Ekwanok - Vermont - USA

Ekwanok Country Club,
3262 Main Street,
Vermont (VT) 05254,

  • +1 802 362 1774

The charming Ekwanok was designed by Walter Travis at the start of the last century and such was his golfing prowess at the time, he won the U.S. Amateur Championship on three occasions, in 1900, 1901 and 1903 then followed those up by winning the Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s in 1904.

Actually, Ekwanok has its own connection to the US Amateur competition as it hosted the event in 1914, with Francis Ouimet crowned champion the year after he’d won the US Open at the Country Club, Brookline (one of eleven golfers so far to have won both events).

Scotsman John Duncan Dunn assisted Travis with the layout at Ekwanok and their construction of contoured greens, liberal provision of bunkers and imaginative routing have endured over the last 100 years, thanks in no small part to work in the 1960s by Geoff Cornish and more recently, by Bruce Hepner from Tom Doak’s Renaissance Design.

In particular, Hepner’s program of tree removal, restoration of fairway bunkers, propagation of native grasses and resizing of some greens to their original dimensions has helped to bring the Travis course back to life and give it greater relevance in the modern era.

The 595-yard, par five, 7th hole is one of the best in all of New England, a genuine three-shotter, even for today’s big hitters. The fairway rises to a hill half way along its length, so a wood off the tee is followed by a blind fairway wood or long iron shot to the other side, before an approach can be made to the putting surface. Modern day designers may baulk at such a design but it epitomises all that is good about the Ekwanok layout.

The following article was written by author Bob Labbance and is an edited extract from Volume Four of Golf Architecture: A Worldwide Perspective . Reproduced with kind permission. To obtain a copy of the book, email Paul Daley at [email protected]

The first Walter Travis-designed golf course has been through the same changes as many fine clubs in the United States. Few century-old golf courses have remained true to their architectural roots throughout their lives. Most are the result of an evolution fashioned by the changing values and circumstances of the times, and Elwanok Country Club in Manchester, Vermont, is a perfect example of this progression.

Just prior to the turn of the century before last, James Taylor, the son of a Brooklyn industrialist, asked Travis and John Duncan Dunn – who had worked with his father Tom Dunn, designer of more than a hundred courses in England and Scotland – to travel to Vermont with him and look at a property he had identified as a possible golf course site.

Travis and Dunn were enthusiastic about the 200-acre farm Taylor walked them through. In early September 1899, the architects arrived to plan the routing. A crew of 42 workers, mostly local farmers and nursery workers, ploughed and harrowed the land, removing stones, placing drainage tile where needed, and seeding surfaces in hope of establishing turf before the long Vermont winter.

In 1901, Travis spent a month touring the United Kingdom, playing 36-holes a day at such outposts as Troon, Prestwick, Elie, Carnoustie, North Berwick, Muirfield, Hoylake, Woking, Sandwich, Deal and Formby. When he returned, he applied his new-found knowledge at Ekwanok, adding greenside bunkers, deepening other pits and installing mounding to complicate recovery shots.

Travis died in 1927 and the 1930s began nearly half a century of difficult times for many clubs in the United States, especially those in out-of-the-way locales like Ekwanok. Many members lost their fortunes during the 1930s and if it wasn’t for benefactors James Taylor’s dream course would have disappeared.

Even when the Second World War ended, Ekwanok was still struggling to reduce maintenance costs. In 1948, Donald Ross eliminated many prized mounds; in 1956 Robert Trent Jones Snr removed other original features. The club hired superintendent Paul O’Leary in 1958 from Warwick Country Club in Rhode Island, where he had been building nine holes with architect Geoff Cornish.

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, O’Leary and Cornish did what they could to enhance playability while tailoring the course to the playing talents of an ageing membership. Together they rebuilt nearly half the greens, bunkers were filled to cut down on hand-raking, mounds were eliminated to speed up mowing time.

The 1990s ushered in a new era to US golf course architecture. Ekwanok engaged Bruce Hepner and Tom Doak of Renaissance Design to plot a cure to the woes that had eased the course’s resistance to scoring. Ekwanok’s outdated irrigation system was replaced, bunkers that had framed and narrowed driving zones were restored, mounding was enhanced, greens were defined (and) many trees were eliminated to re-establish the long sweeping views.

