Sankaty Head Caddie Camp and Other Nantucket Wonders

Bruce Memorial Golf Course and Westchester County Airport, July 8, 2013.

Bruce Memorial Golf Course and Westchester County Airport, July 8, 2013.

My wife and I flew to Nantucket earlier this week. In the air, we felt kind of rich, because we were the only passengers on the flight, but also kind of poor, because the plane was just a crappy Cape Air twin-engine Cessna eight-seater. I’d flown Cape Air before, on trips to and from Martha’s Vineyard, where my wife and I have spent summer vacations for many years. The weather during those flights was almost always terrible, and I spent most of each one gripping my seat and thinking, “We’re almost certainly going to die, but, if we don’t, this sure is faster than taking the ferry.” The weather this time was perfect, and from the plane I saw lots of golf courses, including the one in the photo above, a public course in Greenwich, Connecticut, right next to the airport. It was almost like visiting Google Earth!

This was our pilot. He never asked me to take the controls, but I studied them, just in case, when I wasn't scanning the ground for golf courses.

This was our pilot. He never asked me to take the controls, but I studied them, just in case, when I wasn’t scanning the ground for golf courses.

When we got to Nantucket, my wife took a nap, and Bob G.—an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group, who had made our trip possible by arranging for me to give a talk in a local lecture series—took me on a tour of the island. Because our wives weren’t with us, our tour consisted solely of golf courses.

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Old Sconset—the first stop on our tour—is known locally as Skinner’s, because Skinner was the middle name of one of the people who owned it for a while. (It’s now owned by the Nantucket Islands Land Bank.) You can read about the history of the course here.

Inside the clubhouse, Old Sconset Golf Course.

Inside the clubhouse, Old Sconset Golf Course.

When Skinner’s is crowded, players reserve their place on the first tee by placing a ball in a sloping chute on top of the fence:

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The next day, Bob and I actually played golf, at Sankaty Head Golf Club, a course that’s been on my to-play list for a long time.

Sankaty Head lighthouse, which recently had to be moved farther from the cruel, cruel sea, and the somewhat less cruel fifth fairway.

Sankaty Head lighthouse, which recently had to be moved farther from the cruel, cruel sea, and the somewhat less cruel fifth fairway.

There’s lots of cool stuff in the Sankaty clubhouse, including the plaque in the photo below, which hangs on a wall in the men’s locker room. Note that each result is annotated with a description of the day’s weather:

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Maybe the very best thing about Sankaty is its caddie camp. Every summer, sixty boys spend two months living at the club and caddying for members. They have their own bunkhouses and dining hall, and there are organized games, trips into town, and other activities, in addition to lots of after-hours golf.

Tom, Bob G., Charlie, and Peter. The caddies get Garmin G.P.S. watches, hats with their name on them, and other stuff, and they make good money. Also, they are so polite that they make you almost reluctant to use bad words in their presence.

Tom, Bob G., Charlie, and Peter. The caddies get Garmin G.P.S. watches, hats with their name on them, and other stuff, and they make good money. Also, they are so polite that they make you almost reluctant to use bad words in their presence.

Here’s the camp, which is near the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth holes:

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And here are more caddies, on the driving range. I felt angry at myself for not knowing, when I was thirteen or fourteen, that spending a summer like this was possible:

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The next day, Bob and I played golf at Miacomet Golf Course, which, like Skinner’s, is public and is owned by the Land Bank. We played with Phil Truono, the director of golf.

Phil Truono, Miacomet Golf Course, Nantucket, July 10, 2013.

Phil Truono, Miacomet Golf Course, Nantucket, July 10, 2013.

Miacomet used to have just nine holes, but in 2003 the Land Bank added a second nine and renovated the whole thing. It’s a terrific golf course, and playing it is a relative bargain. People on Nantucket sometimes say that Sankaty Head is for millionaires and Nantucket Golf Club (where we didn’t play) is for billionaires. If that’s true, then I guess Miacomet is for thousandaires and Skinner’s is for hundredaires—so there’s something for everyone, as there always should be. (Non-golfers can look out for themselves.)

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