Sunday River Golf Review
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A Weekend Getaway – Golf & Relaxation in the Beautiful Mahoosuc Mountains of Western Maine
If you are looking for a weekend getaway or a golf trip with friends, other couples, or your significant other, don’t forget about the beautiful state of Maine. Golf in Maine can take you along the New England coastline of the Atlantic Ocean or up to the western part of the state and the mountains.
Golf and Travel
My husband and I love to golf. And we love to travel. And because we sometimes can’t get away for too long, we decided to start doing a few overnight and weekend golf trips to places around the New England area during the summer and fall months.
Our most recent summer getaway took us north about 3 hours from Boston, Massachusetts. We had been talking about exploring golf courses and tracks up in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
And because Golf Digest had ranked Sunday River Golf Club #1 as the Best Course in Maine, we decided to check it out. Plus they offer some great options for stay and play golf packages.
Sunday River Resort
Sunday River Golf is located within the Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine also near the town of Bethel.
The Sunday River Resort is a bustling ski community with downhill and cross country skiing and other winter activities. It is an extremely popular winter destination in the northeast. However, come summertime, it is quiet, peaceful and a nature lovers dream.
Sunday River, like many other mountains and resorts in the area, offers golf and other outdoor activities during the summer.
Golf at Sunday River
Sunday River Golf offers an 18 hole championship public course that is relatively new and was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It has hosted the Maine Amateur Golf Championship in the past.
The golf course is a challenging track with elevation changes, unique hole designs, layouts, deep ravines, trouble areas, and natural hazards that playing on a mountain course brings.
What we loved and will most likely remember about this course is the majestic mountain views, the serenity, and the nature that surrounds you while playing this beautiful golf course.
A Shorter Golf Season
Jerry Roman, PGA Head Golf Professional at Sunday River, mentioned that in order to accommodate and be prepared for the winter, the Sunday River Golf Club has a hard open and close date. May 11 through October 11 of each year.
If they were soft on these dates, it could be disastrous to the conditions of the course if snowfall or a deep freeze came early or late during any one season.
This mountainous northern region of the country can be difficult for a golf course owner and operator as mother nature can dictate the course conditions from year to year.
A few years ago, a harsh winter had a terrible effect on the greens and it has taken a few years to bring them back to pristine conditions. Since then with much care, maintenance, and good luck from mother nature, the course has bounced back and the greens are playing beautifully.
High Demand Yet Quiet and Peaceful
Because of the demand at Sunday River Golf, the course was booked solid when we played, yet they were able to fit us in with a last-minute change to our tee time due to rainy weather being forecasted for the next day.
Once we headed out on the golf course, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it was booked solid that day.
Each hole was separated by trees and natural vegetation so you really couldn’t see any other golfers on the course except for the group in front of us from time to time. Occasionally I heard voices echoing from somewhere, yet I couldn’t see any other golfers because of the heavy vegetation, trees, and elevated areas.
Elevation Changes and Mountain Golf
Golf in this part of Maine is mountainous. Elevation changes rise and fall from hole to hole.
There is a 500-foot change in elevation along the course with the 2nd hole being the lowest and the 17th hole the highest.
Designing and building a golf course in the mountains, Sunday River has made use of the natural landscape, vegetation, ravines, valleys, and elevations to provide a beautiful backdrop and course that is unique and interesting to play.
I loved the bunkering along the course as well as the use of the natural waste areas guarding and protecting the greens.
Course architects designed a course that makes you think about risk and reward for each hole.
Golf Course Conditions At Sunday River
As a public golf course open to anyone, you never know what the course conditions might be like. I like to pay attention to how well the tee boxes, fairways and greens are maintained.
The golf course here at Sunday River was impressive. The golf course and greens were in beautiful condition.
We were surprised to hear that only a year or two ago, the course and greens had issues due to mother nature and ice problems.
The superintendent along with the golf staff have done an amazing job bringing it back.
Sunday River Golf Course Scorecard
Sunday River Golf Course Slope Rating and Local Rules
When Playing Golf at Sunday River:
Here are a few things of note to keep in mind when playing golf at Sunday River.
