Thanks to Golfing Magazine’s “Free Golf” program you get a complimentary round of golf on a number of courses in Connecticut when you sign up. Call 860-563-1633, or visit www.FreeGolf.net to get aboard. There is still a lot of time left to enjoy the courses on our list. Here are the layouts, some private that you can play for a cart or a small service fee by partnering with us.
The Golf Club at River Oaks (www.ClubRiverOaks.com) is located on the Sherman/New Milford town line in western Connecticut. The courses has a number of holes on its back nine that hug the Housatonic River, which is visible through the trees in late autumn or early spring. The look from the tee box on the par-four dogleg left ninth hole reminds one of playing golf in northern New England rather than Connecticut. Many consider this to be one of the top two or three courses in the state. Robert McNeil designed the course that opened in 2003, and he built into it challenge and fairness.
Farmington Woods Country Club (www.FarmingtonWoods.com) in Avon was designed by American designer Desmond Muirhead, who also crafted the famed Jack Nicklaus Muirfield Village course in Ohio. The layout is unique to the Farmington River Valley area in that there are dramatic elevation changes in what is usually a rather flat section of Connecticut. The course features woods that line many of the fairways, as well as wetlands.
Hop Meadow Country Club (www.HopMeadow.club) in Simsbury was designed by Geoffrey Cornish and the architect used the terrain available to him to create dramatic elevation changes, especially on the par-three ninth and 16th holes. Both begin from elevated tees and finish at greens that are fronted by a pond (the ninth) and a small stream (the 16th). One of the best holes in the course is the finisher, a 521-yard par-five that has water hiding on the right side and water to the left and cutting into the fairway about 30 yards out from the putting surface.
Tumble Brook Country Club (www.TumbleBrookCC.com) was incorporated and organized in 1922 and features 27 holes. Willie Park, one of the foremost golf course architects of the time, was commissioned to design the first nine. A second nine, designed by Orrin E. Smith, was opened to play in the spring of 1949. The third nine, designed by George Fazio, opened for limited play in the fall of 1970, and was eventually integrated with the rest of the golf course in 1971.The seventh hole on the “Green Course,” a combination of two of the three nines, is a 440-yard beast where par is an accomplishment for any level of player.
Chippanee Country Club (www.Chippanee.com) in Bristol is always in great condition thanks to an aggressive maintenance program and course updates. Although the layout plays to a par-70 from the blue tees (a modest 6,310 yards), Chippanee has small, challenging greens and tight narrow fairways. Water comes into play on the par-five fourth hole, the par-four 10th hole, and the par-three 11th hole.
Suffield Country Club (www.SuffieldCC.com) is an historic track crafted by Ian Smyth in a classic, traditional New England-style. The course ambles over the rolling land, and plays around 3,000 yards for nine holes. The short distance of the course is offset by tight fairways and small, fast undulating greens. Out-of-bounds borders holes three through six, and heavy rough and tall oak trees lurk off the fairways. Only two holes, three and seven, have fairway bunkers.
THE GREATER HARTFORD AREA
Blue Fox Run Golf Course (www.BlueFoxEnt.com) in Avon has 27 holes of golf. A new nine was added several years ago and these holes are a pleasing mix of those that are open in nature and several that are lined by trees. There is ample bunkering in the fairways and around the modest-sized greens. One of the best new holes is the 512-yard par-five fourth on the White Course. If you can steer clear of fairway bunkers to the left of the fairway and high grass on the right, you may be left with an opportunity to go for a large, oblong green in two.
Simsbury Farms Golf Course (www.SimsburyFarms.com), which measures 6,509 yards in length from the championship markers, was designed by Geoffrey Cornish and opened for play in 1972. Recognized as one of the top 100 courses in New England by one New England publication, he course provides an excellent test of golf and a visually pleasing round. A driving range and large practice green, as well as a newly constructed clubhouse compliment the golfing complex.
The Kemp family of purchased the Airways Golf Course (www.AirwaysGolfCourse.com) in West Suffield in 1996 with the intent of providing good, affordable and friendly golf to the town and surrounding communities. Their course is on the short side, 5,845 yards from the tips, and you can score here as long as you drive the ball well. Included in the final five holes of the front side are four par-fours measuring around 300 yards, including the ninth at 273 yards. The 16th is a strong par-five playing 481 yards from the tips. The hole doglegs to the right and there is water to worry about off the tee and on the second shot.
