What better way to spend the fall than to travel our Connecticut Golf Trail.
Golfing Magazine will take you along for a ride as we visit some of the best daily fee courses this little state has to offer. Despite its relative small geographic size, the Nutmeg State has loads of great golf to enjoy when the leaves start to turn colors and the days and nights grow crisp. With an excellent highway system, no course is more than a two-hour drive away from the state’s borders.
Connecticut has wonderful hotels, inns, bed and breakfast establishments, restaurants, shopping venues, beaches, casinos, educational attractions and historical sites, so this is a plethora of things to do and see after golf, whether it is picking apples at an orchard or sitting on the beach and reading a good book.
Let’s start our trip in the Greater Hartford area, where a number of our favorite tracks are located.Blue Fox Run Golf Course
in Avon is in its second full year following a renovation of its routing that added a new nine holes, making the club 27 holes in all. An existing nine was mixed with the new nine to create a fun, playable 18 holes. The former back nine is still in play on the other side of the Farmington River and offers players a nine-hole option or the ability to tack on an additional nine holes to make for a full day of golf.
The new 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 500-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 the large, oblong green in two.
Probably the best new par-four is the 400-yard seventh on the White Course. A pond guards the entire left side of the dogleg left hole
The 201-yard seventh hole on the Red Course has a pond guarding the right side of the green and bunkers are scattered around the putting surface. www.bluefoxent.com
Right down the road from Blue Fox is Tower Ridge Country Club
in Simsbury. The course is one of the most unique layouts in the state, with a feel more like that of a northern New England track. The layout has several dramatic elevation changes as it winds up and down steep hills, with fabulous views and challenging shots.
After a journey along the Farmington River valley for the first three holes, one of which is a super 185-yard par-three across water, the remaining holes on the front side play up and then down a steep cliff.
The fourth hole is a scenic, 385-yard par-four that demands an accurate tee shot to find a narrow landing area that sits between a pond and a wetland area. The approach is to an elevated green with the flag partially hidden from sight. www.towerridgecc.com
One of the best-conditioned, player-friendly tracks in Connecticut is Rockledge Golf Club
in West Hartford.
The relatively flat layout that sits in a beautiful parkland setting is approachable for all levels of players, challenging for the better golfer, and offers a pleasing mix of holes and finely manicured fairways greens and tee boxes.
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. The par-five 14th measures 528 yards from the tips, and big hitters can think about going for the green in two because the tee shot will tumble down a slight hill. The green is guarded by a lone tree and bunkers to the left and rear and a pond well below the putting surface to the right, which makes going for it in two a gamble. www.golfrockledge.com
(860) 521-3156Kenney Golf Course
in Hartford is a fun track for players of all abilities.
The layout plays just over 6,000 yards from the back markers and has a slope of 115. The fairways are somewhat rolling, but Kenney is easy to walk and therefore a favorite of those who like to mix a little exercise in with their golf swings. www.mdmgolf.com
The 27-hole Stanley Golf Course
in New Britain has long been considered one of the premier daily fee facilities in Connecticut. 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.
The White Nine is a friendly track that has a nice mix of holes. The 330-yard par-four sixth hole and 123-yard par-three seventh conspire to offer wonderful back-to-back birdie opportunities.
The Red Course is as friendly as the White nine, with no par-four over 388 yards from the back markers and two par-fives that can be reached in two. But the 233-yard second hole is perhaps the toughest short hole on the course.
The Blue Course is a very fair, tougher routing that has two strong par-fives and one of the most demanding par-fours at the club, the 434-yard seventh that has a pond guarding the right side of the green. www.stanleygolf.com
(860) 827-8144Manchester Country Club
in Manchester opened in 1917 and was designed by two early 20th century course architects, Tom Bendelow and Devereaux Emmett, the latter creating famed Congressional in Washington, D.C.
Manchester features superb conditions and 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 the medium-sized greens.
