Nantucket Golf Club may be the closest thing to a genuine British Isles course there is on American soil. Nantucket is 30 miles at sea from Hyannis on the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. More than 40 percent of the island is protected conservation land, and extensive measures have been taken to protect its rare habitats and endangered plant and animal populations. Nantucket is also home to 90 percent of the earth’s remaining sand plain and heath, according to the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
Rees Jones took an inland coastal site and routed holes that fit the land like a glove. Golfers are fair game to the elements here, and the ability to run the ball is a must on this layout designed to play firm and fast. It is golf’s latest great walk, sweeping so gracefully from one hole to the next that you’re liable to lose track of what hole you’re playing. But fear not, for the recall value at Nantucket is strong: Every hole will come back whenever you choose to replay the round.
The property’s natural contours, hummocks and knobs were accentuated by Jones’ own shaping team, which relocated just 350,000 cubic yards of earth. Coastal breezes dictated nearly every feature on the course. While the bunker styles vary, most of them are small, deep pits set into some of the lower spots on the property. While a few greens were built atop natural ridges, most are extensions of the fairways, and low running shots are more than just a popular strategy; they’re considered the only way home. Some say the course would be easy on a calm day, but calm days don’t occur often enough on Nantucket to put that theory to the test.
Just as the course fits the land, the club fits Nantucket. What else but a traditional course, complete with caddies, would be appropriate on an island with 800 pre-Civil War houses? It’s a setting that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick, based on a Nantucket whaleship named the Essex.
So glorious are the long-range views that golfers can’t help but look for more. Play Nantucket regularly and a different hole will capture your attention every time out. The course is a throwback in its pacing, calling on golfers to simply play smart through the opening six holes. Nos. 7 through 11 have proven to be the consensus make-or-break stretch. The 7th calls for driver, 3-wood into the wind—driver, 7-iron with it.
Eight is the only water hole, 179 yards to an exceptionally large putting surface. Shots right, where most players wind up, require a delicate chip to a firm green. For pure beauty, nothing tops the final four holes, which are bordered by a parcel of land owned by the Audubon Society and provide a memorable completion to an already unforgettable round.
“You get the feeling you’re in for something special during the ride in,” says Jones. “It really starts to get your adrenaline pumping.”
Year founded: 1998
Architect: Rees Jones