For those Yankee golfers who want to remain within a morning's drive of children and grandchildren, New Seabury on Cape Cod can supply the best of both worlds -- great golf and a great excuse for your family to visit. Also in this issue, your 71-year-old editor learned a lot from watching a group of teenage girls compete in a national golf event. I pass those lessons along in this month's combined issue of Home On The Course.
My favorite golf course in my home state of Connecticut, Keney Park in Hartford, played host to the PGA National Girls Championship over four days recently. I drove out to the course for the last nine holes of the final round to see how these 14- to 18-year old golfers performed on a renovated 90-year-old layout I have come to know and love. Forget that one young lady aced the short but tricky par three 6th, or that I watched as another girl jarred a 130-yard approach shot on the par 4 16th, or that the eventual winner, Yuka Saso, blasted a 320-yard drive on my favorite hole, the par 4 17th, and almost reached its signature “principal’s nose” bunker that guards the green. For me, the revelation was that a 71-year-old man can learn something about his game from high school girls.
Here are the biggest takeaways from my experience.
Slow down your swing. I have fought this over the 60 years I have played golf. A rapid takeaway can be overcome by the strength and flexibility of youth, but as you age, it is much easier to “lose it at the top” or on the way down. I am working on a slower approach and, although it is hard to overcome 60 years of a bad habit, I know intellectually and by a few nice outcomes that I need to keep at it. The junior golfers reinforced that.
Alignment is a big deal. On the occasion that my son and I play together — he lives 1,000 miles from Connecticut — he urges me to close my shoulders to align them more closely with the target. This is one of the hardest things to get right in the setup process. And it becomes even more difficult as we age and those neck muscles don’t let us swivel to look 90 degrees one way or the other the way we once did. During a short delay from the middle of one fairway, I noticed that two of the three girls I was following laid down clubs at their feet while waiting to play to the green. If checking alignment is important enough to teens who broke 70 over four rounds in a major competition, who am I to argue?
The Approach to Putting. On the putting greens, these kids are scientists. They looked at 15-foot and longer putts from every conceivable angle. And they took their time about it, as if slowing down the pace of their strut, and their hearts, was as much a part of the process as gauging the proper line. We all know instinctively that calm and confidence are key foundations of a good putter. These kids put it into practice.
Attitude. A bad hole is just another hole for many of these kids. I stood behind the par 3 13th hole at Keney with the father of a girl who hit her tee shot into the deep bunker in front of the green. She left her next shot in the bunker and skied her third to the back of the green, 30 feet past the pin, and two-putted for a 5. You could not have told from her expression that she did worse than par. A few holes later, from a distance, I saw that her approach shot on the 16th had found the tall grass pin high. She barely made it to the fringe from where she two-putted to make bogey. Yikes, I thought, she is having a miserable round. Yet when I looked at the scores the next morning, she had shot a more-than-respectable 70, which means she was three under par for the rest of her round. She faced down more pressure than the rest of us do in a typical weekend match.
If there is one thing that most of these junior players share, it is the beautiful combination of tempo and follow-through. For some of the taller young ladies, the follow through is so extreme that the clubhead appears almost to reach the ground at the end of the swing. I know that in my own game, I chastise myself out loud a few times each round — even if I am playing alone — to “finish the swing.” When I don’t, the ball invariably goes right; for some strange reason, the trees on Connecticut courses always seem to be on the right. But if there is one thing I could learn from watching these teens hit a golf ball, it is that the speed of the backswing and downswing are almost indistinguishable. I know they aren’t, and that the clubhead hits the ball at a speed well beyond the backswing, but darn, it sure looks like they are the same. And the lesson in that is control, which has nothing to do with strength and little to do with flexibility, both on the wane in an aging body. If a kid can control her swing, and emotions, then a 70-year-old should be able to, right?
A golfing buddy, Brad Chambers, is about to publish a short book called Think Better, Play Smarter, and Manage Your Way to Better Golf Scores. It includes 10 strategies you can use before you head out to the golf course, common sense approaches that could shave a few strokes off your handicap. He gave me a sneak peek, and I recommend it, especially to golfers like me who are trying to overcome some of the effects on the golf swing of an aging body. I have suggested to Brad that when he eventually publishes 10 More Strategies to a Lower Golf Score, he includes a chapter on how watching female teenage golfers can open your eyes to how to play the game better.
