Field guide: Why this 2,300-yard island golf course is definitely worth visiting

As GOLF’s chief photographer and visual editor, Christian Hafer visits some of the most gorgeous and exclusive golf courses and properties in the world. Here, in his Field Guide, he’ll take you along for the ride. Lucky for us, Christian never leaves home without his camera.

Twenty minutes north of Portland, Maine, sits nine holes of golf tucked next to the waters of Casco Bay. Turning 100 years old this year, the mighty 2,300-yard Great Chebeague turned out to be one of my most memorable rounds of the year.

It’s accessible only by parking in a gravel lot, hopping on an old-school bus and shuttling to the ferry dock on Cousins Island. From there, with clubs in tow, a ferry takes you to Chebeague Island. Wind-thrashed yellow flags dot the shoreline as you get closer.

Once I got to the other side, I was almost immediately stopped by the hitting mat on the corner of the docks. It’s the tee for a 140-yard-ish par-3 across the water to a little green that sits perched in the trees. I walked past and up the road that cuts through the course, turning off on the gravel driveway to the little white clubhouse on the hill. No one was there yet, but I managed to find a sign-in sheet tucked under a rock. I grabbed a scorecard, and away I went.

The small, scruffy course has all the charm and fun I want in golf. I brought a half set of clubs, the perfect fit for the fast and bumpy fairways of Great Chebeague.

When I crossed the 3rd fairway, two pick-ups came barreling onto the course, loaded with what I assumed was men’s league players. Staffers arrived by the time I reached the green, and they told me I was free to play as much as I’d like, but I had to let the league play through if they caught up to me. I kind of scoffed, but by the time I got to the 4th tee they were already at the 2nd green. My kind of crew.

You’ll cross Stone Wharf Road four times — and play off it once — at Great Chebeague, hitting across the water up the hill to a tucked green. All the while ferries arrive and depart and people come and go just feet from you. There are views of the water and surrounding islands on every hole. It’s a special place.

A big reason why I play golf is for the adventure and travel that comes with it, and spots like Great Chebeague — a solid golf experience for the locals and the few rare outsiders who find it — makes the journey worth it. The tiny course struggles to get through the winters and stays open with minimal staff, but 100 years later it’s still going. All for just $20 a round.

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