Many golfers in New England and beyond know that Mingo Springs Golf Course, bounded by Route 4, Proctor Road and the Mingo Loop in Rangeley, Maine, offers eighteen beautiful holes of scenic golf in clear mountain air, almost 1800 feet above sea level. What is equally wonderful about this course, but less well known, is its history. In the 1920’s, a group of private individuals purchased the 1801 Pillsbury Farm set in the hills above Rangeley Lake, and constructed a private lodge, what is now called the Country Club Inn. They created a nine-hole golf course, then known as the Rangeley Lakes Country Club and now the front nine of Mingo Springs, out of the farm’s rolling hay fields. Nearby, the old Mingo Springs Hotel offered competition with its own nine holes of golf. Mingo Springs Golf Club took its name from a Native American term that means clear water from a spring, in recognition of the spring that still runs to this day on the fifteenth hole of the modern-day back nine.

Golfers prepare for a round at Mingo in the 1950s.

Golfers prepare for a round at Mingo.

In the late 20s, plans were drawn for an additional nine holes to be added to the Country Club side of the course. The layout called for another 3000 yards of golf stretching down the hill nearly all the way to Rangeley Lake. These plans were never realized, and the land was later sold to a developer. Eventually, roads were cut, lots were created and sold, and homes were built. This development near the lakeshore makes it easy to see what might have become of Mingo if not for the dedication of a few individuals who were committed to saving golf for Rangeley. There could easily be a home on every green and a backyard in every fairway.

In the 1960s, both courses faced extinction; real estate developers pursued purchase and development of the land of both courses; and golf in the Rangeley Lakes Region nearly ended forever. But from 1968 to 1973, several local and seasonal residents, including the current owner, Melba Chodosh, undertook not only to preserve these antique courses, but also to combine them into one eighteen-hole course. Today Mingo Springs Golf Course offers the rare chance for any golfer to experience the sport on an unspoiled course built in the early parts of the last century.

An old Mingo Scorecard showing the unified 18-hole course, and the old order of front nine holes.

An old Mingo Scorecard showing the unified 18 hole course.

Until recently there were no tee times offered or required; and even today, it is often first come, first served. Deer, fox and moose cross the fairways on a regular basis. The course is set high on a hillside and enjoys wonderful views in all directions. From the eleventh tee, one can see much of Rangeley Lake, as well as Mooselookmeguntic Lake to its west. Most of the greens are small but elevated, and the rough is thick. You can’t hire a caddie anymore (and certainly not for 50 cents, like in the old days); and Si Pillsbury retired as the Mingo Springs Pro decades ago; but now Kyle Ladd gives lessons in Si’s great grandfather’s old hay field every day of the week.

One other thing you should know: Ben Hogan once said, “All other things being equal, greens break to the west.” At Mingo, all other things being equal, greens break to the lake.