Province Lake/Windsong

Pressed by the impending onset of cold weather and anxious to maximize the RV season, I went looking for a new golf course to play that would be far enough from home to press the Little Guy into service. I discovered Province Lake Golf Course in Parsonsfield, west of Sebago Lake and hard against the New Hampshire border. It looked interesting enough online to be worth an outing, and when I went looking for RV parks or campsites adjacent to it, I found Windsong. My good pal Steve readily agreed to join me on a weekend outing and so the reservations were made.

The photo above was taken just right of the first green at Province Lake GC, so named for its proximity to Province Lake, which can be seen from several of the holes, one of which runs right alongside the lake. We arrived for a 2PM tee time on Saturday and were greeted with fog and drizzle, which dampened our gear but not our spirits. The fall foliage was nearing peak here and even through the gloom, the course was lovely.

I can do no better than to quote from the course website: The front nine, built in 1918, was designed by Lawrence Van Etten, who laid out a number of courses on the East Coast, including the Deal Country Club in New Jersey and the original Wykagyl Course in New Rochelle, N.Y. In 1988, a second nine was built, which was designed by renowned East Coast architect Brian Silva. Silva’s work includes the Captains Course at Cape Cod National in Brewster, MA, Black Creek Club, in Chattanooga, TN, Shaker Hills in Harvard, MA, and Cyprian Keyes Golf Club in Boylston, MA.

What is remarkable about this course is that it does in fact seem like two different courses. The front nine is lovely, running as it does along the lake, but is straightforward in its design — wide fairways running to well-bunkered greens. The back nine, on the other hand, employs a number of dogleg holes along with a plethora of mounding, sloping greens and hidden hazards; it is obvious that two very different people designed these nines in two very different eras.

The clubhouse is a lovely old building, which I would guess dates from the opening of the course, with an attractive pro shop and bar. I bought a new golf towel here on Sunday as Saturday’s round soaked the one I brought from home.

Our plan was to arrive Saturday, settle into our campsite and then go play a round of golf, staying overnight in the Little Guy and returning for another round at 9AM on Sunday. Steve had to work on Monday, so he headed for home after the round (having ridden his motorcycle to the campground); I took the opportunity to explore the campground on Sunday afternoon.

I think the best way for me to describe Windsong Campground would be “tired”. The camp roads are neither paved nor dirt but rather, forest paths, with a number of stones and roots making for a bumpy trip to the campsite — to the point that I was worried about breaking dishes in the camper on the way. Many of the sites are not level, though I was fortunate to be given a pull-through site which was not too bad.

One of the smoother camp roads at Windsong

There are a number of dilapidated old buildings scattered about the campground, along with several trailers which have been built into larger structures, something I have never previously seen.

There is an old bathhouse with old fixtures, clean enough but — again — tired. The camp store is showing its age and, closed up, does not function as a store at all. One expects to arrive at a campground, enter the camp store to register, receive a campground map, and buy firewood and last-minute supplies — but you can’t do that at Windsong.

There is a swimming pool, long out of season now, and a playground of sorts…

…but the whole place exudes an air of disinterest, decline and decay. What’s unfortunate is that this has the potential to be a lovely campground — the sites are private and wooded in a very peaceful forest setting. But the feeling I get is that the ownership is no longer able to invest in or maintain the place, and is just making reservations and taking whatever can be gotten out of it, for as long as possible. Perhaps this photo sums it up best — a vintage Airstream trailer just rusting in the woods (can aluminum rust?!); that is, a classic now in decline.

What is hard for me to reconcile is that the owner (Bruce) seems to be a really nice guy. He met us when we pulled in, guided us into the campsite and offered us free firewood along with tips for playing the golf course. Later, when he stopped by on Sunday afternoon, I learned that he had owned the place for sixteen years but his wife and kids are no longer interested or available to help him run it and so he does what he can, when he can. He told me that for a quarter million dollars he would hand me the keys and walk away. I guess it’s just become more than he can manage by himself; and then when you add in the fact that he has not kept up with the amenities (he has not improved the playground, added a video arcade or a weight room or a mini-golf course, etc., the kinds of things people now look for in an RV park), I suspect that the camping public mostly goes elsewhere — so he doesn’t generate the income to hire the help necessary to maintain and upgrade the place.

Consequently, I regret that I cannot recommend Windsong Campground in its current state, despite the courteous and helpful reception I received from owner Bruce. Province Lake Golf Course, however, is a lovely, interesting and challenging course which I would recommend to anyone and which I would be happy to play again.

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