Praise for the restoration was unanimous, and in the new millennium, the venerable club has come full circle. The integrity, beauty, and challenge of one of the United States’ finest courses are once again apparent.

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Description: The charming course at Ekwanok Country Club was designed by Walter Travis at the start of the last century and such was his golfing prowess at the time, he won the U.S. Amateur Championship on three occasions... Rating: 6.5 out of 10 Reviews: 4
Mark White

Ekwanok is a gem of a course. I have yet to play Round Hill, but Ekwanok fits comfortably among Garden City and CC of Scranton as one of the best designs by Walter Travis. I liked everything about the course particularly the land movement, the routing, the bunkering and the entertaining green surfaces.

The course is located in Manchester, Vermont and sits next to the public access course that is associated with the Equinox Hotel. The course at the Equinox was also designed by Mr. Travis and is worth playing. The course is located in the valley where the charming town of Manchester resides, nestled between Stratton Mountain and Equinox Mountain, both just under 4000 feet. Due to its location, it is one of the more beautiful courses in New England, particularly when the cooler air in the fall turns the colors of the leaves on the trees to red, orange and yellow. Wherever one is on the golf course, you will have a view that you will often want to stop and admire. Perhaps the best views are from the eleventh tee and the eighteenth tee. However, I am certain members know even better viewing points. The on-course views are also quite nice especially when there is a grouping of white bitch trees surrounded by taller fescue.

The bunkers are well placed, never overly large, but they do vary in size, shape and depth. The majority of the bunkers are placed to come into play for players of all lengths.

The routing is very interesting with the holes near the clubhouse (1-3, 16-18) flowing in an east-west direction while the majority of the holes go north-south. I think this is likely due to the more gentle slope of those holes newer the clubhouse while the holes further away have to navigate the steeper rises and hills. I do not think the routing could have been improved other than perhaps lengthening a few holes. But at the time the course was built, it would have been considered a longer golf course.

The greens and green complexes are the real starters of the show at Ekwanok due to the proper placement of bunkers, never too numerous but seemingly always a danger, as well as some very severe slopes to consider. There are not many swales or mounds but they are several holes with false fronts. Many of the greens are near perfect circles in shape.

The course is short by modern standards with the back tees at 6569 yards and the next set of tees at 6203 yards. There are five sets of tees overall with the shortest at 4977 yards. This is very much a family course for both genders and juniors. Par is 70 with the black tees rated 72.0/134 and the blue tees at 70.2/134 indicating the difficulty of the course despite its shorter length.

1. Par 4 - 420/401. This hole goes downhill with the fairway bent to the right. There are two staggered early bunkers on the left and two bunkers well down on the right which longer hitters can reach. A thin creek goes down most of the right side. The green complex includes a bunker short ten yards from the green on the right followed by another right side bunker. The left side features two bunkers. The green has a slight false front and a steep back to front slope with a sort of back half tier. Behind the hole is a spine/ridge. It is a good opening hole.

2. Par 4 - 428/381. This hole plays longer as it is back uphill. There are no fairway bunkers but the fairway narrows to nearly half its size where the longest hitters could land their tee shot. Down the right side are two bunkers set well before the green followed by a longer one that reaches the front right corner. All of these bunkers are in play for the shorter hitter who misses left because the front left of the green has a deeper bunker as well as a bunker on the left middle. This small green has a slight swale fronting it and is also somewhat steep back to front and to the left.

3. Par 4 - 384/360. This hole plays downhill and begins the journey away from the clubhouse until the sixteenth. The tee shot must avoid the three bunkers down the left of which two come substantially into the fairway. These bunkers are about 120 yards from the green. The approach shot must clear a stream on the right that widens to a pond fronting the green. The widest part of the pond is on the left consistent with a green angled to the left. There is a front bunker between the pond and green that stretches from the left middle to the left corner. Another bunker goes down the left side. Short grass is on the right of the green but this side of the green has a deep bunker set into the hill behind the green which begins about seven yards right going into the middle of the rear of the green. A recovery shot from behind the green must account for the speed of the green falling towards the pond. It’s a delightfully short, but penal par4.

