Seven golf courses and a historic Main Street make this region a popular destination.BY JIM FENNELL
On a slumbering Sunday morning in the spring or summer, Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire, is a great place to start the day. After the sun goes down, it’s an even better place to end it.
With lodging options on Main Street and plenty of motels and hotels within one mile, it is the ideal spot to set up a base camp as you explore the satisfying golf options in the Monadnock Region. Nestled in the southwest corner of New Hampshire, bordering Vermont and Massachusetts, the area is defined by Mount Monadnock – one of the world’s most-hiked mountains. But the seven golf courses in the region proudly stand on their own.
Not far from Main Street are two of the region’s signature courses, Bretwood Golf Course and Keene Country Club. Bretwood has two 18-hole courses intersected by the Ashuelot River. The original course was built nearly 50 years ago after a fire burned down the cow farm owned by Ellis and Toby Barrett.
The Barrett brothers decided to build a course instead of rebuilding the farm. Sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters have worked the business, which doesn’t offer much in terms of amenities and is best described as homespun. The clubhouse is basic, but the porch offers great sightlines of the course and a cool place to wind down after a round.
Bretwood is impressively maintained for a public course that regularly hosts tournaments, has groups coming in on buses and tourists driving over for 36 holes and lunch in between golf. The wooden bridges built by Ellis Barrett are as well known as the North Course’s 13th hole – called the island hole – or the cluster of three holes on the South Course known as Jurassic Park.
Keene Country Club has all the amenities, with a function hall, a full restaurant and a lounge, pool, tennis courts and a par-72, 18-hole course that is long and challenging. The public is allowed to play the course on a limited basis.
Sitting in the shadows of Mount Monadnock is The Shattuck, an 18-hole, par-71 layout in Jaffrey that will impress you with its beauty and test you with its layout. Built around wetlands, the course has spectacular views and holes that are punishing.
The Crotched Mountain Golf Club in Francestown, at the base of the Crotched Mountain ski area, was built in stages – the original nine was designed by Donald Ross – and has two distinct looks.
There are also three nine-hole courses in the region: The private Dublin Lake Club, Monadnock Country Club in Peterborough and Pine Grove Springs in Spofford. Monadnock and hilly Pine Grove Springs are both open to the public.
Keene’s main thoroughfare was once hailed as the widest Main Street in America. With over a dozen public spaces along its expansive sidewalks, an abundant amount of benches and flower beds, a handful of coffee shops and breakfast joints, and plenty of window-front shopping, it is ideal for a casual morning stroll.
Many of the restaurants set up sidewalk tables, adding to the buzz in a town that has a vibrant mix of longtime residents, young professionals and students from Keene State College and Antioch.
The United Church of Christ sits at the head of the square, with its magnificent white spire serving as the focal point of downtown. The square has a waterfall, a gazebo where bands play at night and a Civil War monument. The American Planning Association named Central Square one of its 10 Great Public Spaces in 2009.
At night you can choose from slices of pizza to high-end cuisine. The Stage Restaurant, next to the church, is one of Keene’s landmark establishments. The Benik family, having come from New York, has imbued the restaurant with a Broadway flair. Chef George Benik serves up contemporary cuisine like Bohemian Bouillabaisse, Steak Morgan and Hell on Noodles – a delightfully spicy dish that combines chicken, kielbasa and chili sauce.
Nicola’s offers a more intimate atmosphere, serving Italian cuisine in its main room, and lighter fare and jazz in its more casual lounge. Scores Sports Bar & Grille is one of those classic meeting places, offering a full pub menu, trivia games at night and 1,000 inches of high-definition TV to satisfy every type of sports fan.
If you’re looking for variety in golf courses, dining and entertainment, the Monadnock Region provides multiple options in a stunning setting.