal location. The rooms, individually designed with a private deck or patio, offer panoramic views of Round Cove or Pleasant Bay. The first floor rooms are more expansive and have outdoor patio fireplaces or fire pits; the second floor rooms, more elevated, have slightly better views and vaulted cathedral ceilings. All the rooms in the Signature Water View collection offer indoor gas fireplaces (visible from both the living area and the air jet soaking tubs), marble bathrooms with separate walk-in shower, 42-inch flat screen TV's, iPod docking stations, fine linens and bed covers, and plush robes and slippers.
The resort’s dining options are exemplary. Twenty-eight Atlantic, Cape Cod’s only Four-Star, Four-Diamond restaurant, is a sophisticated, candlelit room that occupies Square Top, a restored sea captain’s home that dates to the early 1800s and was moved to its current site over a century ago. Shaker-style furnishings, hand-blown glass chandeliers, and nautical artwork create a warm ambience, while the views to Pleasant Bay through the floor-to-ceiling windows are lovely. The New American cuisine, utilizing regional ingredients, is a match for the setting. While the menu changes seasonally, the Caramelized Day Boat Scallops with black quinoa and cantaloupe and the Butter Braised Lobster are mainstays.
During the summer months, guests gravitate to LiBAYtion, a pergola-shaded beachfront bar overlooking the sea; and the Outer Bar & Grille, an open-air dining room and seaside deck that just may be the best place on the Cape to savor a lobster roll and a frosty beverage. In cooler weather, the place to go is Thoreau’s, a cozy pub with a working fireplace adjacent to twenty-eight Atlantic that offers a superb bar menu and a wide selection of martinis and specialty cocktails.
Guests can make arrangements with the resort to shuttle via speedboat to Nauset Beach, the resort’s private ocean beach across Pleasant Bay, where a picnic lunch can be provided. The resort also has a fleet of BMW SUV’s to take guests into the quaint town of Chatham, known for its charming shops, art galleries, antique stores, and nautical emporiums.
If the resort’s line-up of amenities is splendid, so is the exclusive access it provides to Cape Cod National Golf Club, its breezy, well-groomed layout marked by distinctive glacial landform, from elongated ridges called kames to enclosed hollows known as kettles. Tumbling fairways, loosely framed by scrub oaks and pitch pine, wander past working cranberry bogs and hillsides of wispy bluestem. The undulating, open-entry greens run fast and true. (Only the local caddies can read them). Cape Cod National is a Yankee classic. Unless of course you’re a Red Sox fan.
Located three miles from the resort, the 6,954-yard, par-72 layout was laid out by Brian Silva, a Bay State native whose creations emulate the classic designs of Seth Raynor and other Golden Age architects. Silva’s use of random bunkering to dictate strategy at Cape Cod National is a throwback to that era. Drawing from various playbooks, Silva installed a tilted Redan-style green undercut by deep bunkers at the par-three 6th, a gathering punchbowl green hidden behind a hill at the par-four 7th, and other vintage touches. The 459-yard par-four 17th hole, with its bottlenecked fairway and a deep ravine fronting the shallow green, followed by the 424-yard 18th, a sturdy right-to-left dogleg with a minefield of bunkers in play, provide a testing, memorable finish.
Great courses are no accident; Cape Cod National is no exception. Three years before the course opened in 1998, club founder John Pfeffer and Brian Silva met at the property to review a few layout ideas. Brian turned to John and said, "We are planning a very good golf course, but if you are willing to consider the financial commitment involved with larger greens, extensive, well-placed bunkers, subtle fairway shaping, a first-class irrigation system, excellent grasses, and other nuances—all of which generally add to future maintenance costs—then we can come up with a great, truly memorable course." Without hesitation, Pfeffer said, "Do it."
Silva, who handcrafts his designs to extract every conceivable strategic nuance from a site, built a traditional course in the best sense of the term. “Cape Cod National is decidedly old school,” Silva enthused. “Players who read the land at the National, and respond appropriately, will find the odds stacked more firmly in their favor. A number of the longer par fours require a player's best on both the tee and approach shots, while the punchbowl green at the short par-four 7th is eminently driveable to those who correctly read and use the land.”
A golfer’s golf course, the club presents seven different course configurations ranging from 6,954 to 5,047 yards. The composite Blue/White tees (6,669 yards), composite White/Gold tees (6,132 yards) and composite Red/Gold tees (5,525 yards) showcase the versatility of a layout generally regarded as the finest resort course in Massachusetts.
Summer is a gilded season at the Wequassett, but the best time of year for golf is the fall, when the shadows lengthen, the light is golden and time stands still on the sandy crests at Cape Cod National.
By: Brian McCallen