A Maine road trip during the summer is one of the most delightful and well-rounded journeys golfers can take. There are a number of daily courses, the weather is sublime, and the accommodations and dining options numerous. For après golf there is much to do; kayaking, fishing, hiking, sailing the ocean waters or merely lying on a beach.
Here is a sampling of the some of the best courses you can play on your Maine Road Trip, thanks to Golfing Magazine’s Course Play Stimulus Program.
HF Golf manages four of Maine’s premier courses, Bridgton Highlands Golf and Tennis, Fox Ridge Golf Club, Sanford Country Club and Nonesuch River Golf Club.
Jared Hourihan owns HF Golf along with his father, Dan Hourihan, and Jim Fairbanks. The company recently moved away from booking stay and play packages with local hotels, making it less expensive for their customers to purchase hotel stays online. However, the company still makes recommendations for lodging in each market.
The company also offers The Maine Golf Pass (www.MaineGolfPass.com), which includes a round at each course with cart for $169. In addition, membership at each of the four courses offers opportunities for reciprocal play at the company’s courses for just a cart fee Monday through Thursday, all day, and Friday through Sunday and holidays after noon. The goal was to add value for members.
Nonesuch River Golf Club, in Scarborough, was designed by Tom Walker, who was a longtime course architect with Gary Player Design. The extremely scenic, 6,300-yard, par-70 Nonesuch River layout, while not long, demands thoughtful approaches to each hole and accurate placement off the tee and on shots to the greens. Proper club selection is a must as is the ability to chip and putt around and on the undulating greens. There are plenty of bunkers in the fairways and around the greens to further complicate matters.
Bridgton Highlands Golf and Tennis in Bridgton is an enjoyable and challenging 18-hole golf course with great mountain views located in the heart of Maine’s Lakes Region in southwestern Maine one hour from Portland and 20 miles from the New Hampshire border. The course has four sets of tees and a maximum length of 6,224 yards.
Fox Ridge Golf Club in Auburn plays over 6,800 yards from the championship markers and has a par of 72. Again, the par-fives are a strength, with two, the fourth and 11th holes, approaching 600 yards from the tips. It also has as good a par-three as you will encounter, the 202-yard fifth hole. The tee shot is from an elevated green to a putting surface that has water on three sides, which means you will have to be exact with your club selection. Once on the green you will have to contend with undulations and subtle breaks, all of which makes a three here a very good score indeed.
Sanford Country Club in Sanford has been voted as one of “Maine’s Best Semi-Private Courses,” and chosen by the United States Golf Association to host two United States Amateur qualifiers. Whether you are a beginner, an avid amateur, or even an accomplished player, Sanford has something for everybody. With fast, bentgrass greens, manicured fairways and bunkers, beautiful scenery, and a fun, friendly atmosphere, Sanford offers a great value. The course plays from 4,901 to 6,703 yards and the first nine opened for play in 1929, with a second nine added during the 1990’s.
Spring Meadow Golf Club at Cole Farms in Gray is a delightful routing, with management taking great pride in the conditioning of their layout. The course measures 6,656 yards from the tips and plays to a par of 71. The par-fives here are very sturdy, including the 600-yard third that tests your ability early in the round. Speaking of early, you can’t have a much more demanding start to a loop than the first at Spring Meadow. The par-four plays 430 yards from the tips and there is a pond to the right that must be avoided on the tee shot. If you play safe to the left you will have a longer approach that again must contend with the water and a bunker.
The Bethel Inn Resort golf course in Bethel, built just over 100 years ago, remained nine holes of little recognition until 1988 when it was redesigned and expanded to an 18-hole championship layout by the renowned architect Geoffrey Cornish. The 6,663-yard, par-72 course takes maximum advantage of mountain vistas and the natural beauty of the area. Large, well-trapped greens, tree-lined fairways and five tee positions make play challenging for all golfers.
There is a pleasant mix of short and long par-fours, tough par-threes and demanding par-fives that will test the ability of all levels of golfer. America’s Greatest Golf Resorts magazine has rated the Bethel Inn layout among the top 10 resort courses in all of the Northeast, and Golf Digest magazine has awarded it 3 1/2 stars.
Point Sebago Resort Golf Course in Casco occupies 775 acres along the shores of Sebago Lake, two and a half hours north of Boston. Point Sebago’s course has been ranked number one in southern Maine by Golf Digest and one of the top 20 golf courses in New England by New England PGA professionals. Designed by renowned golf course architects George Sergeant and Philip Wolgan, this scenic par-72 course covers 7,002 yards and has a slope rating of 135. Point Sebago has two great finishing holes.
The 17th hole is a demanding, uphill 202-yard par-three that has a green that sits in a grassy hollow, with a bunker guarding the front of the green and pot bunkers to the left. The finishing hole at the resort course is a classic par-five. It measures 527 yards from the back markers and the putting surface can be attained with two lusty shots.
Established in 1895 by Arthur Fenn and re-designed by Donald Ross in 1912, the Links at Poland Spring claims to be the first golf course built at a resort in the United States. Poland Spring Resort recently added a new 330-yard driving range with natural grass, artificial tees, and a spectacular view of the rugged White Mountains. After a round at Poland Spring you can relax on the clubhouse porch overlooking the championship golf course at Mel’s Hilltop Restaurant, or grab a quick bite at the Pro Shop Café before you join your family for a swim in the large crystal clear swimming pool, all just a few yards from the 18th green. The Inn offers many options for dining, such as a home cooked breakfast and evening meals that are served daily, buffet style, in a comfortable dining room.
Riverside Golf Course is owned and operated by the City of Portland. The popular and traditional public golf facility first opened in 1932. The facility features an 18-hole course, a 9-hole course and a 3-hole practice course. The classic layout, rolling hills and tree-line fairways are bordered by the Presumpscot River.
The toughest hole on the 18-hole course is the 554-yard 10th hole, a par-five. The tee shot is elevated to a low, long and wide fairway bordered by a water hazard the left. The approach to the green is guarded by a line of pine trees on the left and more water on the right. There are also bunkers on both sides of the putting surface. The nine-hole course is a feel good layout with four of the first five holes shortish par-fours. There is only one par-five, the 540-yard sixth, that can prove tough if you wander on your tee shot and second strike of the ball.
Spring Meadow, Poland Spring and Fox Ridge are part of the Maine Trifecta golf offering, were you can golf all three and stay at Poland Spring Resort, a plan that includes two nights lodging, four all-you-can-eat buffet meals, 18 holes at each course, golf carts and range balls at each course. (Check out www.MaineTrifecta.com.)