Remembering Osterville’s Seapuit Golf Club
Of Splendid Views, Tough Lies, Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell – and Dollar-a-Day Caddies
There isn’t much to see anymore. Nearly all evidence of the Seapuit Golf Club has vanished, or more specifically, been bulldozed and built over. It wasn’t quite like paving paradise to put up a parking lot, but dyed-in-the-wool golfers might make that argument. In its place, tucked away in a wooded section of Osterville, are private homes with manicured lawns, pristine flower beds, tennis courts, and swimming pools.
If you know where to look, you can spot a vestige of the long-lost golf course. Buried in the woods, obscured between tall trees and bushes, and virtually unrecognizable beneath the overgrown grass and weeds, is a rectangular piece of slightly raised land that once served as the tee box for the third hole. In the distance is the fairway that snaked alongside the Marstons Mills River en route to the green. Back in the day, you could enjoy raw oysters on the half-shell and, legend has it, a dry martini, courtesy of P. Barnard Hinckley’s seafood shanty, before continuing to the fourth.
“He certainly had a beverage on hand to go with the oysters,” remembers 84-year-old Joel Davis, whose father, E.K. Davis, owned the course from 1930 until 1942. “Whether it was martinis, I can’t say for sure.”
There are few people left with first-hand recollections of Seapuit, because like the private club, its members are also long gone. Even teenagers who served as caddies are now into their mid-80s, and they too are dwindling. More than 50 private homes now sit where 70 years ago there was a golf course, a clubhouse, and a hotel. These days, the former playground of prominent businessmen and politicians is remembered mainly in antique black-and-white photos and yellowed newspaper clippings.
Back then, there were three private clubs in Osterville. Seapuit, which stood geographically between the Wianno Golf Club and the Oyster Harbors Golf Club, was one of Cape Cod’s earliest golf courses. Dating back to 1894, it had a tumultuous history, changing ownership several times before closing in 1942.
It was originally owned by Francis Parsons, a wealthy Chicago resident who summered in Osterville. Parsons purchased 200 acres of land on Osterville’s west side, naming the property after a local Indian chief. The nine-hole golf course opened in 1896, the Seapuit Inn two years later.
Parsons imported a golf course architect from Scotland to design the layout. It featured rolling, tree-lined fairways, and views of Dam and Bog ponds, Cat Island, and the Marstons Mills River. Those ponds came into play on most of the holes, often swallowing up wayward shots.
Measuring 3,301 yards and playing as a par 36, there was one par-3, one par-5, and seven par-4 holes. None of the par-4s stretched more than 365 yards, and most were between 320 and 330 yards. It was not a well- manicured course, even by the lower standards of the day, and the greens were postage-stamp size.
“It was rough, but beautiful in the sense that it was partly in the woods and partly along the river,” says Holbrook Davis, Joel’s 89-year-old brother who lives on land where the inn once stood. “It was a lovely setting. It was also a rather challenging course.”