Set amongst the glorious pinehills and spacious sand dunes of eastern Massachusetts, the Old Sandwich golf course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and first opened for play in 2005. Located a short drive south of Plymouth and within three miles of Cape Cod, this private members club was founded on a property seemingly destined for golf, its landscape blessed with plenty of heavy elevation change, abundant sand deposits and an attractive mix of pine, fescue and a blueberry undergrowth.
Typically kept in firm condition and with genuine links characteristics, the playing corridors here are quite generous but the designers continually force good players to flirt with danger in order to set up decent angles and approaches. Despite the ideal golfing ground, the architects deserve great credit for creating such a gripping layout and for building some of their most impressive greens and bunkers. Set on natural ledges, plateaus, within hollows or benched into the hills, the targets are generally open and often built with shaved fronts and sophisticated internal contouring. The clever chipping areas around the greens provide a comprehensive test of your ability to visualize and execute appropriate recovery shots while the rugged bunker shapes also form a crucial part of the strategic examination and are particularly striking when cut into the scrubby dunes.
The round begins with a stroll from the rustic Shingle-style clubhouse across a lake toward the opening tee, the water sensibly omitted from the routing so as not to scar this otherwise pristine golfing environment. The holes themselves are beautifully built, and were constructed using only materials from the site. The only substantial earthworks were to a large sand hill that blocked the 1st fairway, the structure simply sliced away and its fill used to build the greens and tees. Hitting across this apparently natural sandy blowout is an early highlight, as is the hole itself, a multi-option par five with a terrific green set on a subtle spur. The next gem is the 4th, the first in a set of nicely varied and attractive par threes. Measuring well over 200 yards from the back tee, the hole falls dramatically across a shallow vale and into a huge flowing green with lots of internal movement.
Other outstanding areas on the front nine include the uphill, side-hill 8th and the gently bending 7th, its green an island-like target with rounded edges that is almost entirely surrounded by sand. The short par three 9th is another stunner, the hole completely manufactured by Coore & Crenshaw who made the exquisitely contoured green site appear cut from the virgin terrain. The back nine is dominated by some rather bold fairway shapes and a number of spectacular targets, most notably on the twisting, tumbling par five 13th whose green is built on a small shelf and framed by magnificent bunkers cut into the dune behind. The closing stretch is also very strong, particularly the modern par four finishing hole and par threes at the 15th and 17th, the latter rising up into a tiered ledge that is angled toward the tee and offers little chance of recovery for those unable to hit in regulation.
While Old Sandwich has some obvious showstoppers, there is strategic interest across the layout and few areas likely to cause golfers any major concerns. The quality of its holes, as well as the club’s special sense of privacy and seclusion, make the course a wonderful addition to this strong golfing region and, more significantly, help push it up among the leading few layouts anywhere by this talented design duo. It would be hard to argue that, hole for hole, Old Sandwich was in the same class as Sand Hills, but the greens, bunkers, routing balance and design variety are all outstanding. By any accurate measure, this fine course must be regarded as one of the best modern tracks in America.