4. Par 3 - 170/160. The first par 3 plays uphill to a green that is very close to the shape of a circle. The green has a raised front with a front bunker. A long bunker goes down either side. Miss long and you will face a speedy recovery shot to one of the more tilted greens on the course due to a central spine making the right side higher. If you make the green with your tee shot, you should have a decent putt for birdie given the green is on the smaller side.

5. Par 4 - 390/375. For longer hitters this is one of the easiest holes on the course. It play straight and the fairway bunker on the left and the two bunkers on the right can be carried by the longer hitters. These bunkers are well placed for the average length player. Another round green features fronting bunkers of which three bunkers are on the left and one on the right. These are large bunkers on the left. For longer hitters they will have some sort of wedge in their hand while average length players will need to thread the opening. A smart play is to the middle of the green.

6. Par 3 - 190/168. Easily the best par 3 on the course and overall one of the three best holes. The tee shot is slightly uphill to another round green steeply tilted to the front and left. I missed the tiered green left and my chip landed nearly halfway to a back pin, yet it never stopped rolling slowly backward eventually being stopped near the front left by the collar of the green. The green complex features large flanking bunkers set well below the green with a second bunker on the left. One simply cannot go long on this hole and the smart miss is short of the green.

7. Par 5 - 597/585. This is the best hole on the course. Longer hitters will have to lay up short of a substantial hill as there is no reason to take it on. The fairway cants slightly to the left which is the preferred side of the fairway. The hill has a narrow opening framed by tall fescue on both sides and two bunkers on the left on the side of the hill of the opening and one near the bottom of the hill on the right. The tall fescue ends on the right just after the peak of the hill to be replaced by rough while the left side has the tall fescue continuing slightly beyond where the hill ends. The fairway continues to tilt to,the left as you approach the green. On the right two trees precede two bunkers while the left side has a single bunker. The trees and bunkers are in play for the approach shot of longer players should they successfully negotiate the hill. A final large bunker is on the left front. The green has a false front and a sharp fall-off on the left. The back right of the green features a spine and shelf. This hole reminds me of the sixteenth at Southport and Ainsdale where the central hazard is placed directly in front of the golfer, in both cases a high hill resulting in a blind second where other hazards await on the other side.

8. Par 4 - 341/334. This short hole plays downhill essentially straight but due to the land contours and tall fescue the play for average length players is out to the right then back to the left. The fairway has an early plateau then rolls a bit. Despite the tall fescue between the tee and green on a rise the longer hitters will likely cut the “dogleg” and fire straight at the green which sits on lower ground and is hidden from the tee. This is the second most heavily bunkered hole on the course with seven off to the right. The final right bunker is a turned letter “n” to make it more like a double bunker. The green complex is very good with seven surrounding bunkers. The green surface tilts to the left with a higher back tier. The higher back right of this green is perhaps the easiest pin location. Two white birch trees backdrop the green.

9. Par 4 - 411/393. You walk almost halfway back eight to get to the ninth tee. This hole plays straight and uphill. The fairway features a few scattered trees. There is an early fairway bunker on the right shared with the tenth hole. Farther up is another small fairway bunker on the right in play for the average length player. The longer hitters need to thread two flanking bunkers about 110 yards from the green. Both of the fairway bunkers on the right have steep faces. The green is a slightly stretched circle with two large irregular shaped bunkers on the front corners and a small central rear bunker. Other than a false front, this is one of the easier greens on the course. Off to the left of the green is a lovely grove of birch trees.

10. Par 5 - 504/495. As good as the seventh hole is, the only other par 5 on the course is a disappointment as it plays downhill. The fairway features scattered trees with two flanking bunkers. The right bunker has a high face to it. Further down on the left is another fairway bunker with a steep face that is in play for longer hitters. This is followed 30 yards later by two bunkers on the left. I felt these two bunkers are perhaps the only bunkers out of place on the course as they should be farther up in play for the approach shot. About 110 yards from the green on the right is a drop off into a collection of trees where a pitch out is likely should one go off to the right. To the left of these trees is a long, angled bunker cutting about a third into the right side of the fairway. The green has deeper, larger front corner bunkers on another round green. There is a sizable falloff on the green on the front right half. Although it would be awkward, the club could consider putting the tee boxes across the sixth fairway, adding 50 yards to the hole although this could slow play and put players on the ninth green at risk. Or perhaps a center-lime bunker complex could be added. Otherwise the club has done as much as they could to this hole. Some would say having one easy hole on a course is a positive.

