A cool golf hole has to have that “wow” factor. It has to visually, figuratively of course, knock your golf shoes off your feet, which often means dramatic elevation changes, water or wetlands, and a strong green complex. It should have some element of risk/reward, make you think your way to the flagstick. It should be approachable for the average golfer. And, during the autumn, a nice view of the foliage makes a cool hole even cooler.
So, here are 18 cool golf holes in New England, all adding up to one very nice “Autumn Fantasy” par-72, 18-hole golf course that would be one heck of a fun track to play if it really existed. But, then again, it does. But you will have to hop around a lot. LOL.
Number One: 14th at Wintonbury Hills GC, Bloomfield, Ct., Par-4, 455 yards. The hole starts by a nature preserve that comes alive with color in the autumn and proceeds through a chute of trees to a green protected by wetlands, oaks, maples and birches to the back and bunkers. You can bail out left, but a steep hill deadens the ball and leaves you with a long-iron or fairway wood into a green that is protected by wetlands, woods, and bunkers.
Number Two: 8th at Blue Fox Run Blue GC, Avon, Ct. Par-3, 175 yards. How about a pretty, short par-three for the next hole. For all intents and purposes the hole has an island green (a small strip of land connects the green to a cart path). A well-placed mid-iron will be needed to find the short grass. There is a large tree that guards the right side of the island and serves as a visually sweet backdrop during fall.
Number Three: 8th at Cranwell Resort, Spa and GC, Lenox, Ma., Par-4, 365 yards. The eighth hole is one of the neatest on the course. You tee off next to the historic resort hotel and can cut the distance to the hole on the 347-yard par-four dramatically if you take the drive over trees that hug the left side. The tee box gives you a stunning view of the surrounding Berkshire Hills ablaze with color. It’s all downhill to a small green that is easy to miss if you don’t concentrate on the pitch shot.
Number Four: 17th at Green Mountain National GC, Killington, Vt., Par-4, 394 yards. Leaf peepers come from all over the country to look at the mountainsides of Vermont. All golfers have to do is play Green Mountain National to get more than an eyeful of color. The final run of holes are all strong and offer some real nice looks at the surrounding countryside, perhaps nowhere better than on the elevated tee box on the 394-yard par-four 17th.
Number Five: 8th at Crumpin Fox Club, Bernardston, Ma., Par-5, 592 yards. The eighth is an amazing par-five and is certainly the most difficult hole on the course. It starts from an elevated tee box and a lake plays a factor on the first, second and third shots, as it must be avoided and then cleared on any approach to a rather large green protected by bunkers.
Number Six: 3rd at Gillette Ridge GC, Bloomfield, Ct., Par-4, 431 yards. A dogleg left where precision is a must on the approach shot. You also need a good drive, as you will not want to come in with anything more than a mid-iron. The green is surrounded by water left and back, which makes for a tasty view when the leaves turn, begin to fall and float across the still water on a mid-autumn afternoon.
Number Seven: 18th at Blackstone National GC, Sutton, Ma., Par-5, 485 yards. The tee shot must be true to find a landing area protected by wetlands and woods, which can distract you with their beauty during the fall. Big hitters can reach the putting surface in two shots after a strong drive, but the approach is uphill and there are a number of deep bunkers guarding the putting surface. The smart play, especially if you have a good round going, is to lay up in front of the green and knock the ball onto the putting surface with a wedge. Make sure you turn around and drink in the view once you finish your round.
Number Eight: 16th at Shennecossett GC, Groton, Ct., Par-4, 400 yards. The tee shot is over a marsh and the second is at a green that truly offers one of the coolest views of any in Connecticut; the putting surface basically borders Long Island Sound. Every so often you’ll see a submarine coming or going to the naval base, and the woods that line the shore beyond offer a bucolic backdrop.
Number Nine: 17th at Point Sebago GC, Casco, Me., Par-3, 202 yards.
Maine in autumn is sublime and so is the 17th at Point Sebago, a demanding, uphill 202-yard par-three, which has its green sitting in a grassy hollow, with a bunker guarding the front of the green and pot bunkers to the left.
Number 10: 2nd at Lake of Isles GC North Course, North Stonington, Ct., Par-3, 216 yards. The tee shot affords a lovely look at a lake that wanders through the course, and you’d better catch the ball on the screws because the tee shot must carry the wet stuff to find a long, sloping green. The courses was built trough mature stands of maples and oaks, which sparkle red, yellow and orange in late September and October.
Number 11: 1st at Spring Meadow GC, Gray, Me., Par-4, 420 yards.
Another Maine beauty that delights the senses on a cool morning or afternoon. The par-four plays 430 yards from the tips and there is a pond to the right that must be avoided on the tee shot. If you play safe to the left you will have a longer approach that again must contend with the water and a bunker.
Number 12: 17th at Blissful Meadows GC, Uxbridge, Ma. Par-4, 400 yards. Blissful Meadows is another course routed through woodlands, which, of course, makes for an ideal round on a mild autumn afternoon. Number 17 is a perfect penultimate hole. The toughest shot is the approach, with a pond guarding the green to the left. When the pin is tucked close to the water it begs you to pull off a hero shot and risk making bogey or worse.
Number 13: 4th at Fox Hopyard GC, East Haddam, Ct., Par-3, 202 yards. As good as it gets. The fourth at the Hopyard starts from a dramatically elevated tee that affords simply stunning views of the surrounding countryside. It’s difficult to concentrate and find the large green that sits below.
Number 14: 4th at The Ledges GC, South Hadley, Ma., Par-4, 305 yards. The fourth hole on a course full of thoughtful, scenic holes is a classic risk/reward undertaking. It’s only 305 yards from the tips but there is water all the way down the left side to the green. The wind is usually in your face on the hole, which complicates matters. Take driver and try for the green or lay a four-iron into the fairway and come in with a short iron. It’s up to you.
Number 15: 1st at The Shattuck GC, Jaffrey, N.H., par-4, 409 yards.
The locals call it “beauty and the beast.” The beauty comes in the form of a panoramic vista from the tee, which encompasses a large outcropping of red rock rising up from the lush green fairway with Mount Monadnock behind. The beast comes when Stony Brook cuts across the fairway at the 150-yard marker and runs down the left side, requiring an accurate shot off the tee.
Number 16: 6th at Mohegan Sun CC, Pautipaug, Ct., Par-5, 495 yards.
Just a gorgeous hole from start to finish. It begins from a severely elevated tee. There is water if your tee shot is hit too strong straightway and big hitters can cut the corner on the right to shorten the approach, which is to an elevated green tucked into a hillside. A waterfall tumbles down toward a pond below. It’s a classic risk/reward hole that is extremely pleasing to the eye, never more so than in autumn.
Number 17: 18th at Tower Ridge CC, Simsbury, Ct., Par-4, 374 yards.
The finale at Tower Ridge, which affords perhaps the best view in the autumn of any course in Connecticut, starts from an elevated tee and has an open fairway landing area. But it demands an approach across a pond to the putting surface, which sits below a clubhouse terrace.
Number 18: 9th at The Ranch GC, Southwick, Ma. Par-5, 540 yards.
We have to finish our round with one of two great par-fives at this special layout. The ninth plays dramatically downhill and affords incredible views of the surrounding hillsides. A well struck tee shot on the ninth will tumble down a hill and leave the player with a choice of either laying up for a short third shot or going for the green in two by challenging a wetlands area in front of the putting surface.
So there you have it. Our cool autumn 18. Better get going if you want to play the entire course before the snow flies.