It's Definitely Not Sawgrass

I've played golf at Sawgrass, a PGA course in Ponte Verda, Florida, but my heart belongs to The Island Ball Watchers Society course on Chappy. Martha's Vineyard!


Now here’s my dilemma: do I want to play golf at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, a 36 hole course, which is the sight of the PGA’s Tour’s Players Championship every year, or at the Royal & Ancient Links, formally known as the Island Ball Watchers Society, a one hundred year old 9 hole course on Chappaquiddick Island just off of Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.

If luck would have it, about 12 years ago when I was visiting a friend in Ponte Verdra, we were able to play 9 holes at the beautiful Sawgrass Golf Course. Being a new golfer the course was quite intimidating, but I managed to get through the 9 holes without totally embarrassing myself…..

But if I had a choice, and I know this might sound crazy, I would rather play at the 9 hole golf course on Chappaquiddick. I learned how to play golf on this course with my son TJ, and what freedom that was; I could make a million mistakes, as most new golfers do, and not worry that I was taking too much time or looking foolish in front of other golfers. We were usually the only humans playing on this course along with the seagulls and the rabbits.

This beautiful quirky corner of Chappy is on the market for the first time since it was built 1906 by Dr. Frank Marshall, a Boston dentist, who built the imposing Big Camp house on clay and sand cliffs for his bride and developed a links-style golf course nearby.

“It’s a little oasis there and it’s a lovely little golf course too,” said Edith “Edo” Potter, a long time Chappy resident and historian. “Most people on the island don’t know that it exists, but those that do appreciate the open space.”

The golf course, in fact, is protected from development because of a conservation restriction granted Sheriffs Meadow Foundation in late 1994. It’s allowed to be a golf course but it won’t be developed for homes, and if it ceases to be a golf course it will revert back to a natural state.

The property is listed for $12.5 million which includes the Big Camp house, listed with 5 bedrooms – or three bedrooms and two sleeping lofts – a kitchen that might command the best view of any on Martha’s Vineyard; a two-bedroom cottage; and a third structure that is a combination barn, garage, and bunk house. Also included is the golf course, a private, members only links that somehow accommodates just about anyone who suddenly appears on the sandy road that bisects the course.

The 1,225 yard golf course is comprised of mostly par-3s and features conch shell tee markers and powder–blue flags with conch shell insignia. (The crows keep overturning the markers. hoping for conch meat.) Until recent years, when the name was changed, the golf club was called  the Island Ball Watchers Society.

Mark Hess, the director of golf at Edgartown Golf Club who has played the course many times, says “It’s going to be a hell of a buy for someone.”

“It’s sort of a throwback.,” he continued. “It’s a great spot. You’d be hard-pressed to find another like it in the country.”

This is such an opportunity for a group of friends to own their own golf course together, and share in the experience of living on the Vineyard during the greatest time of the year.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Darren McRoy February 08, 2013 at 09:04 AM
I stumbled across this randomly and love it! I went on Google Maps and hunted down the course... it even has a couple of little sand traps. It reminds me very much of Rolling Green, the little course in Andover I played growing up, which is now being annihilated for housing. Sad; I hope this one is preserved!
Brad Woodger March 11, 2013 at 07:24 AM
Thanks Carol for a great story. We'll be open again this year. Please come over and play as my guest! Best, Brad
Brad Woodger March 11, 2013 at 07:28 AM
Darren, Come back and play again! Brad


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