Best Of The Best 2006: Mountain Manly
Writers frequently employ masculine adjectives—brawny, rugged, strapping—to describe golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Such terms certainly apply to the new Sunday River Golf Club, a course the architect carved out of the foothills of the Mahoosuc Range in Newry, Maine. But Sunday River also displays a softer side than such Jones Jr. designs as Sugarloaf, its sister course to the north that has been a perpetual presence on best-of lists since it opened in 1985.
Although Sunday River is as difficult as you care to make it—7,130 yards from the longest of four sets of tees—the course has generous landing areas and massive, if sometimes tricky, greens. Judging distance against mountainous backdrops can be a challenge, but blind shots are almost nonexistent. Sprawling waste areas, design elements more common to desert or tropical courses, add to the scenery and act as buffers against errant shots.
The layout’s routing emphasizes the wilderness experience by segregating individual holes with mature forest, and the dramatic elevation changes capitalize on the pitching-and-rolling terrain. The hilly setting, which indeed could be described as rugged, also presents dizzying views of Goose Eye Mountain and Old Speck, Maine’s third-highest peak.