If you are considering a search for a permanent or vacation home in a golf-oriented area, please contact me for a free, no-obligation consultation at email@example.com
Out with the Old, in with the New New Seabury Golf Community
The Country Club of New Seabury in Mashpee, MA, and its surrounding real estate is exposed to an occasionally ornery sea. On an otherwise fair-weather day in early June, the wind was blowing hard into our foursome on the first hole of the community’s Ocean Course, and the waters beside the thin strip of beach to the left of the fairway were roiling, which did not seem to bother a lone sea lion whose head kept bobbing up to stare in our direction. He (or she) certainly could take perverse delight at how many shots it took one of us to reach the 457-yard par 5. (That would be the one who disdained conventional wisdom that you should never swing like Paul Bunyan when hitting into a fierce wind.)
Some 40 miles west of where the Cape Cod elbow turns to the north, New Seabury is fully exposed to the Atlantic Ocean and the occasionally fierce storms it can bring from the south in late summer. And, yes, a hurricane or two have worked their nasty magic on New Seabury over its more than five decades as a golf community. But as the cliché goes, what does not kill you only makes you stronger, and New Seabury’s dramatic history is filled with challenging experiences — Native American land claims, housing recessions and ownership changes — that could have made a less tenacious community knuckle under.
New Clubhouse and Rejuvenated Golf
But today, New Seabury is well past all those challenges and is embarking on dramatic renovations of its already excellent golf courses, the opening of an upscale restaurant in its brand new 42,000-square-foot clubhouse and the recent construction of neighborhoods of well-appointed homes that range in price from the $500s to almost $4 million. (Resale homes, listed and sold by a separately managed local brokerage, begin in the $300s.)
For those contemplating a golfing retirement in the Northeast that will put them within easy driving range of children and grandchildren, or those looking to play year-round golf splitting their time between South and North, a home in New Seabury certainly should be a contender for the North part of the equation.
Hilton Head of the North
Opened in 1962, New Seabury is among the oldest “golf communities” in the Northeast — and at 1,500 acres, one of the largest — if you consider the definition of golf community to be one in which real estate and golf are organized by a single developer. (New England is chock-a-block with many old neighborhoods with adjacent golf courses, but most were developed separately.) Definitions aside, the host town of Mashpee was the first in New England to permit “cluster development” through a bylaw that required no more than three housing units and 870 square feet of commercial space to each acre within the community. In your mind’s eye as you drive through New Seabury, you could be in Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island, the golf community that started the trend of multi-amenity developments in the late 1950s. The greenbelts, woodlands, waterways and, of course, the golf courses, give New Seabury a back to nature quality that 9-to-5ers in Boston have always found a magnet for relaxation.
Short Par 4s Stand Out on Dunes Course
I joined a small group of golf writers recently for two days at New Seabury, whose golf club officials enthusiastically showed off their 36 holes of golf, especially the Dunes Course, which was completely renovated by noted architect Bruce Hepner and reopened on Memorial Day Weekend. Sited on a rather small piece of property, just 125 acres, the Dunes Course is short by normal golf course standards, a mere 6,041 yards from the tips. Those who, like yours truly, are intrigued by the artfulness of short par 4s, will find the Dunes Course an education and a lot of fun to play. Some of the shorter holes are a challenge off the tee, with fairway bunker placements forcing either a layup wood or hybrid shot; those holes are mingled with other short ones that feature wide-open, easy-to-hit fairways and roller coaster greens where the extreme fun begins. Hepner eliminated a few forced carries, including a pond short of the 16th hole (formerly the 7th), that were too difficult for some members. (During a pre-dinner conversation one night, two female club members raved about the changes to the Dunes Course, especially the elimination of the forced carries.)
All in all, Hepner redesigned and repositioned a total of 79 bunkers and completed his work in just three months. At only 5,626 yards, the distance from the blue tees was still a challenge for this 11-handicap player. More importantly, it was tremendously entertaining to play those short but challenging holes, as well as the three par 5s and short but tricky par 3s on the par 70 layout.
