The first thing most people notice about Old Sandwich Golf Club is the unusual name. To hear the words “old” and “sandwich” combined conjures up images of a leftover hoagie abandoned in the back of the refrigerator or maybe a PB&J in brown bag tucked in the back of a middle school locker. In the golf universe the words “old sandwich” mean a top rated Coore & Crenshaw course located in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
So why exactly would a golf club choose to name themselves Old Sandwich? A little research reveals that Sandwich Massachusetts (est. 1637) is the oldest town on Cape Cod and was named for the seaport of Sandwich in Kent, England. For those of us who remember our 2nd grade history lesson we know that Plymouth Massachusetts is one of the earliest settlements in America having been founded in 1620 (thirteen years after Jamestown Virginia). The two settlements were relatively close together and as would be expected the 17th century settlers in these towns would have occasion to travel between Plymouth and Sandwich. The trail that they used came to be known as Old Sandwich Road and is now the oldest continuously operated unpaved road in the United States. Old Sandwich Golf Club is located nearby so it only seemed appropriate to pay homage to the historic road. And there you have it. It’s not about a hoagie at all – it’s about a road.
As I have mentioned before on this website, my contacts in the Boston area at the outset of my Top 100 quest were limited at best. Here I was four years into it and I still didn’t have any solid leads for the Top 100 courses in the Boston area. To make matters worse, when the revised list came out in 2011 there were two new courses on the list in the Boston area and Old Sandwich was one of them. Ugh.
Earlier this year I sent out my quarterly E-Newsletter to my family and friends with an update on my Top 100 progress and also included the names of the new courses on the Top 100 list. A few days later I received an email from my friend John saying that one of his Kansas City buddies was a member at Old Sandwich and he could probably put me in touch with him. Brilliant! John is also the person who came through with a contact at Calusa Pines at the very last minute for me earlier this year. What a hero!
So John put me in touch with his friend Chuck who spends summers on Cape Cod and is a member at Old Sandwich. After phone conversation with Chuck I knew I’d found the right guy to play Old Sandwich with. Chuck is a bit of a golf nut himself and has played just about every significant and highly regarded golf course in the U.S. After some back and forth we eventually settled on a date for our game on the final day of what was shaping up to be a fantastic golf trip.
I was really excited for a chance to see another Coore & Crenshaw design. As this Top 100 quest has progressed I’ve seen a lot of golf courses and really been able to hone in on what styles I like the best. At the outset of this quest I was rather fond of Tom Fazio and, in my naivety, stated here on this website that he was the best modern golf course designer. I think its safe to say that the more courses I’ve seen the more ridiculous I feel about that comment. Fazio is still a great designer in my opinion, but to say any one of these guys is the best is beyond absurd. There are all different kinds of courses being built in many different styles. Each of them is interesting in their own special way. There is no question in my mind that Coore & Crenshaw are one of the designers who are doing remarkable work. The C&C courses I have played so far are Bandon Trails, Sand Hills and Dormie Club and I have loved every one of them, so I was really excited to get a chance to see another one at Old Sandwich.
The Sunday that we were scheduled to play Old Sandwich was also the final day of the 2011 British Open Championship. When we arrived to the club Chuck was already there watching his buddy Tom Watson (remember, Chuck is a Kansas City guy) play the final round at Royal St. Georges. Unfortunately, Tom didn’t have the magic he did back in 2009 and wasn’t in the hunt for the Claret Jug this year. At age 62 the fact that he is made the cut and finished in the top 25 against the best players in the game is a real testament to how great of a player he is.
So, getting back to Old Sandwich . . . Kyle and I met Chuck in the locker room where we changed our shoes and then made our way out the practice area. Brad, our friend from New York, arrived shortly after us and found his way to the range where we all hit a few balls and then headed to the 1st tee.
Old Sandwich plays to a par of 71 and has back (6,908 yards), middle (6,415 yards) and front (5,400 yards) tees as well as a composite tee (6,670 yards) that is a combination of the back and middle tees. We elected to play the composite tees which start out with a stout par 5 playing 531 yards. Below is a photo of the tee shot which requires a short carry over scrub area.
At 531 yards this hole is a fairly lengthy hole, but when you consider the fact that it plays uphill as well, it suddenly gets even longer. The photo below was taken from the fairway.
Here is a close up of the 1st green. With no bunkers in front it allows for a running shot into the green which certainly helps players attempting to reach the green in two.
The 2nd hole is a long par 4 that we played from 403 yards. The photo below was taken from the tee and the ideal shot here is something to the right of the cluster of bunkers. Also be sure to avoid the little guy all by its lonesome, it’s a nasty one.
Below is a look at the approach shot into the green at the 2nd hole. Clearly it plays uphill and requires a little extra club.
The photo below is the view from the tee at the 3rd hole which is a 409 yard par 4. The best line is at the left or middle tower in the distance.
The 3rd green, pictured below, is another one that Coore & Crenshaw designed to accept shots other than an aerial approach.
At the 4th hole we come to the first par 3 on the course and it is not to be taken lightly. At 209 yards it requires a solid shot from the tee to make par. The green is fairly large so players should not kid themselves into thinking that a 2 putt is a guarantee if they reach the putting surface with their tee shot.
The 5th hole, pictured below, is a short par 4 that we played from 336 yards and requires a carry over the ravine and avoiding the fairway bunkers. From our tee, to carry the right bunker requires a 215 yard shot, the middle a 235 yard shot and the left a 258 yard shot. Plenty of options from this tee.
