Course Name: Pocasset Golf Club
Designer: Donald Ross (1916), Ron Forse (2003, Redesign)
Location: Pocasset, Massachusetts
History: Originally a bayside course in Cape Cod, this Donald Ross design opened as a public course in 1916 as one of the Cape’s oldest courses. Tough times in the 1940s forced the club to sell the waterfront property. In 1989, Pocasset became member-owned and private and has since thrived. Ron Forse was brought in the early 2000s to restore Ross’s original green complexes and lengthen the course.
Conditions: 9/10, The conditioning at Pocasset is nothing short of phenomenal. With pristine teeboxes, bunkers, and fairways, Pocasset is great tee-to-green but really stands out with its Bluegrass greens. I’ve played a lot of great courses in 2017, but I’m not sure I’ve played greens as good as Pocasset’s. They were firm, true, and speedy, running about a 13 on the stimpmeter.
Value: N/A, this is a private course.
Tee Par Yardage Rating Slope
Gold 72 6525 . 72.0 130
Blue 72 6236 71.0 128
Green/Members 72 6015 69.2 122
White 72 5567 68.0 120
Red 72 5228 71.0 127
Best Score: 86 (Green/Members Tees), 9/13/2017 with Dad, Geoff L., and one other
Front 9 Best: 44 (Green/Members Tees), 9/13/2017 with Dad, Geoff L., and one other
Back 9 Best: 42 (Green/Members Tees), 9/13/2017 with Dad, Geoff L., and one other
Hole Descriptions: I was invited to Pocassett last minute for a one-day member-guest, and admittedly I knew very little about the course before the invite. I quickly read online that it was a Ross design and immediately grew excited. Having grown up on a Ross course, I had an idea of what to expect – tricky green complexes, strategic bunkering, and tough approach shots to elevated greens.
At only 6525 yards from the Tips, and just over 6000 from the Members tees we played, I fully expected to overwhelm Pocasset with modern technology. In fact, I did just this, hitting over half the fairways and leaving myself plenty of short irons and wedges in. But…it wasn’t good enough to post a decent score. One thing that makes Donald Ross one of the best designers ever is the fact that his classic courses continually challenge players not because of their length, but because of their tricky greens, well-placed bunkers, and fantastic layout. Too often modern designers rely on 7000+ yards and target golf to challenge golfers, but Ross proves you don’t need to do this. The approach shots at Pocasset are difficult enough, but getting up-and-down on these fast greens is borderline impossible.
We played a shotgun and didn’t begin on the 1st, but I wish we had. At only 475 yards, this short par 5 provides a good opportunity to get your round off to a good start. This fairly straight hole is tree-lined the entire way with no real danger until the final 70 yards. At this point, the landing area narrows with multiple bunkers on either side and a fairway that slopes left. Despite being a short hole, golfers will immediately be forced to choose whether to go for it or lay-up short of the danger on only their second swing of the day.
The 2nd is an interesting hole and one I quite enjoyed. With gorgeous fescue lining this snaking fairway, it feels like you’re on Eastern Long Island on this part of the course. This 368 yard par 4 features a blind teeshot over a plateau of fairway. About 280 yards off the tee, a small pond cuts the fairway in two, requiring an approach over water. This water absolutely comes in play for longer hitters, and they won’t be able to see it from the teebox. This green is one of the flattest at Pocasset.
The 147 yard par 3 3rd appears level from the teebox, but this green is actually slightly elevated and runs severely back-to-front. To give you an idea of the green speeds and slope, I hit 8-iron to the middle of this green and spun it back a good 50 feet to where I was chipping almost straight uphill. Danger on this hole includes a small pond on the left side of this fairway and a deep bunker left of this green. Getting up-and-down from the shaved banks on the right is no picnic either.
At only 323 yards, the par 4 4th looks easy on the scorecard but plays considerably more difficult uphill straight into the wind. Club selection on the tee is tricky, as two deep bunkers line the left at 180 yards, two on the right at 215 yards, and one smack dab in the middle of the fairway 240 yards out. Hitting any of these bunkers is devastating and likely necessitates a lay-up. This green is large and receptive but you cannot go long, as a steep embankment drops off.
As with any Ross course, there are many great par fours at Pocasset, but there were none I enjoyed more than the 330 yard 5th. Just a stones throw from the water on the right, the wind usually whips on this downhill teeshot. Tall trees line the left while dense fescue and a solitary tree 200 yards out guard the right. This approach shot then runs back uphill to a tricky back-right-to-front-left green guarded short by several bunkers.
Seemingly built on the beach, the sandy 167 yard 6th hole is the longest par 3 at Pocasset. With trees and dunes lining the hole the entire way, this narrow green is also guarded by three massive, deep bunkers on either side. Par is a good score here.
I don’t believe the current day 7th an original Ross design, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of my favorite holes at Pocasset. At 355 yards, this slight dogleg right is dangerous on the right side with trees and two fairway bunkers ranging from 200 to 230 yards off the tee. From here, this fairway is constricted further with bunkers on either side 50 yards short of the green.
Although one of the more picturesque holes on the course from this teeshot over water, the 371 yard number 1 handicap 8th is probably my least favorite hole on the course. Extremely tight and tree-lined, this dogleg left turns sharply about 230 yards from the teebox. There are no bunkers on this hole, but missing the fairway in any direction likely necessitates a punchout.
