MASHPEE, Mass. – Several oceanside golf destinations are frustratingly short on actual, bona fide beachfront golf.
Take New England, for example. Despite having more than 6,000 miles of coastline, it is home to relatively few courses where one can take in horizon-going water views during a round. Which is part of why the Club at New Seabury is noteworthy and popular. Nine of its 36 holes run along the beach at Succonesset Point, affording southeasterly views across Nantucket Sound.
That stretch comprises the front nine of New Seabury’s Ocean Course, a 1962 William Mitchell design that was updated in 1988 by Rees Jones. It is one of the more rousing starts to a round you’ll find in the Northeast, especially when the wind is blowing. It howled on the early-June day I played, meaning the first three holes played straight into the teeth of the wind. Mitchell accounted for this, though; the holes are laid out relatively simply, with greens that are open in front to reward golfers who can execute knee-high screaming approaches. Though certainly challenging, the course was playable even in a gale.
Whereas the front of the Ocean Course is fairly flat along the Sound, the back nine heads for higher elevation. Holes rise up and over saddles and weave through an upscale real estate development that dates to the 1960s. The community’s original developers did a good job in giving golfers enough room to miss, as out-of-bounds stakes are seldom a concern. After a woodsy back nine, golfers get a last taste of sea air approaching the 18th green, which looks down past the clubhouse to the water.
The Dunes Course is both newer and shorter, occupying a similar piece of property and routing as the Dunes Course’s inward half. Also originally designed by Mitchell and worked on by Jones in the late 80s, the Dunes just recently entered a new phase, emerging from a months-long, $1.5 million renovation effort by longtime Tom Doak associate Bruce Hepner, who is making a name for himself across the United States with classic-styled updates to several clubs.
Hepner’s work at New Seabury is a home run. Though barely 6,000 yards from the tips, par 70, the new-look Dunes Course is a joy to play. Hepner widened the corridors he had to work with as much as possible, honoring the interesting terrain the course traverses. He also fashioned a superb collection of short par 4s, both drivable and not. He expanded fairways and greens and repositioned several bunkers by staggering them around and eating into fairways, rather than simply flanking them. Finally, Hepner recontoured some greens, including moderating the slope on some in order to accommodate higher attainable speeds. The course is a particular hit with ladies, who appreciate the open-in-front greens as well as the shrinking of a pond on 16 that made for an awkward layup, followed by a forced carry to the green. All in all, the Dunes Course is a perfect example of why length has little to do with the quality of a golf course.
Hepner’s stellar results on the Dunes Course renovation have earned him an encore. Later this year and early next, he will renovate the Ocean Course, whose solid bones will be fortified by a more strategic and naturalistic integument. Whereas the Dunes bunkering retains a look one could easily confuse with the sandy pits of Donald Ross’ design, Hepner has been tasked with giving the Ocean Course’s bunkers more free-form, beachy shapes. In the end, members and visitors to New Seabury will enjoy two courses of different aesthetics but similar shot values. Reopening is scheduled for next spring.
In addition to the Dunes Course renovation, New Seabury has a completely renovated flagship restaurant, 95 Shore. The windows nearly encircling the dining room and bar area give the space an airy feel and provide maximum opportunity to gaze out at the water while drinking and eating. Another gathering spot for members and guests is the Popponesset Inn, a classic New England seafood joint where you can gaze out at the waters from which much of the menu derives.
New Seabury is somewhat accessible for non-members, thanks to a clutch of stay-and-play accommodations: 19 two-bedroom, two-bathroom Sea Quarter Cottages. These lodgings are tucked into a quiet section of the property between the first and 10th holes of the Dunes Course. Nicely appointed and built in classic Cape Cod style, they are particularly well laid out for families, with one bedroom having a king-size bed and the other having two twin-size beds. Rates range from about $300 per night in shoulder seasons to $673 per night in the prime summer season.
Golf rates for guests are $170 for the Ocean Course and $150 for the Dunes Course. Finally, New Seabury does often accept reciprocal play from members of other private clubs, which can be an avenue of access for those visiting the area but not necessarily staying at New Seabury.