Despite my dad’s best efforts when I was a kid, I have always disliked golf. The many rules, clubs, pace, and time commitment left me feeling frustrated to the point of quitting the sport altogether.
Even for a non-golfer, the Sunday River Golf Club offers a beautiful clubhouse with a restaurant and deck, stunning mountain views, and a fairly exciting ride in the cart with twisting turns and steep hills throughout the course. So when my boyfriend asked me to ride along earlier this summer, I was up for an afternoon out in the sun taking in the scenery.
But by the 4th hole, I was getting a little antsy. I grabbed a club and golf ball out of my boyfriend’s bag, stepped onto the tee, and whacked as hard as I could. Would I recommend this approach for the beginner golfer? Nope, but it did get me hooked on learning to golf this summer, and there are a few things you should know, too.
Don’t Get Psyched Out
Before you even get to the course, if you talk to golfers who have played it, they’ll immediately tell you that the Sunday River Golf Club is really challenging. They’re not wrong, but you shouldn’t let that stop you. While the elevation changes and ravines can be tough for a beginner, the course is playable with the right tools (and a patient, knowledgeable partner to play with—but we’ll get to that later.).
Get Professional Help
Even if you’ve played mini-golf, hit a bucket of balls at a driving range, or played a few times before, a lesson with the golf pro is absolutely the way to go. At Sunday River, our team takes a scaled approach to walk you through the basics. Instead of hitting the range first, you’ll start on the practice putting green. There, you’ll learn to putt and chip. After you’re comfortable with those skills, you’ll head to the range to use your irons, and finally, you’ll try out a driver. This allows you to learn about the amount of force you need to use with different clubs, and getting the basics down will set you up for success when you get out on the course. This is also a great opportunity to ask about rules and etiquette.
NOT-SO-PRO TIP: Call the Pro Shop at 207-824-4653 well in advance to inquire about lessons, because they are based on the Head Golf Pro and Assistant Golf Pro’s availability. If you’ve dabbled, be sure to tell them your experience level so that you can get the most out of your time with them.
Equipment Matters in Golf
Remember when I said I grabbed one of my boyfriend’s clubs to try out in the middle of the course? Don’t do that. Men’s and women’s equipment are designed with different needs in mind, and clubs will vary in length, stiffness, and weight depending on the manufacturer and the model. Having the right fit will help you in the long run, and help you avoid injury or frustration. Sunday River Golf Club offers rentals if you’re not ready to buy, but you can also find reasonably priced beginner’s sets if you’re ready to commit.
Book Your Tee Time When It’s Less Busy
Pace of play in golf means that you are expected to move through the course in a reasonable amount of time so as not to delay other golfers. If you’re out on a busy Saturday for your first time, you’ll end up letting other groups play through the hole to keep things moving, and you might feel stressed and rushed as a result. I’ve been playing almost exclusively on midweek afternoons this summer, and it allows me to take my time to think through what club to use in each scenario, set up for a shot, and spend a few extra minutes looking for a ball that I’ve inevitably hit into the woods. You can view tee times online, or call the Pro Shop at 207-824-4653 and ask them for availability.
NOT-SO-PRO TIP: Booking your tee time well in advance, or taking advantage of special deals like state resident days or a stay and play package with lodging included, helps you save per round. Price varies by availability, so booking the day before a busy, beautiful weekend will result in higher greens fees.
Be Selective About Your Golf Group to Start
If you’re just learning to golf, your impatient, competitive, expert golfer friend might not be the best person to hit the course with. The same goes for your equally-green-but-well-intentioned friend who wants to give you pointers based on her extensive YouTube research. Finding a golfing buddy who can help you learn the rules, give helpful suggestions, and make learning more enjoyable for you will help you to be more patient with yourself as you figure it out. Bonus points if you get someone who has played Sunday River before and can help you with what to expect each hole. It’s easy to get frustrated, but once you’ve built some confidence, you can start to cast a wider net.
Don’t Feel Like You Have to Play 18 Right Away
This will be somewhat controversial, but if you follow the guidance about playing on less busy days, you shouldn’t feel like you have to play all 18 if that will make the experience less fun for you. You don’t even really need to play all 9 if you’re not up for it! Sunday River does not offer a rate for 9 holes, so you will be eating the greens fee a bit, but I find that going out to play just 9 has been a great way to ease into the sport.
NOT-SO-PRO TIP: I find that the front 9 at Sunday River Golf Club is more challenging than the back 9. If you are playing with a group that wants to play all 18, feel free to enjoy the ride on the front 9, and jump in on the 10th to play the back (or just pick the holes you feel like playing and sit out the rest). Just be sure to keep pace of play in mind so you’re not slowing down other groups.
- Get a basic understanding of golf terms, rules, and etiquette before you arrive.
- Research the dress code for golf and suit up accordingly.
- Pack a rain jacket or an umbrella and other layers in case the weather changes during your round.
- Put more tees and golf balls than you think you’ll need into your bag, and keep a spare in your pocket at all times.
- The Clubhouse offers food, drinks, a shop, and restrooms, but you’ll only have access when you before your round, at the turn (in the middle of your round between and 9th and 10th holes), and when you’re done. Stock up on snacks, drinks, and hit the restroom before you head out.
- Sunday River Golf Club requires carts, so you won’t have the option to walk the course.
- Download the Sunday River app for resort info on the go.
Ready to play? Head to sundayrivergolfclub.com to learn about the course, check out photos and videos, and book your tee time.