Quality is better than quantity, but a combination of the two makes for a special experience.
With two solid layouts to choose from, Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass. has delivered for the past 20 years.
Conveniently located off Route 3 at Exit 7, Pinehills is an hour from Boston — putting it in play for a day excursion — and is only 30 minutes from Hyannis, which means it is close enough to be included as part of a Cape Cod itinerary. About 3 1/2 miles from Cape Cod Bay, it is close enough for the smell of salt to hang in the air and the wind to come off the water to prevent the heat from being overbearing on most days.
The two courses – named simply after the people who designed them – cut through the hilly, scrub pine. Jones, designed by Rees Jones, rates slightly more difficult while Nicklaus, designed by Jack Nicklaus II for his father’s Nicklaus Design, is the slightly longer of the two courses from the tips.
Both layouts have proven worthy to the top golfers in New England, having hosted the NEPGA Championship in 2016, and have frequently been the first step for those trying to reach the U.S. Open hosting Local Qualifying.
So it can stand up to the top-tier player, but with five sets of tees, they are also able to cater to a wide range of ages and skill, and combined with a resort-type atmosphere makes it a popular choice for corporate events and charity fundraisers.
Jones, who picked up the nickname “The Open Doctor” for helping to get a number of venues ready for the U.S. Open (including when The Country Club previously hosted the event in 1988), laid out a challenging route spread out over 300 acres and opened in 2001. To improve the pace of play, the nines were reversed in 2020, giving a fantastic finish with the 574-yard par 5.
It ranges from 5,347 to 7,175 yards and plays to a par 72. From the black tees, the course rating is listed at 75.4 with a slope rating of 137. The front men’s tees (silver, 5,776 yards), the course rating drops to 68.1 with a slope of 125. For the ladies, the silver tees result in a 73.9/132 while the forward tees are 71.3/127.
The par-3 fifth plays over a ravine and can be anywhere from 166 to 248 yards, with the tees fanning out so that the forward tees also having an easier angle at the green.
“Pinehills is on a hilly, sandy site that nature surely intended to be a golf course,” Jones’ designer notes say about the property. “Much like the historic old courses of New England, the classic character of Pinehills is derived from native ridges, dramatic valleys, and natural hazard locations.”
The 509-yard, par-5 sixth plays from an elevated tee and leaves a challenging second for those going for the green in two with three bunkers in front. Those intending to make it a three-shot hole can play a bit more to the left for an easier angle and still have a high iron or wedge in hand.
The Jones Course requires a bit more control off the tee than Nicklaus, the 436-yard, par-4 14th has bunkers hugging each side of the fairway. The approach shot has open area to the right while there is sand front left.
Nicklaus’ tends to be more forgiving off the tee but demands more on the approach. It can be played anywhere from 5,185 to 7,243 yards and also plays to par 72. From the tips it has a 75.2 course rating and 135 slope rating, but it drops to 69.6/128 from the middle set of white tees that play 6,129 yards. It opened in 2002. Four years later, it cracked Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.”
The par-3 third has a ridge bisecting the green in two, while the par-4 fourth is a dogleg left in which the second shot is played over a deep kettle hole.
The eighth (411 yards) and ninth (384 yards) both feature some of the more difficult greens, but also have generous fairways giving players every opportunity to have a high-to-mid iron in hand and be in position to hit the green.
The two par 3s on the back nine bring solid views and a need for a gameplan. The 197-yard 13th is a beast if the pin is on the left side of the green, creating a longer forced carry over the sand, while being much more forgiving if on the right – especially for those playing forward tees.
Following a short par 4 that will have most playing their second with a 9-iron or wedge, the par-3 15th plays downhill and carries a ravine to another green bisected left and right by a ridge, similar to the third. The black tee box is listed at 189 yards and a bunker in front results in a forced carry to a green that is not very deep from this angle, while the women’s tee is 129 yards and plays at a 90-degree angle compared to the black with the bunker running along the right side.
The par-5 16th is 591 yards but also has an elevated tee about 80 feet above fairway helping to pad those driving distances.
The 476-yard finishing hole is solid with the clubhouse in the background and a pond running the final 120 yards guarding the left side.
The green fee is up there, maxing out at $140, but that also includes cart and range balls as well as the VIP treatment one would expect to receive at a country club. So it fits perfect for the person spending part of their vacation by getting away from the Cape Cod beaches and hitting the links.