Leaves Rule
November 21, 2019

The best thing that fall golf offers

One look at the fall foliage embracing Sugarloaf Golf Club in the mountains of western Maine, with shades of burgundy, burnt orange and saffron dominating the landscape, and we’re reminded that one of the best aspects of golf is the wide variety of courses available for play. Sugarloaf, sitting at the base of a ski mountain of the same name, was carved from dense trees, mostly silver birch but also firs and spruce, in the early 1980s by architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his then associate, Kyle Phillips. It hasn’t changed much since except for the rebuilding of the 14th and 15th greens, swept away by floods caused by Hurricane Bob in 1991, and for the filling in of some bunkers a decade ago to remove a few duffer headaches.

Some might consider Sugarloaf’s design out of step with today’s game, with its narrow fairways full of doglegs and double doglegs, a front nine demanding aerial assaults, like the uphill approach to the par-4 sixth (pictured) and a back nine mostly skirting the rushing waters of the Carrabassett River, riprapped with rock to prevent erosion. But Golf Digest has ranked Sugarloaf as one of the state’s top courses since the late 1980s, so there’s still appreciation for a design that demands finesse and placement amid isolated fairways, and it provides long-range views of Crocker Mountain and the Bigelow Range from many elevated tees and greens. Its location does make you wonder: If your putt drops in a forest, does anyone hear your cheers?