Grand Old Time

A visit to the Mount Washington Valley promises majestic scenery, luxurious accommodations and dramatic golf courses.

It seems that everything about the Mount Washington Valley is grand. It begins with the drive along the Daniel Webster Highway that carves through the towering White Mountains, offering magnificent views in every direction. It continues with historic and opulent lodging destinations like the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa and the Omni Mount Washington Resort, where you can easily spend the day ensconced on the veranda in a rocker reveling in the glorious scenery. And it rolls on with the classic mountain golf courses that feature regal tree-lined fairways and dizzying elevation changes.

On a recent trip to the Granite State I struck shots toward a green that was framed by the majestic red spires of the Omni Mount Washington Resort and also teed off over railroad tracks—but only after waiting for the train to pass. I discovered golf courses that fly under the radar—but shouldn’t— like North Conway Country Club and Mountain View Grand Golf Course, a neat little nine-hole track that serves as a perfect warm-up for a week of golf.

The Omni Mount Washington Resort's veranda.

The Omni Mount Washington Resort’s veranda.

There are many advantages to planning a golf vacation to the Mount Washington Valley, but one of the principle ones is that you never have to drive more than one hour to find a course worth playing.

My trip began at the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield; one of New Hampshire’s last remaining “Grand Old Ladies.” Opened in 1865, this extraordinary resort has been restored to its former glory after sitting dormant for 16 years. It reopened in 2002 and today boasts 145 rooms and suites on a 1,700-acre estate of woodlands, trails, pastures and landscaped gardens, all with eye-popping views of the Presidential Range.

The golf course opened in 1900 and was redesigned in 1938 into what is now a 2,915-yard par 35 layout. The list of famous faces that have stayed at the hotel or played the course includes seven presidents, from Teddy Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Frost, film star Bette Davis and all four Marx Brothers. For a slice of true history, spend some time in the hotel’s reading room, which is named the “Eisenhower Library” because Dwight D. Eisenhower would sneak up to the room late at night to relax during visits to the hotel in the 1950s.

From one “Grand Old Lady” to another, just 20 minutes away is the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods. The striking structure suddenly comes into view from Route 302, its grand 900-foot wraparound veranda evoking memories of a gilded age of opulence.

A visit here feels like stepping back in time from the moment you walk into the cavernous lobby with its 23-foot high ceilings to when you step into the cozy hand-operated elevator. Opened in 1902, the hotel is registered as a National

North Conway Country Club

North Conway Country Club

Landmark. It most famously hosted the world’s financial leaders in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Monetary Conference, where the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were established.

Along with all that history are awe-inspiring views of the Presidential Range from the back veranda, where you can sip a cool beverage and watch the clouds sprinkle shadows across the mountains as the sun sets. Here’s tip if you visit during foliage season: You’ll see the most vivid colors from the front veranda.

The golf course was originally designed by Donald Ross in 1915, but it fell into disrepair and was closed for two years in the 1980s while being restored by Brian Silva, who based his work on Ross’s original plans. At 7,004 yards and playing to a par-72, the course takes golfers on a roller-coaster ride of elevation changes, demanding a wide variety of recovery shots from bunkers and closely cropped areas around the greens. Fairway bunkers were unearthed and restored, including a signature Ross “Principal’s Nose” bunker on the fourth hole. There are mountain views throughout, but the true money shot is from the tee on the par-3 fifth hole that faces the hotel.

The next stop, just 30 minutes away, was the North Conway Country Club. Located in the center of town next to the North Conway Scenic Railway Station, the entire course is laid

out behind the clubhouse, with none of it visible from the road. You’d never know there is a course there unless someone clued you in.

The historic library at the Mountain View Grand Resort

The historic library at the Mountain View Grand Resort

The first hole is truly unique. The steeply elevated tee shot plays over the railroad tracks, and the local joke is to aim for an open window when the train is passing. After the initial downhill tee shot, the remainder of the course is relatively flat, with the main characteristic being the gorgeous tree-lined fairways. The signature fifth hole is bordered by the Saco River, while there are a number of elevated greens with false fronts that demand proper club selection. The front nine opened in 1895, while the back nine was added in 1975. Despite the vast difference in age, both nines blend beautifully into a challenging and playable course.

There are two things you must do after golfing at North Conway CC: Soak in the sunset from the back deck of the clubhouse and take the 10-minute drive up to nearby Cathedral Ledge for a sweeping view of the surrounding valley.

My only regret about my visit to the Mount Washington Valley is that I couldn’t stay longer. But it was a grand time just the same.

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