Review: Hyannisport Club

Course Name: Hyannisport Club

Designer: John Reid (1897, 6 holes), Alex Findlay (1902, 9 holes), Donald Ross (1936, Redesign), Ron Forse (1992, Restoration)

Location: Hyannis Port, Massachusetts

History: Hyannisport’s architectural history is a bit murky but begins in 1897 when founding member John Reid laid out a 6-hole layout for his friends. In 1902, the Club hired prolific architect Alex Findlay to build an additional 3 holes to make it a 9-hole course. Today’s 1st, 2nd, 15th, 16th, and 18th are practically conserved from this primitive course. It’s unclear when Hyannisport expanded to 18 holes, but it certainly was 18 holes after Donald Ross redesigned it in 1936. Today’s course is Ross’ with a few upgrades from Ron Forse along the way.

Never in the national spotlight and immensely private, Hyannisport hosted the Massachusetts Open in 1958 and 1959 but seems unlikely to do so in the future at its short length. The Club is perhaps most famous for being home to John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy Compound is just a few hundred yards from the course. Hyannisport has earned the following awards:

  • #130 Best Classic Course in America – Golfweek (2020)
  • #12 Best Course in Massachusetts – Golf Digest (2019)
  • #14 Best Course in Massachusetts – Top100golfcourses.com (2018)

Conditions: 9/10, Hyannisport is in excellent condition with lush fairways, thick rough, and well-kept bunkers and teeboxes. Similar to many seaside courses, the greens here aren’t blazingly fast, but certainly roll true.

Value: N/A, This is a private course.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       71           6443            72.0              132

White                       71           6079             70.7               128

Gold                         71           5480             67.6               116

Green                      73           4481              67.4               115

Hole Descriptions: When it comes to golf on the Cape, there’s Eastward Ho! and Hyannisport and then everything else. At the time of writing this, I actually haven’t explored the Cape as much as I should’ve but I’ve been fortunate to play both Eastward and Hyannisport and it’s hard not to compare the two. Both are short, historic, seaside courses with fantastic views and an emphasis on fun when the wind isn’t howling. With that being said, I much prefer Eastward Ho! to Hyannisport for several reasons. First and foremost, the quality and depth of holes is much stronger at Eastward. While there are one, maybe two, weaker holes at the Ho!, Hyannisport features several world-class holes mainly on the water and a rather forgettable interior. The 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 16th are fantastic, but many of the other holes are simply tree-lined and straight, running parallel to each other. Donald Ross is a master router, but Hyannisport was not his best effort, perhaps because he inherited the canvas of several other architects. Hyannisport does have its merits, however. The aforementioned holes are tremendous and walking where JFK played so many rounds is a special feeling.

Hyannisport is not a long course at just over 6400 yards from the Black Tees, but the opening hole is an anomaly as a 439 yard par 4. Playing straightaway downhill, the longest par 4 on the course features a generous and undulating fairway lined by rough and small trees. There are several bunkers on either side for the final 100 yards, but I’m not sure what these are protecting. This green is excellent and one of the best on the course running back-to-front with multiple tiers and deep bunkers on either side.

The par 4 1st
The approach into the excellent 1st green

At just 280 yards, the 2nd hole is the shortest par 4 at Hyannisport and a rather easy hole. Although the fairway progressively narrows with numerous bunkers as you near this narrow green, it’s not enough to salvage this fairly mundane straightaway, flat hole. Apparently Ross thought the same and desired the green to be built into a hill long left, but his vision never came to fruition.

The par 4 2nd
A closer look at the danger surrounding the 2nd green

The next two holes are some of the finest on the course as long Cape par fours. The 3rd hole is the better of the two and my favorite hole at Hyannisport (and one of my favorite par fours anywhere)! At 395 yards, this is a hole that simply cannot be replicated with today’s modern restrictions on environmental areas. Beginning with an exhilarating teeshot over the marshes, the golfer must choose how much to bite off with a carry ranging from 100 to 210 yards depending on how far left you venture. This slab of fairway ends abruptly with more hazards about 100 yards short of the green, requiring yet another carry to find this square, rather receptive green lined by a bunker right and marshes long and left.

The epic par 4 3rd
The final approach at 3
The gorgeous view from the 3rd green

The 4th hole is another stunner as a 410 yard dogleg left par 4. The number 1 handicap, this difficult hole features a somewhat confusing teeshot with ample room to the right that’s further from the hole. Marshland hugs the entire lefthand corner of the fairway and the golfer needs at least a 210 yard carry to have a reasonable approach. This right-to-left sloping green juts out into the marsh with a trio of bunkers guarding right and marsh long and left. A par here is well-earned.

The difficult par 4 4th
The 4th is another world-class Cape

The 5th hole brings us to the first par 3 at Hyannisport at 176 yards. This was originally a par 4 from the current 4th teebox on Findlay’s 1902 course so the green is set at an awkward angle from its current teebox. Diagonal with an opening short right, this green slopes hard back-to-front with two tiers and is surrounded by four deep bunkers at its corners.

The par 3 5th
A closer look at the wicked slope at 5

The 6th hole is the first of two rather pedestrian and similar par fives on the front 9. At 520 yards, this straightaway hole initially plays uphill over a plateau with a semi-blind teeshot. Trees run down the left side the entire way while the right is more open besides a trio of bunkers between 160 and 240 yards. This lay-up is complicated by bunkers on either side and a narrowing fairway. A large, receptive green is defended by bunkers left, long, and right.

