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A guide to golfing by the water in Maine

Vintage courses built before WW II

By Park M. Morrison The game of golf has been played in Maine nearly as long as it has been played in America. Not long after a group of men led by Robert Lockhart and John Reid teed off on a Yonkers, New York, cow pasture in 1888, summer rusticators—those pioneers of our modern-day leisure class—caught the golfing bug and established golfing grounds at their downeast retreats. Locals were certainly involved, although it was those “from away” who had the resources and abundance of free time to organize formal clubs. Most golf clubs ostensibly were established to meet the demands of this growing leisure class in their pursuit of sports, amusements, and social contacts. Well-connected and enormously wealthy, these club organizers could attract the most talented men in the fledgling business of golf-course design—such as H. C. Leeds, Willie Park Jr., Donald Ross, and Wayne Stiles—to oversee construction of proper layouts. From Kennebunkport to Winter Harbor, courses were being built at such a regular clip that by the early part of the 20th century there were no fewer than 30 golf courses in the state. Most were private, nine-hole affairs built on abandoned farm fields or meadows amid the hills, rocks, and thick spruce forests that characterize the Maine landscape. Although some no longer exist—victims of world wars, the economy, or waning interest—many survive today. Many, although modernized to the extent that technology, agronomy and budgets allow, are little changed from their original routing. Most have abandoned their private charters in favor of semiprivate status. The Island Country Club on Deer Isle is but one example of these survivors in Maine. The following is a list of other coastal gems that are of the same vintage and share a similar pedigree and where, as writer Stephen Goodwin so eloquently puts it, “the game can be played in a rare spirit of uncomplicated fun.” The list is arranged geographically, starting in Southern Maine: Great Chebeague Golf Club Chebeague Island, ME 04017 www.chebeagueislandgolf.com 207-846-9478 9 holes One of four golf courses in Maine that are only accessible by boat, Great Chebeague is a must play if cruising Casco Bay. Travel by ferry or tie up at the Stone Pier (for a fee) and walk to the course. Built in the 1920s, there are views of the water from every tee—one of which, the 7th, is set on the Stone Pier itself. Cape Arundel Golf Club 19 River Road Kennebunkport, ME 04046 www.capearundelgolfclub.com 207-967-3494 18 holes The present course was designed by Walter Travis and dates to the 1920s. This is the home course of the Bush family and has hosted presidents, royalty, celebrities, and several PGA Tour professionals. The layout is virtually the same today as when it was designed nearly 100 years ago. It is pleasantly understated, despite its celebrity status. Webhannet Golf Club 26 Golf Club Drive, Kennebunk Beach, ME 04043 www.webhannetgolfclub.com 207-967-2061 18 holes Cape Neddick Country Club 650 Shore Road Cape Neddick, ME 03902 www.capeneddickgolf.com 207-361-2011 18 holes An original 18-hole layout was planned by legendary designer Donald Ross in 1919, but only nine holes were built. In the 1990s, Brian Silva, a student of Ross’s style, seamlessly incorporated nine new holes. Just inland from the renowned Cliff House Resort, you can’t see the ocean but you can certainly smell it. Biddeford-Saco Country Club 101 Old Orchard Road, Saco, ME 04072 www.biddefordsacocountryclub.com 207-282-9892 18 holes Brunswick Golf Club 165 River Road Brunswick, ME 04011 www.brunswickgolfclub.com 207-725-8224 18 holes Bath Golf Club 287 Whiskeag Road, Bath, ME 04530 www.thebathgolfclub.com 207-442-8411 Boothbay Country Club 33 Country Club Road Boothbay, ME 04537 www.boothbayharborcc.com 207-633-3673 18 holes This Wayne Stiles-designed layout is currently undergoing an expansive retrofit complete with a new clubhouse. Wawenock Golf Club 685 State Route 129 Walpole, ME 04573 www.wawenockgolfclub.com 207-563-3938 9 holes Sebasco Harbor Resort 29 Kenyon Road, Sebasco Estates, ME 04565 www.sebasco.com 207-389-1161 9 holes The original nine-hole layout was re-designed in 2000, but it did not lose any of its classic charm. Several holes