The late Harold Alfond – the businessman and philanthopist credited with opening the first American factory outlet store in 1971 – liked the idea of having 18 holes to play close to his summer house in Maine so he hired English architect Clive Clark to build him just such a course at the tail end of the 1990s.
Situated seventeen miles to the north of Augusta, the state capital of Maine, the course at Belgrade Lakes is not, as its name might suggest, a place where water predominates – instead, rather uniquely, the main hazards here are the numerous rocky outcrops and stone boulders that line either side of many of the fairways.
And on a site that enjoys a shift in elevation of several hundred feet, the routing of the course has been planned so well that an uphill tee shot is played at only one of the holes on the scorecard – quite a remarkable feat on a much under rated layout where walking is encouraged, especially if golfers choose to bring their dog along for company.
In New England, where public golf courses are often jammed with foursomes, Belgrade is an anomaly. Situated far enough north and west in Maine to be considered "remote," Belgrade doesn't get a ton of traffic. It is quiet in the best sense of the word.
The clubhouse is perched at the top of one of the highest hills in the region, giving you unobstructed views over Great Pond, Long Pond, and many other massive lakes in central Maine. In the fall, the foliage is spectacular to take in.
The course itself is very good, with a few unusual holes that will stick in your head long after your round. The 1st hole is a nice way to begin, with a severely downhill tee shot, followed by another severely downhill approach. The first hole gets you quickly down the hill from the clubhouse, and the rest of the front 9 is relatively flat (but not boringly so) until you get to the 9th, which brings you back to the clubhouse.
The back 9 is similar, with 10 featuring a downhill tee shot, and then fairly level play through 18.
Because of the climb uo to the clubhouse, when you first roll into Belgrade you might think the course is unwalkable (like Sunday River). That isn't true. Once you get down to the first green, you have a very pleasant walk ahead of you. And when you get to 9, they usually have a cart available to drive you up to the clubhouse if you don't feel like slogging up the hill.
Belgrade is the best public course in Maine, and is a top 5 public in all of New England. The combination of atmosphere, scenery and fun holes makes for an enjoyable weekend getaway.
Fully agree with the other. A great golf course where the aim is golf, great golf, and not a hotel with golf, or a silly clubhouse, on the side.
Well worth the trip.