Sunday River Golf – when White Heat turns green

Sunday River is not just for winter anymore…I have skied Sunday River pretty regularly for over a decade now. But I only recently discovered what I shall dub Sunday River’s “serene seasons.” On a summer visit to the Bethel/Sunday River region, I was delightfully surprised at the flip side of this downhill resort community.

First, there is a fraction of the people in spring, summer and fall than you find in the heart of winter. If the resort town in February is bustling with tourists and scurrying skiers, then the “off season” is scattered with offbeat locals who treasure the lack of folks-from-away. Since being slopeside is not an issue in spring, summer & fall, renting a home with spectacular views of Sunday River and the surrounding Mahoosuc Mountains is the best bet. A luxury mountain home gives you room to spread out, panoramas to entertain, and incredible sunsets from your deck (things you just don’t get in a compact North-facing ski area condo

This splendid no-snow season = no waiting for tables at restaurants, and no crowds – just a lucky few biking the trails, hiking the slopes, and jumping in the refreshingly cool mountain spring water. The pace is decidedly slower, more relaxed, and the outdoor offerings are wide-open for your exploring.

The one exception may be the Sunday River Golf Course, which opened in 2005 to rave reviews. This Robert Trent Jones II course with its spectacular peak views has piqued the interest of golfers nationally, and the challenge of play does not disappoint. The Course has been ranked the #1 public course in Maine by Golfweek, and is listed in Travel & Leisure Magazine’s Top 10. Sunday River is now the mountain course to play, so tee-times should be garnered in advance. 207-824-4653

Here’s a hint of what lies in store at the Sunday River Golf Course…

Sunday River Golf Club is a culmination of spectacular views, challenging elevated holes and a polished experience. Hole #1 gets the party started with a seemingly endless dogleg, heading out toward the gorgeous green valley surrounded by majestic Mahoosuc Mountains beyond. It’s a veritable roller coaster ride as you continue to weave up and down the undulating fairways, driving the taxing lengths and tricky down slopes.

The scenery provides an awesome distraction while testing your talents around every lush corner. If a trip to a Maine beach was on your list, the slickly-placed sand traps may grab you. Gargantuan waste bunkers guard most holes like castle moats. Landing on the quick greens doesn’t mean your putting in your next shot either. This rugged but manicured course is designed to bemuse, and the black diamond ski trail signs are a humorous but accurate poke at the punch in store for golfers.

Throughout the long and incredibly scenic 18- hole adventure, contained fairways lead to formidable hazards and deceivingly tough greens. The Maine State Golf Association describes the fairways as “among the widest in Maine.” Golf Digest calls the course, “a sexy beast with a layout that offers all the best of mountain golf.”The mastermind behind this beautiful but intensely demanding course, Robert Trent Jones Jr., continues his impressive architectural tradition in the family with Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach and Sugarloaf, to name a few.

To finish your monumental 7,130-yard game, the 17th takes the prize and the #1 handicap designation, heading straight up a grueling 496-yards to the green (the highest elevation on the course at 1,550’). What goes up must come down; hence the 18th tee marks the loftiest spot on the course. Incredible views tease you during your descent of this prolonged par 4 toward the welcoming rustic lodge Clubhouse.

If you are not into chasing a little white ball, regardless of how beautiful the Sunday River Golf Course is….at least play the part and buy a round (of après golf drinks) to savor on the scenic deck of the log and stone lodge. The Old Hickory furnishing and wood carved bar should be enjoyed by more than just golfers.

For non-golfers, the Sunday River region hosts a plethora of outdoor adventure on tap, or several full-service spas if you prefer pampering over outdoor play.

Throughout Bethel, Newry and around the resort, you will find a pedaler’s paradise. Whether you prefer dynamic and dirty or serene and scenic, it’s all here and free for the bike fan – just BYOBike or rent from a local shop. Sunday River Resort offers lift service for hiking and mountain biking on the Chondola on weekends for a nominal fee.

Quiet roadways over hills and along babbling rivers lead you to hidden swimming holes and a covered bridge. Or you can take it up a notch by heading up and down trails through birch groves, dense forests and sparkling granite boulder bound pathways.

The Mahoosucs and nearby Grafton Notch provide a hikers’ haven. Old Speck is much adored for backpackers because it climbs to 4,180-feet with a panoramic picnic spot along a section of the famous Appalachian Trial. Speck Pond at the base is a great post-hike dipping spot. Mahoosuc Notch mixes it up with steep granite precipices and creepy craggy caves, plus some well-maintained marked trails.

For wet and wild fun, drop a canoe or kayak into the Sunday River, Monkey Brook, or the more powerful Androscoggin River (note to anglers: this is where the fish are hiding). Follow the full cars of suntanned locals to discover the top secret swimming holes of Frenchman’s Hole (warning: the water is beyond refreshing, sometimes ankle numbingly cold).

Keep in mind this natural treasure of 60,000 undeveloped acres is inhabited by Maine wildlife – bears, moose, even the occasional bobcat. If you see ‘em, don’t even think about feedin’ ‘em. Stay away to stay alive.

For serious down time, or a relaxed retreat in the cool crisp mountain air…take in a Sunday River summer visit…oh, and you can get your season pass at a discount and have a respectable pass picture without the usual hat-head hairdo.

