Situated between the Green Mountain National Forest and the White Mountain National Forest in the Upper Valley section of the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee region, the 18-hole layout at Montcalm Golf Club is set within 350 acres of hardwood forest in the mountain area of Enfield. The course was all of four years in the making, finally debuting in 2004.
Some of the more memorable holes here include the par three 5th, which plays to a long, offset green that tilts from back to front, the short par four 8th, where the hole veers sharply left, with bunkers all down the right flank of the fairway, and the 415-yard 16th, which runs uphill the entire length of the hole.
GF Sargent Design commented as follows:
“Montcalm presented many unique challenges before we could achieve a level of completion that both the course ownership and we were satisfied with. Our first main challenge was the very remoteness of the location. Prior to the creation of the course, Enfield was a secluded location and our teams were tasked with providing the optimum in efficiency and planning to ensure that we would have both the supplies and resources needed to complete the project in a timely manner.
The terrain itself also proved an interesting but inviting challenge. Our adherence to the Donald Ross philosophy of trying to maintain as much of the land’s natural character as possible, required us to find creative solutions to using the many rolling hills to our advantage. While the natural terrain could easily challenge a PGA professional, we needed to ensure playability for all levels of golfer, while still providing each with an opportunity for challenge.
Finally, while we enjoy the challenge, the very scale of the project was nothing less than daunting to many. Creating an 18-hole course where previously there was nothing but hills and valleys required an immense level of strategic planning. Our experience in designing and building large scale projects was essential in achieving the goals of completing the project in a cost-effective and timely manner.”
The fantasy for many core golfers is having enough money to create their own golf haven. For Andrew Sigler that dream became reality when the New Hampshire native and Augusta National Golf Club member moved ahead in creating the Montcalm Golf Club in Enfield, NH in 2004. Sigler's home course -- Hanover CC -- was experiencing a major upgrading and he saw an opportunity to put into motion his grand plan.
Situated on 380 acres of land , Montcalm is located via a little used exit off I-89. You drive through an entrance way onto a stone covered roadway and make the mile trek -- upwards -- to the clubhouse. In sum -- when you finally arrive you've left civilization and can focus squarely on the golf that lies ahead.
Montcalm is not saddled with intrusions such as adjoining housing or other land usages that interfere with the primacy of the golf and Mother Nature.
Sigler's overriding goal was having quality golf brought to life and to maintain his private domain as his personal Xanadu. The golf course remained a private retreat through 2018 and was re-opened as a daily fee facility with the start of the 2019 season.
Architect George Sargent was called upon to create the 18-hole course and he demonstrated great resolve in dealing with a site that proved to be anything but elementary. One of the most challenging aspects in dealing with extremely hilly sites is creating a functional routing maximizing the attributes of the property -- while linking the golf journey in a manner not over reliant on excessive power cart rides between holes. Like a jigsaw puzzle -- connecting all the elements in a coherent and practical manner can be anything but simple. What many golfers do not realize is that often for the entire package to work well a number of adjustments and compromises have to be put into motion.
Montcalm is not likely walkable except for the small percentage of die-hard types savoring such physical efforts.
The layout commences with an unusual opener -- an uphill par-4 turning right. The drive zone is well protected on both sides and you get introduced to the first of numerous putting surfaces contoured to reward only the best of approaches.
In any routing where there's plenty of ground movement you often get a mixed bag of holes -- some serving as connectors between one part of the property and the other. At Montcalm you have this with the par-3 2nd -- a rather vanilla hole. The downhill dog-leg right par-4 3rd seizes one's attention. The drive must follow the descent of the land and be ever mindful of the deep woods pushing in from the left for any tee shot either pulled or finishing too long and straight. The green sits below and is ably protected -- a pond to the left and bunkers flanking both sides.
The par-4 4th that follows is fairly basic but as you get nearer to the green one has to pay particular attention to the movement of the land. This is especially so for players intent on attempting to get near or on the green with their second shot.
Sigler wanted Sargent to provide some sort of connection to Augusta National and the par-3 5th is a homage to the world renown 12th hole the famed Georgia course. The version at Montcalm is fairly representative as the green runs diagonally to the line of play but includes a daunting hillside to the rear which must be avoided. There is a creek to carry but unlike the 12th at Augusta this one is more scenic than strategic. When the pin is cut to the extreme rear area it takes a first-rate effort to marry the required distance, yet still land softly and remain on the green.
The remaining holes on the outward half feature a longish par-5 at the 6th, followed by three par-4s which move in different directions.
You commence the inward half with another transition hole -- the par-4 10th. The hole plunges downhill in a big-time way and Sargent includes a series of "steps" for balls to come to rest. It's a challenging hole but awkward in its overall appearance as the hands of man clearly show plenty of involvement.
When you arrive at the par-5 11th you don't see the landing area and that's part of the hole's mystique. The tee shot must find the fairway in order to contemplate a go for the green in two shots. Sargent smartly positioned the green on a hillside above a wetlands area that must be carried at some point. Recently, the club added a bit more fairway area closer to the wetlands so players of lesser ability have less of a forced carry to negotiate. For better players the hole would be more of a challenge if played as a par-4 given the nature of today's equipment.
The short par-4 12th that follows is wonderfully done. Players have to be especially wary of attempting a herculean play from the tee when appropriate positioning off the tee is the more prudent play. When the pin is cut in the far-left corner it takes a deft touch to land a short iron in the area provided.
The par-4 13th is the most demanding of the two-shot holes at Montcalm. The land rises in the drive zone and it behooves players to find the left side of the fairway as this will shorten the distance for the approach. The green is well-defended by two bunkers and the green only rewards those who show great car with their efforts.
