The mission: One season, 30 courses

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Not gonna lie, golf has consumed me again. It’s been a very long time since the sport has really taken a hold of me like this, and quite honestly, I didn’t understand enough of the intricacies of the game the last time it did.

Now, I just wish I was independently wealthy, so I could fix a few things that need fixing. It used to be easy, when you didn’t understand everything that needed fixing. Or maybe that’s the point, the message, if you will. Maybe you don’t need to fix everything. Maybe too much is made of all of the things in the sport that cost money.

This summer, though, money or no, I am destined to complete a course I have charted for myself. With the early jump on the season, I’ve made a pledge to see 30 different courses by the end of the season.

Scary thing is, I’m already more than a third of the way there.

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The journey began ultra-locally. I saw the new changes at Martindale, made my way to Fox Ridge, and of course have seen Prospect Hill and Apple Valley once each. That knocked out the full-size courses with at least nine holes in Lewiston-Auburn.

As any golfer in the area knows, each was unique. The renovations, on the course and otherwise, at Martindale have been a huge success, and the greens are looking like they will be back to their regular selves as the punched holes close up.

Fox Ridge is as windy, wispy and, of course, challenging as ever, Prospect continues to satisfy its niche and Apple Valley’s conditions are some of the best that course has seen in a while.

But the task isn’t just to see the courses close to home. Whenever I escape the office to see a softball game, or a lacrosse match, I find myself looking for a nearby track, if only to take a test drive. I’ve done so at Maple Lane in Livermore and at Oakdale in Mexico. Both nine-hole tracks are enjoying great starts to the season. Oakdale is one of the more challenging 9-hole tracks in the expanded SJ coverage area that I’ve seen.

Of course, there are more than just nine-holers in the region.

At Fairlawn, a course I’ve now seen three times in its entirety, the greens are rolling just about as purely as any I’ve putted in a long time. The cross in the grasses they use there combined with obvious upkeep has been kind to the players partaking in the course.

Toddy Brook was a pleasant surprise. The newish track in North Yarmouth, really much closer than I had anticipated, is a sight and a half. Two distinct nine-hole layouts, opened at different times, warm the golfing palate. A solid layout and, to keep with the theme, splendid conditions, made for a fantastic round. (Also shot my season-low there, playing from the tips).

Speaking of playing from the tips, the highlight of the season so far, without a doubt, was Thursday’s trip to what I now consider to be one of the top three courses I’ve played in my lifetime, Belgrade Lakes.

To be honest, I won’t likely play another round there this season due to the hefty price tag, but the special the course was running prior to Memorial Day was just too good to pass up. They charged just $50 for greens fees and a cart rental per golfer. Un-be-lieve-able.

Normally a $175 play, it, like I said, was too good to pass up.

The views are spectacular, the greens are immaculate and the upkeep of the course is second-to-none. It easily rivals Sunday River as one of the top tracks in Maine. Period.

My playing partner and I player her from the tips, which in hindsight was a good move. It keeps driver in play for us on most of the holes, which, from the front tees, it may not. And for the both of us, driver is one of the best clubs in the bag (I know it’s backwards, don’t ask).

If I could have taken the time to figure out the greens, maybe the score would have been sub-90. It nearly was anyway.

The point is, it’s not going to be just another number, this round. This one was special, and it’s going to take a lot to top it this summer.

So, where’s that leave us? Alphabetically, we’ve got: Apple Valley, Belgrade, Fairlawn, Fox Ridge, Maple Lane, Martindale, Oakdale, Point Sebago, Prospect Hill, Spring Meadows and Toddy Brook.

That would be 11. Nineteen to go, and I have yet to venture to some closer, easy-to-get-to courses like Turner Highlands and Springbrook. Also, Friday’s tip back to Jay to see a softball game is tempting me to possibly knock out another nine-holer up in Wilton, Wilson Lake, a course I haven’t seen in almost 15 years.

Could that be No. 12?

You can be sure that other area courses, like Poland Spring, Norway, Paris Hill, Brunswick, Freeport, Summit, The Meadows and a host of others will fall. I am also looking into a rare Sunday River/Bethel Inn double.

Could happen, although I have a feeling that once summer rates kick in, the number of visits to some of these courses is going to slow a bit.

But hey, we can all enjoy it while it lasts, right?

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