Old & New Make Ocean Edge a Great Experience

By: Steve Habel

Set on a stunning 429-acre tract in the quaint Cape Cod seaside town of Brewster, Mass., the combination of grand accommodations in the classic style and superb golf on a testy course make Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club an experience that must be enjoyed first-hand.

Nickerson Mansion is Centerpiece of Ocean Edge Resort

This is exactly what you would expect from a trip to Cape Cod - a turn-of-the-century golf vacation right out of the story books, with the added flair of modern conveniences and a revitalized golf challenge fashioned by Nicklaus Design.

The centerpiece of Ocean Edge is the historic Nickerson family mansion and carriage house that sit on a bluff overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Built in 1890, the mansion and carriage house are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wetlands add to Challenge at Ocean Edge

Down the road a piece and across the street, Ocean Edge's golf course opened in 1906 as a nine-hole track beside the mansion. The estate changed hands several times over the years and became a resort in the 1980s, when another nine holes (designed by Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva) were added in 1986. For several years after the new course opened, the New England PGA Championship was held at the facility.

Even as Ocean Edge and its course became a real attraction for the area and remained popular with members and resort guests, there was always the feeling that the course could be better. Enter Chris Rule of Nicklaus Design, who took a layout that seemed like it was forced into the land and turned it into a course that looks like it was always here and was merely "discovered" during construction.

Rule wanted to create holes that were fair and inviting and less about target golf, especially as the former layout was often deemed too penal and short on sight lines. The $8.5 million redesign - completed in May 2008 - allowed the entire course to be rebuilt from tee to green.

One of the Bunker Complexes at Ocean Edge

The renovation has given Ocean Edge a more comfortable feel. "I loved the site's topography, the rolling fairways and the subtle elevation changes, but there was a tired look to the landscape," Rule says. "In the redesign, we've maximized the natural landscape, while modernizing the course. There's a nice flow to it now - it's very inviting."

Ocean Edge now plays at 7,011 yards from the tips and is designed for all levels of play. That back set of five tee boxes carries a rating of 73.1 and a slope of 133, but the course's real challenge is finding the right line off the tee and hitting to the correct level on the large - but not unfair - greens. The secret to keeping large putting surfaces within reason is the shaping that divides them into sectors, and Rule has adhered to that tenet.

The Nicklaus team infused the new course with the area's native thickets, a landscape that includes mature tree stands, rolling topography and subtle elevation changes. While there are no ocean views, several of the region's famous freshwater glacial ponds enter play.

The new course at Ocean Edge is brawnier in appearance and better defined. The front side doesn't have much topographic wow-factor as the more dramatic back nine, but its new routing makes good use of the cross-Cape winds, and you better have an idea of the wind direction when standing over your ball.

There are 60 bunkers on the course but it seems like there are many more due to the fact that they can come into play from the tee and on your approaches. Attention was paid to a long list of details, including new tees, a different variety of grass (A-1 Bentgrass), more defined bunker complexes and areas in front of the putting surfaces that collect shots and create diverse opportunities to recover. Rule also switched the nines and increased Ocean Edge's overall length by about 300 yards.

Accuracy & Commitment are Keys to Ocean Edge

The test at Ocean Edge begins in earnest at the 181-yard par-3 third hole, with its narrow, diagonal green well protected by two bunkers in front and a small shallow bunker in the back. Pay attention to the left-to-right crosswind that works against your ball; any tee shots missed short and right are difficult up-and-downs.

The dogleg-left 548-yard par-5 fourth will cause some problems as well, especially if your ball is driven through the fairway the right of the bunker guarding the inside corner. The conservative route is right of the bunker, creating a more prudent three-shot approach.

Choose the correct club and swing with confidence on the 195-yard par-3 eighth, which plays downhill over Blueberry Pond and features a putting surface bisected by raised and sunken tiers. There is room behind the green, with plenty of par-saving options.

The 580-yard par-5 ninth is a wonderful risk-reward challenge. Players may want to try the right half of the fairway, protected by long, deep fairway bunkers, to get the best view and angle to get over the 50-yard-wide ravine that crosses the fairway. Once across the hazard, the downward slope of the fairway will chase your ball to the front part of the green. The conservative play is to lay up short of the danger with your second and leave the pin-hunting for the approach.

The back nine contains just one par-3 and a lone par-5, and you'll get your money's worth on both holes. No. 16 - the one-shotter - plays into a prevailing left-to-right wind and features a well-protected and elevated green that slopes left to right.

The best hole on Ocean Edge's revised layout is the 17th, a picturesque par-5 dogleg-left that stretches 600 yards and works its way up a hill to a plateaued putting surface. Avoid the fairway bunkers left to set up the approach, and play the whole yardage as the greenside bunker protects a false front that will fool you.

Over the past two years Ocean Edge has caught fire as one of the best golf experiences in the Northeast. The course is available to members and hotel guests, who have exclusive access to the resort's recreational and social privileges.

Ocean Edge Shines off the Course, too

After a round of golf, take in the clubby atmosphere of Linx Tavern & Bar in the Golf Clubhouse, where you can enjoy indoor or alfresco dining overlooking the 18th hole. The Linx serves creative cocktails, salads and grilled entrées including fresh local seafood, prime meats and distinctive chicken dishes.

In addition to the golf course, the Ocean Edge Resort boasts a 700-foot-long private beach, four outdoor and two indoor swimming pools, a USPTA-certified tennis complex, fitness room and a number of restaurants. Ocean Edge is on the 26-mile Cape Cod Bike and Rail Trail route, with bike rentals available on property. All guest rooms and vacation villas have been upgraded, and Ocean Edge recently opened the Mansion Ballroom, which can accommodate groups up to 300.

Ocean Edge contains Cape Cod's only Nicklaus Design, and it's everything you want as far as the big trifecta of playability, challenges and conditioning. If you've never been to the Cape, you owe yourself a trip out there - even if it is just for the golf.

For more information about the resort, visit www.oceanedge.com.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com) on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.