The concluding holes at Montcalm are a mixed bag. The par-5 14th follows the same routing outline as the earlier 6th hole. The aspect that saves the hole is the quality green site. This is especially so when the pin is cut in the far rear area. The par-3 15th is a good test but is somewhat over shaped and fails to blend in as naturally as the other holes.
The par-4 16th turns left then uphill and the approach must be skillful in linking the correct club selection and trajectory.
At the par-3 17th you go in a reverse direction from the parallel 2nd hole. At 212 yards the approach is a demanding one -- the green protected by frontal bunkers that mask their position as the putting surface is a good bit beyond them.
The closing 18th is a letdown -- following a comparable script previously encountered at the adjoining 9th hole. Both head westward and something more inventive for the closer would have added greater impact and be memorably more lasting.
As stated earlier, the main attribute at Montcalm is the contours of the various greens. The bent grass surfaces roll true and failure to consistently gauge one's approach shots will mean an ever-escalating pressure for players to overcome.
The wherewithal to create golf in such a challenging landscape is testament to the skills of Sargent. Not every hole works in superb fashion -- inevitably tradeoffs had to occur for the complete 18 holes. However, Montcalm does link together a golf experience that showcases its connection to the great outdoors in a manner only a New Hampshire site can provide.
M. James Ward
Montcalm Golf Club is another one of the newer courses developed in New Hampshire in the last 30 odd years. The opening hole is a welcoming uphill dogleg right par four. Fairway bunkers and OB left, take an extra club on the approach. Wonderful northwest views from the first green which is probably the highest point on the course. The 2nd is a short par 3 with bunkers front right. Not really a memorable hole, but when I played there was a gaggle? flock? Herd? of turkeys in front of the green. I just looked it up, a group of turkeys is called a rafter. Who knew? The 3rd is a demanding long downhill dogleg right. Favor left of center off the tee to ensure that you are not blocked out. There is a small water hazard and bunker front left. The first par 5 is a reverse S. It is reachable in two but there is OB left. A good risk/reward hole. The 5th is a real short par 3 with a ravine gunch carry. A very thin redan green with a bunker front right. The 6th is the number one handicap and the longest hole on the course. The drive is over a ravine, the hole bends right and there are bunkers on the inside elbow. The hole narrows as you get closer to the green, particularly inside of 150 yards on the left. The 7th thru 9th are good birdie oppties. The 7th is a short uphill par 4 that leans left with a long multi-tiered green. The 8th is a sharp dogleg left. Fairway bunker right, that really should not come into play. Consider leaving your driver in the bag. Off the tee right is better, you can cut the corner a bit, but there is really no benefit to doing so. The green is elevated so take an extra club and there are three bunkers going up the hill short right. A fun hole. The 9th has a lovely view of Mt Ascutney from the tee box. Favor left of center off the tee, even though there is a fairway bunker left. The fairway narrows the closer you get to the green. A decent drive will leave you with an attack iron to a green with bunker left and a couple right.
The back opens with the longest par 4. It is downhill the whole way with a fairway bunker left and has multi-level fairway landing areas. The 11th is a greenlight par 5 and is ranked the 16th easiest hole on the course. The downhill fairway ends abruptly with a ravine in front of the green. This is a wide but very narrow green. This should have been a fun hole, but I mucked it up. The 12th is also a birdie oppty. A short downhill left leaning par 4. It is rated the easiest hole on the course, has a fairway bunker right and gets tighter and tighter as you approach the green. Shots left of the green may bound off the moguls onto the green. However, avoid the nefarious pot bunkers in front. The 13th is a long left leaner with a fairway bunker right. Avoid the green side bunkers left. The 14th is a par five that tilts right. Off the elevated tee favor the right side. This is another hole that narrows the closer you get to the green. Possible to get home in two but the rest of us should pick our preferred yardage in. This has one of the more interesting greens on the course as there is a huge drop front to back, greenside bunkers left and right and the width of the green in the back is about half of the front. While the back pin tormented me, in a twisted kind of way it was fun. The 15th is a long par 3 and from the tee you can see the bunker left, but there is a blind pot bunker behind it! Favor the right side. The 16th is a difficult par four that turns left at the end. It is uphill and the green has a collection bowl in the middle. The 17th is a long par 3 with the green sitting on a ledge with a steep drop left. There are two bunkers left. The 18th is a straight away par four. While the omnipresent woodlands surround the hole the only real trouble is a greenside bunker right
A good course that I recommend, however, it is not walker friendly.
George Sargent, the architect of Montcalm, did a brilliant job. He did not create a brilliant golf course, but given the difficult piece of land he had to work with, Sargent did quite well just to fit in 18 holes. The highlight of his work is the greens. Nicely contoured, they provide a delightful challenge in both reading the breaks and then executing the shot. The finest sequence occurs on holes 15-17 where golfers get to enjoy Redan, thumbprint and Biarritz green complexes in succession.
As soon as one depresses the accelerator on one’s golf cart, the sound of a gasoline engine makes it quite clear that Montcalm was not built with walking in mind. Sargent takes some of the hilliness out of the design by having the uphill sections take the player from the green to the next tee so that the following hole is flat or downhill. (The tenth hole drop must be 400 feet.) Only thrice (at the 1st, 7th and 16th) is the player forced to play an uphill shot. And the reward at the first is an outstanding view of Killington Mountain in Vermont. Nontheless, only 5 holes allow the golfer the option of playing a running or aerial approach. And the long drives from green to tee may not be arduous on the body but their interruption is arduous on enjoyment.