11. Par 3 - 170/151. The view from the tee is lovely on this beautiful hole playing slightly downhill. There is a carry over tall fescue with the tall fescue more pronounced to the right side of the green. The green has two front right corner bunkers, a bunker on the left and a rear bunker. It’s a somewhat smaller green but tricky to read.

12. Par 4 - 372/350. This hole has the most land movement playing sharply uphill with the tee shot being blind. An early bunker is on the right of the fairway in play for juniors. Thick trees are down the right the entirety of the hole. The left side of the fairway features three bunkers built into the side of the rise. Longer hitters will easily carry the crest of the hill and if they go too far will end up on the downslope in taller rough. The green sits well below the hill backdropped by trees. This is a very sloped green back to front and to the right. This hole feels out of character to the rest of the course but I liked the it.

13. Par 3 - 214/197. The final par 3 comes early in the round. Playing from an elevated tee the hole features short grass left of the green. A large bunker is short of the right front of the green. This is another circle shape for the green with a back right bunker. The green tilts to the right with a falloff on the right.

14. Par 4 - I think this is one of the best short par 4’s one can play, although the second best hole on the course. The tee shot is framed by birch trees followed by a long, rough depression. The hole is heavily populated by bunkers of all shapes and sizes, including four in this depression. The hole is a dogleg left, going uphill. Four more bunkers are on the left of the fairway with five scattered down the right. The left side also has several hummocks. The green complex is set off to the left with a bunker about 30 yards short of the green on the left and two larger ones on the front left corner. A final bunker is on the right back corner preceded by a grass bunker. The narrow green is angled to the left with tiers and a back to front slope. Earlier in the round we walked close to the green as we walked between the fourth green to the fifth tee and I stopped to look at the green on the fourteenth because I already admired it.

15. Par 4 - 383/363. Several of the par 4’s at Ekwanok are risk-reward holes and the fifteenth is the best example. A stream runs down the left of the fairway crossing diagonally left to right at the 150 mark. Longer hitters will definitely try to clear the stream. If the longer hitter misses left there is deeper rough and scattered hummocks. For those playing away from the stream or short of it, the fairway has five bunkers on the right. After the stream on the right begins Davis Pond which cuts a bit into the fairway before ending at the right middle of the green where it forms a stream again. The left side of the fairway features taller grass and mounds. Coming in from the left one needs to avoid the two bunkers on the front left on a green angled right to left.

16. Par 4 - 431/390. The final three holes are somewhat of a replica of the beginning three holes in that they are parallel to each other running north-south. This hole plays longer as it is uphill. The left side of the fairway is preferred as the right side is tree-lined to the green. There are four scattered bunkers down the left shared with the seventeenth that should not be in play. The two fairway bunkers on the right are in play. The green is well defended with three bunkers left and two on the right. This is another steep green from back to front. This is the lowest index on the back nine.

17. Par 4 - 434/387. This hole is fairly straight going downhill. The four bunkers on the left shared with the sixteenth along with a single fairway bunker on the right are in play for average length players but not a consideration for players of above-average length. Farther up are two additional bunkers on the right where the fairway pinches to nearly nothing before widening. The green complex includes a bunker left and two on the right. The false front goes deep into this green. It’s a compelling hole for longer players if they play the back tee.

18. Par 4 - 396/385. This straight hole plays flat to a stream crossing the fairway about 140 yards from the green which sits uphill. The fairway is also defended by two early bunkers left, one on the right, and then three on the left where the stream crossed. Another bunker is on the left about 100 yards from the green. The green complex features a green angled to the left with two bunkers on the right. The green has two tiers. Maybe the only critique I would make to this fine finishing hole is that there are not many angled greens at Ekwanok, but all of them go right to left. It might have been more interesting to have a green angled to the right which would have made the trees on the right just short of the green become more strategic.

As mentioned, Ekwanok it’s a gem of a course featuring three very fine holes, a good number of risk-reward holes, good bunkering, and very interesting greens. I believe it is not ranked higher in some publications because it is relatively short. Yet in the USA, it is one of the finer short courses I have played because of all of its positive attributes. For an average length player with a good short game, they will stand a good chance against a longer player that is continually tempted off the tee. One has to execute here to score well, particularly being good with the putter. Add in those stunning views from the course of the surrounding mountains, and Ekwanok is a delight.