Either way, see you on the slopes!

unday River is not just for winter anymore…I have skied Sunday River pretty regularly for over a decade now. But I only recently discovered what I shall dub Sunday River’s “serene seasons.” On a summer visit to the Bethel/Sunday River region, I was delightfully surprised at the flip side of this downhill resort community.

First, there is a fraction of the people in spring, summer and fall than you find in the heart of winter. If the resort town in February is bustling with tourists and scurrying skiers, then the “off season” is scattered with offbeat locals who treasure the lack of folks-from-away. Since being slopeside is not an issue in spring, summer & fall, renting a home with spectacular views of Sunday River and the surrounding Mahoosuc Mountains is the best bet. A luxury mountain home gives you room to spread out, panoramas to entertain, and incredible sunsets from your deck (things you just don’t get in a compact North-facing ski area condo).
This splendid no-snow season = no waiting for tables at restaurants, and no crowds – just a lucky few biking the trails, hiking the slopes, and jumping in the refreshingly cool mountain spring water. The pace is decidedly slower, more relaxed, and the outdoor offerings are wide-open for your exploring.

The one exception may be the Sunday River Golf Course, which opened in 2005 to rave reviews. This Robert Trent Jones II course with its spectacular peak views has piqued the interest of golfers nationally, and the challenge of play does not disappoint. The Course has been ranked the #1 public course in Maine by Golfweek, and is listed in Travel & Leisure Magazine’s Top 10. Sunday River is now the mountain course to play, so tee-times should be garnered in advance. 207-824-4653

Here’s a hint of what lies in store at the Sunday River Golf Course…

Sunday River Golf Club is a culmination of spectacular views, challenging elevated holes and a polished experience. Hole #1 gets the party started with a seemingly endless dogleg, heading out toward the gorgeous green valley surrounded by majestic Mahoosuc Mountains beyond. It’s a veritable roller coaster ride as you continue to weave up and down the undulating fairways, driving the taxing lengths and tricky down slopes.

The scenery provides an awesome distraction while testing your talents around every lush corner. If a trip to a Maine beach was on your list, the slickly-placed sand traps may grab you. Gargantuan waste bunkers guard most holes like castle moats. Landing on the quick greens doesn’t mean your putting in your next shot either. This rugged but manicured course is designed to bemuse, and the black diamond ski trail signs are a humorous but accurate poke at the punch in store for golfers.

Throughout the long and incredibly scenic 18- hole adventure, contained fairways lead to formidable hazards and deceivingly tough greens. The Maine State Golf Association describes the fairways as “among the widest in Maine.” Golf Digest calls the course, “a sexy beast with a layout that offers all the best of mountain golf.”The mastermind behind this beautiful but intensely demanding course, Robert Trent Jones Jr., continues his impressive architectural tradition in the family with Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach and Sugarloaf, to name a few.

To finish your monumental 7,130-yard game, the 17th takes the prize and the #1 handicap designation, heading straight up a grueling 496-yards to the green (the highest elevation on the course at 1,550’). What goes up must come down; hence the 18th tee marks the loftiest spot on the course. Incredible views tease you during your descent of this prolonged par 4 toward the welcoming rustic lodge Clubhouse.

If you are not into chasing a little white ball, regardless of how beautiful the Sunday River Golf Course is….at least play the part and buy a round (of après golf drinks) to savor on the scenic deck of the log and stone lodge. The Old Hickory furnishing and wood carved bar should be enjoyed by more than just golfers.

For non-golfers, the Sunday River region hosts a plethora of outdoor adventure on tap, or several full-service spas if you prefer pampering over outdoor play.

Throughout Bethel, Newry and around the resort, you will find a pedaler’s paradise. Whether you prefer dynamic and dirty or serene and scenic, it’s all here and free for the bike fan – just BYOBike or rent from a local shop. Sunday River Resort offers lift service for hiking and mountain biking on the Chondola on weekends for a nominal fee.

Quiet roadways over hills and along babbling rivers lead you to hidden swimming holes and a covered bridge. Or you can take it up a notch by heading up and down trails through birch groves, dense forests and sparkling granite boulder bound pathways.

The Mahoosucs and nearby Grafton Notch provide a hikers’ haven. Old Speck is much adored for backpackers because it climbs to 4,180-feet with a panoramic picnic spot along a section of the famous Appalachian Trial. Speck Pond at the base is a great post-hike dipping spot. Mahoosuc Notch mixes it up with steep granite precipices and creepy craggy caves, plus some well-maintained marked trails.

For wet and wild fun, drop a canoe or kayak into the Sunday River, Monkey Brook, or the more powerful Androscoggin River (note to anglers: this is where the fish are hiding). Follow the full cars of suntanned locals to discover the top secret swimming holes of Frenchman’s Hole (warning: the water is beyond refreshing, sometimes ankle numbingly cold).

Keep in mind this natural treasure of 60,000 undeveloped acres is inhabited by Maine wildlife – bears, moose, even the occasional bobcat. If you see ‘em, don’t even think about feedin’ ‘em. Stay away to stay alive.

For serious down time, or a relaxed retreat in the cool crisp mountain air…take in a Sunday River summer visit…oh, and you can get your season pass at a discount and have a respectable pass picture without the usual hat-head hairdo.

Either way, see you on the slopes!