Keney Park Golf Course (www.KeneyParkGolfCourse.com) in Hartford underwent renovations and upgrades that turned what was a rundown layout into a very good course again. The par-70 track occupies Hartford’s historic 700-acre Keney Park, located in the city’s north end. The first nine holes of the course were finished in 1927, and the remaining nine were completed in 1930. Keney was designed by notable early 20th century American architect Devereux Emmet, who has several illustrious courses to his credit, including Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., the site of several U.S. Opens.
Goodwin Park Golf Course (www.GoodwinParkGolfCourse.com) in Hartford offers 27 holes, with the shortish North Course (2,544 yards) a great place for beginners and senior players to hone their skills and enjoy a leisurely round. The more demanding 18-hole course plays around 6,000 yards from the back markers and features a number of par-fours that are drivable, or approachable, off the tee for long hitters. The 381-yard ninth hole may be the toughest par-four on the track.
East Hartford Golf Club (www.EastHartfordGC.com) was designed by Al Zikorus, plays around 6,200 yards from the tips, and has a nice mix of short par-fours that can be attacked with driver, reachable-in-two par-fives and solid par-threes. There are a number of tee settings to cater to every ability. This classical design is great for newcomers to the game, but tree-lined fairways and small greens present a challenge to even the most skilled golfer.
The 27-hole Stanley Golf Course (www.StanleyGolf.com) in New Britain has long been considered one of the premier daily fee facilities in the state. With three distinct nines to select from and some of the best conditions in the Greater Hartford area, Stanley has a dedicated following among the state’s golfers. Some modifications were made a few years back to the course, with several new or reshaped holes created and some shifting of the nines, which made the course even more interesting and more challenging.
Hunter Golf Club (www.HunterGolfClub.com) in Meriden offers a well-rounded test of golf, with great views of surrounding trap rock ridges and Castle Craig in Meriden’s Hubbard Park, which can be seen while playing the fifth hole. The layout has one of the most challenging and perplexing opening holes you will find anywhere. It’s only 368 yards from the back tees, but a stream dissects the fairway a little over halfway to the green, so the dilemma is to take driver and risk hitting it short or right and into the water, or lay up and be left with a long approach to an elevated green. The 10th hole is a demanding 587-yard par-five that bends to the left and has water hazards on the left side of the fairway and near the green, which makes the second shot and approach tricky.
Manchester Country Club (www.ManchesterCountryClub.com) opened in 1917 and was designed by two early 20th century course architects, Tom Bendelow and Devereaux Emmett, the latter creating famed Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C., and Keney Park’s golf course. Manchester features bunkers placed strategically around the fairway landing areas and putting surfaces, which puts a premium on accuracy both off the tee and on approaches to medium-sized greens. The course plays 6,339 yards from the tips and has a par of 72, but the slope of 128 gives you an idea about the challenge you will face here. There are some elevation changes and water comes into play on several holes.
One of the best-conditioned, player-friendly tracks in Connecticut is Rockledge Country Club (www.GolfRockledge.com) in West Hartford. The relatively flat layout is routed in a parkland setting and offers a pleasing mix of holes. Rockledge has a number of very good holes, ranging from short par-fours, like the 290-yard second and 317-yard 11th, where birdies await, to classic risk/reward par-fives.
Timberlin Golf Club (www.TimberlinGolf.com) in Berlin has a park-like routing, and was given a facelift a few years back in the form of new bunker complexes, fairway and green complex work, an effort led by noted golf course architects Stephen Kay and Doug Smith. The track is kept in immaculate condition and the renovations added a few more teeth to this scenic track, originally designed by Al Zikorus.
NEW HAVEN AREA
Laurel View Country Club (www.LaurelViewCC.com) in Hamden is a classic Geoffrey Cornish track, the overall conditions of which have been enhanced mightily in recent years. The course continues to be a stern test of playing ability. The course can be stretched beyond 7,000 yards and features some of the toughest par-fours in the state, like the 479-yard fifth. There’s a pond guarding the right side of the green, which often must be attacked with a long iron or fairway wood. Number nine is 450 yards from the back markers, and climbs up a hill to the putting surface, making the hole play 20 to 30 yards longer than its listed yardage.
