Summer in the White Mountains is a golfer’s paradise.By: Jim Fennell
Mount Washington cuts an imposing figure among the impressive peaks that make up New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. The highest mountaintop in the Northeast, it is 6,288 feet above sea level and on a clear day you can see for more than 100 miles.
Mount Washington is also the focal point of the White Mountains, drawing people to climb, bike, drive or ride the famous cog railway to its peak. There are even hardy souls who climb the mountain so they can ski Tuckerman’s Ravine in the spring. But if skiing down a rocky bowl in shorts and a t-shirt isn’t for you, the White Mountains offer many other choices, especially for golfers.
Nearly two dozen courses are located in the shadow of Mount Washington, from resort courses to public tracks to the oldest layouts in the state. And all of them come with a view. You won’t find a course that doesn’t include breathtaking scenery. While some courses are relatively new, like the nine-hole Hale’s Location at the White Mountain Hotel & Resort, there is a rich history of golf in the region.
No layout is more historic than the Mount Washington Resort Golf Club, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. The nearby nine-hole Mount Pleasant course is even older, having opened in 1895.
The championship course was originally designed by Donald Ross, and among its earliest visitors were Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth and Bobby Jones. It features stunning views and dramatic holes. It was restored by Brian Silva and reopened to rave reviews in 2009. Golfweek magazine voted it “Best Course You Can Play in New Hampshire” for three straight years. It has hosted four New Hampshire State Opens and the New England Open
Fairway bunkers were unearthed and restored, including a signature Ross “Principal’s Nose” bunker on the fourth hole. Trees were removed, enhancing the panoramic views and, greens made use of the course’s natural rolls and swells. It was all part of a $50 million investment intended to return the resort to its previous splendor.
Another property that has undergone dramatic changes is Owl’s Nest Resort & Golf Club in Campton and Thornton. After facing bankruptcy in 2013, new management took control and has poured money into upgrades to the course and the resort.
There was no need to upgrade the views; they have always been spectacular. Dramatic elevation changes, an intriguing, challenging layout and a wonderful variation of holes makes Owl’s Nest a must-play destination.
The Sunset Hill Golf Course, opened in 1897 and part of the Inn at Sunset Hill in Sugar Hill, is the oldest nine-hole course in the state. It is two years younger than 18-hole Waumbeck Country Club in nearby Jefferson.
The Profile Club in Franconia, established in 1898, is the state’s oldest private club, although it also opens to the public during certain times of the year. The North Conway Country Club was founded in 1895, and is one of the few courses in the state to host both the State Amateur and Open championships.
Tourism is a year-round industry in the White Mountains and golf is a big part of that business. Golfers will find specially designed stay-and-play packages throughout the region. The Town & Country Inn and Resort in Gorham offers golf packages that include greens fees and carts to the Androscoggin Valley Country Club, which is across the street from the resort.
Gorham is at the northern end of the White Mountains, with the main shopping center for the region located 30 miles south in North Conway. Famous for its outlet shopping, North Conway is a great launching point for discovering the nooks and crannies of the area.
North Conway is central to the region’s Alpine and Nordic skiing in the winter, but it has also emerged as a year-round destination. The White Mountains Highway is chock full of stores, restaurants and hotels. There are outfitters and outdoor adventure companies that cater to adventure seekers who are looking to do everything from ice and rock climbing to kayaking, canoeing, hiking and biking. For the kids, there are miniature golf courses, indoor and outdoor water parks and Story Land, a children’s amusement park in nearby Glen.
North Conway is also a great home base for a golf vacation. The nearby North Conway Country Club is in the heart of the town—adjacent to the North Conway Scenic Railroad station and the Saco River—and across the street from the outlets. Originally known as Kearsarge Golf Links, the club has undergone several major renovations, including an expansion to 18 holes in 1975.
Mount Washington is a prime destination for hikers, leaf-peepers and shoppers. But the variety, the challenges and the scenery of the golf courses should be another reason for visiting this spectacular region of the Granite State.