The course plays only 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. www.mancc.com
Nearby in Glastonbury, you will find one of the neatest little nine-hole tracks in the state, Minnechaug Golf Course
The well-manicured layout is only 2,668 yards from the back markers and plays to a par of 35. But the fairways are narrow and the par-threes demanding. The course features a true island green, a 125-yarder that plays from an elevated tee box. www.minnechauggolf.com
(860) 643-9914Long Hill County Club
, formerly East Hartford Golf Club, has been taken over by new management and many changes have been made on this Greater Hartford favorite.
The Al Zikorus design plays around 6,000 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. www.mdmgolf.com
(860) 528-5082Pine Valley Golf Club
in Southington is a great course run by a welcoming staff. The Orrin E. Smith designed track is daily fee golf at its best. The course won’t beat you up and is only a little over 6,300 yards from the tips. But a number of the holes are tree-lined and dogleg either right or left, which places a premium on accuracy off the tee. This is a very walkable course with only a few holes at the close of the round demanding a bit of a climb.
Pine Valley is scenic and really comes alive with color in autumn. Conditions are kept very good throughout the season.
The course starts with a rather short, 510-yard par-five that big hitters can reach in two as long as they manage to clear a rise in the fairway around 240 yards off the tee.
One of the best risk-reward holes you will find anywhere is the 311-yard, par-four sixth. You have a decision to make on the tee box; whether to take a mid-iron and lay up in front of a pond or take driver out and attempt to work the ball along a small portion of the fairway to the left of the water. www.pinevalleygolfct.com
Pomperaug Golf Club
in Southbury is one of the sweetest nine-hole layouts in the state. There’s water on most of the holes and the conditions are usually mint. The course takes advantage of the natural landscape, with the fairways tree-lined and seven of nine holes featuring water. The course is part of a Heritage Hotel resort complex, which makes it ideal for a stay and play visit. www.heritagesouthbury.com
(203) 264-8200Quarry Ridge Golf Club
, located on the slopes of the Connecticut River valley in Portland, offers some of the best vistas 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 and conditions are always top-notch.
The course plays just 6,369 yards from the back tees but it’s all about proper club selection and accurate shot making at Quarry Ridge.
Perhaps the best long hole on the course is the 509-yard, par-five fourth. The green is reachable in two, but there’s a hazard down the left side and a pond behind the putting surface.
The 13th hole, a 310-yard par-four, is reachable for the big hitters and the 16th is a short, 149-yard par-three that causes all kinds of problems because the green is elevated and drops off severely to the right.
The 422-yard par-four 18th is a superb finishing hole. You will need to hit a good drive to an elevated landing area to leave yourself a reasonable approach to the green below. Just make sure you don’t pull or push your drive left as there’s a huge quarry that has gobbled up more than its fair share of golf balls. www.quarryridge.com
(860) 342-6113Banner Country Club
, a 6,015-yard, par-72 track, is situated on 200 acres of scenic Connecticut countryside in Moodus.
There is a pleasing mix of wooded and open holes and the layout is playable for all levels and challenging enough to hold the interest of more accomplished golfers.
Especially daunting are back-to-back par-fives on the front side. The sixth is a 507-yard, double-dogleg with water and an elevated green. The putting surface can be reached in two, but there is plenty of danger awaiting an errant shot. www.bannercountryclub.com
(860) 873-9075 Elmridge Golf Club
in Pawcatuck is solid public golf. The prices are affordable and the three nines 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, which complicate matters off the tee. 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.
The only par-five on the Red, the 501-yard fourth, is reachable in two for big hitters, and the ninth hole, a 278-yard par-four, has a green attainable with a lusty drive. www.elmridgegolf.com
(860) 599-2248Orange Hills Country Club
in Orange is one of the toughest and best-conditioned public courses around. Orange Hills is also a stringent test of playing ability. The course has hosted several top tournaments and recently served as a qualifying spot for the Connecticut Senior Amateur.
The 6,409-yard track may be on the short side but it has plenty of bite. The front nine is rather flat, while the back side owns up to the course’s name, with a number of elevated tees and greens and rolling fairways that test a player’s shot making and club selection. The greens can be tough. www.orangehillscountryclub.com