Tucked into the unspoiled landscape of western Maine near the Mahoosuc Mountain Range, is one of the best golf courses ever designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Sunday River Golf Club.
Ever since it opened in 2005, the track has won raves from hard-to-please reviewers and recreational golfers alike for its beauty, superb routing and challenging holes. In fact, Jones, Jr. has said that Sunday River was one of his most pleasurable undertakings to date. The course sits on a hillside and offers sweeping views across the Sunday River Valley to the Mahoosuc Mountain Range.
Jones worked his magic and incorporated the natural terrain and its various physical features into the design of Sunday River, which plays over 7,000 yards from the tips and is rated as one of the toughest layouts in the Northeast. Each hole is pleasingly self-contained and there are numerous elevation changes as the course winds up and down the hillside. There is no water to speak of and both the fairways and greens are generous. But there are lots of bunkers and forced carries over waste areas that demand precision off the tees and on approaches to the undulating putting surfaces.
“More than anything else, its location makes Sunday River a great course,” said Nick Lambert, brand manager for the club and resort. “The layout spans a hillside that provides spectacular mountain views from every hole. And in contrast to many other mountain courses, it remains quite playable because of the wide fairways and large greens.”
The par-threes, several of them playing from dramatically elevated tees, and the par-fives are a strength of Sunday River. The 499-yard par-five first hole sets a stunning tone for the remainder of the round. The fairway runs downhill to the green and the putting surface can be reached in two shots, providing you play your ball down the right side and avoid two bunkers on either side of the green.
The 425-yard-par four fifth plays shorter than its length because it’s all downhill, and the ninth, a 339-yarder, is a great example of a superb, short par-four. The tee shot and approach must carry waste areas.
Number 14 is a demanding, 213-yard par-three that is all carry over another waste area to a redan-style green.
While the downhill holes allow big hitters off the tee to approach the putting surfaces with short or mid-irons after a good drive, Jones followed a downhill hole with one working its way back up the hillside. The most notable climbs are found on numbers three, seven, eight and 15, and all call for at least one or two more clubs to get to the right yardage.
Because of its location, Sunday River is one of the last courses to open in New England.
“We’re looking at a late May or early June opening this year,” said Lambert. “We had higher than average snowfall and cooler than average temperatures this spring and that delayed the opening a few weeks. But the course will be in great shape when we do open.”
The club is offering an attractive stay and play package, which includes one round with a cart plus lodging and breakfast at one of the property’s Grand Resort Hotels. The packages start at $99 per person. The resort will also open a golf school this year for the first time and will offer special packages that will include golf and lodging.
Sunday River features a comprehensive practice range with six target greens ranging from 75 to 265 yards in distance, as well as a large putting green.
The resort has over 700 condominiums, ranging from studio condos to three-bedroom townhomes, all with access to indoor and outdoor pools and saunas.
For further information about the club and resort or any of the packages and the golf school, please visit www.sundayriver.com.
Sunday River Golf Club