Cape Cod National was one of Brian Silva’s first new course offerings on his watch but he came to it very schooled from the time he spent working with his mentor Geoffrey Cornish. For an early effort this course has woven into it’s fabric amazingly mature design concept. The course is built with lots of elbow room but, like courses built back in the Golden Age of Design, the width provides plenty of tactical choices for players with imagination. Searching for and losing golf balls should not be a problem out here which makes for fast and enjoyable play.
It is very playable for the average member while it maintains intrinsic challenge for the better player at the same time. This is a private club but access to it is available to the guests of the Wequassett Resort outside of Chatham.
Generous width off the tee with parenthetical bunkering to emphasize the proper targeting line is the operating principle. In most cases the first bunker is in play for all players where the opposing bunker, which sets your target line, is only reachable by the biggest hitters. As a result there is plenty of room to play and you should not spend much time in the rough or the adjacent trees. But picking good lines is critical to having advantage angles into the green complexes.
The second principle is green complexes with bunkering on one side and bail pitching areas or grassy rough hollows on the other. Once again this is good for the broader golfing masses who can work there way around the green size bunkers without taking them on but for the low digit guy up-and-downs off the tight grass pitching areas presents a solid challenge.
The greens themselves are very clever-oddly shaped to compliment the green approach lines with plenty of slope. The specs the greens were made to allow them to reach quick green speeds which, when matched with the slopes, puts a premium on leaving even the recovery pitch below the hole to avoid the three putts. The generous setbacks of the greens from the trees makes depth perception when reading the breaks a huge challenge. Once you determine the prevailing break of the green you must pay attention to countervailing internal breaks they worked into the putting surfaces.
The first three holes give you all of this in heavy dosages. An unusual sequence of two par fives in the first three holes gives Silva an opportunity to lay out this theme early on. Setting up the lay ups on these two holes is all about finding a good line off the tee to set up an opposing line of approach to a narrowly confined lay up area from where an attack wedge can be played to the open side of the green complex. All four of the five pars have interesting tactical options so the opportunity for scoring is there but it takes good planning melded with good shot making.
The par fours have great variety-long and short versions that smartly use the prevailing topography to feed into the strategy of the holes. Three short ones of 335 yards or less call for very articulate club selection and execution to get the ball into the attack position into the greens. On some of the longer holes, if you tee shots are not of full measure, it may be smarter to play to a lay up spot and rely on an aggressive pitch and a putt to make a par. Biting off big carries over the bunker side of the green complex can lead to big numbers if you do not pull them off. Kenny Rogers golf….you got to know when to hold them..know when to fold them.
The par threes at 178, 159, 209, and 127 cover the gamut when it comes to look and demand of approach shots. The fifteenth is the longest and probably the easiest one and the shortest is sixteen and may be the one with the trickiest green placements to get at. My favorite is the sixth where you have a full carry long iron/hybrid across an environmental area and one of the deepest hurdle bunkers you will see all day framing the carry across the full face of the green. With a little breeze this becomes a real question of how much risk you want to take on to get it in the correct third of the green.
For the most part the wide playing area prevails throughout the course but there a tight corner of the property from eleven through thirteen where you have to bear down tightly on the luge runner to stay on the track. Any towardness issues to the left of these three holes can ring up the register reading of the scorecard in a hurry.
Despite what looks like fairly hilly terrain the course is eminently walkable. Greens are close to tees, there are very few steep transitional hills to traverse, and they even provide a walkers cut from the tee to the fairway. Hand carts are available if you like to walk and I would recommend them so you get the full flavor and aroma of the golf experience.
One of the real kitchy things about this place is the prevalence of animal accent lawn art. You will see hippos, seals, pelicans, and more strewn through the course. Love the sense of humor this indicates.
As one of the greens staff said to me on the course, Cape Cod National does not have the reputation of some of the other older, more established courses on the Cape but it probably has more memorable holes on it than any of them. I would agree. Silva did a great job in creating a course that the members will enjoy playing every day or a visiting dignitary will appreciate on a one up.
Designer: Brian Silva (1998)
Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 72 6954 74.0 135
White 72 6375 71.2 131
Gold 72 5829 69.4 124
Red 72 4884 70.7 125