GOLF OF MAINE· LATE SUMMER 2000
Golf By Boat
Journeying to Maine’s Island Golf Courses
By David Desmith
Frye Island Golf Course is located on a wooded island on Sebago Lake. Until 1998, Frye Island was part of the town of Raymond. But in that year, it gained its independence and now is self-governing. Dotted with cottages and camps, Frye Island is a boater’s paradise. It’s surrounded by some of the best boating and fishing waters in the state. Almost every lakefront home has its own dock, its own boat, its own beach. But Man does not live by water alone. Which is why Geoffrey Cornish, a highly acclaimed golf course architect, was hired in 1970 to design a golf course for the island. The course Cornish came up with is set inland; the shores of Lake Sebago aren’t visible from the course itself.
“I guess the trees have all grown up,” Cornish said when informed on this.
But Frye Island GC feels like an island course nonetheless. And that feeling begins with the ferry ride which takes you there. From Route 302 in Raymond, you take Raymond Cape Rd. to reach the ferry dock, where a car ferry takes you to Frye Island. Unlike 1970, when Cornish remembers having to sandwich all his work into the four hours between the ferry’s departure and its return, today it leaves for the island on the half-hour. At just $16 for the round trip, the ride isn’t a budget buster, and the course that awaits you is worth the added expense.
Frye Island Golf Club used to be called Running Hills. Of the 18 holes Cornish designed, nine of them have been opened for play – those originally designed to be the back nine. That nine opened on Memorial Day, 1972. Islanders and visitors have been enjoying it ever since.
Frye Island is no pitch-and-putt holiday course. It has a 420-yard par 4 and a 520-yard par 5 to test your game, though there are three sets of tees to offer players of every level a suitable challenge. Its signature hole is the par-3 eighth, a lovely one-shotter that plays over a pond to a shallow, sloping green.
Set in quite, peaceful woodlands, Frye Island is a public course that puts a premium on privacy. It’s possible to go an entire round without seeing a soul. In fact, Mark Thomas, Golf Director at Frye Island GC, was almost apologetic that two groups were on the first tee one weekday afternoon.
“You can usually walk right on,” he said. “But today we’re having a little tournament.”
Frye Island’s charms are apparent the moment you step on that first tee. As tight as the opening tee shot is, you may find it hard to believe that you’re embarking on a 400-yard par 4. And if you should be lucky enough to get your opening shot on the short grass, you’ll have a blind second shot over a ledge to a bowl-shaped green. If you can pencil in a 4 after playing this hole for the first time, you’ve done yeoman’s work. To the right of the first green, you may be surprised to see a small propane tank suspended from a tree. It’s a bell, used to signal players behind that the green is clear. It serves as a quaint reminder that on an island, nothing is wasted.
At the second hole, accuracy off the tee is again all-important, as a long pond runs up the left side of the fairway. There’s not much room off the tee here. In fact, there’s a lot more room on the green, since this hole shares a huge double-green with the short par-4 sixth. Just make sure you’re aiming for the right flag.
On hole number three, you have another fairway pond to negotiate.
“We put those in and/or enlarged them,” Cornish said of the multiple ponds. “We needed fill for other areas and that’s where we got it.”
This hole, which can play as long as 420 yards, runs uphill to an elevated green that is surrounded by woods on three sides.
The eighth hole, a 170-yard par 3 over yet another pond, isn’t just the prettiest hole on the course, it’s arguably one of the prettiest holes in Maine. Tall cattails peer from the edges of the pond, which helps provide water for the local foxes and deer. Don’t be surprised if you see a big snapping turtle or two either. Try to keep your eye on the ball when you get to the green, though. It slopes sharply from left to right and it wouldn’t take much of a mishit to blow the ball 10 feet by the hole.
Until 1982, the club utilized an old Boy Scout Camp hut for its pro shop and clubhouse. But in that year, an enterprising group of islanders banded together to raise the funds necessary to build a real clubhouse, complete with pro shop and grill room. After your round, it’s a nice place to relax and chat with the locals, who receive visitors with equal measures of warmth and curiosity.
If you’d like to see more of Frye Island and its cozy but challenging golf course, log on to www.fryeisland.com. You can even take an electronic tour of the course, so those blind shots and ponds won’t come as such a surprise.