White Mountain Country Club
|Red (W)||73||5350 yards||69.0||114|
|Blue M: 68.9/115||337||344||395||192||566||376||197||529||356||3292||363||165||383||384||338||314||372||434||391||3144||6436|
|White M: 66.9/111 W: 70.6/124||327||334||325||174||524||300||172||508||312||2976||356||154||356||374||321||301||359||410||356||2987||5963|
|Red M: 63.0/110 W: 65.5/111||312||301||310||146||466||282||152||486||252||2707||220||132||310||340||304||287||319||386||345||2643||5350|
Needs A Lot of Work
I played WM for the first time and I was surprised to see how sad the course conditions were. Not a lot of quality, maintained grass in the fairways, more crab grass and plantain grass, and some bare spots . The greens putted fairly well , but the cups were ragged having not been changed in several days. A few holes are oddly designed and many trees are now overhanging or blocking flight lines, especially from the Blue tees. The chute on the 10th tee is a great design but must terrify high handicappers. It was a mixture of members and tourists it seemed. One lower skilled group that started on the 10th, messed up our back nine until we finally got through. I was disappointed overall at WM, and I think the price of $64 to ride 18 is overpriced, but I guess they can get in tourist season. I hope they put some of that money back into the course.
Rock-Solid Cornish Golf With Terrific Scenery
White Mountain Country Club is a sneaky-good Geoffrey Cornish layout. On a course that opened in 1978, the architect made the most of what is essentially flat terrain and concocted—by his typical ingenuity—enough interesting holes to make this track a winner. From the first elevated tee box, a view of holes one through three offers a sneak preview of what you’ll face, and you may be thinking that this is no Oakmont or TPC Sawgrass; at first glance, it looks beatable. And such may be the case for single-digit or scratch golfers who, by the way, must still to be on their games to turn in a nice card. In truth, though, everyone else will have his or her hands full, even on the pleasant-looking holes.
The mostly flat terrain at White Mountain is sculpted modestly through a number of means, and you may soon notice that you're actually in a fairly level river-valley. Several tee boxes are raised, some quite high, to afford downhill tee shots. Fairways, in places, roll and undulate (especially on 3, 8, 9, 12, 15 and 17), while ridges and raised bunkers appear on others and around the greens. And there is ample and well-placed fairway bunkering, a feature sometimes minimized or even forgotten, unfortunately, on too many public courses. On the fifth, for example, a large bunker threatens the drive, while a larger bunker still must be negotiated on the second shot. It is no surprise, perhaps, that Architect Cornish relies strongly again here on what Mark Mungeam has called his “wealth of knowledge,” for much of his design approach—like that of Donald Ross—borrows (to some degree, though far from wholly) from the movement and topographical features prevalent on links courses. Its links-inspired features serve to punctuate, but not dominate, this course: frequently tiered and undulating greens, sometimes with fall-offs on their edges, and often with up and downslopes nearby or around their borders; eleven holes incorporating bends, curves or doglegs; multi-lobed bunkers, hollows, swales, or hillocks in the fairways; frequently raised greens, a few on small plateaus. The course still remains, overtly, anyway, parkland in its feel, particularly through its reliance on trees, many of them mature and often serving as integral hazards on their own right. Those trees, in particular, that line fairways or encroach on them have become, as time has passed, a much greater factor in the golfer's strategy and shot-making choices. Water hazards appear on holes 8, 9, 12 and 18. These enhance the course's beauty; they also swallow their share of golf balls. In essence, we should realize, this course was designed to be playable: none of the aforementioned features has been applied to an extreme, but suit a purpose while supplying challenge.
