DEXTER, Maine — Golfers searching for a course at which to play their weekly or daily round typically like to look over the course layout prior to making a decision.
Players look for general characteristics in a course such as par and physical attributes but, most important, they check the total yardage.
The total yardage helps indicate the level of difficulty the course may pose and is usually accurate in doing so, as longer courses prove to be more challenging than short ones.
Distance may be important, but courses such as Dexter Municipal Golf Club prove that it isn’t everything.
The nine-hole course runs at a mediocre 2,708 yards, but it makes up for the lack of length with a challenging layout.
“When people look at the scorecard, they tend to think it’s going to be a cakewalk,” said course manager Jimmy Costedio. “Once they actually get out there, they see that there is a lot going on and things aren’t straightforward.”
The course provides plenty of challenges with ponds, sand, trees and more.
When Costedio began managing the town-owned course in 2004, he promptly began redesigning the course to alleviate some of its flaws while also keeping the challenge intact.
The redesign included redoing holes three, four and five and adding a larger driving range behind the golf course.
“We have made the best out of what we have with minimal funds,” said Costedio. “We have gotten a lot of cooperation in maintaining the course over the years from the town and the members that have put in a lot of volunteer work.”
The course has 125 members and a strong public following during the summer.
“We have certain times in the day where the place gets a little crowded, but as a rule you can pretty much get out whenever you want here,” Costedio said.
The first three holes are par 4s that show the course’s challenges come at players early and often.
The first hole is the course’s signature hole, as it greets players with a tone-setting tee shot.
It’s a drivable 275 yards downhill, but a pond 30 yards in front of the green is cause for concern and leaves a player with an early decision.
“There are a lot of risk-reward shots out there, No. 1 in particular,” said Costedio. “You can take out the driver and try for an eagle or birdie or lay up and do it the traditional way.”
The second runs 285 yards back uphill and allows players a worry-free hole. A strong drive can lead to another birdie opportunity.
The third hole is 338 yards with a slight dogleg left and two ponds to work around. Players must take notice of the first pond off the tee, as too long a drive will put the ball in the hazard. The second pond used to be waterlogged fairway in front of the green before the remodel in 2004 turned the area into another hazard.
Next comes the 155-yard, par 3 fourth, which allows players to regain any lost momentum from the previous hole. It was changed to a par 3 in the remodel with a new slightly elevated green built with a bunker on the front right and woods behind.
The fifth hole also benefitted from the changes, as it was extended to a 376-yard par 4 after the removal of the old driving range. Players must take it easy off the tee with trees and a hazard lining the left side of a dogleg right. Things narrow out after the turn as trees line both sides of the fairway leading into the hole.
The narrow, par 4 sixth has trees flanking all 275 yards on both sides. Players must take notice of pond to the right of the fairway about 150 yards out. The key to scoring here will be a strong and controlled driver or long iron off the tee.
The seventh is a 377-yard par 4 and Costedio’s favorite hole on the course because of its traditional design.
“It’s the kind of hole you can take away from Dexter and it would fit perfectly into any other golf course,” he said. “It’s challenging, scenic and fair, which are all qualities of an excellent golf hole.”
After a narrow tee shot, the hole opens up to the right and takes a left turn. Players have to deal with woods hugging the left side if they want to cut the corner, with the safe play being a solid drive to the far side of the turn.
The par 3 eighth is 183 yards and rated as the hardest hole on the course. It may have players wavering between playing it short or trying to go for it. The brave ones will have to avoid woods to the left and small ponds to both sides of the green. The green itself is deceptively sloped, making it crucial to line up putts.
The ninth is a 444-yard par 5 that is safe right, but anything left off the fairway will be a concern. There is a stretch of high grass that makes up the rough between the fifth and ninth fairways, and is also marked as a lateral hazard.
“It provides some nice definition, but it primarily acts as a buffer between the two holes and keeps players honest,” he said. “The hazard is a compromise between helping ensure player safety and not having to sacrifice strokes at the end of a round.”
With a nice drive and strong iron approach, an eagle opportunity can be had on the ninth.
Costedio sees contentment amongst his customers and credits that to the course upkeep, particularly on the greens. He has seen a trend develop in the reactions of players coming off the course.
“Most people have found that they can score better at some of the longer courses than they can here,” he said. “They are pleasantly surprised because they find more of a challenge than they expected.”
Greens Fees: $12 for nine holes, $18 for 18 holes or all-day play