have a view of, or border on Casco Bay, including the 145-yard, par 3, second hole where your tee shot may vary depending on the tide. Accessible by land or sea, the resort offers moorings for boaters coming in for the day or overnight. Samoset Resort 220 Warrenton Road Rockport, ME 04856 www.samosetresort.com 207-594-2511 Though the history of the original golf course is sketchy, today the Samoset ranks as one of New England’s premier golf destinations. With expansive views of Penobscot Bay and the islands from most holes, it has been dubbed by the golfing literati as “the Pebble Beach of the East.” Rockland Golf Club 606 Old County Road Rockland, ME 04841 www.rocklandgolf.com 207-594-9322 North Haven Golf Club Iron Point Road North Haven, ME 04853 207-867-2057 Another one of the four Maine courses accessible only by boat. An easy 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal, this Wayne Stiles-designed track is a must-play gem. Virtually unchanged from its original layout, with a rugged links-golf look, it provides a good challenge and enjoyable step back in time. Northport Golf Club 581 Bluff Road Northport, ME 04849 www.northportgolfclubmaine.com 207-338-2270 9 holes Castine Golf Club 200 Battle Avenue Castine, ME 04421 www.castinegolfclub.com 207-326-8844 9 holes When formed in 1897, the club featured a small member-designed course that meandered through various back yards and even through the earthworks of Fort George, an 18th century British fort. In 1921 former British Open champion (1887 and 1889) Willie Park, Jr. was engaged to draw up the current layout, which covers much of the same ground (minus the fort). Causeway Golf Club 10 Fernald Point Road Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 www.thecausewayclub.org 207-244-3780 9 holes Northeast Harbor Golf Club 15 Golf Club Lane Northeast Harbor, ME 04662 www.nehgc.com 207-276-5335 18 holes Located on the east side of Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East Coast, this course has several wide open holes, but then meanders through thick spruce woods. Accuracy is a priority here. The course is noted for its small, meticulously maintained greens. Kebo Valley Golf Club 136 Eagle lake Road Bar Harbor, ME 04609 www.kebovalleyclub.com 207-288-3000 18 holes The granddaddy of Maine golf courses. Literally. It is the eighth oldest club in the United States. The first six holes, designed by Herbert C. Leeds, opened in 1891, and golf has been played here ever since. From the narrow rolling fairway of the 435 yard eighth (a hole Walter Hagen described as one of the best par 4s he ever played) to the trademark bunker that covers the entire slope leading up the 17th green (a hazard from which President Howard Taft need 23 strokes to get out), Kebo is a history lesson that no student of the game should miss. Blink Bonnie Golf Course 89 East Side Road Sorrento, ME 04677 www.sorrentovia.org 207-422-3930 9 holes If you need the definition of a true hidden gem, this is it. Well off the beaten path, Blink Bonnie is as pretty as its name. Locally designed, it’s short and just a little quirky (a couple of fairways crisscross each other). But it’s well maintained and has stunning views overlooking Flanders Bay — you can’t help but finish your round with a smile on your face. Grindstone Golf Club 106 Grindstone Avenue Winter Harbor, ME 04693 www.grindstonegolf.com 207-963-7760 9 holes One of Maine’s oldest golf clubs, the course is little changed since it was laid out in 1895 and updated in 1925. Not only are there views of the ocean from every hole, but the second and third greens are literally on the beach. Views of Frenchman Bay, with Ironbound, Jordan and Mt. Desert islands in the distance, add to a vintage golf experience that is hard to beat. The other two courses that are accessible only by boat are: Mt. Kineo Golf Course (ca. 1900) 62 Village Road Rockwood, ME www.mooseheadlakegolf.com 207-534-9012 9 holes Frye Island Golf Club Frye Island, ME 04071 www.fryeisland.com 207-655-3551 9 holes There are more than 120 public access courses in the state. A complete list is available on the Maine State Golf Association website: mesga.org The author of A Guide to Maine Golf Courses (Downeast Books) and former publisher of TravelGolf Maine, Park Morrison enjoys playing the vintage golf courses in and around Rockport.