Pebble Beach East to get Facelift
When it first opened in the early 1960s, New Seabury’s Ocean Course was labeled by some as “Pebble Beach East.” You can see that from the entire expanse of the first hole as you struggle into the prevailing winds off Nantucket Sound, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the rest of the front nine plays with the ocean and a long-distance view of Martha’s Vineyard in sight. The back nine is a bit like a disappointing second date, with little of the drama of the ocean-adjacent front nine. But that second-class status for the back nine should end later this year when architect Hepner, who remade the Dunes Course into a sporty, entertaining layout, will work his magic on the Ocean Course. By mid to late 2020, golf architecture buffs may start using the Pebble Beach East references again.
Food at New Seabury — Shore Thing
Obviously, a community like New Seabury that hosts a group of golf writers is going to put its best foot forward, and that was certainly the case during our two days on site. But the dinners we were invited to also involved New Seabury club members, making it clear that the food we were being served, and the friendly and well-timed service, were no more special than the customary. The clubhouse’s new 95 Shore restaurant, named for the community’s street address, was celebrating its grand opening during our visit, and the food we ate with members during a special wine tasting meal was remarkably tasty given that it was prepared for 90 people, the menu spanning a wide range of cuisines and cultures. (As a shrimp and grits fan, I thought the kitchen nailed that Southern staple.) The next night, at the beach, dinner was also of high quality, although concentrated almost entirely on seafood plucked from the local waters and, again, prepared with a deft hand. In between those two dinners we enjoyed a post-golf lunch of lobster rolls, as indigenous to Cape Cod as summer traffic. Residents, club members and guests at New Seabury are clearly well fed.
New Seabury single-family home
About 30 percent of New Seabury’s residents are year rounders and the rest seasonal — some who use their homes on weekends or for the entire summer, and others who rent them out. That ratio of second-home owners to permanent home owners reflects many of the golf communities in the Southeast and, indeed, a large group of New Seabury’s second-home owners winter in Florida and spend their summers on the Cape. Newly retired or soon-to-be-retired couples who look forward to a year-round golfing style North and South would do well to consider New Seabury as their northern anchor. One combo choice could be a summer villa in the community combined with a single-family golf community home in the Carolinas, Georgia or Florida. Yes, two homes mean two property tax payments, two sets of homeowner association dues and, for those who will join a private golf club in the Southeast, two sets of golf membership dues. But considering the low tax rates in the South, and the availability of no-initiation-fee semi-private clubs in the region, such a combination could work on a slightly higher-than-modest budget.
Pitching Quarters: 13 Weeks a Member
One especially interesting possibility at New Seabury, for those who appreciate all four seasons, is the purchase of a quarter share in one of the well-located Sea Quarters units (circa mid-2000s), some of which overlook the Dunes course. Some resale Sea Quarters units are listed in the $600s for 100-percent ownership, but a quarter share interest is currently priced at $50,000 and up from New Seabury’s real estate arm.
All Sea Quarters ownerships require a “medallion” club membership, which provides access to the Dunes Course and virtually all other amenities during an owner’s annual 13-week stay; those who purchase a quarter share through New Seabury do not pay initiation fees, but their quarterly HOA dues include the cost of their Medallion membership. (Medallion membership does not provide access to the Ocean Course; for that, a regular full annual golf membership is required.) For non-Sea Quarters owners, full club membership is not mandatory. Non-golfers, for example, can opt for a membership program that offers tennis, swimming and other amenities.
Other real estate options include a new group of “Cottages” that are designed in the easy-living, open-concept mode and are appointed with all modern luxuries. They are priced from the mid-$500s. No matter what type of home you are looking for, it is easy to kick the tires at New Seabury; as a resort, it welcomes short-term stays from people just looking to relax, play a little golf and, perhaps, consider a permanent vacation place in an active golf community beside the ocean.
If you would like more information about New Seabury or would like me to arrange a visit for you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Gavrich Founder & Editor Home On The Course, LLC