Running parallel to the 8th, the 461 yard 9th plays back towards the clubhouse as a legitimately reachable par 5. This dogleg right is tree-lined but features a fairly generous fairway lined by bunkers on both sides at 220 yards. From here, this fairway slides right and narrows, with a series of fairway bunkers lining the right for the final 75 yards. While hitting into these bunkers is undesirable, they actually save a lot of golf balls from tumbling all the way down a steep right embankment.
Although only 344 yards, the 10th at Pocasset is another difficult short par 4. This sharp dogleg left requires a short carry over water to a tight fairway guarded by OB and bunkers on both sides. Anything that doesn’t carry at least 200 yards might be blocked out by the dogleg. This classic, undulating Ross green is slightly elevated and guarded on either side by deep bunkers. Despite its shortness, walk away happy with par here.
The 11th is a straightaway 380 yard par 4 that plays blind to an elevated fairway. OB lines the entire right side, but there’s not much danger on the left. This sloping green allows runners from the front but is guarded by six deep bunkers on three sides. In particular, the bunkers behind this green are especially devastating.
The 12th is the shortest hole at Pocasset at 124 yards, but is a fantastic short par 3. Reminiscent of the famous 3rd at Ross’s Wannamoisett, it’s absolutely essentially to hit this green if you want to make par. Giant bunkers guard short and right, but the real danger on this hole is due to the severe back-to-front slope on this green. Two-putting is difficult, getting up-and-down is nearly impossible.
There are many short par fours at Pocasset but the only truly drivable one is the 13th. At 316 yards, this hole is fairly straight with several bunkers lining a sloping, tight fairway. As you near the green, the bunkers become even more prevalent, culminating in 7 surrounding this green. There is a tight window to thread your drive through, but I’m not sure the reward outweighs the risk here.
Easily my favorite par 4 on the back 9, the 348 yard 14th is stunning from an elevated teebox. This straightforward hole features a generous landing area, with tall trees on the periphery of both sides. The difficult on this hole comes with an approach towards a green perched high above the fairway. This green is quite undulating, sloping hard back-to-front and left-to-right.
We started the four man best-ball on the 9th hole and were doing well until we reached the 15th teebox. At 158 yards, this par 3 plays straight uphill in an extremely intimidating fashion. Two shanks later by our team and we walked away with a best-ball bogey, beginning a bogey train that was hard to derail.
The finishing stretch at Pocasset is nothing short of spectacular beginning with my favorite hole of the day in the 479 yard par 5 16th. From an elevated teebox, this picturesque hole looms below with a fairway full of swales. Fescue and trees line either side, but this isn’t the toughest driving hole. Depending on what part of the fairway you’re in, you could be faced with a completely blind 2nd shot to a tiny green and lay-up area. After hitting one of my better drives of the year, I was only left a 6-iron in, but had no idea the line to take. I roped the iron exactly on the line my dad told me and was horrified to learn I had been given bad advice. Don’t be like me and hit it into the extremely thick fescue surrounding this green.
At 485 yards, the 17th is another par 5 and probably the most difficult three-shotter at Pocasset. This slender dogleg slides left the whole way and plays uphill on every shot. Compared to the previous hole, this is a difficult driving hole with water to the right and fescue and trees jutting out on the left at 250 yards. After this point, the hole opens up a bit, leaving a fairly easy uphill lay-up. Like most holes at Pocasset, your work is not complete once you hit this green, as this surface slopes hard back-to-front.
The finishing hole at Pocasset is a difficult, straightaway par 4 at 384 yards. This tree-lined fairway is tight with a long fairway bunker on the left ranging from 170 to 240 yards off the tee. As you near the green, the fairway begins to slope to the right, leaving awkward lies. Deep bunkers surround this green on all sides, but the best miss is short.
Best Par 3: 6th Hole, 167 yards, 9th handicap. The longest par 3 at Pocasset, this challenging hole plays more difficult than its yardage with sandy dunes and bunkers guarding both sides of this narrow green. My ball caught the downslope of one of these bunkers, leaving a near impossible short-sided sand shot.
Best Par 4: 5th Hole, 330 yards, 17th handicap. The “easiest” hole on the front 9 played much longer into the wind the day we played. With two elevation changes and penal fescue and trees on both sides, this hole plays much harder than you’d think. Add a classic Ross green complex and most golfers will be struggling for par here.
Best Par 5: 16th Hole, 479 yards, 8th handicap. Who doesn’t like a good reachable par 5? At only 479 yards, this hole is tempting, especially considering it features a downhill teeshot to a generous fairway. In a great design, Ross makes the second shot blind to a tiny, well-protected green. Many golfers will leave here unhappy with bogey or worse after a great drive, but this hole can certainly yield eagles.
General Comments: We played in a member-guest so I can’t speak to normal pace of play, but I can attest to the strong practice facilities at Pocasset. The range lies between the 1st and 18th holes and a reliable putting green can be found near the 1st. Also of note is a fantastic short-game practice area behind the parking lot. The clubhouse at Pocasset is cozy, with a nice balcony overlooking the course.
Verdict: Impeccably conditioned, this charming Donald Ross course is thriving in a saturated area for good reason – it’s a fun, yet challenging design. Pocasset is the type of course I could envision myself playing everyday.