The dog days of summer have come and gone, which normally is sad for this writer. But with all the rain we had during the summer of 2023, hopefully the autumn season will be dryer and provide us with more sun. We deserve it.

Bill Kennedy, Golf Columnist

That said, the Maine golf tournament season is coming to a conclusion, and once again, it has been pointed out that Maine Golf, aka the Maine State Golf Association, has one of the largest tournament schedules in the nation — like top five. That is amazing, considering that the Pine Tree State golf season is among the shortest in the United States, because of the weather, meaning early snow.

This also signals the end of the “Par for the Course” column season. So, you will be left with some ratings, which certainly seem to be questionable, if not controversial.

Some research turned up in the Golf Digest rating of Maine’s “Top Seven Golf Courses.” The order is as follows: 1. Cape Arundel, 2. Boothbay Harbor, 3. Belgrade Lakes, 4. Sugarloaf, 5. Portland, 6. Kebo Valley, 7. Sunday River.

Does Cape Arundel belong in the No. 1 slot? It does not get the vote here, but the reason for its high ranking might be the fact that both Bush presidents played there. So, it certainly is a popular and well-known golf venue.

Boothbay Harbor has undergone huge changes in recent years, which has made it a Maine golf destination. People go there not just to play golf. It is a superb vacation location. Boothbay Harbor was named Maine Golf Course of the Year in 2022 by Golf Week.

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Belgrade Lakes and Sugarloaf, in the third and fourth spots, respectively, offer magnificent views and they are well-kept, quality courses. At No. 5, Portland probably is Maine’s premier country club. People leave other Maine courses to join Portland, when they have the opportunity. Top-ranked Maine amateurs, and every-day players alike feel honored when Portland memberships are open and they are accepted.

Kebo Valley, ranked sixth, has the distinction of being Maine’s oldest golf course, having opened in 1888. If only for that, Kebo deserves to be in this group.

Seventh is Sunday River, which is built into the western Maine mountain range. Its beauty is striking. Although it has been walked, there are not a lot of people who can claim to have walked Sunday River, probably because that, for the most part, is not allowed. Still, there is an opportunity to get walking exercise at Sunday River because a good portion of the season is “cart path only.” On most holes when you leave the cart you walk either uphill or downhill to the ball, which means your body is regularly being tested for uphill strain.

In all likelihood, there is a long list of other courses not in the “top seven” conversation. A few jump out.

If its age is what makes Kebo Valley unique, then what about Poland Spring, which clearly is Maine’s most historic course, having been played by presidents and celebrities galore. Because of its location — adjacent to the Poland Spring Water Company — and its long-distance view to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, its museum and chapel, and the housing at the inn and motel, Poland Spring is a memorable place to visit and stay.

A ranking by Golf Week, at the very least, provides this list with some “honorable mention” courses. York, The Woodlands, Ledges and Prout’s Neck are among them. Plus, Samoset Resort, with its striking views of the Atlantic Ocean, is not listed.

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Maine Golf was asked how it ranks Vacationland courses. The response makes sense. The state association is not going to single out courses by ranking them. That would not be good for business. Amen.

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Maine Golf has play days scheduled: Sept. 29-30 at Turner Highlands for the men and Sept. 26 at Webhannet and Penobscot Valley for the women with a Ryder Cup format.

 

Bill Kennedy, a retired New Jersey golf writer and editor now residing on Thompson Lake in Otisfield, is wrapping up his 11th season as Sun Journal golf columnist. 

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