GREATER WATERBURY AREA
Established in 1902, Pequabuck Golf Course (www.PequabuckGolf.com) in Bristol is a par-69 course that has a pleasing mix of two par-fives, 11 par-fours and five par-threes. Here, you will be called upon to use every club in your bag and strategy plays a vital role in success as you navigate this well-manicured layout that has the distinction recently of being voted on Golf Advisor as the “13th Most Improved Golf Course in the United States”. While on the short side at just over 6,015 yards from the tips, Pequabuck is no pushover. It starts with a relaxing par-four that measures around 300 yards and gets you off and on your way with a chance to make birdie.
Originally a nine-hole private golf club, purchased by the town of Watertown in 1975, a second nine holes were added in 1980 to make Crestbrook Park Golf Course (www.CrestbrookPark.com) one of the best daily fee tracts in the Greater Waterbury area. Crestbrook features fast, sloping greens and has four sets of tees for all levels of play. The course, which plays almost 7,000 yards from the tips and features a number of elevation changes, has an interesting mix of holes, from par-fives that demand thoughtful tee and approach shots to beefy par-threes, like the 228-yard seventh where the tee shot must clear a pond to reach the putting surface.
Southington Country Club (www.SouthingtonCountryClub.com ) in Southington is fairly wide open with a few delightfully quirky holes, such as the deceptively short 306-yard par-four second and the 120-yard par-three 12th. The course is well maintained and the new ownership has made improvements to the layout course and the facilities. It’s a track that is approachable for golfers of all levels.
Hawk’s Landing Country Club (www.HawksLandingCC.com) in Southington is not long, 5,825 yards from the tips, but the course has great par-threes and some interesting par-fours. The seventh and ninth holes both play around 230 yards, while the 18th is 190 yards from the back markers with the tee shot having to carry a pond. The 360-yard par-four fifth is a good test. It doglegs to the right and the drive and approach must steer clear of water.
Whitney Farms Golf Club (www.WhitneyFarmsGC.com) in Monroe was designed by Hal Purdy and yardages range from 5,480 yards to 6,714 yards, with slope levels of 127 to 134. The layout starts in stern fashion, with three holes that will test you immediately. The first is a 426 yard par-four, the second another par-four measuring over 400 yards, and the third a 526 yard par-five. After letting up a bit, the front nine again rears its head with four difficult holes to end the outward journey. There are two par-fives that play over or around 500 yards and a pair of par-threes that play 200 yards or longer. The back nine is a bit less severe with shorter par-fours where birdie awaits. But you’ll also encounter two par-fives that play over 560 yards from the tips, and the final hole is a brutal, 442-yard par-four that can make or break a round.
Coventry’s Twin Hills Country Club (www.TwinHillsCountryClub.com) was built on a former farm and offers golf in a rural setting yet it is convenient to Hartford and other cities off Rt. 84. Twin Hills has the country charm of stone walls, a covered bridge and its signature stone bridge located on hole number three (a massive 600-yard par-five) that makes one think of the famous bridge crossing to the 12th green at Augusta National Golf Club.
Nestled into the rolling hills of the tiny town of Hebron is Blackledge Country Club (www.BlackledgeCC.net) that boasts two 18-hole courses. The club’s owners added nine holes in 1995 and another nine in 2000, creating what is called the Gilead Highlands course. The newest nine on Gilead Highlands is a bit reminiscent of Carolina courses, with wide fairways, bunkering, and tall pines and oaks framing many of the landing areas and large greens. Anderson’s Glen has the club’s original 18 holes and is another very solid test. The fairways are tree lined and the greens undulating.
Quarry Ridge Golf Club (www.QuarryRidge.com), located on the slopes of the Connecticut River valley in Portland, offers some of the best views in Connecticut. This is a true shot-maker’s delight, with dramatic elevation changes, an interesting mix of long and short holes, and tricky greens. The course is regularly listed among the best in Connecticut. The course plays 6,369 yards from the back tees, but it’s all about proper club selection and accurate shot making at Quarry Ridge.
Portland Golf Course (www.PortlandGolfCourse.com), which measures just over 6,200 yards from the tips and plays to a par of 71, is also set in the rolling hills of the Connecticut River Valley. Its tree-lined fairways, various elevation changes, and doglegs make the track challenging and enjoyable for all players. The 405-yard par-four first hole is a strong way to begin a round. The tee shot is relatively easy, but the second shot is down a 60-foot drop to the green, making club selection difficult.
