Review: Mount Washington Course

Course Name: Mount Washington Course

Designer: Donald Ross (1915), Brian Silva (2008, Restoration)

Location: Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

History: The Mount Washington Course is the signature course at the historic Mount Washington Resort in the White Mountains. Originally designed by Donald Ross in 1915, this course was the actually the second at the Resort, with the 9-hole Mount Pleasant Course predating it by 17 years. After years of neglect, Brian Silva restored the course to its former glory in 2008. The Mount Washington Course has hosted four New Hampshire Opens and the 2010 New England Open. Consistently ranked among the top courses in the golf-poor state of New Hampshire, Mount Washington owns the following accolades:

  • #1 Best Public Course in New Hampshire – Golf Magazine (2016)
  • #1 Best Public Course in New Hampshire – Golfweek (2019)

Conditions: 5/10, With a very short golf season, the conditions at Mount Washington suffer with burned out fairways and very slow greens. The bunker quality is generally very good and lined with a heather fescue.

Value: 6/10, The rates at Mount Washington vary quite a bit depending on the day of week, time, season, age, and whether or not you’re staying at the resort. The most expensive rates are weekends in peak season at $109, but you can expect to pay somewhere around $70 at most other times, making for fair value.

Scorecard:

Tee                     Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Gold                   72          7004               73.7              124

Blue                  72           6400               70.3              122

White                72           5735               66.9              112

Red                    72          5246                70.0              119

Hole Descriptions: As is the case with most Donald Ross courses, the layout at Mount Washington is terrific. With short walks from greens to tees and a breathtaking mountainous backdrop, this will be an enjoyable walk for all. The front nine plays on a more level terrain near the Resort while the superior back side features dramatic elevation changes as you climb up and down Mount Washington. Course conditions and an isolated location keep this course out of the national limelight, but this classic design is undoubtedly one of the best public courses in New England.

A downhill teeshot to a fairly wide fairway begins your round. At 377 yards, this straightaway par 4 plays shorter with a pair of bunkers down the left at 230 and 250 yards. Like most holes on the course, the green here is well-bunkered and tiny. The 395 yard par 4 2nd hole is a tough dogleg right with an intimidating teeshot. This fairway is lined by fescue the entire way and narrows even further at 230 yards with a bunker down the left and tall trees on both sides. Unusual for a Ross green, this putting surface features no bunkers but instead is surrounded by tight slopes on all sides. The 3rd hole is the number 1 handicap from the Tips but plays considerably easier from the Blue Tees at 377 yards. This straightaway par 4 features another rather narrow drive with a bunker down the right at 220 yards. Another bunker lines the right side of the green. At just 309 yards, the par 4 4th is an excellent hole and one of two reachable par fours at Mount Washington. The golfer has many choices on this teeboxes and must do everything possible to avoid a giant mound of fescue and bunkers that runs across the fairway at 230 yards. A lay-up short will leave an awkward semi-blind approach to a green guarded by a bunker left. The par 3 5th is one of the signature holes on the course more for its backdrop than the actual design. At 193 yards, this hole plays slightly uphill to a large green guarded by a giant diagonal bunker short right.

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The Omni Mount Washington Resort is visible from all holes but none as dramatically as the 5th

The course becomes more rugged on the 501 yard par 5 6th that lines the edge of the property. Playing back towards Mount Washington, this uphill hole rewards accuracy as OB lines the entire left side and multiple crossbunkers line the fairway at 190, 225, and 270 yards. The lay-up area is even narrower with another crossbunker down the left about 100 yards short of the green. This approach plays uphill to an undulating green guarded by bunkers on either side and short right. With its bunkering scheme and OB left, this hole reminds me a lot of Wannamoisett’s 17th.

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The 6th approach with the White Mountains in the background

The 318 yard 7th hole is another short par 4, but this one is not quite reachable with an elevated green that would require an enormous carry to reach. OB lines the entire left side and numerous bunkers dot either side of the fairway beginning at 200 yards. This green slopes hard back-to-front with a deep bunker on the right. Length is the greatest defense on the 410 yard 8th, the longest par 4 on the course. This hole is otherwise straightforward with sporadic trees lining both sides of a wide fairway also abutted by a left crossbunker at 260 yards. The large green here features a false front and slopes hard back-to-front. The 9th hole is probably the strongest on the front nine and commences an epic stretch of holes. At 394 yards, this uphill par 4 begins with an isolated teebox way back in the woods to a double fairway divided by a creek running through the middle. OB lines the right the entire way, making this a tough driving hole. This approach plays to a wide, shallow green guarded by a deep bunker short left.

