Editor’s note: One in a series profiling Maine golf courses.
SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Many tucked-away golf courses in the state pack plenty of challenge and excitement for golfers of all ages and skill.
There are courses for players who look to compete against others or themselves, while at other courses a father can take his son out for his first golf experience.
The Causeway Club golf course has all of those elements wrapped up into one nine-hole course.
“It’s the type of course where you can bring your little brothers out around noon when the course has kind of cleared out,” said 18-year-old Andrew Fox, a Chicago native vacationing in Southwest Harbor. “Nobody’s pushing you, everyone’s very understanding, and it’s a good place to develop some skills.”
Causeway, which has an ocean view, has holes laid out to provide enjoyment for both the beginner and experienced golfer. But the dominant feature is the causeway itself, a curving body of water that borders four holes.
“We’re open enough, but we do have some obstacles and a lot of challenging shots,” said Ben Rowell, who runs the pro shop and provides lessons at Causeway. “It’s easy enough for the average golfer and we can make it challenging enough for the better golfer, so we have the best of everything.”
The course, constructed in 1920, has seen a number of improvements over the last 10 years to keep it in great shape and add new challenges for players.
“We put in the pond on two, redid all the tees except the fourth, added the bunkers and mounds on the fourth, and added a new tee on nine this year,” said Rowell. “We’re always looking to add to the course and make it better.”
With its shorter yardage, Causeway calls for players to be ready to use every club in their bag and stresses the importance of club selection.
“No two holes are alike when you play them and that’s the unique part about this place,” said 15-year-old Will Fox.
The first five holes are straightforward par fours, but each carry their own challenges.
The first hole is the longest on the course at 404 yards from the blue tees, 394 from the white and 383 from the red. With the exception of a light tree line down both sides of the fairway, the hole remains open enough for players to find a clear path to the green.
The second hole is 268 yards from the white tees and calls for a strong long iron or controlled driver to start. Players must take caution off the tee with a pond in front of the green as too long of a drive will put them in the hazard and anything short will make for a difficult approach to the green.
“You have the water hazard in front of you and you have to make a few shots,” said Andrew Fox about the second, his favorite hole. “You have to decide if you want to take three shots and set yourself up or if you want to go for it in one or two shots.”
The hazard is a golf-ball magnet.
“We’ve collected three different times out of that pond and collected 4,000-7,000 balls out of there, so it just attracts balls,” added Rowell.
The third hole runs 296 yards from the white tees with the club’s tennis courts serving as a backdrop. There is out of bounds to the left, but players have an opportunity to reach the green in two with a strong and controlled drive followed by a solid wedge.
The fourth is the most scenic hole and one of the more challenging holes on the course. It’s a driveable 255 yards, but the ocean to the left and the mounds and bunkers in front of the green pose a threat to those who attempt it. Those who make it to the green then face slopes of velvet-bent grass on the putting surface, making an eagle opportunity difficult.
The 388-yard fifth hole runs parallel to the first fairway, making for plenty of open space off the tee. Even with the best drive, it will take two to reach the green with anything long landing on the porch of the clubhouse. Players will want their approach to land below the hole, as anything above will trickle back toward the fairway with the slope of the green.
The final four holes present a relaxed conclusion to a player’s round but also may ruin it if caution isn’t used.
All par threes, the holes call for accuracy and confidence for those looking to compete. For players such as Andrew and Will Fox it’s more about finishing strong and enjoying themselves.
“It’s nice because you get the long holes in early and then you get to the par threes which is a nice, short way to finish your round,” said Will Fox.
“It’s a good way to finish up feeling good about yourself,” added Andrew Fox.
The sixth hole is 140 yards from the elevated white tees, with the downhill drop making the hole seem farther than it is. Missing to the left may be costly with a heavy rough next to the green and the shore of the cove farther out.
The seventh hole is the signature hole on the course, playing as a 232-yard par three from the whites and a 266-yard par four from the blues. Rowell said the tee shot is key to getting a par.
“Most of the time I play it like it’s a par four from the whites,” he said. “I have been able to hit a three-wood and get close to the green, but accuracy is the key there.”
“Don’t tell anybody, but we usually play from the red tees so we don’t lose as many balls,” added Will Fox.
There’s water in front of the tee and to left, with woods to the far right making it crucial to hit the ball straight or with a slight fade. It doesn’t get any easier once players reach the green as the downward slope toward the water calls for a light touch with the putter.
“If I can make a three, great, but if not I’ll take a bogey and walk on to the next tee,” added Rowell.
The eighth is 175 yards uphill from the whites, with a slight drop after the hill. Any drive just behind the green may get a kick back from the bank behind, but beware that anything too far will land in the lateral hazard. The suggestion is to play a solid low-iron off the tee with a chip and a putt to follow if the drive falls short.
The final hole is a deceptive, narrow 133 yards from the whites with little room between the green and the back side of the clubhouse. Anything short will be gobbled up by two sand traps up front, so club choice is essential in finishing the round with a chance at birdie or par.
Nine-hole rounds take just under two hours to complete and after players finish up, Rowell sees contentment.
“A lot of people, especially when they are skeptical of the layout and yardage, come out very happy,” he said.