SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass – Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Robert Trent Jones are recognized as some of the top golf course designers in history. But, in my humble opinion, Donald Ross is the top man when it comes to golf course architecture. Oak Hill, East Lake and Pinehurst #2, were created by Ross and all have hosted major tournaments that challenged the skills of the top pros in the world.
Some of Donald Ross’s courses were designed 100 years ago when hand-forged irons and hickory-shafted golf clubs were considered high-tech. Today we have computer designed club heads and graphite shafts enabling some golfers to crush a tee shot well over 300 yards.
Bass River Golf Club rests in the middle of Cape Cod in the charming town of South Yarmouth. It plays only 6,138 yards from the tips, but demands straight tee shots and smart putting skills.
When the municipal course opened in 1900 the green fees were only 25 cents. In 1914, Bass River hired Ross to re-design the track, adding 9 more holes. This raised the green fees to $1.25.
Bass River starts with a 258-yard par 4 from the blue tees. The fairway is wide and the elevated green is inviting. But Ross is known for designing greens with a “crown” or mound, so be sure to hit your approach shot below the crown to avoid a dreaded three-putt.
Hole No. 2 is a 406-yard par 4 with a flat fairway but the green lies in a valley making for a very tricky second shot. Remember the green has a crown and the bunkers are deep. In addition to tricky greens and grass faced bunkers you are on the Cape and the winds can play havoc with your shots.
We are experiencing one of the most severe draughts this summer, but the course was as green as a billiard table. The greens were in perfect shape and the ball rolled true. There are not too many trees on the front nine, so even if you your tee shot is off you can scramble and try to save par.
I think the PAR 3, 169 final hole is my favorite. It’s an elevated tee and the green is carved out of a hill which is guarded by a marshy part of the Bass River. It’s all carry so take a little extra club.
When you check in you will probably be greeted by Jim Hallet: head pro at Bass River. Jim grew up playing on the course and his skills were enough to earn him a place on the PGA Tour where he played for 6 years. He qualified for the 1983 Masters and fired an opening round 68 to lead the tournament.
A large deck is located at the back of the clubhouse and after your round you can enjoy a meal and look at the peaceful Bass River as the boats sail away into the Nantucket Sound. I am always saying how Donald Ross is a course fit for golfers of all abilities, but it can probably be said best by retired stockbroker Brad Beckers who has played all 359 Donald Ross courses in the U.S.A. He said, “If you are a great player a Ross course is a true test. But if you’re not a single digit handicapper you can still enjoy your round”