Best Overall – Mount Washington Golf Course (Bretton Woods)
Mount Washington Golf Course at the Bretton Woods Resort hits on all levels. Playing conditions, off-course amenities, scenic views—you name it; Mount Washington has it all. The Omni Mount Washington Resort overlooks the course. Completed in 1902, the hotel is a work of art, and would have cost approximately $52 million if it were built today. In 1986, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.
From the back tees, Mount Washington measures 7,000 yards with a course rating of 73.7. Playing from the front tees provides a different, less challenging experience at 5,200 yards. From the tips, the par threes are what will truly test your golfing abilities. Each of them measure over 200 yards, however the longest is only 153 yards from the reds.
Mount Washington plays relatively open and even on a poor day, keeping pace is not much of a concern. In the summer months, however, the course gets a lot of play due to its proximity to one of the more popular resorts in the region. The course is affordable for public play, with those staying at the resort getting a discount.
Also on the grounds is the 9-hole, Mount Pleasant Course. The par 35, 3,200-yard layout offers an option for those who want to get on the course with their families, or in a less challenging environment. The Mount Pleasant Course opened in 1895, preceding the Mount Washington course by 20 years.
Best Private Course – Baker Hill Golf Club (Newbury)
Set away from residential and commercial properties, Baker Hill Golf Club is a tranquil oasis for golf enthusiasts. At this private club, golf is the only activity offered—and the membership thrives because of it. Basically, if you’re here, it’s for your love of the game.
Over the years, Baker Hill has made a concerted effort regarding environmental stewardship. This has involved building “homes” for various animals and planting shrubs and wetland grasses. They have also grown out fescue that doubles as areas golfers must avoid if they want to keep their score down.
The fairways are wide, but lined with trees and sand traps. Bunkers protect many of the greens, yet allow you to run the ball up to the hole. Natural elevation changes have helped to shape the course; however the design does not call for many blind shots.
Baker Hill offers seven tee options so that golfers of all levels can enjoy the course. From the tips, the course plays 7,100 yards and from the most forward tees, 4,300 yards. They even have programs tailored for members that are new to the game.
Unless you are a member of Baker Hill, or invited as a guest, playing opportunities here are limited. Unlike many private courses that designate a day of the week to outside tournaments, Baker Hill hosts only a few charity events each year.
Best Value Course – Breakfast Hill Golf Club (Greenland)
A Brian Silva design unveiled in 2000, Breakfast Hill Golf Club is a shorter course suited for leisurely play. One of the most notable characteristics is natural rock outcropping that was included in the layout to create obstacles. One of the more unique obstructions in golf, it’s a necessity to keep your eye on the ball when your shot hits one of these.
Outside of rocks, the most challenging natural element of Breakfast Hill is the tree-lined fairways. Each hole is separated by a string of trees, some thicker than others, and rewards accuracy. If you’re able to keep the ball in play, hitting the green in regulation is easier than on most courses. This is also aided by little to no protection from bunkers around the greens.
Due to Breakfast Hill’s popularity, they have been able to keep their prices affordable. One of their more popular policies is junior golfers paying their age, instead of a standard greens fee.
To add some difficulty to the 6,400-yard frame of Breakfast Hill, fairways and greens are both heavily sloped. For most golfers, playing here a few times is one of the easiest ways to improve your score.
Most Challenging Course – Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club (New Durham)
It was not long ago that Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club went by Perry Hollow Golf Course. When Perry Hollow went bankrupt, Bernard Chiu came to the rescue. By injecting several million dollars of his own money and working with Clive Clark, he transformed Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club into something special.
Chiu and Clark had the advantage of starting with an already laid out course. Instead of having to cut into the New Hampshire wilderness and start from scratch, creating a top-tier course was as easy as smoothing the edges and adding some flair.
If a green at Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club isn’t elevated, it’s surrounded by traps. Part of what makes the course so difficult is that no matter how well you’re driving the ball, your approach into the green won’t be straightforward. On most courses, being in a bunker is far from perfect. At Lake Winnipesaukee Golf Club, imported sand gives you a fighting chance to recover around the greens, but is more challenging in fairway bunkers.
From the tips, Lake Winnipesaukee, plays nearly 6,900 yards. From the forward tees, the course is more manageable at 4,900 yards. To make distances harder to calculate, eight holes have an elevation change of 100 feet or more. Even the holes without as dramatic elevation changes hardly ever play flat.
Most Scenic Course – Wentworth by the Sea Country Club (Rye)
Located on the Piscataqua River, Wentworth by the Sea Country Club has grown into a premier golf course and wedding destination. Granted, it’s had plenty of time to find an identity over its 120+ year history.
At a maximum of 6,300 yards, length does not define the difficulty of Wentworth by the Sea. Instead, golfers will struggle due to tight fairways and small greens. Making things a bit more challenging, there is mounding alongside the fairways, and the greens tend to roll fast.
Aside from views of the water, natural rock walls provide some scenic backdrops. This is most evident on the 7th home where a tall wall of rock wraps around the back and right side of the green. Be careful not to skull one here since it might spray unpredictably.
While many holes have the luxury of overlooking the water, you can’t help but wonder what taking trees down throughout the course would do for the overall aesthetic. Additionally, removing trees might help fescue and other shrubbery thrive. Adding more of these two elements would only amplify the existing beauty.