It didn’t take long for Sunday River Golf Club in Bethel, Me. to win acclaim as one of the Northeast’s most spectacular courses.
The Robert Trent Jones, Jr. gem opened only a few years ago and is enough to attract many visitors to this rural, quiet neck of the expansive Maine woods.
The course sits on a wide hillside and offers sweeping views across the Sunday River Valley to the Mahoosuc mountain range in the distance, including “Old Spec,” the third highest peak in the state.
Better not get too caught up in the beauty of the surrounding area because Sunday River is a meaty test of skill. It plays over 7,000 yards from the tips and has a rating of 75.2 and a slope of 146 from the back markers.
Jones, Jr., routed the course so as to take advantage of the mountainside topography. Thus, the course has a number of dramatic elevation changes and club selection is difficult, especially the first time you play here. A nice touch is that each hole is self-contained, which gives the visitor the feeling that he or she is alone on the layout.
The course is full of risk-reward options with some forced carries, broad fairways, strategically placed bunkers, several doglegs and generous greens.
Number one is a great starter. The 523-yard par-five bends to the left. Long hitters can get home in two if they play their tee shot to a shelf on the right side of the fairway.
The course has very strong par-threes, such as the 225-yard 14th, which demands a long-iron or fairway wood across a huge sandy waste area to a redan-style green.
The 16th, a 163-yard par-three, is one of the prettiest holes on the track. The tee shot is downhill to a green that sits against a stand of trees and fescue grass that grows tall in the summer.
The club offers a number of packages and there is fine lodging nearby that can accommodate a several-day visit to this very special place.
Sunday River Golf Club