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Golf in Cape Cod

The par threes on this course are mostly uninspired, serving up nary an obstacle or ambush, but the par fives are something else again. Witness, for example, the blind-alley twelfth hole, a 537-yard double-dogleg left with a fairway that slants dramatically left toward a boulder-strewn grove. One of those pesky rises faces you off the tee, and not even the landing area affords a view of the green. A long iron in lieu of a driver ensures a measure of safety. Keep right all the way, but not too far right or you'll get stranded in Pine City. If ever there was a golf hole smack between a rock and a hard place, this is it.

At Bayberry Hills in West Yarmouth, you can blast away like Dirty Harry off the tees, confident that your wayward shots will find playable lies. Compared with Dennis Pines, the fairways at this 7,172-yard track are broad and welcoming. There are more trees here, so lush in summer that they make each hole feel secluded, but they usually keep a polite distance, serving more as a pretty frame than a hazard. From several of the elevated tees you'll gaze out over an astonishing sea of treetops stretching toward Nantucket Sound.

Opened in 1988, Bayberry Hills was designed by Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva, a venerable New England architectural team whose works on Cape Cod alone number fourteen. On this layout they strayed a bit from the unstudied flavor of Cape golf and employed some contemporary touches around the gently sloping greens, which are stiffly guarded by sinuous mounds and amoeba-shape bunkers. The rest of the course follows traditional lines, with one exception -- the par-five 533-yard fifteenth hole, where a split fairway demands a split decision. If you gamble and go left through a chute of trees, you'll either get home in two or get lost. Going right puts you on a wider but longer path. Just when you're smugly congratulating yourself for choosing the less threatening route, you discover a big bunker glaring at you from the right front of the green.

Another sticky situation awaits on the signature par-four fourth hole, where two ponds -- one hidden in a swale to the right of the fairway and the other sprawling directly in front of the green -- devour fifteen thousand balls a year. The putting surface slides toward the water, and so does the fairway. Stay dry by heeding the prevailing in-your-face breeze and clubbing up on your approach.

One of the hilliest layouts on Cape Cod is Ballymeade, only a mile from the ocean in North Falmouth. Part of an upscale residential enclave by the same name, this semiprivate course confounds with lots of abrupt elevation changes, erratic breezes and quick, wily greens. But the ecstasy far outweighs the agony. The panoramas are thrilling, especially from the tee of the par-three 174-yard eleventh, one of the highest points on the Cape, where you can see Martha's Vineyard -- a lovely dollop of green floating in blue, sail-dotted Nantucket Sound.

Don't let the views lull you into complacence. That eleventh hole, in particular, is a witch masquerading as a fair maiden. What you can't see from the tee are the boulders wrapped around the back of the long, narrow green, which drops off into a scrubby trench. Club selection is a knee knocker here. The mercurial wind that seems always to be against you only compounds the problem. Hit it long, left or right, and you're on the rocks. Short is your only salvation.

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