The Kebo Valley course is situated on Mount Desert Island and it belongs to one of the oldest golf clubs in the United States. Formed in 1888, the club entrusted the creation of its original 6-hole layout to Herbert Corey Leeds, and it debuted three years later, around the same time that Leeds was putting the final touches to his celebrated Myopia Hunt course.
Five years further on, another three holes were appended and this 9-hole track remained in play until 1920, when the club acquired an additional 40-acre parcel of land, allowing it to expand the course and establish a full 18-hole layout that measures just over 6,100 yards nowadays.
Nestled between Cadillac and Dorr Mountain in Bar Harbor, the fairways at Kebo Valley are routed in an old-fashioned out-and-back manner close to Acadia National Park, with the 399-yard 13th hole an abiding memory for many as it features chocolate drop mounds in front of a sharply sloping green that tilts from right to left and back to front.
During Harry Vardon’s first tour of the U.S. he played Kebo Valley and declared its greens the finest he’d seen in the country. Among his opponents on that tour was Kebo’s designer, Herbert Leeds. Leeds is much better known as the designer of Myopia Hunt Club and the resemblance is immediate. Kebo’s first green is the mirror image of Myopia’s eighth—draped across the side of a sharp slope, challenging the player to prevent her/his approach shot from sliding completely off the putting surface.
That Leeds spent a lot more time and effort at Myopia becomes more obvious as one completes one’s round. There’s little line of charm here (only holes 5, 7, 8, 14 require any strategic thought from the tee) and too many unimaginative greens. Nearly half are flat as a crepe. The course is short and the conditioning is nothing to rave about. Finally the routing is poor. Part of this is due to roads which must be crossed 4 times, but The rest is unfortunate design also plays a role. The 7th green, for example is only about 50 yards from 8th tee, but due to the poor placement of a bridge, the golfer is forced to walk more than twice that distance.
The setting, bordering one of my favorite National Parks in the U.S. is spectacular. Maine has half a dozen courses ranked lower here that I would just as soon play.