Maine Beckons for a Fabulous Summer Golfing Getaway
I asked Dan Hourihan, owner of Nonesuch River and manager of Dunegrass golf clubs in southern Maine, just what makes the Pine Tree State such a great golfing destination.
“A golf vacation in Maine is special because you can combine a golf trip with a visit to Portland and the beautiful seacoast,” he said. Portland has great restaurants and the Old Port is well worth the visit. Maine is an easy commute from southern New England with access from Route 95.”
Perhaps one of the most beautiful areas of the country thanks to its mix of rocky shorelines, mountain ranges, quaint fishing villages, pristine rivers and unspoiled woodlands, Maine is often overlooked by golfers. But, thanks to such great new courses as Dunegrass, Nonesuch, Sunday River Golf Club and others, the summer vacationland is appealing to more and more golfers.
Greens fees at even the best courses are relatively inexpensive and the fairways most times un-crowded. There is a plethora of other things to do in Maine, such as fishing, hiking, boating or simply laying on the beaches. And the restaurants are plentiful and serve up seafood to delight the palate of the most discerning food aficionado. The city of Portland has reinvented itself and boasts a vibrant nightlife, great restaurants and cool microbreweries, and smaller towns such as York, Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach are legendary as resort and shopping destinations. Maine is just a three hour ride from the furthest point in New England, making it a perfect option to heading south for a golfing getaway. Even on the hottest summer days, Maine’s weather remains temperate because of its northern setting and cooling breezes off the Atlantic and mountains to the west.
Maine’s golf season starts as soon as the snow melts, continuing through the prime summer months and into the fall when the fairways are surrounded with a burst of beautiful foliage colors.
Despite its small population, Maine boasts over 140 golf courses, a number of which are some of the most venerable and historic resorts in the country. Indeed, Poland Spring Resort boasts the oldest resort golf course in the country.
Why not package these courses into a golfing getaway to the great state of Maine this summer.
Nonesuch and Dunegrass golf clubs in southern Maine make for a great one-two combination.
Hourihan has partnered with the club’s head golf professional, Jim Fairbanks, in the operation of Dunegrass, located in Old Orchard Beach. The two courses offer slightly different experiences that complement one another. For players from out of state looking to visit Maine, the clubs are offering stay and play packages for both courses with a number of different lodging options. Packages start at $85 a night for lodging and 18 holes with a cart at either Nonesuch or Dunegrass.
Dan Maples brought a down-home feeling to Maine when he designed Dunegrass, for there is a distinct Carolina feel to the 6,684-yard, par-71 course that features sandy waste areas and pine-needled rough. The course, which opened for play in 1998, sprawls over 300 acres.
It is the only Dan Maples 18-hole championship design in the Northeast. The architect is acclaimed for his work in the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina, and several of his courses there are ranked among the best in the world.
Nonesuch was designed by Tom Walker, who was a longtime course architect with Gary Player Design. The extremely scenic, 6,300-yard, par-70 Nonesuch layout, while not long, demands thoughtful approaches to each whole 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.
Boothbay Country Club in Boothbay, a quintessential Maine seacoast town, is a challenging course from the back tees and yet very enjoyable and playable for the average golfer from the friendlier middle and forward tees. A number of additional forward tees were recently built so that the shorter hitters can still get onto greens in regulation, which speeds up pace of play and makes the game of golf more enjoyable and fun. The towering pines and rolling fairways here are a picturesque setting for what many consider some of the best greens in Maine.
The Stiles/Van Kleek-designed course, built in 1927, was increased to 18 holes in 1999, and the original rustic log cabin still houses the pro shop and Grille Room Restaurant, with its panoramic view of the emerald green valley below. In 1933, Francis Ouimet, winner of the 1913 US Open of movie and book fame “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” broke the course record and went out the next day and broke his own record, which stood until the 1999 course expansion.
The historic Links at Poland Spring were first 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 Springs 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, where, at least once per week, the menu features lobster, that Maine delicacy.
Poland Spring Resort’s Lodge has been recently updated and now includes both an arcade and a general store. On-site fresh air family adventures abound with miles of hiking trails that skirt the golf course and wind through the woods, taking you past the calm waters of Lower Range Pond. Cyndi’s Dockside, a restaurant on the shores of Middle Range Pond, has been recently renovated and provides yet another alternative for family dining by its large fieldstone fireplace or outside next to the lake.
Point Sebago Resort 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 the 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 of the best finishing holes you’ll find anywhere. The 17th is a demanding, uphill 202-yard par-three 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 18th is a classic par-five. It measures just 527 yards from the back markers and the putting surface can be attained in two. But the drive must be to the right side of the fairway for the proper view in, and there’s a small pond that guards the green. The smart play is a lay-up second shot to set up a wedge into a wide green.
Originally built in 1913, the Bethel Inn Resort golf course in Bethel remained nine holes until 1988 when it was redesigned and expanded to an 18-hole championship layout by the renowned architect Geoffrey Cornish.
Today, 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 golfers of every ability.
America’s Greatest Golf Resorts magazine has rated the Bethel Inn layout among the top ten resort courses in all of the Northeast, and Golf Digest magazine has awarded it 3 1/2 stars. Home of the New England PGA Fall Festival Pro-Am, and the New England Couples Tournament, the layout is respected as one of the best in New England.
The Bethel Inn Resort offers complete and affordable stay, play and dine golf getaways and PGA golf school vacation packages.
There are 158 guest rooms at the Inn in both traditional accommodations and luxury townhomes. There’s a formal dining room or the more casual Millbrook Tavern and Grille to enjoy. The resort offers a health club with spa services, a lake house, tennis and other lawn games, and several state parks are located nearby for the adventurous.