Hole by Hole Appreciation

For many golfers, the club’s storied signature hole, the seventh, is the most challenging of its nine holes. The 110-yard par three requires a shot from the Stone Wharf over Casco Bay to the course’s most difficult green. Paradoxically, the hole offers the best chance for a hole-in-one.

First Hole. 266 yards, par 4. 

This short par 4 is deceptively difficult. Golfers are prohibited from hitting their drives over the road that bisects the course, about 170 yards from the tee. Once across the road, the player faces three challenges. The first is an innocent-looking bunker a little below and right of the green. Beware. It isn’t all that innocent. The second is the terraced hill to the right of the green that beckons like the Sirens to unsuspecting golf balls. Landing on the hill almost guarantees a double-bogey or worse as players hit down to the sloping green and attempt to hold the ball there. The third is the green whose two levels mean there are no easy putts, no matter where the cup is positioned. Stroke the putt too softly from the lower level and the ball rolls back to your feet. Stroke it too hard from above and the ball finds its way to the rough below. *This hole crosses a public road. Vehicles and pedestrians have the right of way at all times. Do not hit across Stone Wharf Road from the first tee.  Golfers who do incur a one-stroke penalty.

Second Hole. 378 yards, par 4. 

The elevated tee for the second hole, the second longest on the course, looks down a straight fairway that at first glance wouldn’t seem to cause many problems. However, about half-way down the fairway stands a lone, shapely maple tree that blocks the path to the green for shots that stray too far right. The fairway on the left is closely bordered by a public road that is out-of-bounds. Further along the fairway on the left lies a picturesque fire pond and a small marsh that frequently collect shots hit in their direction. The large green, framed on the back left by a split rail fence and on the back right by a hidden, but shallow bunker, slopes subtly toward the back. Even the best approach shots often find a glide path toward the back edge of the green. *This hole crosses a public road. Vehicles and pedestrians have the right of way at all times.

Third Hole. 253 yards, par 4. 

A wooden bridge, which not long ago served as a boat ramp for two of the club’s members, leads to a set of third hole tees, both of which are set back in a woods. The view from the forward and back tees is tunnel-like, with trees impinging from both sides. Increasing the degree of difficulty is a deep gully just in front of the forward tee. The green for this hole is elevated. It has both a back to front and left to right slope, not perilous, but certainly a factor. Behind the green is a sand trap that captures aggressive approach shots, while keeping such shots from being lost in the impenetrable brush behind it.

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Fourth Hole. 349 yards, par 4.

A golfer standing on the elevated tee for the fourth hole is first struck by a fairway bunker that juts into the fairway from the left about 125 yards from the tee. It looks as if it shouldn’t come into play, but it does with alarming frequency. Further up the fairway is the largest trap on the course. It cuts well into the fairway about 30 yards in front of the green. The green, though not elevated, is at the top of a not-so-gradual hill, meaning the hole plays longer than its listed length of 349 yards. The green is large and slopes predominantly from back to front. Not far from the green on the left is a rail fence lined with blueberry bushes. This bit of landscaping seldom comes into play, but it is a popular snack stop for antioxidant fans during the summer and early fall. *This hole crosses a public road. Vehicles and pedestrians have the right of way at all times.

Fifth Hole. 384 yards, par 4 (men), par 5 (women). 

The right edge of the fairway of the fifth hole is lined by brush and a few trees. Just beyond the vegetation, the land drops sharply down to rocks, sand and the blue water of Casco Bay. It may not be the 8th hole at Pebble Beach, but it is the longest and toughest on this course. Golfers with any tendency to fade their tee shots often aim way left, sacrificing distance for the relative safety of the adjoining fairway. The fairway narrows considerably about 100 yards from the elevated green. Approach shots that fall short land on a mound that blocks the front of the green. Errant shots left have a good chance of going into a trap or being engulfed by hillside vegetation. Errant shots right may find other low bushes or roll down a steep hill that begins three feet from the edge of the green. The green is large, flat in spots and undulating in others. Fist bumps, usually reserved for birdies on other holes, certainly are in order for pars—or even bogies—on this one. *This hole crosses a public road. Vehicles and pedestrians have the right of way at all times.

