ORRINGTON, Maine — The men’s Senior Stableford League at Rocky Knoll Country Club is an enthusiastic group of players.
“We have 94 members this year,” said Jerry Perkins, the club’s senior director, said last week. “We had 72 players, a full field, today.”
For the first time, they were playing the new nine in competition, and they loved it.
“I think the new nine is fantastic, just great,” said Bob Sullivan of Brewer. “It puts an emphasis on shotmaking. You’ve got to really manage your game.”
The new nine opened July 12, and Sullivan, who said he plays almost every day, was ready.
“I went out in the third group,” he said.
He had ridden around to check it out, but that’s not the same as playing it.
“It takes a while to learn what to do. You have to manage it very carefully,” Sullivan said.
That’s partly because the two nines are completely different in nature.
“Night and day,” said Gary Chessa of Brewer.
The first nine was built in a large field with only a few trees to break up the landscape. An errant shot could end up on a parallel hole.
“It’s much more forgiving on the front nine,” said Bill Newberry of Glenburn, who has been a member for four years. “You can find yourself on another hole on the other side, but you can’t do that on the back. There is no ‘alternate’ fairway.”
“They’re individually cut holes rather than side by side,” Jerry Goss of Brewer said of the new holes. They were carved out of the woods that had been beyond and to the left of the former driving range, which is now the 10th hole.
Because of the terrain, the owners had to map out the area so the state could tell them where they could build and which areas, mostly wetland, had to be left natural.
Tom Bryant, co-owner with wife Barbara Bryant, Bob Phillips, Louie Daigle and Dan Grover, did the mapping.
“I had to walk around with this [GPS] unit on my back,” said Bryant, who also plays in the senior league. “The antenna kept catching on tree branches and nearly knocked me over a few times.”
That was in 2006, and the permit came through in August 2007. Grover and a crew of his started the project, then last year, Horizon Golf of Freeport was brought in to tweak the design and complete the construction.
Horizon finished most of the work last fall. Then it was just a matter of growing grass.
One green had to be redone this spring due to the difficult winter, but this year’s wet spring and summer helped in one way.
“It was bad for golf, great for growing grass,” she said.
Some of the tees are still coming in, but they’re playable, and the greens and fairways are in good shape. The bunkers are not done yet.
The opening was postponed for a couple of weeks because of the wet grounds, but that didn’t bother the members.
“I’m glad they waited this long to open it. It needed the growth,” said Ed King of Glenburn.
“And it’s only going to get better,” said Goss.
Due to the small streams that cross that part of the property, the final layout includes a number of either forced carries with long drives or layups off the tee that leave longer approach shots.
“I only used driver on three holes,” said Goss.
The longer approaches, though, are aided by the greens.
“The greens are large, they hold and they putt true,” pointed out Goss.
Still, there’s that learning curve.
“My first time through last week I lost six balls,” said Newberry. “Today, I didn’t lose a ball.”
While some of the approach shots may be longer than they might have been with flat, straight holes, they’re still not overly long, usually 150 yards or less. In fact, the new nine is shorter than the front.
The front nine is 3,111 yards from the blue tees, 3,002 from the white tees, 2,678 from the yellow tees the seniors use and 2,594 from the red tees. The back nine is 2,951 yards from the blue, 2,833 from the white, 2,644 from the yellow and 2,371 from the red.
“It’s not very long, just positional,” said King. “Distance isn’t everything.”
Positioning is important because there are more doglegs on the back, so it’ll be important to stay away from the trees so they don’t block approach shots.
But the natural areas may also be helpful to the golfers’ psyche, as long as they don’t hit golf balls into them.
“You see deer, you see turkeys,” said Sullivan. “It’s a very natural area, peaceful. I really enjoyed it.”