Things on the opening nine do indeed start a bit quietly, yet the drives on holes one and two are not pushovers, as both fairways, protected by one or more bunkers, curve gently through lines of trees and woods. The opening green is flat; the second presents a few more difficulties. Then we reach what seems to be an inviting 395-yard par-four at the third, but this is a bit of an illusion: the drive needs careful placement and the approach becomes tougher still, as it must surmount both a massive bunker and a considerable upslope to reach the tilted surface, a surface grudgingly guarded by a mature and meddlesome right-side tree. By hole four, it’s time to be fully warmed up, because the game is now on: this 192-yard, downhill par-three, fully and temptingly visible from its elevated tee, demands a well-struck hybrid or iron to a two-tiered green that penalizes, by its big, magnetic bunkers, errant shots hit either long or short/right. Those who fly the ball onto the wrong tier here will be inviting, to their infinite sorrow, three putts on this green. The 566-yard par-five that follows will throw down the gauntlet, as we may expect, to those power hitters who are thrilled at the prospect of turning three shots into two, but it’s a risky proposition, as the hole is potentially lethal on every shot. Here we have plentiful obstacles: OB-right on the drive; trees and woods lining both sides of the fairway; four devilishly placed fairway bunkers (two of them humongous); three greenside traps.
After a tight par-four, we reach hole seven, a par-three, tips out at 192 yards and is framed by five shapely and deep bunkers, none of which you’ll want to be visiting, despite their outward attractiveness. The green rolls upward in three-tiers, and you might be supposing that the architect is merely one-upping himself following the two-tiered fourth green. Hole eight’s green is similarly bunker-guarded, and this par-five adds a steep fall-off on its backside, but the ordeal on this hole will likely be getting to the green safely, whether in two shots or three. Big hitters may hazard the former option, and for them the second strike will have to traverse a waste area before touching down on the tightly-bunkered putting surface. For everyone else, the best option is a routine wedge for the third shot. Then there's the ninth—a hole without options. It has never been my cup of tea, not when I first played it back in 1979, and even less so today. Let’s do the quick summary: awkwardly-angled drive to water-guarded (on right side) fairway; no bail-out area on left side of landing zone; trees block left-sided approach; cunning but pesky upslope immediately fronting green, etc., etc. In short, the ninth evokes a Pete Dye finishing hole, if you’ll pardon the stereotyping. And the copse of four trees that sits on the left side of this fairway comprise the biggest single obstruction at White Mountain, swatting down golf balls the way a rim-protector in the NBA deflects basketballs. Best of luck.
It is reasonable to say that the back nine essentially matches the front in quality, although a few of its holes are the tamest on this routing. The tenth, not one of those, demands that you fly your tee ball through a chute of trees to reach the corner of a tight landing area on a sharp dogleg left fairway. The hole is densely tree-lined all the way to a green fronted by two sentinel bunkers. Next, the set-up at hole eleven, a par-three, reminds me of Ben Hogan’s comment about the par-three tenth at Winged Foot West, which the great man described as, “A three-iron into some guy’s bedroom,” ostensibly because a house was situated not far off the back of its green. Requiring a mid-iron, you may earn a routine par here at White Mountain's 11th, provided your tee-shot is struck cleanly. Miss the green, however, and par turns into a rather tedious chore, probably involving a bunker. The twelfth, by contrast, puts a bigger premium on the drive rather than the approach, mainly because the landing area, though ample, is surrounded by a hillside to the right, marshy wasteland to the left, bunkers long-right, and a creek long-left. Not a bundle of fun, this tee shot, and it’s also OB-right; the fairway, though, is wide enough to calm your angst. Hole thirteen follows suit with a tricky drive to a fairway angling gradually to the right; any full-fledged hook off its tee may end up in the Pemigewasset River, while lesser misses could find the large, ominous-looking banks off the fairway’s left side, or, to the right, unfriendly-looking mature pine trees. Approach shots into this thirteenth will fly—we hope—to a slightly raised, oval green that opens up from the fairway’s left side, or they will fly into one of two frontal bunkers, or into a typically awkward greenside lie (usually sloping), or under trees in back. The next hole, the par-four fourteenth, is relentlessly tight. Long hitters will find, happily, a bail-out on the right side, created by a gap in the trees some 250 yards out, but, for drives leaking too far right here, another tree may impede the line of flight on the second shot. It’s still one of the tamer holes on the back, and is followed by its ‘sister’ hole, the short, relatively straightforward par-4 15th, which offers a second consecutive birdie opportunity.
