Given the game’s origins along the windswept landscapes of Scotland, golf and the seaside seem to be a natural marriage. And in New England, where the seashore is such a wonderful attraction from northeastern Maine to southwestern Connecticut, myriad golf opportunities offer a chance to mix ocean breezes mixed with stunning courses. The sheer assortment is remarkable — there are five island courses in Maine alone. Here are a few favorites, from north to south.
Some say “antique,” I say “vintage.” Dating back to 1888, the Kebo Valley Club (kebovalleyclub.com) in Bar Harbor is the oldest golf club in Maine and the eighth oldest golf club in the country. Designed by one of the earliest “star” architects — Herbert C. Leeds — Kebo Valley has tested the skills (and nerves) of many of the country’s finest players and influential politicians. In 1911, President Taft made a 27 on what was then the “Elbow Hole,” which is today’s 17th hole (now known as the “Taft Hole”). Golf great Walter Hagen played here, as did Billy Casper and Scott Simpson. Hagen, who called the signature 8th hole one of the toughest par 4s he’d ever played, had much better luck than President Taft, carding a course record of 67 on this par 70 tract, a score that stood for 50 years. The par-3 9th hole, in the shadow of Cadillac Mountain, is a highlight, as is the par-4 8th hole, a 435-yard dogleg left that winds around a marsh.
The tailored course at the Samoset Resort (samosetresort.com) in Rockport, Maine, offers a terrific test of any golfer’s skill-set, but is so captivating — with one of the most stunning finishing holes in the Northeast — that I almost don’t mind when my game doesn’t measure up to the fabulous views. Situated on 230 oceanfront acres, Samoset was ranked in Forbes’ “Best Resorts for a Golf Vacation” in 2019, offering guests of every age a seemingly endless array of resort activities, making it a great choice for families. Samoset’s golf complex also features a clubhouse with a golf range, practice green, short-game facility with bunkers, pro shop and restaurant. But it’s got history, too, dating back to 1902. The golf course was expanded to 18 holes in 1974 by architect Robert Elder, who also modified the existing course. And there have been several modifications since, including Geoffrey Cornish’s improvements in 1990. Today’s tract includes two of the best par 5s you’ll ever play — the dogleg-left 4th hole that bends toward the historic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, and the 14th, which opens up to the Atlantic on the downhill approach shot.
Guests visiting the Black Point Inn (25 rooms and suites) in Scarborough can enjoy the bonus of playing the beautiful oceanfront Prouts Neck Country Club (proutsneck.com), a private 18-hole tract dating back to 1907. In 1924, Boston-based architect Wayne Stiles was brought in to redesign the 9-hole course, adding another nine holes to created a jewel of lowland forest and coastal golf. Bluegrass fairways and bentgrass greens run alongside the lovely Scarborough River nears its end point at Saco Bay.