SOUTH BERWICK — Standing in the 17th fairway, the highest point at The Links at Outlook, a golfer may want to pause between shots to enjoy the view. On a clear day, Mt. Washington can be seen.
The Links at Outlook bills itself as “Golf in the Scottish Tradition.” The front nine does its best to recapture links-style golf from across the pond with wind-swept holes, tall grasses and reeds adjacent to fairways, and fescue bordering bunkers. There are no trees except behind the first hole and the tee on No. 2.
But when golfers go through the tunnel under Route 4 to play seven holes on the back nine, the scenery and golf changes. It could be dubbed “Golf in the New England Tradition.”
“It’s almost like there are two different golf courses,” said member George Gray of South Berwick.
The holes across the road from the pro shop and the distinctive banquet center, The Red Barn at Outlook Farm, offer elevation changes, tree-lined fairways and a couple of blind tee shots – just what golfers in this region are accustomed to. There are 11 holes on the clubhouse side of the course, the links style, and seven across the road, the New England style.
Brian Silva, who has designed many courses in New England, is the course architect.
“It’s a very nice course and the owners are great,” said Gray, a retired civil engineer.
The course was founded by Tim Flynn and is operated by his family. Flynn purchased Outlook Farm, which comprises the front nine, in the mid-1980s and then acquired other parcels of land nearby. The course started as a driving range, then opened 11 holes. The 18-hole course opened in 2000.
The farm’s old barn was leveled and replaced by the Red Barn at Outlook Farm, with its impressive beamed ceiling, in 2007. It’s open year-round, hosting weddings, golf outings, corporate events, annual dinners and other activities.
“The barn really put us on the market,” said John Flynn, the director of golf and one of the three sons in the business.
The Links at Outlook has bent grass greens, fairways and tees. The course got through the winter in great shape. Despite the harsh winter, The Links at Outlook opened nine holes on April 8, then 18 holes on April 11. The greens are in excellent shape.
“Our superintendent, Jamie Baker, plowed off the snow on the greens in March and chipped the ice away,” said head professional Dave Paskowski.
The opening hole is a par 5, measuring 524 yards from the black tees and 503 from the blue. The hole is a slight dogleg with the green set back into the trees. The white and red tees for women give each hole four sets of tees.
The second hole is the No. 1 handicap hole, measuring 416 yards from the blue tees. The second half of the hole plays uphill. The Links at Outlook is known for its challenging par 3s and the first is the third hole, a downhill 183-yarder.
The greens are large with subtle breaks.
“The front nine offers generous driving areas,” said Paskowski, who became head pro at the course one year after it opened.
The fourth hole is a straightaway par 5. Holes 5, 6 and 7 are par 4s with slight variations. Then it gets challenging with two tough closing holes on the front nine – the 200-yard, par-3 eighth and the 370-yard, uphill, par-4 ninth.
“I’ve had many a golfer tell me how the eighth hole spoiled their front-nine score,” said Paskowski.
Then the golfer has to face the ninth with bunkers on both sides of the fairway. The second shot is straight uphill to a green with only the front part visible.
The back nine starts on the links side. It’s a par 4 of 348 yards. Depending on your tee shot, the second shot could be directly over water.
Then you drive or walk through the tunnel under Route 4 to the up-and-down hilly, tight-driving back nine. The first hole after the tunnel is a 178-yard par 3 with water lurking on the left.
The 12th hole is a driveable par 4 of between 314 and 299 yards.
“If you’re hitting the ball poorly, this hole gives you a chance to get back into your round,” said Paskowski.
No. 13 is a scenic downhill par 4, perhaps the tightest-driving hole on the course. No. 14 is a scenic downhill par 3. The greens run adjacent to train tracks, blocked by trees, where the Downeaster zooms by on trips to and from Boston.
The par-5 17th is reachable in two shots. Paskowski calls it his fun hole to play. The drive is uphill and the second shot is straight downhill. Because of the roll, even a less than perfectly struck shot can reach the green in two.
“We have two great finishing holes on each side,” said Jeff Maldonis, director of sales and marketing, and a son-in-law to the founder, Tim Flynn.
The owners feel their course’s location is ideal.
“New Hampshire is only a few miles away,” said Maldonis. “We have the seacoast with the beaches. We’re about equidistant from Portland, Boston and Manchester (New Hampshire).”
The family plans to convert the driving range into a par-3 course to spur interest in junior golf and for a place for retirees to play.
The Links at Outlook has 150 members, leaving plenty of tee times for the public, which is a major part of the business.
“We have a good relationship with the University of New Hampshire athletic department,” said Paskowski, who said football coach Sean McDonnell played the course recently.
Philadelphia Eagles Coach Chip Kelly, a former UNH assistant coach, hosts a charity tournament every year at the course.