The back nine closes with three tough holes, two of them remarkable. Seventeen, an elegant 434 yarder, qualifies as the best par-four on the golf course. The tee shot must avoid trees and a falloff to the right, while the approach may be run through the swale prior to the green, which is set on a small plateau. Eighteen ends this routing with both beauty and peril, and features a spectacularly open vista to the mountain on the right, water to the left, and a pretty fairway in between the two, but one that ingloriously dead ends before a creek and pond, the former flowing into the latter. Your drive, then, must be approached cautiously, with the second shot crossing that pond, a pond that fronts (by some 30 yards or so) another double- tiered putting surface. This satisfying 391-yarder finisher puts demands on your first two shots, but also around its green.
It is quite easy to crow about White Mountain's first-rate layout, but the flip side, for this year, anyway, is its sub-standard conditioning. Some of this may be forgiven, certainly, because the fairways have been pounded by extremes—both flooding and, in general, too much rain—that have left many of them, well, pretty shoddy in places. They are still playable, though I don't see how a tournament could be easily staged here at present. Service this time was excellent, thanks largely to the young man in the pro-shop, Bailey, who really goes out of his way to help customers, is quite friendly and personable and knowledgeable, and even advised my son on how to choose the best driver for his game. Wow! He also told me, during our friendly conversation, that he is pursuing a career in golf. If he represents golf's future, then I would say things look very bright for the game.
Beautiful Cornish Design - Disastrous Conditions - So What! Go Play It!
Geoffrey Cornish, the architect of this course, would have been 100 years old this very month. Cornish, the highly-respected "hands-on" architect is probably most famous for his gift to golf: HopMeadow Country Club, by far the finest course in Connecticut.
At the White Mountain course, Cornish laid 18 holes around and about the flood plain of the Pemigewassett River. It's good, flat land with scores of beautiful vistas of the river and the foothills leading to the White Mountains. The holes - for the most part - an easy to read from the tee box as Cornish simply hated the "trickery" of many of his contemporaries. The green complexes are enormous.
Sadly, mother nature did her very best this winter and spring to render golf courses in northern New England almost unplayable. Ice damage has destroyed hundreds of once-beautiful greens, fairways and rough are only just now (in late August) beginning to recover and achieve grow-in. White Mountain was one of the hardest-hit courses. Conditions on tee boxes, fairways, rough, green complexes are as bad as they have been in the past twenty-five years.
So why is, I wonder - with conditions on the course so bad - that my playing partner and I had such a wonderful time of it at White Mountain; why is it that we came away from this place in such a positive frame of mind? Well, here's why:
1. Welcoming Staff: Sterling Golf, the course manager, hires darned friendly and quite professional people, that's for sure. The assistant pro, the starter, the ranger, the dining room cook, folks working out on the course. Best group of professionals I've come upon all season.
2. The Cornish layout. Simple, straight-forward, subtle, always fair and interesting...and never over-whelming. It's a fun layout for great players and for high-handicappers.
3. The golf course superintendent !!! We didn't meet him or catch his name...but the herculean efforts that this man is making to heal his golf course, the evidence everywhere out there that efforts are being made to repair and restore conditions...well, it was impressive to say the very least. Bravo to him too. And to the folks who work for him.
For $35 including a cart you can play this course.
Mother Nature sometimes does her best to ruin things. But - at White Mountain Country Club - she failed miserably.
Thanks so much for your praise for our course, and especially for the staff, who truly did go the extra mile in this most difficult year. I'm going to print out a copy of your review to show them. I would also like to point out that, since the time that you played, we have finished re=sodding virtually all of the damaged areas on the greens, and had wonderful results. Hopefully, the next time you play, the course will be in its normal outstanding condition. Also, I have to mention that the course is operated by Golf Management, LLC, not Sterling Golf. Thanks again!