An unforgettable work trip to Maine: Our favorite public course of 2021
As a Rhode Islander, there’s nothing I love more than summer in New England. I grew up playing golf and hitting the beaches all around the Ocean State when school was out, so I couldn’t have been more excited when my colleagues Dylan Dethier and Sean Zak invited me to join them on Destination Golf: Maine.
I’d driven through Maine before, but had never spent any time there prior to this trip. My knowledge of the state was limited to fresh lobster and what I’d seen in L.L. Bean magazines, so I was excited to experience it for the first time. I was also a little nervous — this was my first trip for GOLF where I’d actually be the person playing golf, rather than just watching the pros do their thing.
I drove up to Boston, where I met Dylan fresh off his redeye from Seattle. The two of us then hopped on the road up the coast, meeting Sean in Portland. Our first stop (after lunch in Kennebunkport) was at Cape Arundel, and it was the perfect course to kick off a few days of golf.
Cape Arundel might be the Bush family’s home course — a swathe of land home to political powerbrokers and diplomats — but the course itself is as welcoming and unpretentious as any in Maine. We pulled up in our red minivan rental, sifting past stragglers in the parking lot and toward the course. Dylan, Sean and I headed into the clubhouse — named “41 House” in honor of the course’s former longtime ombudsman, the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. The whole property has a historic New England feel to it, no doubt aided by the inside of 41 House, which lingers with the unmistakable scent of your grandparents’ cottage. The structure is painted hunter green and overlooks the Kennebunk River, and the course extends out in either direction. We loitered in 41 House for a few minutes, drinking in the history before I snagged a sleeve of balls and headed to the first tee.
Ranked No. 64 on our Top 100 Courses you can play list and first on our Best Courses in Maine ranking, Cape Arundel Golf Club is a links-style private course that offers public play. Founded in 1896 as Kennebunkport Golf Club, the par-69 is one of the oldest courses in Maine. Its small, quick greens are striking, but perhaps the course’s most memorable quality is its friendliness. Cape Arundel is far from “easy,” but is shockingly manageable for players of all skill levels.
Measuring just under 5,900 yards from the tips, I played from the forward tees, which were just under 5,000 yards. Dylan is a scratch player and Sean is an 8 handicap, and as someone closer to a 20 handicap than a 10, I found the forward tees helped me keep pace despite my … scoring deficiencies.
Cape Arundel spans just 89 acres, so while you won’t be in huge trouble if you miss a fairway or green, there’s a good chance you’ll be hitting from another hole. That’s part of the charm of the layout, and a lot of what makes Cape Arundel feel so jocular. Really good players love it here because they have the opportunity to go low, but for the rest of us, Cape Arundel is a quirky dose of nostalgia. As we walked the back nine, Dylan’s family friend, Chaz, joined the walk to offer tips and pieces of course history.
Soon, the hot summer afternoon turned to early evening, bringing a cool breeze and an endorphin rush as shadows overtook the greens.
Of all the courses we played that week, Cape Arundel reminded me most of home. I was in familiar territory — both in New England, and more broadly, on 18 holes of well-trimmed turf. All golf is the same in that way — and like all good golf, it made me eager to play again soon.