No walking, caddies or pull carts. Because of the elevation and distance between tee boxes, the course has a “riding carts only” rule. This makes sense as the golf course would be crazy to walk. A typical round takes about 4 1/2 hours even with a cart. And that is no waiting for other golfers. If walking was an option, a round of golf here would be an extremely long day.
Electric riding carts are available and can be picked up at the cart hut at the far end of the parking lot once you arrive. Pull up or park your car and walk over to the hut to get your cart.
It is very manageable and easy to access either way. The staff was extremely accommodating, friendly, and laid back.
Be sure to grab a scorecard or purchase a course booklet with detailed information especially if it is your first time playing here. The carts do not have any GPS monitors.
Clubhouse & Pro Shop
The clubhouse is located to the left of the parking lot as you drive in. Once you have your clubs and would like to check in with the pro shop, pull around in your cart before heading to the first tee. They have a great selection of logoed and non-logoed golf merchandise for purchase.
The driving range is conveniently located right beside the parking lot up the hill on the right. There are plenty of hitting bays and a gorgeous mountain view. Buckets of balls will need to be purchased.
For putting, the practice green is located just off the clubhouse and next to the first tee.
Golf in this area is like hiking out in nature. There is an opportunity to see some wildlife while playing. We did not see anything crazy, just a badger or beaver crossing one of the greens.
Apparently, there have been a few bear sightings but they often keep to themselves and stay clear of golfers. However, it is always best to be aware of any wildlife along the course. There are also opportunities to see other wildlife like moose, foxes, coyotes, deer and bald eagles in the area.
The mountains along the course were breathtaking. Our tee time was at 3 pm and we finished up at 7:30 pm. Our original tee time was at 8 am in the morning and I am happy we changed it. We had some of the most spectacular views as the sun began to set. And sitting at the 19th hole at dusk was a perfect end to a perfect day of golf.
19th Hole Clubhouse
This year, the 19th hole grill has extended its hours till 8 pm to include dinner.
Whether you are finishing up your round or you just want to enjoy a drink in the pub or have a meal at the restaurant, it is a great idea to to the 19th hole Clubhouse.
After our round, it was absolutely quiet, peaceful, and tranquil complete with purple mountains in the background.
Honestly, it was the perfect way to end an amazing day on the golf course.
Golf at Boyne Resorts
Sunday River is part of Boyne Resorts, which operates mountain ski and golf resorts around the United States including locations in Michigan, Montana, Utah, Washington, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Maine as well as Vancouver, British Columbia.
The original idea of adding golf courses to their popular ski destinations came from the original owner, Everett Kircher who was an avid skier and visionary. The need for year round or “four season destinations to fit a way of life for active families and friends who gather there” has been the thought behind Boyne’s expansions and operations.
And though skiing was the original thought, golf has become a large part of their company. Their large contingent of golf courses in Michigan is now known as “America’s Summer Golf Capital”.
Sunday River and Sugar Loaf are just a few of their growing group of resorts areas in the United States.
Stay and Play Golf Packages at Sunday River
The available stay and play packages include accommodations at one of the properties – either the Jordan Hotel or the Grand Summit, golf at Sunday River or Sugar Loaf, and complimentary breakfast. Accommodations included are conveniently located just down the road from the golf course with the Sunday River Resort area.
Though we didn’t have time to visit Sugarloaf, which is 2 hours away, we would like to go back another time as it also has several high rankings including a #1 ranking by Golfweek Magazine.
During this trip, we stayed at the Jordan Hotel, which is a mountainside property with a ski in ski out option for skiers. The property is about 1/4 mile up the road from Sunday River Golf. Super convenient.
With winter as their peak season, the hotel was nice and quiet during this time of year. Another bonus for us as we were looking for a nice restful and relaxing weekend.
Our room was a spacious 1 bedroom lofted suite. It came with a kitchenette, living room area and 1/2 bathroom on the lower level, and a king bed and full bathroom upstairs in a loft on the upper level. The views of the mountains and ski trails from the balcony were gorgeous.
