New Holes Being Created at Samoset

By: Mark Leslie

Not content to rest on their laurels, Ocean Properties officials have engaged course architect William Bradley Booth and ASL Golf Course Construction to build new 15th and 16th holes at the highly rated Samoset Resort and Golf Club in Rockport, Maine. Continuing an eight-year program that has seen stunning improvements on 10 holes, including the 4th and 5th directly on the Atlantic Ocean, Samoset decided to continue the improvements while adding 28 hotel rooms.

Construction will begin in early September and take four to six weeks to finish, according to ASL General Manager Jim Despres. "The nice thing about the work is that it will not affect play," he said.

The "brand spanking new 15th hole," Booth said, "will have much more character" than the current hole, which runs alongside the ocean but is flat and bland. The new 15th, a short and interesting par-4, will track along a hillside parallel to the existing hole and then sharply down to the green, offering panoramic views the entire 325 to 330 yards.

Booth, who has consulted with course superintendent Gregg Grenert on several previous projects at the club, said cross-bunkering will finger out across the fairway about 240 to 265 yards from the tees. Golfers will then face a severe drop to the green which will be bracketed by bunkers, with the fairway swooping to the front right of the putting surface.

The 16th hole, which runs away from the ocean in a slight dogleg left, will remain untouched except for the 40 yards out from the green. The green will be pushed forward and left, edging up against a thicket of mature trees. A lot of bunkering will be added to the green complex, along with a sizeable collection of hillocks along the fairway's turn to the right of the green. It will play about 390 yards, 55 yards shorter than the current hole.

Grenert said the 12th hole will also undergo changes from the teeboxes to the landing area to make way for the new driving range. The range is open now as a short-range area until the 12th tee and fairway are built, allowing golfers to pull out their drivers on the range.

Samoset poses unique challenges for the builder, said Despres. "The town is called Rockport for a reason," he said. "There is a lot of rock and a shortage of topsoil. But we're confident that Brad's design and the materials we've sourced locally will allow us to successfully complete the project. These are the physical challenges. Location is another, especially dealing with traffic, and mobilizing equipment and materials, in such a high-tourism area. If we were to do this job in the summertime there would not have been an available room for our crew to stay."

That crew will be overseen by ASL project manager Mike Vella, a veteran of a number of new course constructions. While progressing full-bore with the new construction, Samoset officials have received accolades for the Booth-designed 18th hole which opened this summer. "It's an amazing hole," Booth said. "It took three days for somebody to get the first par."

Playing into the prevailing wind, the par-4 plays longer than its 468-yard length. Three new ponds protrude beside and circle behind the 9,600-square-foot green. Behind one of the ponds a formal stone wall supports a greenside bunker. A stonebuilt waterfall adds the final touch for this finishing hole, which stands much closer to the clubhouse than the old 18th.

Asked if the many changes to the course have caused concern over conflicting design styles, Grenert said, "If anything, the new architectural style is superior to the old style. If I had my choice I'd do the whole golf course. The new holes are gorgeous. We have done so much over the years that it blends in nicely. He described Booth's design style as "soft, with nothing fabricated. He uses the land and doesn't try to force things upon it."

What lies ahead for Samoset Golf Club? "Changing the 12th hole is not far behind the work on the 15th and 16th, but I believe we will take on that task next year." It's good to give the course, as well as golfers, a break from construction, he said, to enjoy the game and the scenery. As Despres, whose company is located in Waitsfield, Vt., said: "Not only is working with Brad Booth going to be a pleasure, but the views, being on the ocean and at the historic Samoset Resort."