Fox Hopyard Golf Club (www.GolfTheFox.com) in East Haddam, designed by Roger Rulewich, is considered one of the premier daily fee layouts in southern New England. The club offers a blend of challenging golf, first-class customer care and a setting that is difficult to beat. There isn’t a weak hole at Fox Hopyard. At almost 7,000 yards from the back markers, which carry a slope rating of 136, the par-71 track offers a stern test for even the best players. But five sets of tees allow the course to be enjoyed by golfers of all abilities. The par-three fourth and par-five fifth may be the best one-two punch in the region.
The Golf Club at Windham (www.WindhamClub.com) first opened in 1922 and was once maintained as a private facility. The putting surfaces are medium in size with some undulation. They roll true and reward good approach shots with makeable birdie opportunities. The rough areas are kept at a height to punish wayward tee shots but still allow players to advance the ball to the greens.
NEAR THE CONNECTICUT CASINOS
Robert McNeil re-worked Mohegan Sun Golf Club (www.MoheganSunGolfClub.com) and took a layout first designed by Geoffrey Cornish and reworked by Stephen Kay in 2002 and created something new and special. McNeil opened up to course to give it somewhat of a links feel on many holes, with mounded fairway and greenside bunkers and tall fescue grass growing in the rough areas. In all, five holes were totally rebuilt, the bunkers redesigned and all new greens installed.
Shennecossett Golf Course (www.Groton-Ct.Gov) in Groton, built in 1898, is as close to a true links course as you will find in the Nutmeg State. The flat layout has the design features–pot bunkers, tall fescue grass off the fairways and even three holes on or near Long Island Sound. When the wind blows hard it can bend the flagsticks and make some par-fours almost impossible to reach in two. The “new” holes here (the course was originally designed by Donald Ross) are 15, 16 and 17, with the 16th, a 400-yard par-four, finishing on a green that lies within a chip shot of Long Island Sound.
Connecticut National Golf Club (www.CTNationalGolf.com) in Putnam was reborn after extensive renovations several years ago added 800 yards of length to the original 6,169 yards, as well as modern styling. In all, some 4,000 trees were removed, new fairways seeded and sodded, bunkers added or altered, and new green complexes built. It’s now one of the best daily fee layouts on Southern New England. Connecticut National Golf Club is a pleasant mix of links-style and parkland holes.
Elmridge Golf Club (www.ElmridgeGolf.com) in Pawcatuck features three nines that are eminently playable for golfers of all abilities. The par-fours are on the short side, most measuring between 340 and 370 yards from the middle tees, but a number of them are dogleg designs. The par-threes are strengths of the layout and several measure close to or over 200 yards. One of the best par-fives on the course is the 525-yard (back tees) seventh on the Blue Course. The hole bends slightly to the right and a good drive will leave you with a shot to go for the green in two. But there are bunkers guarding the putting surface and the green is elevated.
Designed in 1958 by Wendell Ross, Pequot Golf Club (www.PequotGolf.com) in Stonington has been played by such greats of the game as Jack Nicklaus, who in 1966 set the “official” course record of 65 that stands today. Pequot’s par 70, 18-hole layout is an enjoyable track routed through mature woodlands. The course measures 5,903 yards from the longest tees, has a slope rating of 118, and a 68.7 USGA rating.
Norwich Golf Club (www.NorwichGolf.com) is known for its fine playing conditions and is a tricky layout that is approachable and interesting for players of all abilities. The course opened in 1925 on July 4th. It was designed by Tull and Tull, a famous golf course architectural firm of the day, and there is some indication that Walter Travis, a noted designer and legendary amateur player, had a hand in the routing, or at least offered suggestions. Norwich isn’t long, just 6,191 yards from the tips. But its slope of 131 from the championship markers gives you an idea of just how difficult it can be.
River Ridge Golf Course (www.RiverRidgeGolf.com) in Jewett City opened in May of 1999 and is a carefully maintained course that features a tee-to-green watering system, and many player friendly amenities. The first three holes were built on open space that was formerly an apple orchard. The other 15 holes are characterized by rolling hills and scenic vistas that present various challenges. The front side plays to a par of 37 and is a demanding nine holes. It has three of the course’s par-fives, all pretty much asking for three good shots to find the green in regulation.