By Erik Matuszewski
One of the most notable course openings for 2018 is a mulligan of sorts for one of the most famous families in golf architecture.
Call it a rebirth on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
When the Links at Perry Cabin opens in late May along the Chesapeake Bay, it will deliver a championship layout crafted by Pete Dye and his family that features an island green 17th hole, another par three with a Biarritz green, and plenty of railroad ties.
It will also be one of the most exclusive courses in the area, open only to members as well as guests who stay at the luxurious Inn at Perry Cabin, which is a short drive down the road in St. Michaels.
“The expectation from our membership, ownership, and the Dyes, in no uncertain terms, is that this has to be one of the most fine golf experiences on the east coast,” says Michael Hoffman, who joined the intimate waterfront property as general manager last year. Hoffman has worked at resorts in Asia, Arizona, and California, and most recently was managing director of the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
If you haven’t heard of the Inn at Perry Cabin, chances are you still might have seen it.
Voted the No. 1 Mid-Atlantic resort by Conde Nast Traveler readers last year, the quintessential Eastern Shore property was featured in the movie Wedding Crashers. The Inn is about a 90-minute drive from both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, and approximately 2 ½ hours from the Philadelphia area.
The Links at Perry Cabin currently has 55 members, most of whom live within five hours of the property and own a second home in the vicinity, visiting on weekends or on and off throughout the season. The club’s membership will be capped at 200. But for non-members looking to tee it up at one of the few new U.S. courses opening this year, it simply requires a stay at the nearby Inn. Guest green fees are expected to be about $300, Hoffman says.
The property is planning to build a 100-room lodge that will be located just beyond the 18th green and will boast 20-mile unobstructed views of the Chesapeake Bay.
“There will also be bungalows on the water’s edge where you could throw stones into the bay from the front porch,” Hoffman says. “Even if you don’t play golf, it’s going to be a great complement to what we’re doing at the Inn. It will be very comfortable and accommodating, with more a lodge feel than an estate feel. You’ll be able to walk out of your room, across the street, and you’ll be at the club.”
As for the golf course itself, it represented a second chance for the Dyes, who’ve gone so far as to describe the project as their family mulligan. Pete worked on a design at the same site back in the 1960s with his late brother, Roy Andy Dye, before the developer went bankrupt. The Links at Perry Cabin is a top-to-bottom rebuild of the former course that was on the property, incorporating design elements from Pete, his wife Alice, and their son P.B. Dye. Despite the Links moniker, much of the course has a parkland feel.
The par-three 7th hole borrows from the famous “Biarritz” 9th hole at Yale, with a deep saddle in the middle of the green. “It’s definitely not a hole that you see on the Eastern Shore,” says P.B. “So it’s going to stand out.”
Holes 10 through 15 run through mature trees. But it’s the final three holes golfers are most sure to remember, with a finish that the Dyes call a “Good Night Kiss,” comprised of a short risk-reward par four, a replica of Pete’s island green from TPC Sawgrass, then a strong closing hole at No. 18 that starts with a drive over a lake and continues with water all the way up the right side. The course tips out at just over 7,000 yards.
“The character of the golf course is something you’d see in the Carolina lowcountry,” says course superintendent Jim Bollinger, who came to the Links at Perry Cabin last year after 11 years working at a Pete Dye course on the Caribbean island of Curacao.
“The property was relatively flat, probably two to three meters above sea level, and a lot of the features are built up and out of the ground,” adds Bollinger, who has worked for the Dye family for 34 years. “The Dyes brought in all of their nuances, including the railroad ties, the island green at 17, short drivable par fours and long par fivess that will be tough to reach in two.”
If you’re going to take a mulligan, this is the way to do it.