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.
Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park and indeed most of Mt. Desert Island has had little reason to change in the past century and, accordingly, neither has Kebo Valley Golf Club. This is not necessarily a complaint for the average (emphasis on "average") visitor; At 6,100 yards, Kebo will lend more appeal for those interested in the game's history than its scorecard. Although his foremost design came at Myopia Hunt, it's understandable why the Gilded Age members of the club held the land in similar regard; the views of Acadia National Park from nearly every teebox is easy on the eyes. Kebo Brook flows down from Cadillac Mountain and across No. 17, the course's signature hole; you will soon forget this however, in awe of the massive bunker built into the side of the hill that rises up to the green (President Taft spent 22 strokes to escape it). That bunker is the most obvious indication of Leeds' era and age, but the combination of Kebo and Cromwells Brooks around the fairways of Nos. 7, 8 and 9 make for the round's most exciting trio. Leeds did not necessarily approach the project with "Golden Age" design principles in mind. Donald Ross obsessives should beware making a lengthy side trip just to check a box; the Donald Ross Society will acknowledge that he never did any work at Kebo (although he did offer a few tips on fairway fertilizing to the then cash-strapped club). And thus the straightforward play of the course's original design exists today. For what they lack in slope and strategy, however, you'll be hard-up to find faster greens at any similarly-priced course in the United States. Spend some time on the putting green or prepare to be surprised when you reach on No. 1.
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.