When it comes to teeing off in Maine, it’s not just about playing great courses—it’s also about enjoying stunning views. In autumn, the vistas are painted with vibrant reds, oranges and golds offset by golf greens, or lake or ocean blues, and occasionally white-capped peaks. With more than 130 courses statewide, including public, private, semi-private and resort courses, as well as nine-hole treasures, the options are mind-boggling. Of course, this being Maine, depending upon the location, course hazards may include moose, deer, eagle or osprey, but rest assured, rarely lobster.
- At the Sugarloaf Golf Club, the jaw-dropping views from the 11th tee, which take in the river-edged fairway 125 feet below, backed by the Bigelow Mountain Range, are rivaled only by those from the 10th tee.
- The forested, Robert Trent Jones-designed 18-hole mountain course at Sunday River is prized for its elevated White Mountains’ Mahoosuc Range views.
- The mountaintop Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, ranked in the Top 100 Greatest Public Courses by Golf Digest, overlooks Maine’s Belgrade Lakes region, which was the inspiration for playwright Ernest Thompson’s On Golden Pond.
- In Rangeley, tee off from the 11th hole at Mingo Springs, for a birds-eye panorama over Rangeley and Mooselookmeguntic lakes.
- Thanks to its natural geography, a section of Dedham comprising Phillips Lake and a cluster of peaks earned the nickname the Switzerland of America. Golfers playing the Donald Ross-designed Lucerne-in-Maine Golf Course, named one of the best nine-holers in America by Golf Digest, enjoy those views.
- The front nine at Va Jo Wa Golf Club, in Island Falls, teases easy-on-the-eyes Pleasant Lake, but the back nine, sited high on a plateau, delivers arresting long-distance vistas to Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak.
Tee and Sea
Fall foliage and ocean views—that’s a marriage made in golf heaven.
- It’s water, water everywhere at the Samoset Resort Golf Course, in Rockport, where seven of the 18 championship holes hug island-studded Penobscot Bay and another 14 have ocean views.
- Every hole at Winter Harbor’s nine-hole Grindstone Neck Golf Club, founded in 1891, delivers dreamy ocean views of Frenchman Bay and its famed pink granite-sculpted shorelines.
- Seeking a challenge? At Sebasco Harbor Resort’s nine-hole seaside Shore Acres Golf Course, the approach to the 145-yard, par 3, second hole varies with the tide.
- Although the newly reopened18-hole Boothbay Harbor Country Club isn’t on the ocean, the sea breezes play through the Bruce Hepner redesign.
Make it a two-nation vacation.
- With a slight hook, it’s possible to hit the ball out of the country at the Aroostook County Country Club, in Fort Fairfield. This 18-hole course on the Aroostook River was laid out during the Prohibition era; the parking lot and pro shop are in the states, but the course and clubhouse are in Canada.
- Tee off at the easternmost course in the country, the nine-hole St. Croix Country Club, in Calais, which faces St. Stephen, Canada, across the border-dividing St. Croix River.
The challenges of playing these courses begin before you tee off.
The only way to access the golf course under the shadow of cliff-faced Mount Kineo is via a water shuttle from Rockland across Moosehead Lake. Similarly, the only way to play the Frye Island Golf Club is by taking a 10-minute ferry across Sebago Lake. And playing the especially scenic North Haven Golf Club, on North Haven Island, requires ferrying over from the mainland port of Rockland.
When who you see is as important as where you play.
- The Cape Arundel Golf Club offers the best chance of sighting celebrities. Among the notables who have played this course are: Presidents Nixon, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton and G.W. Bush; golf luminaries including Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman; sporting legends Babe Ruth, Luis Tiant, Roger Clemens and sportscaster Jim Nantz; and even the UK’s Prince Andrew.
- Another course with a star-studded history is the Arthur Fenn/Donald Ross-designed Poland Spring Golf Course (and you thought Poland Spring was only about water). Baseball legend Babe Ruth, President Taft and prizefighter Sonny Liston have all played the nation’s oldest resort golf course, which has mesmerizing views over waterways to Mount Washington and the White Mountains’ Presidential Range.
- Speaking of President Taft, he’s a legend at Bar Harbor’s Kebo Valley, where, in 1911, he took a 27(!) on the 17th hole.