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Courses We Love: Yale Golf Course

Courses We love: Yale Golf Course

What words can best describe Yale? Big, bold, hilly, extreme? We think any and all, but when we played Yale, the thing that you’re not prepared for is how pictures just don’t do justice to the extreme land that the course sits on. Pictures just flatten everything and until you stand on the 9th tee, for example, you really don’t realize how elevated that tee shot really is! And you can’t really be prepared for the size of the greens, depth of the bunkers or the extremely steep uphill 10th hole or the rollercoaster downhill 18th. What CB McDonald, Seth Raynor and Charles “Steamshovel” Banks built in the Connecticut woods in 1926 can best be described as an epic rollercoaster of classic template holes built on land most would describe as extreme, but we were so glad we had our trolley as it was the crutch we needed to walk some of the holes on this course!

From the Yale website:

“In 1924, a 700-acre tract of swamp and woodland was given to Yale by Mrs. Ray Tompkins in memory of her husband. Under the supervision of Charles Blair Macdonald, the renowned golf course architect, champion golfer, and co-founder of the USGA, plans were made for an 18-hole golf course. With a budget of $400,000, Macdonald, in collaboration with Seth Raynor and Charles Banks, designed a masterpiece which opened for play in 1926.

Today, the Yale Golf Course is recognized as one of the finest examples of early American golf course design. Large deeply bunkered greens and narrow rolling fairways are the core of Yale's penalizing character. In 1988, Golf Magazine ranked Yale as 71st among the 100 most difficult courses in the world. Many recognize the layout as the best collegiate course in the nation. Two of the holes- the 432-yard par-4 fourth and the 238-yard par-3 ninth - have been ranked among the 100 most difficult holes.”

While we definitely agree the 4th and 9th were two of the most difficult holes, we have a few other standouts that we’d like to highlight below.

3rd Hole - par 4 “Blind” 380 Yards

Photo Credit: Grayln Loomis 

The 3rd is the first hole we fell in love with. A pond on the right and a big hill blocking the view of the green on the left provide the challenge here. Hot it near the water off the tee and the green is visible on the 2nd. Pull it way left like we did and the green is entirely blind on the approach.

5th hole - par 3 “Short” 147 yards

Better not miss as this hole requires accuracy. Deep bunkers surround the green and only an accurate short iron will do. The green slopes back to front and leaves some interesting putts even when you do hit the green.

8th hole - par 4 “Cape” 415 yards

Photo Credit: Grayln Loomis 

A strong par 4 where the tee shot often leaves a blind approach to an enormous green, the bunkers to the left have to be avoided by the green as they are at least 40 feet below the surface. A kicker on the front right of the green can be used to fee balls to any back left hole location. An all-world hole often overshadowed by the 9th.

9th hole - par 3 “Biarritz” 215 yards

What can you say that’s not been said about this hole? Way more downhill than it looks and a 60 yard deep green divided into two sections by a huge swail make this what many say is the best Biarritz template in golf. Take your par and head up the huge hill to the 10th green.

13th hole - par 3 “Redan” 210 yards

The Redan, modeled after the famous 16th at North Berwick is just a big hole. Way more downhill than it looks and with a huge green that sweeps front right to back left as is typical for a Redan, this hole requires a good shot. The soft conditions and downhill nature slightly neuter hitting a ball of the kicker and feeding it back to a back left hole location, but still a visually stunning hole nonetheless.

18th hole - par 5 “Home” 620 yards

Photo Credit: Grayln Loomis 

The controversial and immense 18th hole at Yale defines everything to love about this course. From the blue tees, there is a flat area of fairway blocked from view by a hill on the right where a drive should land. From there a golfer can go right around the massive hill on the second shot or try to hit to the top, or hopefully carry far enough to roll down the backside leaving a short iron into the green. The hill to the left must be 100 feet high and a 3rd shot from the top leaves an exhilarating 3rd shot to a big and relatively receptive green. Par here is a great score and a great way to end the rollercoaster of a round you just played.

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