September 26, 2022
7 / 10
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M. James Ward

Ekwanok is a fascinating course because it ties itself to the development of American golf early in the 20th century and then fast forward to the club's efforts in bringing back to life the Walter Travis connection.

Although there are back-and-forth holes at the beginning and of the round there is also the confounding and devilish greens that can quickly put a golfer on their heels. Prudent approach play is an essential ingredient. There is room provided for the tee game but failure to be in the correct position can mean a most trying time with one's flatstick.

The par-3 6th is quite fun to play -- just be sure not to miss to the right side as the probability in walking off the green with a par is certainly remote when the pin is cut on that side.

When you arrive at the renowned par-5 7th your eyes will be riveted on the mounding that protects the distant opening on this engaging hole. I was told that a visit by Davis Love III had him attempt to reach the green by driving his ball to the adjacent 8th green so as to avoid the mounding previously mentioned. I was also told no person had reached the green in two shots.

The terrain for the 7th is something one can only find on the real gems from years ago. Thankfully, the hole was not bulldozed to death because the features would have been forever lost.

One of my favorite holes is the uphill par-4 9th. The tee shot features a blind landing area and what you don't fully appreciate is the hidden fairway bunkers that flank both sides of the hole. Once again, it's grand to see the retention of such bunkers because they have a significant role to play at the 9th.

The inward half takes you into the hillier portion of the routing. The par-3 11th green from what I was told was created by Bruce Hepner and it's beautifully crafted with enough vexing movements to keep you on your toes. The uphill par-4 12th takes you over a massive rise with the green tucked on the downward side. The terrain adds to the joy in playing the hole.

The balance of the course works from the hillier terrain back and the par-4 15th is highlighted by water that works its way into the picture off the tee and then widens into a pond. The final three holes are a good mixture of two-shot holes. Originally, the par-4 17th served as the opening hole but that was changed a few years later.

The par-4 18th is a good concluding hole. One has to decide -- do you attempt the carry over a perpendicular creek or opt for the safer play and then face a much longer approach to a green elevated above you.

Travis did a number of fine designs but there are clubs that failed to keep his fingerprints front and center. Ekwanok fortunately has done that through the recent involvements of Hepner and Tom Doak. As I said, if you have issues with your putter Ekwanok will be inflicting some serious mental anguish throughout your round.

M. James Ward

September 25, 2021
6 / 10
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Ekwanok is set in the scenic wilderness of Vermont with its fescue laden fairways set against the colourful mountainside backdrop. It is the only club in Vermont to host a USGA event with Francis Quimet winning the 1914 US Amateur prevailing 6&5 in the final. The course designed by Walter Travis makes good use of the terrain Ekwanok Golf Course - Photo by reviewer and after a quiet start (The first three holes run parallel) the course starts to show its true colours. Hole 4 is a nice par 3 over water and hole 6 again a par 3 has a devilish green which if you miss left or long you could rack up a cricket score. The 7th is a really nice par 5 that only the longest players can reach in two blows with its split level fairway and a severely uphill approach shot its two good shots to get up to the second level! I felt the best stretch of holes are between 12 and 15 this is where you get to test your course management across the undulating landscape. I was a big fan of the green complexes which is Ekwanok’s strongest attribute with a mixture of subtle and bold movements you have to concentrate otherwise a three putt is automatic.

June 08, 2019
7 / 10
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Fergal O'Leary

Walter Travis made it up to Vermont to create Ekwanok Country Club which is surrounded by jaw-dropping mountains in a beautiful setting.

The routing has a few interesting elements. The first three holes play Ekwanok Golf Course - Photo by reviewer parallel to each other and the last three holes play parallel to the first three. If you stand on the first tee-box, you essentially look out to six parallel holes that are almost mirror images of each other up and down the same slope.

With that said, it’s widely accepted that the genius of the golf course lies at the back-end of the property where the holes play over and around ridges, and move in many different directions across the landscape. The beast is let out of its cage when you get on the greens.

Having recently played Country Club of Scranton, I got a taste for how brilliant Water Travis can be when designing the putting surfaces, each being a work of art with truly treacherous contours.

September 12, 2017
6 / 10
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