Mark Hess began playing golf by building his own golf course. Up to that point he didn’t have much use for the game, thinking the few times he saw it on television that it was a boring way to spend a day.

Then he found himself living on the Vineyard one winter in the 1980s with not much to do. He had recently dropped out of Hobart college and was caretaking a property in the Tower Hill area of Edgartown. The owners had left behind a bag of old clubs and he started hitting a few balls around the property. Then he went all in, carving out nine holes with a 24-inch mower through the fescue grass (it was a wild place and the grass would grow back by summer when the owners arrived).

If it seems like a deranged task for a young man who up to that point had only set foot on a golf course once as a caddie and quickly walked the other way, consider this: a few years later, in 1987, Mr. Hess would become manager of the Edgartown Golf Club, a job he continues to hold today as he approaches his 34th year there.

Evidently, that little voice driving him knew exactly what it was doing.

Mr. Hess recently added author to his impressive golf resume with You Don’t Have a Prayer, a tribute to his place of employment.

The Edgartown Golf Club was created in 1926 by Cornelius Lee, who like Mr. Hess had a vision and largely completed it by himself. Enamored of the Old Course at St. Andrews, Mr. Lee decided to create a similar course on his Edgartown property, Mr. Hess writes in the first chapter of his book, which takes the reader deep into the club history.

Created in 1926, the golf club maintains the old ways and traditions.

“No architect was used and the only help he had was Bror Hogland, who was the first greenskeeper,” Mr. Hess writes. “Mr. Hogland has said that the only help that he had was from Cyrus Norton, who led a horse that was supplied by Orin Morton, to plough the fairways, tees and greens.”

The spirit of those humble, horsepower roots continues at the club today, Mr. Hess said on a recent morning at his office, which in fairness should not be called an office as Mr. Hess freely admits he doesn’t really have a job, it is more of a stewardship.

“The Edgartown Golf Club is a place in time,” he said. “I don’t feel like I have a job here, rather it is a place in my life to use the talents I was born with. I’m up here year-round at 5 a.m. I just like being here.”

This is not to imply he isn’t busy; there are a thousand things to do each day to keep a golf club running smoothly. It’s just that he has clearly hit a hole in one in terms of employment. He knew that the first time he saw the course, and is able to reconstruct the moment in exact detail when asked.

“It was one of those perfect Vineyard summer days that you get maybe 10 times a year,” he said. “And the whole look of the place just looked like a masterpiece of a painting.”

But telling his own story was not the reason for writing the book, he said.

“The point was to document the many historical aspects of the town golf club, that was the primary reason for it,” he said. “And then it sort of snowballed into weaving in my story with it. And then, eventually, how important the job became to me in my life.”

The author autographs a copy of his new book. Call the club to arrange a time to purchase on.

The book will naturally appeal to a club member and golfers, but also to non-golfers interested in a slice of Vineyard history and the many familiar names associated with it. The book is divided into chapters that allow a reader to wander up many fairways, from past presidents of the club to members, staff, stories, events, even a tribute to other golf clubs on the Vineyard.

The project began in earnest about three years ago, Mr. Hess said. He had been writing short anecdotes about the club’s history and posting them to the website. Gradually the stories began to add up. He researched old articles in the Gazette and talked to members who would recall stories about their fathers and mothers who were also members. From the beginning, the club has granted full memberships to women, a rarity in 1926.

Another enduring legacy is no tee times. Never had them, never will, Mr. Hess said. When asked why not, the answer was immediate.

“Because then the phone would ring,” he said with a laugh.

Continuing on a more contemplative note, he explained that no tee times hark back to a simpler Vineyard time.

“They just come up here and play whenever they feel like it,” he said. “It allows for spontaneity which is the essence of what it used to be like coming here in the summer. You could just do whatever you wanted to without making any plans.”

Course layout was inspired by the "Old Course" at St. Andrews. — Ray Ewing

On Saturday morning, despite the single digit temperatures outside, members were spontaneously arriving at the club to buy a book and have Mr. Hess sign it. The conversations always began with the book, congratulating Mr. Hess on his achievement, but then quickly moved to the type of small talk associated with a close-knit community — asking about the health of relatives, recalling memories, sharing jokes.

Barbara Morgan stopped by, eager to get a copy and reflect on her dad, Ted Morgan, a town father and longest serving president of the club whose presence is everywhere, in the book, on photographs on the wall, even in a flag flown every year on his birthday.

Mr. Hess recalled the ceremony of remembrance the club hosted for Mr. Morgan after this death in 2019, complete with military flyover. The club’s flag was flown at half mast and then taken down and given to his daughter.

“She then gave it to me and asked that it be flown every year on his birthday,” Mr. Hess said.

As morning shifted to afternoon, the book buyers slowed to a trickle and then came to a halt. Outside, the wind still whipped across the fairways, the temperature stood at about seven degrees, and not a soul could be seen on the course, at least not yet.

“There’s a group of guys who come out usually around two o’clock every day,” Mr. Hess said.

And today?

“I’d be surprised. But I wouldn’t be surprised either.”

You Don’t Have a Prayer is available from Mark Hess at the Edgartown Golf Club. Call the club at 508-627-5343 or email Mr. Hess at The price is $49.95 plus tax.