Cape Arundel Golf Club

What matters the most to you in a golf course?

The key word is you. Don’t worry what the magazines say or what television blares out. What brings you the most enjoyment and satisfaction?

For the author, the answer is simple and multi-faceted. The course needs to be fast playing. That means both the playing surfaces need to release and that the course has to be an enjoyable walk in three hours or so. The design needs to make the golfer think – if the golfer isn’t engaged, then the day’s worries aren’t truly left behind. Additionally, the golfer should feel a tight bond with nature and if nature cooperates with some wind, all the better.

Beyond that, not too much else matters. The course can be nine holes (the author considers three such course in the world top 100, namely Culver, Royal Worlington and the Third Nine at Morfontaine), ten holes (the just opened 10 holes at Farmington CC by Coore & Crenshaw), or eighteen. Length doesn’t matter so long as the golfer is engaged – and it is hard to imagine being engaged if you aren’t asked to hit a wide variety of shots.

As well as virtually any course in the world, Cape Arundel some thirty minutes south of Portland, Maine ticks all the boxes that matters the most to the author. Though the author places it on a pedestal as a design ideal for all to emulate, apparently others don’t. Golf Digest lists it as # in the state of Maine, for instance, as it no doubt flunks the ‘Resistance to Scoring’ metric as the course is ‘only’ XXXX yards. What a disservice to the game that a course should be 10% or 20% or – gasp – 30% (!) longer.

As it is, Cape Arundel can be enjoyed in three hours. A man and his entire family can have a delightful time. The prospects of losing a ball are rare and the few forced carries are invariably when the ball has a perfect lie on a tee (a.k.a. the 6th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 18th tees). The only exception is the approach across the gulley at the 5th.

The challenge stems from the area 30 yards and in from the greens. Taken as a set, what Walter Travis created in 1921 has to rank with the best sets of greens anywhere. Many are open in front, some have bodacious contours, terraces and drop-offs. Some slope away from the player and some are even hidden. Others seem criminally small for the shot. The club’s superb green keeper has great fun placing the day’s hole locations.

Seriously, who has the guts to build a green like that?!

Where earth was disturbed, it was done to enhance the golf experience. Otherwise, the property does little to hide that it was once farmland, which makes it a joy to walk.

So many modern architects junked up the side of holes, especially in the period from 1980-2000. Travis built features that would impact the golf, as we see below.

Holes to Note

First hole, 365 yards;

Cape Arundel is a walker’s delight. There is no hilliness to complain of and the green to tee walks are among the shortest in the game. Many of the fairways are laid across three different fields but invariably, when there was a gully available, like here 200 yards off the first tee, Travis put it to good use.

Hepner and Greenkeeper XXXXXX present the course in a flawless manner including having the mow lines such that a wide corridor of fairway height grass generally feeds onto the putting surfaces. Cape Arundel is a shot maker’s dream.

Second hole, 310 yards;

What a picturesque tee – and it isn’t the last one either.

Third hole, 155 yards;

The dramatic false front of the 3rd green.

Fifth hole, 340 yards;

Probably the best hole on the course and definitely one of the finest in the state, the 5th is bisected by a gully.

Note the puff in center of the green. Countless interesting hole locations result.

Eighth hole, 380 yards;