New and Improved

The former Ballymeade Country Club resurfaces as the upscale Cape Club.

By Rob Duca

Ballymeade Country Club in North Falmouth, Massachusetts was riddled with criticism almost from the day it opened in 1989. For many people, the course was overly difficult and quirky, making for a stressful round of golf that left few visitors booking a future tee time.

Last summer, The Cape Club opened on the site of Ballymeade following a two-year renovation project that involved excavating every hole on the golf course. Dirt was moved from the tee boxes to the greens, ribbon-thin fairways were widened, trees were taken down and the woods were cleared. Even a lake was removed.

The result is a dramatically altered layout that is now a pleasant, yet still challenging, experience. “The old Ballymeade was a little bit of target golf and the fairways were almost like a ski slope,” head golf professional Ryan Payne says. “We’ve leveled off the landing areas, and now what you see is what you get.”

The new driving range is state-of-the-art.

The new driving range
is state-of-the-art.

The changes are noticeable upon entering the property when visitors drive past the par-3 second hole. A sparkling pond and white sand bunkers now surround the green, creating a wonderful first impression.

The first hole, once a weak start to the round, has also been improved by moving the green to the left to make it more of a straightaway hole, thus eliminating the trees on the right that once blocked approaches.

Troon Golf, which manages golf courses in 35 states and 30 countries across the world, oversaw the renovation. More than 200,000 cubic yards of dirt was moved as tee boxes were elevated to enhance ocean views, fairways were widened and unsightly cart paths that cut across holes were either removed completely or covered in white-crushed stone.

The original design by Jim Fazio and Chi Chi Rodriguez remains basically intact, but the overall experience is vastly different. The course conditions are far superior, and the many blind shots that characterized Ballymeade are gone. In addition, the severe slopes were softened, so balls aren’t as likely to bounce wildly into dense woods. There is now only one blind tee shot, which comes on the sixth hole, and only if you play from the tips.

One of the major changes is on the par-4 fourth hole, which plays from an elevated tee. This peculiar dogleg left previously required a carry over a large pond to a ribbon-thin fairway. The pond is gone, as are trees that blocked the view of the right side of the fairway.

A pond and white sand bunkers were added to the par-3 third hole.

A pond and white sand bunkers were added to the par-3 third hole.

The ninth hole was changed from a par-4 to a par-5 by moving the tee back to the previous site of the eighth green. The hedges and bushes that stood alongside a pond fronting the ninth green were removed, providing a bailout area for golfers who don’t want to attempt to carry the water. The green for the eighth hole was shifted into the fairway, turning that hole from a par-5 into a par-4 and eliminating a hill that once created a blind approach. Finally, the 18th hole was improved by dropping the fairway 20 feet so that the second shot is no longer blind.

”Now you can see everything on 18 and there is only one pond, instead of two, and an entirely new green complex,” Payne said. “I think it’s a great finishing hole.”

The Cape Club’s owners have major plans in the works over the next few years, including installation of an upper deck driving range equipped with flat-screen televisions and seating areas for dining or enjoying a beverage; an infinity swimming pool and outside bar overlooking the course; and a fitness center. Also on the drawing board is the construction of 80 golf cottages that will be available for rental and 28 single-family homes for purchase.

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