The course at Baker Hill Golf Club is located on an undulating 260-acre wooded property that lies between Wadleigh State Park and Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire.
The club is named after the Benjamin Baker Farm that once operated on the site and three of the old restored barns have been incorporated into the design of the course and are now in use as the pro shop, an equipment store and a halfway house.
Rees Jones was the person entrusted with establishing an 18-hole course here and he duly accomplished this in two phases when nine holes were ready for play in 2001 with an additional nine holes made available the following year.
Stand out holes include the back-to-back short par fours at 7 and 8 and the 504-yard 15th, a fine risk/reward par five that plays to the only water protected green on the course.
Baker Hill is a Rees Jones design in the Sunapee region of New Hampshire. I consider the first hole welcoming, albeit it is rated the 3rd hardest. A slight dogleg right with a couple of bunkers on the inside elbow, there is ample room off the tee. The approach is a bit tougher as the green is slightly elevated with a large bunker right. The 2nd is a dogleg left par 5. Big hitters with a high draw can get home in two as the drive will catch the down slope. Left is death pretty much the length of the hole and then for good measure there is a hellacious deep greenside bunker left. The 3rd is a mid-length uphill par 3. The redan green is protected with a bunker front left and back right. The 4th is a par five that leans right. At 527 yards it is not long, but it is uphill the entire way. The green sits on a ledge with a variety of bunkers protecting it front right. Above the hole here sets up a 3 jack. The 5th is the shortest hole and it is downhill with a front bunker running just about the length of the green and one right. The slight dogleg left par 6th is the number ne handicap hole and deservedly so. Not that long, but you can drive through the fairway and too much hook will put you into a gunch ravine. Having said that, a high draw is preferred off the tee and big hitters should leave their drivers in the bag. If you get past the dogleg you should have a mid-iron over gunch to a well-protected green, two bunkers short right and two back. This is also one of the tougher greens with a ridge creating a distinct left and right. The short 7th is a fun hole that bends right. The green is approximately the same elevation as the tee but the hole drops and then rises. There are four fairway bunkers, two each side. In my opinion, these are not to keep you honest, but if you decide to play smart and layup and not execute, well….The green is set at a left to tight redan with a bunker front right and two back. The shortest line tee to green is over the right fairway bunkers, if you do not make it the rough is stout. The 8th is also a dogleg right and another birdie oppty. There are bunkers on the inside corner and the fairway contours left. A high fade is the best tee shot here. The 9th is a dogleg left with a couple of bunkers on the inside elbow. Aim at the barn. The green is perched between two bunkers.
The back starts with a monster par four that leans right. The green is protected with a front right bunker. The only positive is that you can run your approach on by favoring the left side. The 11th is a par 5 that may be reachable by a few. Off the tee just left of center is best. The second shot is blind and you want to be about 5 yards right of the left fairway bunker. The hole is downhill from there and the green is protected with bunkers front right and left. Played as a 3 shotter you should have an attack wedge in your hands following two average shots. Not sure why it would be rated as the 6th most difficult hole. Things get a little squirrelly here. After 11 green you get a cart and ride to the 12th tee. The 12th leans left but is uphill the hole way. Play conservative, middle of the fairway and take an extra club on the approach. Mercifully, the long dogleg right is downhill. Bunkers on the inside elbow, high fade is the way to go. The fairway does drop off in front of the green and the front right of the green is a severe depression. After 13 you return the golf cart and have the easiest stretch on the course. The 14th is a short par 3 over a ravine with bunker front and left. The 15th is a reachable short par 5 that curls left. As tempting as it may be and it is counter intuitive you want to be right of center. Anything left will bring the fairway bunker into play. In addition to greenside bunkers there is a water hazard left for people like me whose eyes get bigger than their stomach and overcook their approach. The 16th is a short dogleg left with water and a bunker on the inside elbow. Play smart and give yourself an attack iron. The 17th is a mid-distance par 3 over gunch with a bunker front left. The 18th is a strong finishing hole, uphill the whole way. Fairway bunkers left and right and the green is perched on a ledge with bunkers left.
Good course with some real demanding holes and some fun ones as well. A wee bit predictable
Although not the most difficult course in New Hampshire, Baker Hill is arguably the one that you would want to play day in and day out (and generally rated #1 in the State). Rees Jones has done a wonderful job of fitting the holes naturally into the rolling hills giving the golfer width off the tee and thus interesting angles into the greens. The difficulty of the approach is proportional to how aggressive you are off the tee.
The course plays firm and fast with the greens a fun challenge stimping in the 11 range. With a wide range of pin locations, the course plays dramatically different from day to day.
Yardage ranges from 4500 - 7200 so there should be a course length for everyone.
Definitely worth the effort to get there if in MA or Northern New England.
I have been fortunate enough to play at Baker Hill many times and was struck by Steve's review. Rees Jones, for better or worse, does have the reputation of creating forced carries in his Open venues, but I strongly disagree with the assertion Steve puts forth (that many holes require forced carries.) Other than the 5th hole (with a green fronting bunker), what Rees has laid out is a course that fits naturally into the rolling hills, and only forces your hand if you bail out (take the safe route) off the tee. The width and angles presented make for a fun strategic and visually stimulating challenge.
Regarding conditioning, indeed, some Junes can be dreadful in NH ... not sure what happened prior to Steve's visit, but the course usually plays fast and firm with greens stimping in the 11 range.
I hope Steve will consider returning one of these years for a re-visit ...