Situated beside the Foxwoods Resort Casino, near North Stonington, the North course at Rees Jones’s upmarket 36-hole Lake of Isles golf facility is the public one that all golfers can play, albeit for a significant green fee.
Measuring a little bit shorter than the South course, the North is actually rated a tougher track than its twin sibling. Both layouts are routed around a central 90-acre lake with fairways weaving around a number of wetland areas.
Strongest holes on the North’s big layout include the doglegged par fours at the 6th and 9th while, on the more undulating back nine, the testing 574-yard 15th and 459-yard 18th holes ensure a grandstand end to the round.
If you are a traditionalist then skip Lake of Isles North Course. Why? It is mandated one must use a cart which in and of itself is not objectionable but it is the constant usage of power carts featuring excessive rides between holes that is truly annoying.
It was mentioned in the earlier review about how demanding the 1st hole is. Agree with that 100%. The most head scratching aspect is not the forced carry but the excessive uphill nature with the approach. Having such a hole is fine but not as the opener.
Among the other confusing aspects is the repeat nature in having dropshot par-3 holes. Having one is fine -- two is OK too provided there's something really special on their respective designs.
The North does have a number of quality holes -- on the outward side is the long par-4 6th. It's a quality dropshot hole with a tee placed very high above the fairway and a menacing bunker complex on the left side. The dog-leg right par-4 9th is also good -- those who wish to take the risk in cutting the corner will be tested appropriately.
The inward half commences with a very long cart ride once the par-3 11th is played. Then you get another long ride in which rigor mortis sets in before you swing the club at the 12th.
The ending is quite good. Yes, the par-4 17th requires a carry but frankly the distance is not especially daunting -- it's just the mental psyche out that can get into player's heads when about to pull the club at the tee.
The par-4 18th is, in my mind, the best hole on the course. Here you are presented with a quality cape hole that turns left in the drive zone. The key is not only shaping the shot to how the land moves but the fairway also tapers down considerably the deeper you hit your tee shot. The putting surface is protected by a frontal environmental area so if one hits the rough it's important to weigh the risks in trying to hit over on the approach.
The green complexes are fairly straightforward -- nothing that truly stands out for particular acclaim.
All in all, it's a shame such a discombobulated routing is what one must deal with when playing. The wooded nature and ponds you find do make an attractive mix but endless cart rides only add to the frustration and rob players in sustaining the needed rhythm when playing. Clearly, the issue boils down to whether you are OK with such long cart rides between holes. For me personally, I was not thrilled by it given the lack of consistently compelling architecture when you finally arrive at the respective holes. A disappointment.
M. James Ward
A common concept in golf course architecture is the “playaway” hole—a simple, forgiving start allowing the golfer’s round to begin quickly and easily. The opening hole at Lake of Isles North is the antithesis: It starts with a forced carry of 180 yards to the fairway and then adds another 360 yards to a green elevated 40 feet above the fairway and guarded by bunkers left and right. Nor does Rees Jones let up on the second hole, a par 3 over water. There a total of 7 forced carry tee shots here. The most challenging was at #16 where a carry of 185 yards over a lake was needed to reach the fairway—from a set of tees aimed at golfers with handicaps as high as 18!
The holes do get more interesting as one moves away from the clubhouse, with doglegs at #s 3,5,6,9, 14 and 18 requiring some thought off the tee. But after some nicely contoured greens at the first 3 holes, most of the remaining putting surfaces are flat and dull.
An aerial approach is the only choice at over half the holes. I had dinner with Rees Jones a few tears ago. He’d had a wrist injury, was having trouble getting his iron shots airborne and allowed that he better understood the desirability of allowing a running approach. Had he designed Lake of Isles North after that injury, it would be a more interesting course.
The piece de resistance here is the requirement to ride. I estimated that there’s well over a mile of distance from greens to tees. Though this was dictated by the rocky, swampy piece of land chosen, it does not allow an enjoyable walk.