The fantastic back 9 wastes no time and climbs right up the mountain with the 522 yard par 5 10th. An immediate uphill 150 yard forced carry greets you here with a tight fairway lined by OB right the entire way. There are numerous bunkers on either side around 250 yards but none on the hole otherwise. This green is borderline unreachable in two, playing at least two clubs uphill and featuring one of the most severe false fronts I’ve ever seen. This fairway (as seen below) is one of the worst maintained on the course but doesn’t detract from an otherwise sublime hole.

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The 10th approach with its huge false front

After a secluded walk high in the mountains, the 11th hole runs parallel to the 10th straight downhill as another par 5. Playing at 508 yards, this hole is reachable for most as firm, fast conditions propel many balls over 300 yards. It takes about 200 yards to reach the fairway here and crossbunkers at 240 and 280 yards are likely popular spots. This hole then continues downhill to an undulating green surrounded by tight slopes. The 12th hole runs right back up the hill as a 313 yard par 4. Featuring a completely blind teeshot, this hole is lined by OB left, but plenty of room right besides a crossbunker at 180 yards. This green is open on the front for teeshots but is lined by narrow, trench-like bunkers on either side. The 13th hole is my favorite on the course and arguably one of the best par fours in Ross’ illustrious collection. Utilizing the terrain brilliantly, this 374 yard slender dogleg right meanders up the side of the mountain to a green with the highest elevation on the property. Playing uphill the entire way, this hole features an intimidating teeshot with an 150 yard forced carry and thick woods right that yield a better chance of being mauled by a bear than finding your ball. A pair of crossbunkers expertly placed down the right at 260 yard further incentivizes a teeshot down the left. The left side of the fairway, however, gives a worse angle into an elevated green lined by two bunkers on the left.

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The world-class uphill 13th
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The approach at 13

The 204 yard 14th is another fine hole and one of the most memorable par threes in New England. Running straight downhill over a large waste area, the hardest part of this hole is judging the gradient and choosing the correct club. This is one of the finest green complexes at Mount Washington playing as a reverse redan, sloping hard left-to-right. A deep bunker guards the right but saves balls from rolling into the hazard.

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The excellent do-or-die par 3 14th

The mountain holes are true gems at Mount Washington, but there are still some good ones remaining, including the 293 yard 15th. As the shortest par 4 on the course, this hole still packs a punch with an 150 yard forced carry to a fescue-lined fairway. A massive crossbunker at the end of the fairway makes reaching this small green very difficult. There are only three par threes on the course, but they are all phenomenal finishing with the 186 yard 16th. This narrow green is angled away from the golfer with deep, narrow bunkers guarding both sides and plenty of fescue for big misses. The 17th hole runs parallel to the 8th and plays very similarly at 371 yards.  This straightaway hole is well-bunkered with crossbunkers down the left at 180 and 220 yards and on the right at 270 yards. Another large crossbunker cuts through this fairway about 30 yards short of this undulating green. The closing hole is an interesting hole and one that is much stronger from the Tips. At just 353 yards, this dogleg left features OB left the entire way and a fairway that ends at just 230 yards with a creek. Your approach plays over the creek to a large, undulating green protected by a cavernous bunker short right. The clubhouse and patio are directly behind this green, so make sure to not overclub!

General Comments: The clubhouse is fairly tiny and has a log cabin feel to it. The “true” clubhouse is the stately Mount Washington Resort seen in the background of many holes. Practice facilities include a driving range and small practice green near the 1st tee. Pace of play varied quite a bit – some holes we breezed through while others were quite slow.

Verdict: While conditioning leaves a lot to be desired, the views, history, and classic Donald Ross design at Mount Washington are top notch and similar to what I imagine the Greenbrier feels like. I highly recommend a summer weekend at this gorgeous mountain retreat.


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