Established in 1920, Bald Peak Colony Club had an 18-hole course in operation within two years of its formation. Donald Ross is credited with the design of this layout, though at least one commentator has listed George Meredith, one of Ross’s Pinehurst staff, and Thomas Plant, the club’s founder, as the co-designers of the course.
Laid out above Moultonborough Bay in Lake Winnipesaukee, the course extends to a very modest 6,264 yards from the back tees and it occupies a heavily wooded site with lightly bunkered fairways – there are only twenty sand traps for the eighteen holes – running largely parallel to the lake shoreline.
Configured somewhat unconventionally with five par fives, five par threes and only one par four longer than 400 yards (“Westward Ho,” the 433-yard 10th hole), the course remains basically unaltered from the layout that was fashioned almost a hundred years ago within an enormous 850-acre property.
The 147-yard 5th (“Punch Bowl”) is a feature hole, dropping down towards the lake and a sand-protected, two-tiered green and the front nine routing returns uphill to the clubhouse at the 500-yard 9th (“Some Hole”), where even big hitters require three shots to reach the green.
On the back nine, the 138-yard 12th (“Battleship”) is another memorable par three, backdropped by the Ossipee Mountain range. The hole plays slightly downhill to a putting surface that not only tilts from back to front, it also falls away steeply in every direction.
Those curious about New Hampshire’s nickname can see evidence at Bald Peak Colony Club. The Granite State’s granite is in abundance there, from the Bald Knob for which the club is named, to the stone wall that marks the Moultonborough-Tuftonborough border to the 63 grass-covered mounds Donald Ross built with the rocks removed from fairways and green sites
Ross started out with only 19 bunkers, but course architect Jim Nagle and greens chair Gary McGuirk have been slowly adding bunkers, such as those in the fairway on # 3 to challenge the player looking for the direct line to the green. Ross’s original greens had the interesting contours typical of his 1920s phase. Over the years many had been removed, but Nagle and McGuirk are slowly bringing them back—but consistent with today’s faster green speeds. The lump on the right of the second green is a fine example. They have not messed with Ross’s lovely routing which requires the player to deal with the winds coming off Lake Winnipesaukee in all directions.
Though my review is intended to be assess only the golf course, I would be remiss if I did not cite the delightful overall experience. From the views of both the lake and mountains, to the signature drink (the Jumby), to the clubhouse (no keys for the rooms and toilet paper featuring the club logo), it’s no wonder that Donald Ross Society founder Michael Fay calls Bald Peak one of the 10 best golf destinations in the country.