Across the state, there are courses to suit any golfer’s fancy.By Katharine Dyson
New Hampshire’s landscape has served as a stunning canvas for golf’s greatest architects since the days when bogey was considered par. And just as visitors have been coming here to seek fresh air and peace, they have also embraced golf, where the state’s oldest nine-hole course opened in 1897 in Sugar Hill.
Today’s inns, some dating back more than 200 years, have maintained the charm and authenticity of their roots, while offering guests modern amenities like en suite whirlpool tubs, thick mattresses, TVs that rise and disappear with the touch of a button and delectable meals prepared by chefs using locally foraged ingredients.
Settings by the sea, lakes, mountains and rivers further enhance your experience. So, what will it be?
BY THE SEA
Perched high above the Atlantic like a white land-locked cruise ship, Wentworth by the Sea Marriott Hotel & Spa, just outside Portsmouth, has logged a lot of mileage since it opened in 1874. But in the 1990s, an extensive five-year renovation and a new 8,500-square-foot spa brought it up to par.
Guests can play the private Wentworth by the Sea Country Club course, a tight, mostly rolling layout jutting out into the sea from a high bluff. Originally designed by Donald Ross in 1921, it was updated by Geoffrey Cornish in 1964 and again by Brian Silva in the 1990s. The course is only 6,381 yards, but it adds up to an enjoyable round of golf with stunning ocean views.
Lake Winnipesaukee spreads Rorschach-like over the Lakes Region and is home to more than 20 golf courses. Most ring the top northern tier, while a couple of beauties lie at the southern end, including the stunning (and private) Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club.
Surprisingly, most of the courses do not have lake views. Pheasant Ridge Golf Club is an exception with superb vistas of the water. Other courses include the rugged, hilly Ragged Mountain Golf Club in Danbury; the family-friendly Waukewan Golf Club in Center Harbor; the rolling Donald Ross-designed Kingswood Golf Club in Wolfeboro; the scenic Ridgewood Country Club in Moultonborough; and the 6,813-yard Laconia Country Club. Short driving distances between courses combined with greens fees averaging about $40 with a cart make this area a win-win for golfers.
HILLS & VALLEYS
Sculpted into the contours of the Pemigewasset River Valley, Owl’s Nest Golf Club, a Cornish, Silva and Mungeam design, opened in 1998 to rave reviews for its solid routing and serious elevations that capture the drama of New Hampshire’s countryside.
The course is the centerpiece for a growing development of impressive homes. In 2016, ambitious plans were implemented to expand the property’s facilities, including an upgraded clubhouse, a new tennis complex, paddle courts, a spa, two pools, a 10-mile trail system, a racquetball court and a 10-acre lake and beachfront. Nicklaus Design worked on the bunkers, rebuilt tee boxes, and further refined the course.
Golfers can book several new and attractive four-bedroom vacation homes with flat-screen TVs, fireplaces and kitchens. When completed, Owl’s Nest Resort & Golf Club will be one of the Granite State’s major tourist destinations.
The Chesterfield Inn near Keene makes an excellent base to explore the wildly beautiful Connecticut River Valley. Comfortable and spacious guest rooms, many with gas fireplaces, are located in the original farmhouse and adjacent buildings that look over meadows and gardens. Once you check in, it won’t be long until the white-and-black cat, Yoda, makes his appearance. He thinks he owns the place.
In Keene, the Ashuelot River meanders through the Bretwood Golf Course’s two manicured 18-hole layouts. Fairways roll gently over the hills, but elevation changes, an “almost” island green and several ponds will keep you on your toes, while covered bridges enhance the landscape. Don’t overlook the sweet nine-hole Hooper Golf Club tucked into Walpole’s hillsides.
The 28-room Inn at Sunset Hill in Sugar Hill is small enough for warm, personal service, yet large enough not to be intrusive. This is a place where you can have a close encounter with a moose, relax in the gardens and pool, tee off on New Hampshire’s oldest nine-hole golf course and refresh yourself with a good selection of draft beers and dinner in an old tavern.
The course is not one you’d detour to play, but it is fun and provides a good warm-up. Fans of classic courses can tee up at Waumbek Golf Club in Jefferson and The Maplewood Golf Course in Bethlehem. Both laid out in 1895, the courses hosted the “Great Triumvirate” of John Henry, James Braid and British Open champion Harry Vardon in 1900 on a tour that helped catapult golf to its apex at the turn of the century. In 1906, Donald Ross extended Maplewood while “night golf” putting matches at Waumbek were played using phosphorescent paint-coated holes and balls.
The imposing Waumbek Hotel is gone but the course lives on. Although short at 5,874 yards and a bit worn, you’ll never tire of the views of the Presidential Range. Or, for that matter, of the endless choices that New Hampshire provides.