The Jordan Hotel is a full-service property and includes a restaurant, express cafe, fitness center, two pools (indoor and outdoor), jacuzzi, spa, boutique, business center, meeting rooms, and ample parking.
Things to Do in the Surrounding Area at Sunday River
It is a 3 1/2 hour drive from Boston. If you are traveling from the same direction, be sure to stop in at some of the antique shops along the way.
We wanted to grab a bite to eat before teeing off since we were going directly to the golf course from our long ride. I highly recommend The Lost Gull in Oxford, Maine, which is located on Main Street or Route 26 and about an hour away from Sunday River. The small parking lot was busy and there was a good flow of customers coming and going with their take out of lobster rolls and fried clams.
If you want a traditional lobster roll from Maine, this is it.
The lobster roll was served on a buttered toasted bun and the lobster was fresh with no mayonnaise, just little containers of drawn melted butter. Just the way my husband and I first discovered it on another trip to Maine 10 years ago.
If you have some downtime and are looking to get out and see the area when not golfing, check out these sights and places to see in Bethel and Newry, Maine.
Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground
Thinking about doing some kayaking or paddleboarding? How about relaxing on a tube and floating down the river for a few hours. Or rockhounding for minerals? Yes, you can actually mine for gems and minerals here. Check out the Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground at the banks of the Androscoggin River. It’s great for couples, groups, or families.
Maine Mineral & Gem Museum
Learn all about the history of mining minerals in Maine. And explore the world’s largest collection of gems and minerals, as well as meteorites from Mars and the Moon.
Sunday River Gems
After visiting the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum or if you don’t have time, be sure to check out the Sunday River Gems store. We enjoyed talking with Charlie Bean, owner of this mom-and-pop shop that has been around for over 30 years. He mentioned the long history of mining for Tourmaline and Amethyst in Maine. We also found some wonderful gifts for our kids as they offered a nice collection of gems, crystals, and jewelry.
River Lanes Bowling
This state-of-the-art building offers up 10 pin bowling, billiards, corn hole, darts, arcade, and a sports bar as well as dining.
The Jordan Spa
Indulge yourself with a relaxing day at the spa or any of the spa services offered at the Jordan Hotel. Treatments include deep tissue, Swedish or couples massages, body treatments, manicure/pedicures, and facials.
Sunday River Scenic Chairlift or Zipline
During this time of year when skiing is not open, Sunday River continues to operate the chairlift and offers scenic rides and gorgeous views from atop the mountain. If you are more adventurous and want to try ziplining, there are two twin ziplines open through the summer as well.
Cho Sun Sushi Bar & Grill
Since we love to try new restaurants while we travel, we thought we would opt for Sushi and Korean food. Definitely unique in this part of Maine, where it is mostly American fare and craft beers.
We were pleasantly surprised at the amazing authenticity of the food. I opted for the Korean stew and my husband had the popular Japchae or long cellophane rice noodles with beef.
If you need suggestions, the Dolsot Bibimbap and the beef Bulgoki are a few of my other favorites.
The interior was beautifully decorated and the atmosphere was warm and friendly. The Executive Chef and son of the owner came out and spoke with us and other patrons. He gave us some great tips on the area and mentioned that the restaurant has been in Bethel, Maine providing delicious authentic Asian cuisine for the last 20 years.
Our second day in Maine was a bit of a rainout, so we were not able to do any hiking in the area. However, if we were able to, Grafton Notch State Park has a great number of trails and walking paths, scenic views, bird watching, and wildlife, as well as some of the Appalachian Trail’s most challenging climbs and hiking. It’s only about 15 minutes from Sunday River.
Weekend Getaway or Opt to Stay Even Longer
What ended up being a quick weekend getaway actually made us want more.
We will surely be back up to this mountainous region of Maine that offers up an amazing place for golf, hiking, outdoor adventures, and nature lovers.
A week’s length might be more sufficient to take in all the activities it has to offer.
For more info, visit Sunday River and Sunday River Packages.