Below is a view of the 5th green from atop the hill. Approach shots left short will have a chance of finding their way to the putting surface under the firm and fast conditions at Old Sandwich.
Next we have the 6th hole which is a par 5 that we played from 534 yards. The photo below is the view from the tee. The drive here is hit over the hill to a blind landing zone.
Below is a view from the fairway. I’m sure some longer hitters reach the green in two here, but with the yardage and the uphill approach it’s going to be pretty tough for us mere mortals.
The approach shot for most players is going to look something like the photo below which was taken from about 90 yards out from the green.
The 7th hole is a par 4 that we played from 391 yards. the best plan is to drive the ball straight out the middle where it will disappear to the blind landing zone down the hill.
The photo below is of the 7th green. This is a bit of an island green as misses to the left, right and short will all result in a bunker shot.
Below is a photo of the 8th hole taken from the tee box. This hole is a par 4 that we played from 379 yards. The hole steadily climbs uphill so it plays a little longer than it would appear from the yardage.
The uphill climb continues on the approach to the 8th hole. Coore & Crenshaw were remarkably conservative with hazards in front of the green at Old Sandwich and here we have another approach that allows for a variety of shots and not just an aerial approach.
At the 9th hole we have a nice little short par 3 that we played from 131 yards. It’s best to be accurate with the short iron here as the bunkers left and right make a tough up and down for players who miss the green.
The 10th hole is a par 5 that we played from 516 yards. The photo below was taken from the tee box and the drive plays a little downhill. There is a cross hazard that spans the fairway 312 yards out from the back tee and 277 from the middle tee. It is definitely something to be considered off the tee as big hitters can certainly drive the ball 310 yards downhill. The hazard is just visible down the fairway in the photo below.
The hazard runs across the fairway at a diagonal which allows for drives hit down the left side of the fairway to have a little more room than the 312/277 yards from the tee. From the edge of the hazard it is 175 yards to the green from the left side of the fairway and 205 yards to the green from the right side of the fairway. Two well placed and well executed shots can provide an opportunity for eagle here. Below is a photo of the hazard and the 10th green.
The 11th hole is the first of three par 3s in the second nine holes. As mentioned above the course plays to a par of 71 with the second nine holes being a par 35. This par 3 is another long one and played 217 yards from our tees. The photo below was taken from the tee.
Below is a photo taken from the 12th tee. This is a lengthy par 4 that we played from 408 yards. The best thing to do here is just blast one down the middle.
The approach into the 12th green is pictured below.
The 13th hole, pictured below from the tee box, is a lengthy par 5 that we played from 560 yards. I would think this is a solid three shot hole for anyone but the most elite players. The fairway falls off for a downhill approach into the green.
Below is the shot into the green from 110-120 yards out.
The 14th hole is a medium length par 4 that we played from 369 yards. The drive plays uphill to a blind landing zone.
A good drive will leave a short iron or wedge into the green here. Note the way the shaved grass seems to fold right into the bunkers in the photo below. Shots that get too close to those hazards are going to feed right into the sand and require a good up and down.
At 168 yards the 15th hole plays as a mid length par 3. As illustrated in the photo below the valley must be carried and the bunkers avoided for the best chance at par.
The 16th hole is a very hefty par 4 that we played from 460 yards (the back tees play this one from 486). The photo below was taken from the tee box and the drive plays straight up the hill.
Below is a photo of the approach into the 16th green. Thankfully on a hole so long, the approach plays downhill. With no bunkers in front of the green a shot that comes up short will still have a chance to reach the putting surface on the ground.
The final par 3 on the course is the 17th hole which we played from 191 yards. Getting over the valley should not pose a problem for most players but a miss that finds any of the bunkers will make for a tough par.
Here is a view looking back down the hole.
The 18th hole is another very long par 4. This one played 458 yards from our tees, but the back tees are a whopping 498 yards. A drive up and over the hill leaves a downhill approach shot. The front of the green is free from bunkers but a miss left or right can cause a problem or two as can be seen in the photo below.
After the 18th hole Chuck took us over to a little 19th hole that can be used for unsettled bets. It is a short par 3 that can be played anywhere from 105-152 yards. Its a fun little downhill shot to a fairly good sized green and more deep bunkers. The photo below was taken from the 152 yard tee.
After wrapping up at the 19th hole we headed back to the clubhouse where we got cleaned up and had a little lunch in the grill room. The locker room and facilities at Old Sandwich are among the nicest I’ve seen at a modern club. They really did a top notch job with all the amenities. After we ate Chuck gave us a quick tour of the on site guest cabins that are available for members who would like to come in and stay for a couple of days. I think the photos below will give a good idea of what the amenities at Old Sandwich are like.
Driving away from the Old Sandwich it was clear to me that this is a truly great golf club and worthy of its spot as one of the greatest 100 courses in America. Coore & Crenshaw did a remarkable job with the routing. There was no shortage of variety in the terrain with holes that played uphill, downhill, uphill AND downhill as well as the occasional flat hole. With the topography of the land it is a given that the course is a hearty walk, but Coore & Crenshaw did a great job of making the transitions from green to tee as short as possible so as to avoid unnecessary walking.
The variety of holes at Old Sandwich was great as were the variety of options for getting the ball off the tee and into the hole. The course is great fun and I suspect it is the type of place a member can play every day and never grow weary of the design. I still have two more Coore & Crenshaw courses to play in my Top 100 Quest (Friars Head and Kapalua), but this golf course designing duo are rapidly becoming my favorite designers. I can only hope that I will enjoy their other courses as much as I enjoyed Old Sandwich.