A recent restoration by Ron Forse – when he removed many of the trees that were closing in on the fairways – has brought this charming old Donald Ross course back to life at Lake Sunapee Country Club in the new millennium. The tree removal program on the course returned many of the spectacular mountain views and the expansion of green sizes regained the original character of the putting surfaces.
The club was founded in 1927, when a number of local residents met at the New London town library to select Donald Ross as their golf course architect. After surveying half a dozen possible sites for the layout, the current location was chosen and the first nine holes were ready for play the following year. A further year on, all eighteen holes were in operation.Once renowned as the summer retreat of long standing member Gene Sarazen, the course at Lake Sunapee is certainly not short of quality golf holes; on the front nine, the doglegged holes at holes at the 3rd and 5th are particularly strong while on the inward half, the par threes at the 12th and 15th are very tough one-shotters.
This was the best golf course I have ever played at, keep in mind when I played I had only played for less than three months, and only in New Hampshire but this was far and away the best course I played at. Through my high school team we ended up playing a match here and the conditions were perfect. The fairways were nice and bouncy and the greens were fast. I will say the 5th hole which is a short par 4 is very drivable if you have the distance and a little bit of luck. On every hole you feel confident to hammer the ball as the fairways are wide and the terrain is very easy to spot a ball on if you slice the ball like me. I’m just can’t wait for the summer months to make the trip to play here again.
Lake Sunapee CC is a classic Donald Ross course. Fairways will typically narrow the further from the tee, which for a sneaky short hitter like myself can level the playing field with the big hitters. The first two holes are fairly welcoming. The first does have a creek bisecting the fairway about 140 yards out. The 2nd is a short par four with fairway bunkers that should not come into play and the green has bunkers left and right. The third is a long par four that leans left. The aforementioned creek cuts across the fairway about 150 out. I only wish I could drive it far enough to worry about reaching it. The next three holes are all good birdie oppties. The first par three is the shortest on the course, carry over water with a bunker left. The 5th is a short dogleg right par 4. I think the best line is right over the right fairway bunker. I have seen many try to drive it and none have succeeded. As the green is protected by 4 bunkers, big hitters may consider leaving the driver on the bag. The 6th is a grip it and rip it straightaway downhill par 5 with a couple of fairway bunkers thrown in to keep you honest. The green has bunkers right and left. The 7th is a long par four and the number one handicap hole. The creek cuts across the fairway at a 45 degree angle and is reachable. Especially on the right side. The green has a large bunker left. The 8th is a ho hum par 3. The front closes with a left leaning par four. All the trouble here is left so favor the right.
The back starts with a par four that tilts right. There are a couple of throwaway fairway bunkers front right, perhaps 150 yards off the tee. Favor the left side to avoid being blocked out. A high fade is the preferred ball flight. Greenside bunker right. The 11th parallels 10 and is 5 yards longer. The bunkers are well short of the green. The 12th is classic Donald Ross, 240 yard par 3, greenside bunkers left and right. Amazingly it is the number 14 handicap hole. Lake Sunapee CC must have some really good golfers. The 13th is a dogleg left and right is best off the tee. You need to pick your target line carefully as you can drive it thru the fairway. The 14th lists to the right. Favor the left off the tee and there is a greenside bunker right. The 15th is a mid-yardage par 3 with three bunkers front. The 16th is 480 yard par four straightaway. It has four bunkers two fairway and two closer, but not greenside. The last par five is reachable and a good birdie oppty. One fairway bunker right and one left and finally one greenside right. The 18th is a decent finishing hole. Favor the right side.
Flashes of brilliance, good not great.
From the first tee till the 18th green this course was a pleasure to play! True Donald Ross design. With the different tee boxes it can play very well to all abilities. I played white/blue as a senior player and my son played blue. Greens were fast but fair and the ball rolled true. Great day and can't wait to play again!
Two things stood out for me at Lake Sunapee. Tree removal has opened up many gorgeous views, especially those featuring Mt. Kearsarge—where I had warmed up for my round that morning by climbing to the summit. The other was the green complexes. All but a few provided the kind of contours that I find most interesting—not severe, but enough so that the challenge is about which direction(s) a putt will break in, not just how much. My favorite was #6, a downhill par 5 with a hidden swale in front and a variety of humps and bumps. I later found out this green, unlike the rest, was the work of Ron Forse in the 21st century, rather than that of Donald Ross in the early 20th. Ross’s work from tee to green also displays a strategic focus. Both par 5s require some thought on the second shot, as do a number of drives—most notably the 5th and 10th, both doglegs right and the 13th, which curves in the opposite direction.