Can I play there, or what?

What’s the deal with Chappy Golf Course, anyway? Is it public? Private? Semi-private? Yes. Owned by the town, a conservation group, the Chappy community? No. Still confused? So are we! But there is an answer to your question. The short answer is: yes, you may play. The long answer follows…

Way back - when I still had hair and the belief that I’d be somebody - I started working for my grandfather on the Links. A couple years later (1988) I was awarded the operator/superintendent job…by default. Back then, the course was called Inland Ball Watchers Society or IBWS. A really good name for sure but, when abbreviated, sounded a bit like an intestinal ailment.

There were 6 holes (sometimes 7) with crudely irrigated tees and greens. Course play was limited to just family and friends. Even so, the course was vibrant, active, and fun - with a year end Club Championship and a clambake/awards ceremony every Labor Day.

But, given that most of the active golfers on the course were of my grandparents age, the golf course eventually out-lived its Membership.

My granparents were protective of Chappy. They’d seen a bridge accident put it on the map, and wanted nothing to do with further drawing attention to our little island. They once told a writer from Sports Illustrated that he could write an article on IBWS IF he didn’t include its name or where it was or the names of any of its ownership. That story never got written.

So…when I took over, I was left with and aged course, a deceased (or rapidily deceasing) membership, and a solemn mission to keep its existence quiet. In other words: A recipe for success!

But with my partner Kim, and a lot of help from her dad Bob, we kept trudging along for about 20 more years. During this period, we slowly allowed more access to the course. Though we still maintained a light membership, we also accepted stray golfers here and there - being no reason to discourage play when it was hardly played at all. However, we didn’t encourage participation either. The golf course was still a secret.

Then after these two decades of operating the course on a minuscule budget, and essentially earning no income from the thousands of hours of work…we decided to fish (over cutting bait). The course had reached its maturity and was deteriorating rather than improving - we had to either give up, or attempt to make it a viable entity.

In 2008, we began “construction” on the renovation of the course. We added 3 holes to make it a regular 9, and renovated all the tees and greens as well as adding a commercial irrigation system. This was a far greater project than one would imagine - from a physical, emotional and logistical standpoint. Because, while we started construction in 2008, we began working on this “development” back in 2001. A long and winding road for sure.

Now to pay for it all.

Fortunately for us and the golf course, George Bennett had entered our lives in the mid-nineties as a tenant of the Big Camp. Over the following years though he also became a friend and great supporter of the course…and us!

So…George put up all the money needed to purchase the additional land and finance the improvements. The terms were outstanding, but…you know, eventually we’d have to pay him back. Thus began our renewed efforts to create a vibrant membership.

It didn’t happen. The reality of the Links is that it isn’t positioned to be terribly accessible or hugely populated. Location, resources, and an implicit promise to my ancestors made for the creation of a horrible business plan. In order to “make it”, we would need to fully exploit every opportunity…and thereby forever change its character and integrity.

So George once again stepped in. He purchased the course in 2014, and assumed the considerable liability of owning it. For the first time in 30 years, I was making a salary working on the course! Felt good!

We resurrected the course’s original 1895 name The Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick Links…and got to work.

Over the past few years, we’ve made some improvements - the focus always being on maintaining its unique character and natural beauty. But receipts never quite seem to equal payments. Again, an effort to maximize its financial potential would essentially ruin the heart and soul of the course, so we keep rolling along with gentle support. The goal remains however to make it self-sustainable, or (gasp) make a little money.

So, what does this mean for you, the golfer? How does this affect your ability to play? Good question. Because while membership provides the greatest support to the Links, those of you that play occaisionally, and wander in and out of its life, contribute to its ultimate wealth as well. So, we may still not wholly encourage play, but we also don’t discourage it either. We’re still somewhat a secret, but if you stumble upon us, you’re always welcome to play.

In the end, this is no rich man’s folly or hobby. It is a much loved and cherished entity that those of us charged with keeping it alive take very seriously. I suppose one could view it as a super cool old car that it’s owner lets other people drive as well. Because rather than restrict play to just the most financially fortunate, George and I allow and encourage anybody that loves golf…to play. The membership supports the Links, but you add life, and fun and some money too!

So, here’s the answer you’ve been waiting for:

Yes, you may play without purchasing a membership. Yes, you may play without making advance arrangements. You may simply show up and pay the weekday rate of $50 per person ($25 for kids), or the weekend rate of $75. We ask only that you love and respect her as much as we do.

Great, glad that’s cleared up!

Brad WoodgerComment