Sixth Hole. 111 yards, par 3. 

One club member imposes a fanciful two-shot penalty on any playing partner who fails to pause on this elevated tee to take in the view. Forming the backdrop for the green is the cove once known as Temperance Cove, dotted with dozens of boats--lobster, sail, power and otherwise. The ultimate in local knowledge is to take a look at the direction the moored boats are pointing to determine the direction of the wind—and the wind is definitely a factor here. The hole is ranked the easiest on the course. Even so, two large pine trees knock down balls that otherwise would land just to right of the green. (Balls hit short and right often almost uncannily hop forward and left and roll onto the green, a phenomenon known to members as “the Lewis Ross bounce,” named for a longtime member who perfected the shot and is said to have used it as his tee shot of choice on this hole.) A good-sized sand trap collects balls hit short and left. Despite being the lowest green on the course—and, therefore, the softest—putts run surprisingly quickly, especially when stroked toward the cove that borders the green on the left.

Seventh Hole. 104 yards, par 3. 

This is the course’s signature hole, written up in golf magazines since the 1930s. Players frequently attract small galleries of lobstermen and ferry boat passengers as they attempt to hit over a cove from the granite tee box located on the town wharf—a daunting prospect at high, low, neap, flood or any other tide. Getting over the water is only part of the challenge. First there’s THE bunker. Shouts of “Oh, No!” and “Don’t go there!” are heard as golfers, watching helplessly, see their tee shots head to the sharply-banked trap to the right front of the elevated green. Second is the green, which undulates and slopes severely from back to front. Each of the three traditional pin placements make two-putting a goal not often achieved. There is one very occasional reward, though. When the cup is at the bottom of the green, balls hit on the upper tier funnel heart-stoppingly towards the hole. It’s the best chance on the course for a hole-in-one.

Photo credit: Island Journal, Greg Souza, photographer

Photo credit: Island Journal, Greg Souza, photographer

Eighth Hole. 138 yards, par 3. 

Some members say they have tried every club in their bag—except their putter—in an effort to find the correct one for this, the longest of the course’s par 3s. It has a nice view of Casco Bay behind the tee box. It looks easy. It’s flat. There are woods on the right, but far enough right that they shouldn’t come into play as often as they do. Hit your tee shot left and you are facing a chip shot over a shallow bunker that traverses the left side of the green. Knock the ball firmly enough to get over the trap and it runs well beyond the hole.  Baby it and it’s back to your bag in search of your sand wedge. And, don’t even think about getting into the sharply-pitched trap hidden at the back and right of the green.  Hit your Pro V-1X there and you may be ordering a sandwich from the Ebb and Thyme to sustain you until you finally get out. 

Ninth Hole. 256 yards, par 4. 

This is the second hole with tees set back in the woods. It’s a short par 4 and long-hitters often try to drive the green, even though it is an uphill shot and the risks often don’t justify the potential rewards. Normal human beings—that is, those who don’t have a 255 yard uphill club in their collection—must contend with four fruit trees and a fairway bunker to the right. There are two trees on the left that can also come into play. A strategically-placed grass-covered bedrock knob, scoured by glaciers eons ago, hides the green from the approach. The green is flat and otherwise surrounded by trees and brush, placing a premium on accurate approach shots, from 255 yards away or 50.

19th Hole Recap. 

Skilled players walk to the first tee each time with the hope this is the time they finally break the course record, which has stood for 66 years. Ninety year-olds walk the course and often shoot their ages. Eight year-olds attend the junior clinics and ten years later, with the fearlessness of youth, try their hand at driving the 9th green. A grandmother teaches her granddaughter to swing and watches with elation the first time the girl drives over the 3rd hole gully. Familiar, challenging, idiosyncratic, friendly, historic, scenic, the course is all things to all golfers.