I have played a lot of golf on Cape Cod over the years, but had never played Bayberry Hills until I was enticed by a media event in May which was held on the eve of the reopening of the course following a massive $2 million overhaul funded by the town of Yarmouth. So I made a trek down to West Yarmouth to see what all the fuss was about.
I’m immensely glad I made the trip. I was literally blown away by the renovation of the course. I had an opportunity to play all 18 holes with Eric Nowicki, the assistant pro, even though the front nine did not open for play until later in May. Bayberry Hills was designed by the Cornish-Silva team in 1988. Nowicki explained that over the years, the condition of the course – especially the areas around the greens and the bunkers – had deteriorated significantly.
The renovation, under the auspices of Tim Gerrish, RLA of Providence (formerly with Cornish-Silva), included completely reworking (mostly with new sod) every hole within 75 yards of the green. Bunkers were renovated and repositioned to enhance play options. Some bunkers were replaced with closely-mown collection areas providing multiple options for greenside recoveries. The result is a very clean, traditional design that affords “bailout” zones on every hole, which enhances the golf experience for the mid to high handicap golfer.
Gerrish widened fairways and expanded approaches and green surrounds, offering players the opportunity to access areas of the greens without having to carry bunkers. Undulating terrain around the greens adds visual interest and increases shot options. Rough areas in front of many of the greens were replaced tightly mown fairways, creating the illusions of false fronts.
Gerrish also removed over 3,000 trees, which opens up the course, improves aesthetics, and allows for recovery from errant tee shots. In addition, he added sandy “waste areas” on some holes which reduce mowing and the use of water and fertilizer. The par-3 12th hole is dominated by a flowing sand area along the left side which challenges the low handicapper shooting for the flag but allows lesser-skilled players a generous bailout area on the right.
A major part of the renovation was a complete overhaul of the bunkers, which were rebuilt to reduce sand area while maintaining proper proportions that enhance the original design. The bunkers are lined with pervious capillary concrete which reduces maintenance and provides a uniformity of play. The liners maintain the integrity of the bunker shapes and wick moisture from the ground below, which results in a firmly-packed bunker surface with exceptional playability.
Bayberry Hills features a variety of teeing areas, all of which were resurfaced. Forward teeing areas were added on four holes to enhance user friendliness. The course plays a daunting 7,172 yards from the gold tees, but Nowicki said most players use the blue tees (6,523 yards) or white tees (6,087 yards). For women and higher handicappers, the silver tees (5,468 yards) and red tees (5,294 yards) provide user friendly options. I am not a long hitter, and found the white tees to be challenging but not overwhelming.
The golf cart path system was revised, which eliminates wear and tear on the course and improves playing conditions as well as access to greens and tees. This should improve pace of play.
In my assessment, the renovations to Bayberry Hills makes it one of the top destinations on the Cape. The new design and superb condition of the course contribute to an enjoyable experience. The course can challenge the best of players but provides lesser skilled players with multiple options on holes, which I think is one of the hallmarks of good golf design. In addition, the staff at the course, headed by Jim Armentrout, Director of Golf Operations, and Keith MacArthur, Operations Manager, is one of the most hospitable you will find anywhere. During my two days there, I found that Bayberry Hills exuded friendliness.
Over the past weeks since the full 18 holes were open to play, members and guests seem to concur. “Player reaction has been fantastic,” said MacArthur. Jim Hallet, a former PGA Tour member who teaches at the course, commented: “I never dreamed that I would see Bayberry Hills this great!”
An added feature of Bayberry Hills is an additional nine-hole course in a links style (the Blue Course), which provides a nice option for golfers. I played the course and found its shorter length (2,926 yards from the white tees) and openness to be an enjoyable alternative to the regular course — until I hit two tee shots into the water on the par-3 9th hole. But that’s on me.
The Yarmouth area also provides good options for lodging and dining. I stayed at the lovely Bayside Resort, where I was able to relax in an Adirondack chair on a beach overlooking a salt marsh and savor a cigar. The Irish Village is another popular option, offering an expansive dining room and entertainment. Some of the media folk joined Armentrout and Scott Gilmore, the course superintendent, for dinner at the Yarmouth House, a local landmark, where we were well-attended to by proprietor Ted Zambelis. Gilmore was lured away from Hyannis Club, and is doing a phenomenal job.
I came away from the media event at Bayberry Hills with a new course in my lineup and some new friends on the Cape. I also picked up a key pitching tip from Nowicki during our round, and got some bunker tips from Hallet during his clinic on demo day. After his instruction, I have gotten up and down out of some bunkers in recent weeks. Having watched me hit the ball and not the sand the past couple of years, my playing partners are stunned.
In fact, I liked the experience so much I returned to Yarmouth a couple weeks later for an expert club fitting by MacArthur and another round on the course. Armed with my new Callaway Rogue irons and Ping fairway woods, I am now ready to make another assault on Bayberry Hills. I want revenge on the 9th hole of the Blue Course.