Golfers are going to have a bit longer this fall to enjoy The Panorama Course at the Balsams Grand Hotel in Dixville Notch, N.H.
The course usually closes down after Columbus Day weekend. However, new owners have decided to keep the course open for at least a week beyond the holiday. In fact, this will be the first year the hotel will remain open year round. Previously, the facility closed Columbus Day weekend and reopened on Christmas. It again closed the first of April and reopened on Memorial Day each year.
The Panorama Course has traditionally reopened a week before the resort has, although director of golf Bill Hamblen said new ownership may open the course earlier next year.
The Panorama Course, a classic Donald Ross design that has 15 of the master architect’s original greens still in play, featured superb conditions this year.
“We really came through the winter in great shape,” said Hamblen. “We’re only a few miles from the Canadian border and 2,200 feet above sea level, so we have some trying conditions at times. But we have been using new aeration methods to prevent water from freezing and damaging the grass. And we put covers on some of the more exposed greens. Our winterkill was minimal and we had very good conditions all summer.”
Offered David Lindelow, general manager of the resort, “You can’t believe how beautiful the course is right now. It looks like a carpet.”
The GM said the resort is investing in new maintenance equipment and will add staff next year to further enhance the quality of the courses.
Ross designed The Panorama Course in 1912, which was in fact an expansion of the resort’s initial experiment with golf, a six-hole track built in 1897. The course is scenic and challenging.
Ross routed the holes to flow easily over the mountainside and the layout offers his classic elements, such as wide fairways with few level lies, small greens, many of which are domed, and walled sand bunkers that are easily avoided as long as a shot is hit properly. The course measures slightly more than 6,800 yards from the tips. Some holes playing longer because of elevated greens.
You had better be warmed up when you start your round, because the sternest test comes during the first six holes. That stretch includes two par-fives, three par-fours measuring over 400 yards and a 214-yard par-three.
Eight through 12 are par-fours that can be attacked, as each one measures less than 370 yards. Then it’s back into the teeth of The Panorama. Number 13 is a monstrous, 461-yard par-four, 14 is a 212-yard par-three and two of the last four holes, 15 and 18, are tough par-fives.
Ross does give the player enough room off the tee to employ driver on most holes. But he demands accurate approaches in order to hit and hold the smallish greens, some of which will shoot balls off if they come in too hot, leaving the unlucky player with testy chips back onto the putting surface.
“This is a real fun course to play,” said Hamblen. “You have the Ross domed greens, which place a premium on pitching, chipping and putting. That’s where score is decided on most holes.”
There’s also a nine-hole “executive” course, called The Coashaukee, at the resort. The Balsams has a golf school on premises, a practice range with three practice greens, a full-service clubhouse and a pro shop.
“I’m looking out over the practice green and at the mountains of Vermont, Quebec and New Hampshire,” said Hamblen. “It’s a remarkably beautiful area and a great golf course to play once or a number of times. We have several groups who have been coming back here for 20 or 30 years.”
The Balsams, with its trademark red roof and gleaming white sides, opened as the Dix House just before the Civil War. This is one of the grand resorts of the world, offering tennis, hiking and mountain biking, fishing, swimming and additional recreation and attractions in addition to 27 holes of golf.
The resort has impeccable private guest rooms, world class dinning and free and unlimited use of all facilities, activities and amenities on a 15,000-acre estate.
“We are very excited about going year round this year,” said Lindelow. “This will mark our first Thanksgiving and we are having all kinds of events leading up to the Christmas season. One of the nicest things from a management standpoint in keeping the resort open year round is that it allows us to offer full benefits to 90 more of our 140 employees. We have a lot of good people who work here and this is a win-win for everybody involved.”
On the golf courses, he added, “Next spring, we may move the opening of the courses up a little bit, weather permitting.”
If you can’t make it up before the golf courses close, the resort offers complimentary snowboarding, alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating during the winter. Live entertainment, movies, concerts, lectures and games occupy the evening year round. www.thebalsams.com.