When historic Wentworth by the Sea, a landmark hotel in New Castle, New Hampshire, reopened last year after twenty-one years of closure, it reclaimed its place as the grand dame of the Granite State's eighteen-mile sea-coast. It also gave birth to one of New England's most enjoyable golf getaways. Built in 1874, the wooden-frame hotel crowns a bluff overlooking a harbor about five miles from the border between New Hampshire and Maine. Dark woodwork, rich brocades and maritime art accent this Victorian-era edifice—beautifully restored at a cost of $25 million and now operated as a 161-room Marriott Hotel and Spa.
After checking in and admiring the antique mural of winged cherubs on the dining room's domed ceiling, astute golfers turn their attention to the courses. They start by asking the concierge to book tee times at Wentworth by the Sea Country Club, an otherwise private course that is playable for guests of the hotel. The club was founded in 1897, but the current layout is a Yankee patchwork quilt: The original nine holes were rebuilt by Donald Ross in 1921, then, forty years ago, expanded to eighteen by Geoffrey Cornish. Cornish's protégé, Brian Silva, returned in the late 1990s to create new holes, phase out old ones and add length and coherence to a layout that plays nip and tuck with the sea.
At 6,306 yards (par seventy), Wentworth appears tame on the card, but when the salty breezes are blowing, the test is firm. The fourth hole, a standout, is a Cape-style par four that calls for a bold carry over the tidal flats of Witch Cove to a rumpled fairway that climbs into trees before veering left and dropping to a pine-framed green set above the cove. But it's the three-hole stretch from fourteen through sixteen that is the heart and soul of this seaside links: The 403-yard fourteenth bends gently to the right along the marsh. Facing the prevailing wind at land's end is the 195-yard fifteenth, its tee cantilevered onto sea-blackened rocks and its exposed target staked out by a lone twisted pine. The par-five sixteenth calls for a solid tee shot over the rocky shore and an approach that avoids a long waste bunker that indents the entire right side of the hole.