The par 5 6th
Be careful to avoid the numerous bunkers at 6

At 414 yards, the 7th hole runs parallel to the 6th back towards the water. This beautiful, straightaway hole plays downhill with a generous fairway lined by trees and bunkers on either side between 200 and 230 yards. The approach here is stellar with a rumpled fairway and a beautiful water backdrop. This circular green is well-defended by two bunkers right, one left, and marshland long.

The beautiful par 4 7th
The approach at 7

The longest and most difficult par 3 at 202 yards, the 8th hole is also my favorite of a very nice set of one-shotters at Hyannisport. Lying directly on the water on the furthest west part of the property, this flat hole is quite intimidating with an immediate 120 yard forced carry over marshland. While there’s ample fairway short of the green, this putting surface is quite small for the distance and difficult to hit with a long club and lots of wind. A trio of bunkers is built into a hill behind the green and tight fairway lies surround the rest of the green. This is a first-rate golf hole.

The terrific par 3 8th

At 540 yards, the 9th hole is the longest hole at Hyannisport as a lengthy, narrow par 5. From the Black tees, this is easily the most intimidating teeshot on the course with OB lining the entire left side, trees down the right, and a semi-blind plateau to carry. Once you find the fairway, this hole is fairly straightforward with alternating crossbunkers on either side for the final 120 yards and a back-to-front sloped green defended by bunkers on either side.

Both accuracy and length are required at the 9th
The approach at 9

The 10th hole is an excellent one, but whose similarity to the 7th just a few holes before slightly weakens its effect. Running downhill at 410 yards, this straightaway par 4 features a semi-blind, treelined teeshot to a fairway that slopes hard right-to-left. Long hitters need to be aware of a right crossbunker at 290 yards, but otherwise there is little danger here. This approach plays to an elevated green defended by a bunker left.

The par 4 10th
The gorgeous approach at 10

At 424 yards uphill, the par 4 11th hole is a difficult slight dogleg right. Featuring a blind teeshot over a plateau, this hole is tree-lined with no bunkers until the final 80 yards. A crossbunker lines the right side of the fairway about 80 yards short and this undulating green is well-defended by three bunkers on either side.

The semi-blind par 4 11th
The approach at 11

The 12th hole continues a stretch of longer par fours at 415 yards. A sharp dogleg right, this tree-lined hole features a generous fairway that turns at about 230 yards with two bunkers on the inside of the dogleg. From here, this hole is relatively straightforward with a large Redan-like green surrounded only by rough.

Leaf rule seems to be in full effect at the 12th
The approach at 12

Like the 2nd, the 13th and 14th are consecutive straightaway par fours that fail to leave a lasting memory after playing the course once. At 318 yards, the 13th is a simple hole with a generous, flat fairway devoid of danger besides a bunker down the left at 240 yards. Although you’ll likely only have wedge in, this is one of the better approaches at Hyannisport with a small, back-to-front sloped green guarded by bunkers on either side and a tree short right.

The straightaway par 4 13th
The pretty approach at 13

At 380 yards, the 14th is slightly longer, but also plays flat and straightaway. The fairway is also wide here but narrows around 240 yards with bunkers on both sides. This green is large and lined by bunkers on either side.

The level par 4 14th

Originally the 7th hole on the 1902 course, today’s 15th is a beautiful hole that marks a return to the seaside holes. At 185 yards, this one-shotter runs downhill to a large, back-to-front sloped green lined by deep bunkers on either side. The view behind this green is tremendous and makes you excited for the closing stretch.

The par 3 15th

At just 482 yards, the wonderfully quirky 16th hole is by far the best and most memorable par 5 at Hyannisport. This is an absolutely wild dogleg right where the green is only about 380 yards from the teebox and visible jutting out over the right marshes. This hole plays straightaway for the first 290 yards or so and features a tighter fairway highlighted by a giant uphill slope and plateau at about 250 yards. Just like the notorious closer at Yale, those who don’t reach this plateau may be left a completely blind second shot and not enough room to get the ball high enough quickly. After this plateau, the hole darts to the right downhill with the range down the left and marshland right. This green is open up front and certainly reachable in two but six bunkers surround it long and on both sides. This approach is one of the most beautiful at Hyannisport and this is one of the most unique risk/reward short par fives I’ve played.

The par 5 16th
The all-world approach at 16

The 17th hole is the shortest on the course at just 143 yards, but sits on one of the windiest parts of the property along the marshes. Featuring perhaps the most severe back-to-front slope at Hyannisport, this green is also quite narrow and defended by deep bunkers on either side. A par here demands a controlled ballflight and deft putting touch.

The short par 3 17th

At 310 yards, the closing par 4 plays much longer straight uphill towards the clubhouse. It doesn’t seem like this hole has changed much since 1902 with the range down the left and OB to the far right. Bunkers begin at 270 yards with one down the right and four gorgeous bunkers guard this elevated green long, left, and right. This green also runs extremely hard back-to-front with a false front short.

The closer plays longer than the scorecard
The 18th green is well-defended and difficult
A look from behind the 18th

General Comments: Hyannisport’s unassuming yet charming clubhouse and practice facilities occupy some of the best land on the property sitting on the highest point overlooking Centerville Harbor. It’s hard to imagine a better spot for a clam chowder and cocktail after a round. Practice facilities include a small practice green and short range between the 16th and 18th holes. Like most Cape courses, Hyannisport is mainly a summer retreat and not nearly as busy in the off-season.

The incredible view from the clubhouse
Hyannisport’s driving range

Verdict: Although not quite the best course on the Cape, the exclusive seaside home of The Kennedy Family offers ample fun, several world-class holes, and spectacular views. Hyannisport is absolutely worth the play if you get an invite.


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