Ah, autumn in New England. It evokes thoughts of multi-colored leaves, sweeping vistas of dazzling mountainsides, quiet country back roads and delightfully cool weather.
For golfers, autumn is also a time to enjoy what’s left of the season, a chance to get one last road trip in before the cold north winds starts to blow and we are chased inside for several months.
Fall is one of the best times of the year to play. The crowds of summer have long since gone, the courses are in peak condition and the daytime temperatures are still warm enough to make a round pleasurable.
Here’s a look at where to play this fall, whether it’s a weekend stay or a daytrip.
One of the most beautiful areas of the country during autumn is Maine. The Pine Tree State has it all, a rocky coastline, towering mountains, thickly wooded landscapes and quaint little towns and villages where time seems to have slowed to a crawl. Maine also has some great golf courses to enjoy when the leaves turn orange, red and yellow.
One of the best venues for a fall getaway is Sunday River Golf Club in Bethel. The Robert Trent Jones, Jr. gem, which opened only a few years ago, and sits on a wide hillside that 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.
Sunday River is a true 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 club offers a number of packages and there is fine lodging nearby that can accommodate a several-day visit to this very special place.
Fabled Poland Spring Resort in Poland, Me. is considered one of the oldest courses in the country and was designed by Arthur Fenn in 1895. Donald Ross added another nine holes and refurbished the existing nine in 1912.
Poland Spring Resort is located about 35 miles north of Portland, Me. and within easy driving distance of the Greater Boston area, indeed, all of upper and middle New England.
Poland Spring Resort has three inns and 11 cottages that surround the property’s golf course. All meals are served at the Maine Inn, which also contains Rick’s Pub, a library and nightly entertainment. The Presidential Inn was built in 1912 and fully renovated in 1982. It houses the resort’s fitness center. The Motor Inn is located on the 12th hole of the golf course and a nature trail leads to the Maine Inn.
Poland Spring Golf Course is a classic resort track, short (6,116 yards), but a layout that places a premium on accuracy and wise club selection. The course features a number of short par-fours that set up risk-reward tee shots and a few, such as the beastly, 447-yard 15th, that will test the stamina of even the best players.
While in Maine, check out these two gems: Dunegrass Golf Club in Old Orchard Beach and The Links at Outlook in South Berwick
Designed by Dan Maples, Dunegrass features sandy waste areas and pine-needled rough. The course, which opened for play in 1998 and remains in pristine condition, sprawls over 300 acres. Water comes into play on over half the holes, including three of the par-threes, which are a strength of the layout. The course features a pleasing variety of holes.
Brian Silva lent his expertise to the design of The Links at Outlook, a prime example of an “American links” routing. In a nod to the legendary Scottish courses, Silva incorporated what he calls random bunkering into his design to make the player think out each shot.
The Links at Outlook, only a short drive from Dunegrass, is mostly open to the elements, with each hole posing its own set of problems, whether they be fairway bunkers, sloping greens, or deep rough off the fairways.
While not overly long--only 6,423 from the back tees--The Links at Outlook can play difficult in windy conditions. Silva placed a premium on accuracy off the tee and proper club selection on approach shots in order to stay out of trouble.
One look at the website for Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club in Lennox, Massachusetts tells you all you need to know about how stunning this classic track is during the fall.
Designed by John Van Kleek and Wayne Stiles and opened in 1926, the charming layout ambles easily over hill and dale and is routed through mature stands of trees. While short, Cranwell offers an amazing variety of holes and requires thoughtful club selection on approaches to the small and undulating greens.
The Inn at Cranwell is a superb base for further exploration of the Berkshires during autumn. Also take advantage of the resort’s spa and other amenities.
Lovingly restored by Brian Silva and reopened in August of this year, the Mount Washington Course at the Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire is a layout you will simply have to play more than once.
Silva stuck to Donald Ross’ original design intent for the Mount Washington Golf Course, which has bunkers crafted in a classic flair and closely cropped chipping areas off the putting surfaces. The 11th and fifth holes offer magical views of the Mount Washington Hotel and the surrounding mountains. There’s also the nine-hole Mount Pleasant Course that first opened in 1895 and has hosted legendary players such as Harry Vardon, J.W. Taylor and Willie Anderson. The course was upgraded by Geoffrey Cornish and Silva in 1989.
