The Best of New England: Golf

With varied landscapes and a heavy concentration of resorts, New England has some of the most beautiful courses in the world.

THE BALSAMS RESORT The approaches here call to mind that grand mountain hotel from The Shining – they’re just that scary. Designed by Donald Ross with wide-open fairways that tuck and roll over mountainous terrain, this is as tricky a course as you’ll find anywhere in New England. The resort itself is a delicious time warp, with men required to wear evening jackets to dinner and no civilization to intrude upon the breathtaking views from the wraparound front porch. 1000 Cold Spring Rd., Dixville Notch, NH, 800-255-0600,

CRANWELL RESORT, SPA, AND GOLF CLUB Cranwell’s gorgeous Berkshire “summer cottage” (read: stone turreted mansion) may be intimidating to newcomers, but its 18-hole golf course tries hard not to be. Open to the public as well as resort guests, the course is not only one of the best in New England, it’s also one of the friendliest. That’s not to say it’s easy. Small but challenging, it thwarts even the most experienced golfer with narrow, wooded fairways and hilly climbs between holes. 55 Lee Rd., Lenox, MA, 800-272-6935, 413-637-1364,

First opened by Walter T. Jones in 1927 and renovated by Rees Jones in 1992, Vermont’s undisputed top golf course is designed in a classic Scottish mold, with fairways clinging to the mountainside and dips and dives on every rough. With such spectacular mountain scenery all around, it can be difficult to keep your eye on the ball. When you inevitably hit a banana ball into the trees, you can at least console yourself with the views – or perhaps a postgame massage at the on-site spa. 108 Union St., Manchester Village, VT, 802-362-7870,

If you’re checking in here, you presumably already know the sport – but if you need some pointers to straighten your approach or improve your follow-through, the Golf Academy at Ocean Edge is the best in New England, with one- to three-day workshops led by PGA-trained instructors. Opened two years ago, the Nicklaus Design course is a dream, featuring both diabolical doglegs and wide-open green-ways on the edge of Cape Cod Bay. The resort also boasts newly renovated guest rooms, four restaurants, and a long, shallow beach to keep the whole family content, especially those reluctant to partake in the sport. 2907 Main St., Brewster, MA, 508-896-9000,

SAMOSET RESORT A bit of emerald mined from the rocky Maine coast, the Samoset has been impressing golfers with stunning ocean views (visible from nearly every hole) for more than 100 years. Tee boxes sit atop dramatic cliffs, and lighthouses decorate the distance, making the course easily the most beautiful in New England. But it doesn’t get by on looks alone: The recently added, 474-yard 18th hole is a nearly impossible par-4. 220 Warrenton St., Rockport, ME, 207-594-2511,