Review of the Month December 2019 – Cape Arundel
Cape Arundel is finally receiving the recognition it deserves with its recent rating in the 147 Custodians, and the Golf Architecture Community’s focus on Walter Travis. In my opinion, any true student of the game should pay a visit to Cape Arundel to study its green complexes. In a word, a round at Cape Arundel is surreal.
I am lucky enough to be engaged to a ‘Mainah’, and while visiting with her family was fortunate to visit Cape Arundel. The course is listed as being private, but there are open public tee times, many of which are reasonably affordable in the afternoon, especially since it is walkable for virtually any player. Cape Arundel is the home course to the Bush family, and many other reviewers have mentioned seeing past presidents playing in the morning.
Cape Arundel takes advantage of its gently rolling topography and tidal rivers for hazards, and is also impacted by wind. There is a refreshing lack of trees throughout the course, yet wildlife is present at every turn. Strangely, the entry driveway bisects many holes as you arrive at the property. Despite this, the quaint clubhouse and potentially most picturesque putting green in America could put any player at ease before their round.
While there are so many amazing holes at Arundel, some of the most memorable from my round include:
• #1: A stunner from the first tee. The tee shot contains natural hazards with the Grist Mill Pond on the left, and a massive swale causing a blind tee shot on the fairway. The green complex is out of sight if you do not surpass this landform.
• #2: A potentially drivable par four with natural hazards down the left, and beautiful bunkering short and long.
• #5: This is the first hole on the course without a run-up option. The player must first place their tee ball to an ‘island’ fairway, noted by a charming 150 yard marker. From there, a mid to short iron is required to hit an aerial shot to a quasi-heart shaped green with fascinating contours throughout.
• #11: This par four has a simply inspirational tee shot, asking the player to bite off all they can chew. However, cutting out too much of the hole is problematic as well, as spin will be necessary to position the ball properly.
• #13: This medium length par three plays over Grist Mill Pond to one of the largest greens on the golf course. At low tide, you can see the fate of many players who miscalculated yardage and wind. However, despite its intimidating nature, there is actually a lot of room short of the putting surface. It is a great example of natural visual intimidation.
• #15: Travis uses the terrain as a natural hazard on this short par 4. From the tee box, I could not actually tell what was in the ditch on the left side of the fairway. It turns out, there was no fairway at all – in fact, it was a deep hole of lengthy rough. The player must think their way through the intricate design.
• #17: The 17th hole at Cape Arundel is among my favorite of the roughly 3,500 played, and its green may be my lifetime favorite. Once again, a player taking driver may not necessarily be rewarded here. Instead, it is crucial for the golfer to find a yardage that suits their wedge play, positioned well away from fairway bunkers. From there, the golfer must make a blind approach shot to a wild green that runs away from them hard toward Grist Mill Pond. There are terraces, swales…just about any compelling feature on any green anywhere, all in one. The best play on this hole may actually be to land the ball 30 yards short of the putting surface. I have never seen a green like it before – a true one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
• #18: If standing on the tiny, coastal tee box for this hole does not inspire you and excite you for a return trip, you may wish to find a new sport!
Cape Arundel is truly divine. The 17th hole is among my favorite ever played, and like many other Maine courses, the atmosphere remains relaxed and charming at all points in the round. Their driving range is off-site, but provides an amazing practice facility. While I think Cape Arundel could benefit from slightly firmer, tighter fairways, there are virtually no other aspects of the course I would change. It is excellent in all ways, fitting the natural topography perfectly with extremely compelling green complexes throughout.
Cape Arundel is well worth the trip to Maine! I cannot say enough positive things about this genius, work-of-art.
Review of the Month December 2019 selected by Editor-in-Chief, Keith Baxter, and sponsored by TaylorMade – click to read more about Cape Arundel. Photo courtesy of Fergal O'Leary.