Plenty of golf to be had Near the Connecticut Casinos
Connecticut golfers are buzzing with anticipation over next year's opening of the Lake of Isles Golf Club resort course in North Stonington.
The daily fee layout figures to be first class. It is being designed by Rees Jones and carved out of the scenic woodlands of eastern Connecticut. The course, along with a private club, will be owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which also owns the Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard and Foxwoods Golf and Country Club in Richmond, R.I.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While the new Lake of Isles tract will be a welcome addition to the region's golf course portfolio, there's plenty of great, affordable public golf to be had around Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun casinos. So let's take a look.
Foxwoods Golf and Country Club in Richmond, R.I. was formerly known as Boulder Hills. Since its opening, the course has developed a reputation as a tough test despite its short overall length of 6,000 yards.
The layout is routed through woodlands and hills, which places a premium on accuracy off the tee and on approach shots. The best hole here may be the third, a 420-yard par-four that begins from an elevated tee and ambles along to a narrow, elevated green.
Fox Hopyard Golf Club East Haddam, Ct. is a short ride from the casinos. The club prides itself on providing a country club feel, and the golf course here is superb. There are a number of forced carries at The Hopyard with wetlands and ponds aplenty. The layout is a pleasing blend of links style and woodland holes.
You will be hard-pressed to find better, or more scenic, back-to-back holes than the 200-yard par-three fourth and the 520-yard par-five fifth. Both begin from an elevated tee and afford spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton, Ct. is known as one of the best municipal courses in the state. While much of the Donald Ross tract has a decided links feel to it, there are several woodland holes that provide a pleasant contrast.
The 16th hole at Shenny is a magical, 410-yard par-four that calls for a tee shot over wetlands to a tight landing area. The approach shot is to a slightly elevated, large green that offers a scintillating view of Long Island Sound. It's one of the more photographed golf holes in the state. Three holes built several years ago after a land swap with are routed along the Sound.
Norwich Golf Club in Norwich, Ct. is one of the real hidden gems of the area. Again, it’s a short course, measuring only 6,231 yards from the tips. But legend has it that Donald Ross had a hand in the design of the layout and it shows, with rambling, mounded fairways and small greens that have drop-offs on every side.
Maybe the best hole at Norwich is the 350-yard, par-four third. It's a 350-yard sharp dogleg left that plays longer if you let your drive drift off to the right. The approach must be played to a small, sloped and elevated green that punishes wayward shots.
The 17th, a short par four that measures hardly 300 yards, is a prime example of an old-time, quirky design. Big hitters can drive the green, but it's a pushed up putting surface and looks far easier than it plays.
Richmond Country Club in Hope Valley, R.I., a Cornish-Silva design, opened 13 years ago and quickly developed a reputation as a stern test even for accomplished golfers.
The course is set amidst a landscape of tall pine trees and features quick, undulating greens and brutish par-fours. If you play the tips here you'll have to eat your spinach for breakfast. Six par fours measure 423 yards or better and two are over 450 yards in length.
Fenner Hill Golf Club in Hopkinton, R.I. is a course that will puzzle and charm you at the same time. It opened only five years ago, and the owners take pride in offering a layout that is far from average. There are a number of forced carries and proper club selection is essential to scoring well. Fenner Hill measures 6,636 yards from the tips and the fairways are generous.
River Ridge Golf Course in Griswold, Ct., only nine miles from the casinos, is another relatively new course that was routed through mature stands of trees. The course features dramatic elevation changes and has several doglegs that tax your ability to drive the ball to the proper position for a clear shot to the green.
There are 27 holes of fun waiting at Elmridge Golf Club in Pawcatuck, Ct., near the Rhode Island border. Five years ago, Elmridge, a friendly, playable tract for golfers of all abilities, expanded from 18 to 27 holes to meet the increased play brought on by the casinos.
The course's holes vary between wide open and tight and there is enough water around to keep the player honest off the tee and on approaches to the medium-sized, undulating greens.
Donald Ross lent is skills to the design of Winnapaug Golf Course in Westerly, R.I. It's 6,345 yards from the tips and the fairways are wide and forgiving on most holes. But, as is the case with all of Ross' creations, the real test comes around the greens.
The 465-yard, par-five 15th is a super hole. A big hit of off the tee gives the player the chance to go for the green in two. But there is out-of-bounds to the left and a pond to the right of a sunken green, making a true shot a must.
Pequot Golf Club in Stonington, Ct. measures only 6,000 yards from the back markers, but the fairways are tight and the course wanders through woodlands. The greens are kept running quick, so forget about the overall yardage of the layout and focus on proper club selection and your short game around and on the greens.
There are several solid nine-hole courses, such as Fenwick Golf Course in Old Saybrook, Ct. and Weekapaug Country Club in Westerly, R.I., that offer the hurried golfer delightful alternatives to a full 18.
When not golfing or playing at the casinos, southeast Connecticut and the South County area of Rhode Island offer a plethora of leisure and recreational activities, including the Mystic Seaport and Aquarium, Stonington Vineyards, yachting and sail boating, shopping, and miles of beautiful beaches to spend a lazy afternoon or early evening.
Lodging is ample and the restaurants are mostly excellent, offering menus that run the gamut from lobster roll to lobster in the rough.