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. created the 6,000-yard, par-70 golf course at the Woodstock Inn and Resort in Woodstock, Vermont. While short, the course has water on a dozen holes, making it a challenge even for the best players. The track’s fairways and bunkers were recently redesigned and renovated to further add to the unique experience of playing one of the truly great resort courses in New England.
The Woodstock Inn and Resort is a world-class facility located in what has been called the quintessential New England village by many publications. There’s fine dining, a spa, tennis and other amenities here to enhance your stay.
Either as part of a three- or four-day vacation or a fun daytrip, you’ve got to put these courses on your must play list.
The Ranch Golf Club in Southwick, Mass. has gained a reputation as one of the elite daily fee clubs in the region. Management takes great efforts to make a visit an extremely pleasurable, stress-free experience. The Ranch is an enjoyable routing, a mix of open and woodland holes that never fail to surprise and delight. The layout plays 7,175 yards from the tips and has a rating of 75.4 and a slope of 143 from the back markers.
While difficult, you can score at The Ranch, as long as you hit the ball straight off the tee and don’t get too greedy on approach shots to the undulating greens that are usually well protected by sand, water or rough.
The 540-yard par-five ninth and 618-yard par-five 16th play dramatically downhill and afford great views of the surrounding countryside. A well struck tee shot on the ninth will tumble down the hill and leave the player with a choice of laying up for a short third shot or going for the green in two by challenging a wetlands area in front of the putting surface.
While it may not receive the fanfare of other high-profile daily fee layouts in the area, Blissful Meadows Golf Club in Uxbridge, Mass. is a well-conditioned, superbly routed, enjoyable test of golf that will have you wanting more.
The 18th hole, called “The Barn,” is a great final hole. It’s 420 yards from the tips with the green guarded by water and a bunker to the left. By the way, the backdrop to the hole is the clubhouse, which was remodeled from an old Victorian barn listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Glen Ellen Country Club in Millis, Mass. is another track that comes alive with color during autumn.
The layout, which can be stretched to 6,634 yards and plays to a par of 72, has two par-threes--numbers two and eight--that play over water. The second hole can stretch to 218 yards from the back tees, while the eighth hole is a full carry over liquid to a large green.
Glen Ellen also features two reachable par fives and two par-threes, including the second hole that measure over 200 yards.
Designed by Roger Rulewich, Crumpin-Fox Club in Bernardston, Mass. was carved out of the forest close to the Vermont line.
Many of the holes here are tree-lined with ample bunking and enough water to create a few nervous moments as the round proceeds. Some of the greens are elevated, further complicating proper club selection, especially when the breeze kicks up.
The 550-yard, par-five eighth is one of the more celebrated holes in New England. A lake runs along the entire left side of the fairway towards the putting surface, necessitating an eventual approach shot over water to an undulating green.
Quarry Ridge Golf Club, located on the slopes of the Connecticut River valley in Portland, offers some of the best vistas in Connecticut.
This is a true shot-maker’s delight, with dramatic elevation changes, an interesting mix of long and short holes and tricky greens. The course is regularly listed among the best in Connecticut and conditions are always top-notch.
The course plays just 6,369 yards from the back tees but it’s all about proper club selection and accurate shot making at Quarry Ridge.
One of the best-conditioned tracks in Connecticut, Rockledge Country Club in West Hartford, a relatively flat layout that sits in a beautiful parkland setting, is approachable for all levels of players, challenging for the better golfer, and offers a pleasing mix of holes and finely manicured fairways greens and tee boxes.
Rockledge has a number of very good holes, ranging from short par-fours, like the 290-yard second and 317-yard 11th, where birdies await, to classic risk/reward par-fives. The par-five 14th measures 528 yards from the tips, and big hitters can think about going for the green in two because the tee shot will tumble down a slight hill. The green is guarded by a lone tree and bunkers to the left and rear and a pond well below the putting surface to the right, which makes going for it in two a gamble.
So, pack the sticks into the car and head out on the road for some great fall golf!